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The Almighty Buck The Internet Businesses

The End of Free 348

Posted by kdawson
from the barbed-wire-and-stockade-fences dept.
The Atlantic has up an insightful piece from its print edition called Closing the Digital Frontier. Michael Hirschorn takes readers through a jaundiced version of the familiar story of the rise and dominance of the "Information wants to be free" meme, then claims that the era of freedom is now over. "...the phrase Information wants to be free... became perhaps the most powerful meme of the past quarter century; so powerful, in fact, that multibillion-dollar corporations destroyed their own businesses at its altar. ... But now, it seems, things are changing all over again. The shift of the digital frontier from the Web, where the browser ruled supreme, to the smart phone, where the app and the pricing plan now hold sway, signals a radical shift from openness to a degree of closed-ness that would have been remarkable even before 1995. ... It’s far from a given that this shift will generate the kinds of revenue media companies are used to: for under-30s whelped on free content, the prospect of paying hundreds or thousands of dollars yearly for print, audio, and video (on expensive new devices that require paying AT&T $30 a month) is not going to be an easy sell. Yet lack of uptake by young people will hardly stop the rush to apps. There’s too much potential upside."
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The End of Free

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  • I found it interesting that the piece went to such great lengths to talk about the original spirit of openness on the internet yet then says:

    The open-source mentality, in theory if not always in practice, proved useful for the tech and Internet worlds. Facebook and Twitter achieved massive scale quickly by creating an open system accessible to outside developers, though that openness is at times more about branding than anything else—as Twitter’s fellow travelers are now finding out.

    As Diaspora and a number of other projects are illustrating, Facebook is far from openness. The API, in my opinion, is little more than a glimpse of what actually goes on inside the behemoth that knows all.

    This article seems to be spot on at times and just completely at odds with how I see things at others like:

    Even so, Google still needs for the Web, however it’s accessed, to remain central—because without contextual search advertising, Google ceases to matter. Smart phones in general, and the iPad more pointedly, are not driven by search.

    (emphasis mine) How incredibly shortsighted. During the World Cup game yesterday, I used my smart phone to search for no less than five pieces of information. And what are iAds? Nothing more than a contextual advertising model based on what you've downloaded as I see it. Sounds awfully similar to Google's model.

    Now, instead of farmers versus ranchers, we have Apple versus Google. In retrospect, for all the talk of an unencumbered sphere, of a unified planetary soul, the colonization and exploitation of the Web was a foregone conclusion. The only question now is who will own it.

    That's not the only question, it's merely the most monetarily important. I can think of tons of questions to go with your analogy. Who are the Native Americans now? Will one "owner" arise or can multiple coexist like the farmers and ranchers? How much will the government intervene and when? After this is all hashed out will there ever be peace? When it's all said and done, what's the next frontier that will be fought over for profit or will there ever be another one?

    • More corporate BS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:05AM (#32873562) Homepage Journal

      Disclaimer: I havent RTFA yet, and sometimes the summaries don't accurately reflact their FAs. But from the summary, TFA seems particularly clueless. First, "Information wants to be free" is IMO clueless in itself. Information doesn't want to be free any more than your doorknob wants to be free. You could as easily say "Information wants to be paid for". But when information isn't free, neither are you.

      Second, "The shift of the digital frontier from the Web, where the browser ruled supreme, to the smart phone, where the app and the pricing plan now hold sway" is just as clueless. The internet is the internet, whether you're accessing it from your phone or your PC. Few have 4G smartphones. Mine isn't 4G, but it will access the internet, and guess what? There are tons of free apps for it. And an iPhone is 4G, but 4G isn't iPhone any more than a four legged animal is a dog. Apple has always been a walled garden, and that's how Apple customers like it. But most of us aren't Apple customers.

      It's far from a given that this shift will generate the kinds of revenue media companies are used to

      Who gives two shits whether or not media companies get revenue? I don't, and neither should anyone not invested in media company stock. I'm sick of the corporate whores and the corporate media they own turning the world into a bunch of money worshiping greedheads who believe "free=worthless". The best things in life are free: Sunsets, air, rain, FOSS, indie music, walking hand in hand with your S.O., playing catch with your grandchild, etc. Nothing you can buy holds a candle to any of these. Windows is far inferior to Linux, which isn't only free as in beer but gives one true computing freedom.

      And I find it fascinating that the corporate media usually refuses to even mention FOSS. We nerds are the only ones who know about Linux; when I mention to normal people that they can replace Windows with an OS that costs nothing and is free from viruses, and there is an office suite that is likewise free, and free media playes that are superior to WiMP, they're astounded.

      Now to a response to your comment about "The only question now is who will own" the web, personally I think the question is ludicrously meaningless, not important. Nobody owns it, and nobody will. It's free.

      I look forward to free internet access for all, free of corporate robber barons and gatekeeprs, a mesh network where everyone opens up access to everyone else. It's doable and should be done, and I think we here at slashdot are the ones to start it. As to "the government", which government? It's a world wide web, not an American corporate web.

      • Re:More corporate BS (Score:5, Informative)

        by clang_jangle (975789) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:30AM (#32873784) Journal

        First, "Information wants to be free" is IMO clueless in itself.

        No, you're the one who is clueless -- about what that famous phrase [wikipedia.org] actually means.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by aurispector (530273)

        You're mostly spot on. "information wants to be free" has always been idiotic without concise definitions of "information" and "free". Copyrighted materials will always have strings attached; the question is whether the holder of the strings can figure a way to cash in. Let's face it - people usually put genuine valuable labor into things they copyright. That's why they want to sell it. Information like "Spain won the world cup" is also valuable but it isn't copyrightable. This is the kind of thing pe

        • Re:More corporate BS (Score:5, Informative)

          by Zironic (1112127) on Monday July 12, 2010 @10:44AM (#32874514)

          Information wants to be free generally refers to libre, not gratis. The basic definition is that it's prohibitively difficult to keep things secret as technology progresses.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dgatwood (11270)

            Information wants to be free generally refers to libre, not gratis. The basic definition is that it's prohibitively difficult to keep things secret as technology progresses.

