The year is 2025, and one of the original digital natives is sitting with his children – telling stories of the early days. “Back when I was your age… you could connect with anyone around the world, for free.” The children are enthralled with the idea of freedom, and the wild open days of the web. “But then, companies and governments discovered that letting anyone send anything to anyone without control was allowing the free trade of digital property, and the free connections of criminals and terrorists, so we agreed to trade freedom for safety and security. That’s how it all began to unravel.”
Now, before you think this is crazy talk you should know that this is the concern being raised by Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web. “I want a Web that’s open, works internationally, works as well as possible, and is not nation-based,” said Berners-Lee. And yet – the rise of the nation-based web is upon us. And he’s hardly alone in the concerns he raises.
The web is in danger – today.
Two of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto – Doc Searls and David Weinberg, posted a powerful update to their prescient work. In the sixteen years since the first publication, NewClues now says we’re facing ‘mortal dangers’.
The highly regarded Pew Research Center went out to ask leading web thinkers feared most about the future of the web. The answers were stunning.
Paul Saffo, the noted futurist and associate professor at Stanford said, “The pressures to balkanize the global Internet will continue and create new uncertainties. Governments will become more skilled at blocking access to unwelcome sites.”
Vint Cerf, Google vice president and co-inventor of the Internet protocol, represented many people’s views when he optimistically predicted, “Social norms will change to deal with potential harms in online social interactions … The Internet will become far more accessible than it is today–governments and corporations are finally figuring out how important adaptability is. AI [Artificial Intelligence] and natural language processing may well make the Internet far more useful than it is today.”
Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, said, “Government poses the greatest threat to the Net’s freedoms. Many governments, including Western regimes, threaten to control some part of Internet communication. Obviously, China, Iran, and other authoritarian states wish to control speech there. But Canada and Australia have threatened to filter all Internet content to get to child porn.”
Concerns about the potential Balkanization of the internet rose to public view when Russia’s parliament passed a bill requiring all technology companies to store the personal data of their Russian users in the country. If implemented the rule could move Russia closer to…