The Great Debate UK
2010 is a great time for the web. Innovation is thriving as new services and content flourish on smartphones and laptops, thanks in good part to industry leaders like Apple and Facebook.
But according to Tim Berners-Lee, - often called “ the father of the web” - the open and democratic structure of the web is threatened by sinister forces trying to redesign the web in ways that make it more closed for their own personal gain. These enemies of the web don't just include totalitarian governments. They include industry leaders like Apple and Facebook.
As the web turns 20, Berners-Lee has written a 3,800-word article for Scientific American celebrating its achievements and documenting threats to its future. Most of his words are dedicated to the threats.
The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.
BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward branded “the most hated man in America” may be surprised to find himself cast in the role of victim by a growing clan of web-based supporters on Facebook.
One such group ‘Support BP’ calls itself the defender of an “undeservedly harassed institution” and seeks to show that the public opprobrium BP faces over its now 60-day-old Gulf of Mexico oil spill is not universal.
Witness the power of Facebook. About a month ago, one of the social networking site's users set up a discussion forum entitled "No I will not pay $3.98 a month to use Facebook as of July 10th 2010!" Within a few weeks, more than 825,000 people joined his page. Trouble is the whole thing was based on a faulty premise: Facebook has no such intention to charge.
This perfectly illustrates the so-called network effect that is both Facebook's greatest strength, and its potential Achilles heel. In its most positive iteration, the network effect works like this: the more people who join Facebook, share their information and make friends, the more compelling the proposition becomes. This creates a virtual barrier to entry in a business where conventional barriers should, theoretically, be very low.
Skype looks like Silicon Valley's best hope for a blockbuster initial stock offering in 2010. With Facebook determined to stay private until next year, the former eBay orphan could steal the scene with a quick flip. Moreover, as a result of clarifying copyright issues and rewriting its code to attack the business market, the company may be worth twice its $2.75 billion price tag when eBay sold all but 30 percent of its stake last year.
The company already has 500 million users and made $48 million in the third quarter, its last before going private. That's good, but eBay wasn't a natural owner. Its core auction and payments businesses had little to do with managing a communications firm.
A sedate group of more than 1,000 young people brought together in London to discuss socio-political issues makes a sharp contrast to those who challenge the status quo via demonstrations, rallies and picket lines.
At the first annual One Young World, organised by advertising agency Euro RSCG Worldwide, delegates 25 years of age and younger network in an environment sanctioned by such high-profile “counsellors” as former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, economist Muhammad Yunus and musician Bob Geldof.
Amid the ongoing global conversation about the economy, and projections about when — and in which markets — the world might emerge from financial crisis, the collective voice of the 25-and-under age group is hard to hear.
It could have been silenced due to a sense of futility about challenging the so-called Establishment, or it might be online — constrained by such social media outlets as Facebook and Twitter.
The debate over freedom of expression and the impact of social networking on democratic rights in the courts is in focus in Canada after a Facebook group became the centre of controversy when it may have violated a publication ban.
The group, which has more than 7,000 members, was set up to commemorate the murder of a 2-year-old boy in Oshawa, Ontario.
Matthew McGregor is the Director Blue State Digital’s London office. The opinions expressed are his own.
The 2010 general election will be the first closely British election in which the internet will be an important factor. The last truly close election in 1992 was fought in a way unrecognisable to campaigners today. In 1997, most of us had yet to use email. In 2005, YouTube was barely three months into its existence.
Five years ago the thought that we could be on the move accessing applications such as You Tube or Facebook, or watching TV or listening to music using our mobile phones was no more than a dream – today it’s a reality.
If we take a step back and assess the journey of the mobile phone over the past few years it has been nothing short of epic. It has progressed from a piece of technology for the modern business person to a must-have item.
- Martin Warner, chief executive officer and co-founder of Talkbiznow, an interactive business social network. The views expressed are his own. -
If anyone had any doubts about the growing importance of social networks they surely passed in 2009 when Twitter burst into the mass consciousness.