            Actually, the original statement [wikipedia.org] was referring to free as in beer, not free as in not secret. The original argument boils down to:

            • On the one hand, it costs money to create something. Information wants to be expensive.
            • On the other hand, if technology continues to get cheaper and cheaper, that makes it possible for a lot of people to c
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I always thought "information wants to be free" was in the sense of the TV model. The information is there at no cost, but you still have to put-up with advertising to cover the expense. Like here on slashdot where I have ads across the top of the screen.

          BTW I thought it was funny when people complained the 1996 and 2002 US Olympics were too "commercialized" with all the ads around the stadiums. That is probably true but on the other hand, those were the only Olympics that didn't bankrupt their host citi

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537)

          You're mostly spot on. "information wants to be free" has always been idiotic without concise definitions of "information" and "free".

          You mean "precise"? Either way, by using the word "wants" (given that information doesn't literally "want" anything) they saying it letting you know that it's a generalization. Like "nature abhors a vacuum." That doesn't mean that there are no vacuums, but it's just describing a trend.

          So does "information wants to be free" mean? As I see it, what's being pointed out is that (a) unlike physical objects, information is easy to replicate and share; and (b) people like to share information. It's hard to k

      • by kvezach (1199717) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:46AM (#32875138)
        First, "Information wants to be free" is IMO clueless in itself. Information doesn't want to be free any more than your doorknob wants to be free. You could as easily say "Information wants to be paid for".

        I think the right context is "information wants to be free" like "water wants to flow downhill". Sure, you can limit water's progress by building a dam, just like you can encrypt data or otherwise limit the access to information; but in the internet world, information tends to become free (pirates, cracking, etc). In that sense, information is more slippery than water, particularly on general purpose computers, but it is possible to limit it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by spitzak (4019)

          I have always thought this statement "information wants to be free" is intended to be read just like "water wants to flow downhill". That "water wants to flow downhill" does NOT mean "you should not build dams", in fact it conversely means "if you don't want the water to flow downhill, you HAVE to build a dam, and it will be difficult because you are going against what the water naturally wants to do".

          The fact that "information wants to be free" means that if some amazing DRM scheme is conconcted so that it

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday July 12, 2010 @03:38PM (#32877832)

        The best things in life are free: Sunsets, air, rain, FOSS, indie music, walking hand in hand with your S.O., playing catch with your grandchild, etc. Nothing you can buy holds a candle to any of these.

        Your post is spot on, except for the above. For most men in our society, having female companionship is very expensive: $20,000 diamond rings, $100,000 weddings, giant wardrobes full of designer clothes, hundreds of shoes, etc. Luckily I found someone who isn't interested in all that and prefers to invest our money into more sensible things, but I feel sorry for all the guys who get hooked up with high-maintenance women who want to be treated like queens, even if it means going bankrupt.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I don't disagree. I've been saying for a couple days now that Free TV is dying, to be replaced by a pay-to-see model. And now this guy comes out with this:

      >>>from the Web, where the browser ruled supreme, to the smart phone, where the app and the pricing plan now hold sway, signals a radical shift from openness to a degree of closed-ness that would have been remarkable even before 1995.
      >>>

      The corporations are leading us down a path towards $1000-to-2000 per year bills just so we can see

      • I don't disagree. I've been saying for a couple days now that Free TV is dying, to be replaced by a pay-to-see model. And now this guy comes out with this:

        Free TV is not dead. Get a $20 antenna, and you can get nice 1920x1080 HD TV off the air for *gasp* free.

        People who don;t remember history are doomed to repeat it.

        Back in the previous century, people were claiming that the Internet would have to go to a paid-content model because there was no way that it could remain free. It's still mostly free, because any time that someone tries to erect a pay-wall, someone else says "here's my chance to take away their customers."

        What would happen tomorrow if 99% of all web sites went to a paywall? The 1% that didn't would replace them as THE top sites within a day.

        It's the same thing with anything else, including mobile apps. The free ones are often better than the paid ones, and the price is right.

        The article is wishful thinking ... just like Kevin McBride, when he says [slushdot.com]

        Software should not be "free." In this new day and age of corporate control of the world, IP rights are an important barrier of protection that help the little guy. Big companies mostly don't need IP rights, because they can get their way through force and market power. Small companies and individual developers need strong IP rights so the fruits of their labor are not commoditized by big companies. ...

        ChinAmerica - part 2

        Guess who now has the second-most IP addresses in the world? China. And they have more people with cell phones than the entire US population - and that number is increasing. Put up too many pay-walls, and China and India, which together have more than 1/3 the worlds' population, will p0wn your ass!

        Don't think it can happen? GM already sells more cars in China than in the US.

        • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday July 12, 2010 @10:09AM (#32874174) Journal

          >>>Free TV is not dead. Get a $20 antenna, and you can get nice 1920x1080 HD TV off the air for *gasp* free.

          (1) I said "dying" not dead. (2) You've not heard the news? FCC's Broadband Plan will sell off the remaining TV channels to ATT, Verizon, and other cellular companies, and Obama has announced he fully supports the plan and wants to implement it ASAP. (3) No free TV won't be completely dead, but with only 5-6 channels left per city it might as well will be.
          .

          >>>What would happen tomorrow if 99% of all web sites went to a paywall?

          You are correct in your previous analysis, but they aren't erecting the paywall at the website because they know it would fail. They are erecting it at your home by basically forcing you to subscribe to ATT/comcast/whoever to get your television or news or internet. The free services are slowly but surely getting destroyed by the FCC and the corporations it serves.

          I fully expect that by 2020 I'll either have a ~$100/month bill to see videos, or else have no access to them. It's ridiculous.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by zmollusc (763634)

            No free TV won't be completely dead, but with only 5-6 channels left per city it might as well will be.

            Hey, sonny, I remember when there were just 3 tv channels and most of the content was of little or no interest to me. Recently I subscribed to assloads of tv channels and found there were less hours of interesting content than when there were 3 channels. I soon unsubscribed. $100 per month for TV? Pffft!
            TV is dying. Paid TV is dying. It is suicide.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fjanss (897687)
      The article is largely based on the analogy :

      "In a smart essay in the journal Fast Capitalism in 2005, Jack Shuler shows how similar the rhetoric of the 1990s digital frontier was to that of the 19th-century frontier era."

      That may be true. But there is an important difference the article does not see. The 19th-century frontier may have "seemed" infinite, but the information space (or noosphere [wikipedia.org]) is for all practical purposes infinite.

      What many corporations try to do is block the access to that infini

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pinkushun (1467193)

      I'd like to add that TFA reads like Michael, the writer, also confuses the meaning of free software.

      “Free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.”; Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.

      [ref] [gnu.org]

      I fear many people who are locked into proprietary OS's misinterprets this ideology, not being exposed to the other side. If this is the case in TFA, then the whole premise for TFA is a fallacy.

  • by Vectormatic (1759674) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:16AM (#32873254)

    "Yet lack of uptake by young people will hardly stop the rush to apps. There’s too much potential upside."

    Eh? I thought the entire drive behind the iphone and the appstore is young people... without them apple wouldnt be making money hand over fist, and not everyone and their grandma would be building apps to 'get rich quick'TM

    If young people didnt care about apps, no one would make them, since there wouldnt be any benefit to doing so at all.

    • Eh? I thought the entire drive behind the iphone and the appstore is young people... without them apple wouldnt be making money hand over fist, and not everyone and their grandma would be building apps to 'get rich quick'TM

      If young people didnt care about apps, no one would make them, since there wouldnt be any benefit to doing so at all.

      You must have just skimmed the paragraph preceding your quote. The author says

      They are operating on the largely correct assumption that people will be more likely to pay for consumer-friendly apps via the iPad, and a multitude of competing devices due out this year, than they are to subscribe to the same old kludgy Web site they have been using freely for years.

      The author is making the distinct assumption that anyone under 30 years of age enjoyed or enjoys free content and therefore sees no reason to use Netflix or pay for an iPhone app. I don't know what the actual numbers are and I wish the author had included a lot more citations but the assumption is that young people pay less for applications in the mobile environment. I think that's a safe assumption just based on how much income they usually have compared to people over 30. The other assumption is that once young people enjoy free media via filesharing, they are unwilling to pay for that content via Netflix, Amazon or iTunes. I don't think that's universally true although there may be a small percentage that hold that mentality -- whether it be through an idealism or just lack of money to spend.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Chrisq (894406)

        I think that's a safe assumption just based on how much income they usually have compared to people over 30.

        But they often have a larger Discretionary income.

    • by alen (225700)

      apple is making money off young people, not the media. the print/TV media let their advertising models get destroyed and now cry poverty

  • by sunspot42 (455706) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:19AM (#32873266)

    expensive new devices that require paying AT&T $30 a month

    Wait, $30 a month for Internet service on a $300 phone or $600 tablet? Yeah, that's real steep, as opposed to, say, $30 a month for AOL on a $1,500 Windows 95 PC a decade or so ago.

    The devices are actually a heck of a lot cheaper now than they were when the Internet took off. They're more capable and easier to use, too. Access is no more expensive, and it's wireless. Look for the cost - of both the devices and bandwidth - to continue to decline over time. This will help users to afford quite a bit of content, in the same way folks who cancel their cable TV can afford a Netflix subscription and a substantial number of downloads from iTunes or Amazon and still end up money ahead (and see exactly what they want to see when they want to see it).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      $30 a month for AOL

      On the contrary, I quite clearly remember paying $20/month for unlimited dialup in the mid 90s. That was AT&T and Earthlink. I believe AOL was about the same.

      Also, $30 may be your monthly data charge, but AT&T really forces you to pay something like $60/month as a minimum for iPhone service. That's far from a trivial cost for the vast majority of people.

      • by sunspot42 (455706) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:55AM (#32873496)

        I quite clearly remember paying $20/month for unlimited dialup in the mid 90s

        With inflation, $20 in 1995 would be around $28 today, which is comparable to the $30 a month data charge for a smartphone. And of course, even today's wireless access is generally faster than dialup was in the mid 1990's.

        Also, $30 may be your monthly data charge, but AT&T really forces you to pay something like $60/month as a minimum for iPhone service. That's far from a trivial cost for the vast majority of people.

        Yes. And in the mid 1990's, you had to have telephone service in order to take advantage of dialup internet providers like AOL. That would have run you at least $20 a month in most markets. Then, if you made a standard amount of long distance calls (including "local" long distance in most large metro areas), you were looking at at least another $20 a month in LD charges. That's $40 for your phone, or about $55 in 2010 money. At $60 a month your cell phone provides you with hundreds of minutes of free long distance calling (unlimited in the late evenings and on weekends) in addition to the convenience of wireless. Not bad for about five extra dollars a month.

        • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday July 12, 2010 @10:20AM (#32874254) Journal

          >>>With inflation, $20 in 1995 would be around $28 today, which is comparable to the $30 a month data charge for a smartphone.

          Instead of comparing the present to the ancient technological past when 28k was considered "fast" and a ~0.1 gigahertz processor was standard, how about comparing the present to the present?

          $50 for cellular internet; capped at a mere 5-10 gigabytes

          $15-20 for DSL with no cap (or cable with 250GB cap)

          $7 for dialup with no cap

          $0 for over-the-air television (6000 gigabytes per channel)

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by ultranova (717540)

            $50 for cellular internet; capped at a mere 5-10 gigabytes

            $15-20 for DSL with no cap (or cable with 250GB cap)

            $7 for dialup with no cap

            $0 for over-the-air television (6000 gigabytes per channel)

            Can you use these over-the-air television channels to surf the Web or download files? No? Then your comparison is meaningless.

            Besides, nothing's more pathetic than a libertarian whining that a free public service he enjoys is about to be cut off.

            • Besides, nothing's more pathetic than a libertarian whining that a free public service he enjoys is about to be cut off.

              Most. Awesome. Smackdown. EVAR.

      • by delinear (991444)
        Meanwhile in the UK the only real option at the time was pay per minute dial up and I regularly had bills averaging a couple hundred pound per month, I don't think free unlimited dial up took off here until 99/00, so to me my £30 per month unlimited data tariff (and a one-off payment of £99 for a phone that's probably much more powerful now than my £1,500 PC was back then) seems entirely reasonable.
    • Look for the cost - of both the devices and bandwidth - to continue to decline over time.

      Strangely enough they've actually gone up recently for AT&T and O2, with their 'unlimited' data plans being scrapped.

      Although to be fair the product hasn't really changed much, if at all; they're just being more honest about the limit this time around.

      • by sunspot42 (455706)

        The cost has only gone up for those who exceed the bandwidth of the current plans. Precious few users do, at least at the moment. Presumably the caps will grow as average use grows (and if carriers like AT&T and O2 don't grow the caps, you can bet hungry competitors will).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tomhudson (43916)

          With a 2 gig cap before those extra charges kick in, people aren't going to be willing to download too many copies of WIRED at half a gig apiece at $5 a pop - particularly when they can't pass it along to someone else when they're finished with it. And the reason for the hefty size? It was originally developed in flash, and weighed a lot less - then Jobs went and banned flash, and they had to quickly come up with an alternative ...

          • by delinear (991444)
            I would suggest, if you intend to download half a gig of data, WiFi might be the better option...
    • I believe the point they're trying (but not really achieving) to make is that more stuff used to be free when it was new and online, and we used to pay mostly for the hardware. Music, movies, all kinds of OS projects were often available for free (although often hacked). Big money steps in and does so after calculating a pay-back time.

      I think that most stuff will always be free - hacked, cracked and illegally downloaded perhaps. The main question is simply how much money the average consumer is ready to spe

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        When the Big Media started out with the movies, a VHS tape of a major motion picture cost you $90. Pay Per View fees for a special event movie might cost you as much as $15.

        Now Walmart has big bins full of movies as low as $5.

        I can gorge myself on Netflix for $10 a month.

        Stuff has gotten much cheaper. The market has seemed to have adjusted to some bit of pressure from somewhere.

        The marginal price of video is still usually zero. This is something that consumers have been made to be used to over
        a VERY VERY lo

        • by delinear (991444)
          And as for software, well discounting Apple, there are lots of free apps available (I've not found any task for my Android yet where I have been forced to buy a paid as opposed to a free app), and on the desktop it seems like a pretty golden age for FOSS, even on Windows systems there's a hell of a lot of free open source software available, whereas ten years ago there was far less choice. Really, it seems like the author has looked at one particular distribution model (the walled, paid garden) and assumed
    • by eudaemon (320983) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:00AM (#32873534)

      Wireless internet access rates are slowly creeping upward. I can only speak to T-mobile as an example, but my blackberry plan was $20/mo. The switch to G1 added $5/mo as my choices were $25/mo without texting or $35/mo with, but that plan is shared with a family plan for voice minutes. Fast forward one year and the carrier discounted Nexus requires an individual plan that totals $70/mo. I paid full price on my Nexus One just to keep my old, cheaper plan. My friend who just bought a Sprint EVO found Sprint charges $29.99/mo for data, but require a separate tethering up-charge to boot, so Sprint is even more expensive than T-Mobile.

      Don't get me wrong - the utility of these phone is such that you are practically carrying a laptop around, but the American data plans are so expensive I'm seriously considering the move from early adopter (owner of a development G1) back to prepaid dumb phone after years of carrying smart phones. A $20 phone with a $100/1000 minute prepaid sim is starting to look pretty good next to a $120/mo cell phone bill.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jedidiah (1196)

      > Wait, $30 a month for Internet service on a $300 phone or $600 tablet? Yeah, that's real steep, as opposed to, say, $30 a month for AOL on a $1,500 Windows 95 PC a decade or so ago.

      Regardless of what my Internet service costs per month, it pays for all of the devices connected to my network.

      It doesn't require a separate fee for my Wii, for my 3 media PCs, for my Linux PCs, for my Macs, for the iphones or for the iPad.

      Yes. Compared to that, paying $30 per month for a SINGLE device is infact high way rob

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        >>>It doesn't require a separate fee for my Wii, for my 3 media PCs, for my Linux PCs, for my Macs, for the iphones or for the iPad.

        Yeah until they put a 5 GB cap on your service, and suddenly you start getting charged overage fees for all those devices exceeding the limit.

  • by ThisIsAnonymous (1146121) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:21AM (#32873278)
    From the article:

    Smart phones in general, and the iPad more pointedly, are not driven by search.

    I use my iPhone primarily for searching Google -- that's probably what I most use it for. If I'm watching a movie, reading a book, talking to someone, and I want to know some bit of information about the topic, I Google it on my phone and then view the relevant content in the browser. Of course, there is an app for that, but why would I want to install a dozen different applications (IMDB, Wikipedia etc.) when I can Google it and get the results on one page. Google is pretty good at providing what I need. I have no doubt, however, that other people use these individual apps to find the information they need. I guess it's a matter of preference.

  • Netcraft confirmed it.

    • by bsDaemon (87307)

      Ironically, netcraft provided its confirmation information free of charge... thus being the exception that proves its own rule?

  • Terrible (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crow_t_robot (528562) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:23AM (#32873294)
    It seems to me that this article is completely based around the iPhone and the AT&T data plan subscriptions. Does this guy forget that desktops/notebooks will still outnumber smartphones 20k/1? Almost everyone that owns a "Smartphone" owns at least 1 (if not more) expensive desktop/notebook computers that are connecting to the internet through the cable company. Also, I get the feeling that the smartphone subscription model might just be a re-hash of what happened in the early days of the AOL-style dial-up internet. Maybe things will start up this way and open up into much more free content and services as the market grows....just like the original internet did. Horrible article.
    • I dont have and I dont want a smartphone with a dataplan. Not because I dont want a smartphone but because I dont want the dataplan and its walled garden. All of the subscription services are pretty much a con to make you pay for something you dont need that could be purchased on a pay as you go basis. I enjoy the free stuff but accept that it has to be payed for somehow. I'm not prepared to pay overinflated subscription fees for a walled garden though. When I read in forums about people paying $500 a mont

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:23AM (#32873296)
    If you want to know why the "Information wants to be free" attitude is dying, it is because the Internet has been taken over by business interests; the original network of academics and hackers is just a tiny fraction of what the Internet has now become. Most of the people on the Internet have no interest in freedom, they just want to go to some large business' website and do whatever it is that they do there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      With all due respect, the vast majority of 'information wants to be free' touting users today seem to be those happily downloading from TPB et al the content supplied by those "business interests". Or in other words, its justification for a given behaviour.
    • by mlts (1038732) *

      This has been going all along. First, the Internet was researchers, old school hackers (using the old meaning of the term), and maybe a kook or two that at least was well behaved or their sysadmin would yank their access.

      The start of the change is when NSFNet was handed over to commercial interests, and then Canter/Seigel spammed USENET and essentially got away with it.

      These days, these types of people are on the wayside. The main people on the Internet are guys who are interested in p0rn and are more tha

    • by ciggieposeur (715798) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:48AM (#32873446)

      Just another face of Eternal September.

    • by mrsquid0 (1335303) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:09AM (#32873604) Homepage

      The original statement, back in 1984, was "On the one hand information wants to be expensive, ... On the other hand, information wants to be free," The "information wants to be expensive" part is important to understanding what "information wants to be free" really means.

    • by williamhb (758070)

      If you want to know why the "Information wants to be free" attitude is dying, it is because the Internet has been taken over by business interests; the original network of academics and hackers is just a tiny fraction of what the Internet has now become. Most of the people on the Internet have no interest in freedom, they just want to go to some large business' website and do whatever it is that they do there.

      There had been a big business rush towards "free" -- a little akin to a second dot-com bubble but around a business model rather than a method of delivery. If "you can't compete with free" then let's put our stuff out there free, take the market, and work out how to monetise it later. Or for software If we release this free, the community will support it so we won't have to carry all the expense and will grow faster. As with the dot com bubble, there were winners and losers. It turns out to be pretty ha

    • by hessian (467078) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:20AM (#32873702) Homepage Journal

      If you want to know why the "Information wants to be free" attitude is dying, it is because the Internet has been taken over by business interests; the original network of academics and hackers is just a tiny fraction of what the Internet has now become.

      If you want to know why that happened, look at the post-1996 audience for the internet: people who would otherwise be watching television.

      They're looking for entertainment and socialization, not "information" in the colloquial sense of knowledge-bearing data.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      If you want to know why the "Information wants to be free" attitude is dying, it is because the Internet has been taken over by business interests

      Not really. Facebook embodies the spirit of "information wants to be free". It is easier now to come by all sorts of personal data about people you've never met than ever before.

  • meego is linux. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:24AM (#32873302)

    You can have the source.

    http://meego.com/downloads [meego.com]

    What's happening in fact is the proprietary mobile telcos are under pressure from all directions. Google and even more significantly, Nokia. Apple.... yeah... well...

    The Internet is still there. The PC is still there. You now have all that moving mobile. It's more, not less.

     

  • by CodePwned (1630439) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:26AM (#32873314)

    Every single media provider who started to charge for content has lost out. New York Times is a great example. They've had to reduce prices again and again and again and still have trouble.

    The second a news story is out, someone reproduces it. It's no longer about content ownership, it's who can get it out, correct and in a format people like FIRST.

    Look at music... who won that one? Itunes. They got it out in a method and format faster and better than anyone. Now... admittedly there might have been better services but they didn't offer the library that itunes can. (I hate itunes before anyone passes judgment).

    What the market is proving is that people have a threshold for payment on content. The majority of us it's around $10 for movies (that's when sales peak in numbers other than first release) on DVD's, for music it's around $15 for a full CD, 75 to 99 cents for an individual song... and so on. News media, it's 0. There are a small few of us that then replicate this news (to the media companies horror) to the wide audiences. The author things this will stop... and of course has no true understanding of the market.

    Information is easier to share than at any other point in history. News is replicated and spread in seconds now, and people, not just the young kids, are used to it for FREE. The only way this "may" be possible is if every single news media group put up walls at the same time... AND noone found a way to bypass this. It's just not feasible.

    The most impact this can possible have is a lag in news release in the hours. It's like the RIAA... it's an antiquated business model that doesn't work anymore. The times have changed so that content en masse is no longer valuable, just the content itself. Good news, strong stories... well written... that's what matters now.

    Welcome to the 21st century.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hedwards (940851)
      Indeed, but the NPR model seems to still be holding up pretty well. They don't waste money trying to get absolutely everybody to pay, simply to get as many people as possible to pay, then not nag people during the rest of the year. On the net, it tends to be easier, because you can offer an ad version to those that can't or don't want to directly contribute, and give those that do an ad free version plus perhaps some minor perks.
  • The shift of the digital frontier from the Web, where the browser ruled supreme, to the smart phone,

    Most people don't have a smartphone. Most people have a basic mobile where you press a few buttons and talk to people - that's all. Until of if that changes, the massive bulk of the personal comuting iceberg will remain on desktop and laptop computers. That's where free software will retain it's natural lead, no matter what happens to the small (but significant in it's own way) proportion of smartphone users.

    We should not get carried away by the hype from the manufacturers of these closed, locked down and

  • The Right to Read (Score:4, Interesting)

    by McDutchie (151611) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:31AM (#32873342) Homepage
    Instead of this piece of fluff (which should have been titled "The End of Freedom"), it's better to re-read The Right to Read by RMS: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html [gnu.org]. He saw this coming back in 1997.
    • I find it amusing that straw man arguments are regularly derided here on Slashdot, but RMS's "Right to Read" story seems to be given a pass when its nothing but a straw man...
  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:33AM (#32873358) Journal

    The shift of the digital frontier from the Web, where the browser ruled supreme, to the smart phone, where the app and the pricing plan now hold

    The article confuses apps, Internet connections, with paying for media. On the desktop, it's long been the case that people pay for software (despite the useful presence of free software). And people pay for their Internet connection.

    Similarly with phones - people pay for applications, they pay for their connection.

    And the problem on the desktop isn't that people are unwilling to pay for media, it's that it often isn't available. Can I get TV on demand online for a charge? Not as far as I know in the UK. So I've no doubt that people will pay money for an app that gives them TV on a phone, but they would do so on the desktop too.

    Where pay-for media is struggling is news. Are people more like to pay to read a newspaper on their 5800 than on their Intel Windows PC?

    They are operating on the largely correct assumption that people will be more likely to pay for consumer-friendly apps via the iPad, and a multitude of competing devices due out this year

    Ah yes, a multitude of computing devices (laptops, netbooks, tablets, PMPs, phones), but let's give the obligitary product placement to the Ipad. Do we really think that most people will be walking around with an Ipad? And are netbook users etc going to start paying for content?

    And with Apple in the driver's seat

    Hah. Thankfully - given the article's valid concerns about their closed policy - this isn't remotely true when we look in terms of things like market share. Though no doubt I predict plenty of replies arguing until they're blue in the face that they are (or redefining market share to use some arbitrary criteria where they are first).

    Twitter, like other recent-vintage social networks, is barely bothering with its Web site; its smart-phone app is more fully featured. The independent TweetDeck, which collates feeds across multiple social networks, is not browser-based.

    This sort of thing is hardly new, nor necessarily a bad thing. Years ago, people used Usenet clients. Many people still use email clients. Sites like LiveJournal have downloadable clients for desktop platforms. It goes without saying that the software versions are more featured - otherwise what would be the point of them. We didn't have hip names for them like "apps", but it's the same thing, long before people started using their phones.

    But again, the article is conflating different issues - the technology (website versus software) with the idea of free content. Is anyone going to pay to read Twitter feeds, despite its use of apps?

  • Good news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I hope this really is the case. The WWW will be much better off if all the herdable bunch continue their slow, guided path into app-land and let the west return to the wild.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ColdWetDog (752185)

      I hope this really is the case. The WWW will be much better off if all the herdable bunch continue their slow, guided path into app-land and let the west return to the wild.

      Except that it will be more like what really happened during the US western expansion. The sheep faced interlocutors will end up with Hummers in the Xburbs and you, the native, hoping to run free in the glorious sunset, will be herded off to a reservation. Just outside of Cleveland.

      "Oh, my white brothers .... "

  • by nadaou (535365) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:38AM (#32873378) Homepage

    If you go back to the actual quote,

    "In fall 1984, at the first Hackers' Conference, I said in one discussion session: "On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other." That was printed in a report/transcript from the conference in the May 1985 *Whole Earth Review*, p. 49.

    http://www.rogerclarke.com/II/IWtbF.html [rogerclarke.com]

    cue twenty-five years later, the first part of the quote being widely forgotten, and an army of too-smart-for-you opionators attacking their own mis-quote using the original quote's argument as their justification for why it is wrong.

    It really makes you wonder what the non-populistized seventeen people later word of mouth versions of the original western religious texts were actually trying to say..

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'd say the movement for openness and freedom has moved a bit beyond the original quote and that any modern position could be called "bastardized" by that logic. Roger Clarke was stating the problem. People advocating open and/or free principals have chosen their priority in that dichotomy. Your contempt is hardly justified.
    • It really makes you wonder what the non-populistized seventeen people later word of mouth versions of the original western religious texts were actually trying to say..

      Going way off topic....I used to wonder that, but now I don't care. Because of the cultural assumption "Jesus is Lord", it seems arrogant or even a little risky to say "Jesus was full of shit". So people say that the teaching of Jesus was cool, but his disciples and later folllowers twisted everything. And maybe there's truth to that. But if its like everything else in our world, it had at least subtle flaws from the start, even if those flaws were exploited and expanded later. How to sort it all out?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jedidiah (1196)

      I think the 95% drop in the price of movies rather more supports the common interpretation of that quote then your attempt to rewrite it.

      Of course you are ignoring a very important part of that quite to suit your agenda. That part being "the right information". Most information
      has no real value. It's just entertainment dreck. That's why it is so easily devalued. It isn't "the right information". It isn't the "right
      information" for anyone because it really is meaningless.

      So it gets easily devalued when measu

  • Companies will always find ways to make money, because they are created when people come up with strategies to do so. And that is a main goal for many. Hence, there will always be growth in that direction, and it will always grow towards its maximum. Is it at its maximum? Nowhere close. And it is nowhere close even for Apple's closed garden, or for Facebook's closed social network.

    HOWEVER.

    Twitter and Facebook are leading the way to a new model of news and media all together. Anyone can follow anyone instant

  • It's just (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:45AM (#32873434)

    That a lot of "Free" stuff also turns out to be crap. Therefore the hidden cost is the time it takes in sorting out the good free stuff from the crap. With payware certain standards are expected - or even enforced by third parties (ie an app store). In cases where some crapware does find its way into that third party store, usually there is someone to complain to and the crapware is removed quickly.

    It's the old argument of "I can't be bothered to do it myself". It's why we have politicians. It's why we have religions and "gods". Because we prefer to have 'someone else' to delegate certain fears and worries to (even if that 'someone else' turns out to be corrupt in the case of politicians and clerics, or even non-existent in the case of gods). Humans are funny that way.

    • So, you are saying there is no crap payware? That's just bullshit. There's a lot of costly crap-ware. When you pick an app, price is not an indication of goodness. Popularity is. Popularity however is slightly skewed on the side of cheap. So cheap/free popular app has probably a bit less quality than a paid app of same popularity, but that's it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jedidiah (1196)

      > With payware certain standards are expected

      That is a nice bit of delusion.

      It is entirely bogus of course.

      There is plenty of total dreck in payware software. There's plenty of expensive software that makes you want to delete
      it and install something Free instead. Microsoft was always great at making stuff like that. Apple even manages to do
      that too. Their "curation" of the app store also doesn't help curb the desire for better solutions and better products
      whether they're free or not.

      The idea that "paywar

  • by hal2814 (725639) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:49AM (#32873460)

    I just recently paid $140 for a refurbished Kindle that has unlimited wireless Internet access on it. Yeah, the interface on the "Experimental" web browser is a bit kludgy but I can check my email, sports scores, and basic stuff like that for free. Amazon is betting that enough people use Kindle's purchasing system that it pays for the limited web usage they offer. If they are right and the web browser remains free, other services may adopt similar strategies of giving away basic Internet access in exchange for locking you in as a potential customer.

  • Perhaps I'm weird, but I don't pay for phone apps either. There are plenty of free apps out there.

    In the long run I think these folks are in for a disappointment. Economics works the same way with phones that it does for computers.

  • Gold Rush (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TaoPhoenix (980487)

    (Snark)
    "Hai Apple. Nice job getting Shareware to actually work! You earned your $."
    (/Snark)

    They got all my respect for doing business right. Everyone, take your $200 and buy your favorite apps. (Waits)

    Okay, everyone back? Everyone got your nice little 50 apps at $4 each? Good. Where were we ... Oh yes, the web. Watch what happens when 50% of companies stop maintaining the back end of their apps. We'll see 12 lawsuits from critical cases, and then it will all shake out into the top 100 apps that everyone wil

  • by overshoot (39700) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:57AM (#32873514)
    As always, defining the business as though the only question that matters is, "how much can I milk the market for?"

    Apparently, the "consumers" are like grass: just an infinite [1] supply of fodder to be exploited, with all the decisions being made for us up the food chain.

    [1] I live in the West, and see on a regular basis how infinite that "sea of grass" really wasn't.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:08AM (#32873588)
    Well, Rupert Murdoch has attempted to be the first to start to charge again for his newspaper content. But the conventional wisdom is that if you offer your content for free, then start charging again while your competitors don't, that you're going to be the sacrificial lamb who ends up crashing and burning. Certainly, if Murdoch succeeds, his competitors will be more than happy to follow suit, but no one else is exactly lining up until they see that he doesn't fall on his ass.
  • I'm not sure (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:17AM (#32873668)

    I no longer really use it that much, but when I did use my iPod Touch to get App-store apps, the VAST majority of the apps that I downloaded and used were in fact, free. Not as in speech, but as in beer at least. It seems like for the vast majority of things that I wanted, there were either people willing to donate their time, or who were hoping to recoup their costs via another method (IIRC, Fandango had out a movie show time listing app for free that was subsidized by the ability to buy tickets online to most of those movies).

    Look at Android: a very popular cellphone OS that is in fact, Free.

    I personally see "Free" taking off even more now. PARTICULARLY on desktop PC's. Smartphones, with their varied landscape, are essentially teaching users to deal with different platforms. If they can get to the web, manage their photos, and perform basic services, then they're fine with that. If the UI is a little different between new phones, then no biggie. Many content providers are doing the same too. They can't code their websites to IE6 and claim "most everybody is using that anyways". These days LOTS of people will be hitting that site with a phone, and hence sites are by necessity going to have to be coded to be more tolerant of various browser rendering engines. Once that user mindset is starts to bleed over into desktops a bit, I think a tolerance for something "a little different looking" will come. When that tolerance gets here, the Linux option on a new PC is going to look very nice if the user can save $25-50 on the total cost.

    In short, I think we're just moving from a de-facto single vendor model to a fractured model. Sure, some new pay solution will arise here, but I think the door is wide open for OSS here too.

  • On a side note... (Score:5, Informative)

    by chill (34294) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:24AM (#32873730) Journal

    The 5th Annual World eBook Fair is currently underway [worldebookfair.org] from July 04 - August 04 with over 3,500,000 PDF eBooks available for, ahem, FREE.

  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Monday July 12, 2010 @10:04AM (#32874142)

    So many people talking about "information wants to be free" do not seem to understand what "information" really is, and the difference with "data".

    Information wants to be free - that adagio stands, has always stood, and will always stand. The problem is that people do not know how to distinguish between data and information. The data is just a representation of information.

    Take for example this post: as soon as I posted it it becomes a piece of data on some server rented by the /. company. Just that: data. How to get to that data? You need a computer with Internet connection. Now that connection may become more expensive, getting to a web site may become more expensive (e.g. subscriptions), but the information that I give here wants to be free.

    For example the following sentence: "Spain won the world cup football 2010 by beating the Dutch team in the finals 1:0". That contains information on the world cup football. It is also a piece of data. Getting to that piece of data (the actual sentence) may become more expensive, the information in it (winner of the world cup, score) can be re-told over say the phone when someone who read this is talking to a friend. That information bit never got more expensive. It wants to be free. The information spreads because people like to talk to one another (irrelevant of the medium), and they like to tell each other things the other party didn't know yet. To discuss facts, to discuss bits and pieces of information they learnt through other channels. Such as the world cup line above - it won't be new to many people here but that's not the point. It's a bit of information that is stored in a chunk of data.

    On the other hand, data is just that. Lots of numbers, letters, whatever. An LP contains two immensely long wavy grooves, typically representing some kind of music. An mp3 file could be a digital representation of the same sound. Both are different representations of the same data, they may each not be free (cost of the record, restrictions by DRM).

    The adagio also says WANTS TO. Information is, thus, not necessarily free. It wants to be free. In the extreme this is seen by the "Streisand effect" where attempts to stop spreading information leads to more people spreading it, including the information bit that someone is trying to block this spreading. In the digital world this often happens by the direct copying of digital files containing said information, previously it often resulted in headlines in the news papers talking about it - all with the same information, all with a different wording (the letters on a news print are a form of data in itself, and as we all know the newspaper you have to buy but who won the elections you hear for free from your friends).

    So who-ever wants to use this adagio, please remember these core points here:

    • Information != data
    • It is free as in freedom, not necessarily free of charge,
    • And while certain information may be restricted, there is always the risk of leaks, and if it is leaked it will spread like wildfire.

    And please stop discussing pricing of data plans...

  • if i stand in the middle of the desert with bottles of water for $100 each, i will have a profitable business

    but if i stand in front of a sparkling clean fresh water lake and try to sell bottles of water for $.10 each, i will be out of business

    when i can point and click and share thousands of files effortlessly and freely with any teenager from gdansk to johannesburg, i really don't know how or why someone is supposed to force me to pay for that under a dead distribution model and the laws that are made for that dead era

    so its simple economics folks: infinite free supply means there is no price point. the internet is an unlimited resource, unless they fundamentally break the internet inexorably (and thereby destroy that which makes the internet attratice to anyone)

  • by Dr_Ken (1163339) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:32AM (#32874994) Journal
    is the new meme for the internet? Fuck 'em. If they wanna get paid let them invent something I really need or want. Fuck 'em if they don't. Their desire to be billionaires is not a claim against me.
  • Google (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hkmwbz (531650) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:54PM (#32876586) Journal
    Google wants everything to be free. They want as many eyeballs as possible for their ads. Free equals more eyeballs. Google would probably give away free phones if they thought the resulting eyeballs would lead to higher revenue to cover the cost of the hardware.

    Free isn't going away if Google gets its way.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Monday July 12, 2010 @02:21PM (#32876898) Homepage Journal

    The fight is manifested in "protocols want to be open" and a fear of free markets arising in implementations, because open protocols require "free" information. If the information is locked down, then there have to be secrets (or laws) that prevent accessing it, and therefore the protocol can't be open, so there's a limitation on implementations.

    The openness of SMTP+POP/IMAP is why there was diversity in email clients. The openness of NNTP is why the mediocre discussion software 20 years ago was better than today's very best web forums. (And yes, there was web browser competition too, though some mistakenly people think it was all just Netscape vs MS. But the web case is complicated anyway, because websites blur the line between apps and dead content.)

    That was the real "Digital Frontier" -- where many implementations of a protocol compete to do it best, leading to maximum user value. And you simply can't have that level of competition if the information itself is locked down. (e.g. compare watching a movie with mplayer to watching it with a licensed player from an electronics manufacturer who has to comply with DVDCCA's license or whatever. mplayer will let you skip the ads .. which means xine and vlc have to let you do it too, to stay relevant.) The freeness of the information is what allows commoditization of the protocols and formats, and variety of implementions. This is why Microsoft didn't want CIFS to be completely open (it opened a threat from Samba), didn't want people using web browsers to run applications that didn't require Windows, and so on. The threat that commoditization poses to those who want to prevent free markets, is what the "Halloween Memos" were about.

    This caused an alliance between the "hippies" advocating free information for information's sake, and software user advocates who need information to be free, for software competition/evolution's sake. The author here thinks that the "hippie" ideal of information needing to be free might not last, but discounts the practical necessity of freedom -- unless you consider quality to be just another ideal which can be sacrificed.

    Right now, the bar for quality and convenience on mobile devices is very low, so maybe giving up software quality isn't all that crazy. People are still willing to accept that you have to use this app to access this service; that if you want to buy music from the iTunes store, then you must use iTunes.

    But how long will this last? I'm sure CompuServe and AOL had their healthy-looking days, but they're gone or irrelevant now.

    Network effects might lock people into some particular services for a while, but I can't help but think that when people have access to a bunch of good XMPP apps, imagine what would happen to the idea of a Twitter app if they locked their service down so that there was only One implementation. That would be the end of them.

    If the non-free content App takes off, it's not going replace the web, and even so, it's going to require sellers that can be happy in a tiny niche, looking at absolute sales figures from a small group of suckers, never ever taking a look at (and getting discouraged by) the big picture where they realize they have 0.01% marketshare. Personally, I think if people had that kind of guts, this would be The Year of Linux Gaming. ;-)

  • by vinn01 (178295) on Monday July 12, 2010 @05:09PM (#32878992)

    Think of the past information walls that tried to charge for content:

    Compuserve, Source, Prodigy, AOL, etc. Where are they now?

    Why did they fail, but future walled providers will succeed?

    I think that the advertisement supported content world is not dead and will not die for a very long time.

  • by epine (68316) on Monday July 12, 2010 @10:25PM (#32882424)

    Normally I skim other comments before posting, but today I'm too busy.

    This whole piece is ruined by the tactic of taking people's rhetoric too literally when mounting an attack on the underlying sentiment. In the heat of the battle, people say strange things. Ten years later, the discussion needs to rise above the original Battling Tops [wikipedia.org].

    What was really at stake was the transaction floor. How valuable does information need to be *before* the constrictive apparatus of scarcity and profit kicks in? Given an exponentially falling cost of production and distribution for *most* information, the transaction floor ought to be pretty darn high.

    The same thing applies to the patent system. The novelty floor is presently set an order of magnitude (or three) below where it needs to be. It's not hard to find examples of defensible patents, such as the original public key patent. Your average hacker wasn't going to invent public key exchange by accident. It took a fairly large conceptual leap to realize that this might be a possible goal. The blue LED is another one that took real dedication and effort where many had failed. If you take the current patent system and shrink it to 10% or 1% of the current patent issue rate (suitable for information that wants to be expensive) the system becomes such a small shadow of its present self, that maybe it's just easier to shut it down completely.

    The problem is that a patent system dialed up to a respectable level of novelty will experience a dilution pressure. There will be a constant stream of people who would like to become millionaires by gaining possession of a simple idea such as one-click shopping. The anti-patent ideologues look at this and decide that cited the "slippery slope" argument is a way to force the system into a favorable polar outcome (no patents at all).

    The problem there is that if you look at every social system in the world as a slippery slope and force every aspect of every system into a polar outcome to defeat the slippery slope, you end up with a crap system. Societies do not function integrating over a trust level of zero. The right solution is to design laws that bend but don't break. It's an engineering challenge. You can't build a democratic system without managing to solve this problem at least some of the time. If you believe it's completely unsolvable, then you don't functionally believe in democracy.

    Where the transaction floor on "information wants to be expensive" needs to wind up is *above* what society can achieve for free by exploiting what Clay Shirkey calls the trillion hours per year cognitive surplus. People like to create, people like to collaborate, people like to share. If that's all it takes to create information of value, we don't need some corporation erecting a toll booth to dampen value creation.

    There are lots of places where corporations have something unique to *add* to the picture. Open source hasn't come anywhere close to the refinement of OS X. You get that refinement with some DRM bitters on the side, but there it is. You have a choice. Apple gave my father the run around for the last several months on the iPhone reception issue. How do you hold a tiny phone in a giant mitt without touching the corners? Just because information wants to be expensive, doesn't mean you're always getting what you paid for.

    The vigorous immune rejection at the Well was probably the same thing I feel. We need less companies out there looking around for something of value where they can plant a flag post and claim to be somehow essential to something that was already proceeding just fine. Corporate hustle can often bring an algorithm to market six months ahead of when the hackers would have got there anyway. How essential is that, in the long run? The accelerated solutions often prove to be annoyingly flimsy and riddled with security flaws, so it's arguable that the corporations win this race mostly by throwing more babie

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