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Weaving The Web 69

Posted by JonKatz
from the how-the-web-was-born dept.
In his new book, "Weaving the Web," Tim Berners-Lee describes how he created the WWW and his vision and hope for it. Any declarations from this brilliant and selfless man are important and worth paying attention to, but brace yourself: the writing style is somewhere between low-key and comatose, the vision noble but almost hopelessly naive.
Weaving The Web
author Tim Berners-Lee
pages 225
publisher Harper San Francisco, US $26
rating 6/10
reviewer Jon Katz
ISBN
summary How the Web Was Weaved; Where the Web Should Go

Tim Berners-Lee seems to be as nice as he is brilliant, which almost makes one fear for him and the future of his amazing creation, the World Wide Web.

It also makes for a curiously out-of-focus book. It's hard to overstate the importance of his invention; but his own version of the experience is about as exciting as a Pop-Tart. Berners-Lee was one of Time magazine's selections as the 100 greatest minds of the Twentieth Century. This is almost surely true, but doesn't necessarily translate into white-knuckle story-telling.

"Hope in life comes from the interconnections among all the people in the world," he writes near the conclusion of "Weaving The Web," (cowritten by Mark Fischetti, published by Harper San Francisco, $US 26).

"We believe that if we all work for what we think individually is good, then we as a whole will achieve more power, more understanding, more harmony as we continue the journey. We don't find the individual being subjugated by the whole. We don't find the needs of the whole being subjugated by the increasing power of an individual. But we might see more understanding in the struggles between these extremes?"

Then again, we might not. Genius programmers tend to be inward-looking, understandably, and Berners-Lee appears either not to hear or not to want to pay much attention to the frenzied pace of Web development and change. He's much too reflective.

Should we then feel that we're getting smarter as we evolve, he muses? Not really. "Just better connected - connected into a better shape. The experience of seeing the Web take off by the grassroots effort of thousands gives me tremendous hope that if we have the individual will, we can collectively make of our world what we want."

Any declaration by Berners-Lee is an important one, given who he is and what he's done. But it's a good thing he's occupying the 3Com Founders chair at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, where perhaps he can work and think, safe from the rapacious Great Whites circling his creation.

As most Slashdot readers know, Berners-Lee is the Oxford-educated physicist who patched together the software that became the World Wide Web while working at the CERN physics lab (the name CERN comes from the name of the International council, the Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire, which created the lab) outside Geneva.

In the tradition of the brilliant architects of the modern Internet and WWW - Vint Cerf, Jonathan Postel, Linus Torvald - Berners-Lee chose not to make billions from his ideas, but to use his prodigious gifts instead to keep the culture as free and accessible as possible.

For the past five years, he has served as director of the World Wide Web Consortium, whose goal is to ensure that the fundamental software for identifying and sharing information on the Web remains a public, widely accessible standard. This is a monumental political notion, one little appreciated in the offline world, where the very idea of distributing information freely seems traumatizing.

If the Consortium succeeds, there will be something approaching universal access to the Web. If it doesn't, the Web will go the way of mainstream media and become corporatized, privatized, fragmented and soul-less. And some people - but not its inventor - will profit even more from it than they already do.

Berners-Lee is puzzled by the insistence of so many U.S. interviewers on asking about his failure to cash in on the Web. He made eBay, eTrade and Amazon possible, but hasn't made a nickel from them himself.

His failure to grasp the elemental reality of American capitalism permeates this book. "What is maddening," he writes is the "terrible notion that a person's value depends on how important and financially successful they are, and that that is measured in terms of money." No American would wonder at this idea, which is not only terrible but at the heart of American life.

It's also critical to "Weaving the Web," which divides into two parts. The first tells the story of how the author embraced hyptertext and invented the Web in the face of widespread apathy and indifference from his colleagues. This makes for interesting but already widely reported history -- in Web-time, almost ancient. Then there is Berners-Lee's style, which is somewhere between low-key and comatose.

Describing widespread collegial resistance to his ideas at a pivotal moment, he writes: "Some people were intrigued, but many never accepted my argument. Rather than enter into useless debate, I simply forged ahead with HTML and showed the Web as much as possible."

He relates how in l991 he released his "World Wide Web" program to a limited number of CERN researchers. "Word spread within the high-energy physics community," he recalls,"furthered by the cross-pollinating to travel." The Web was born. This is actually the dramatic high point in the book.

The second part of "Weaving The Web" describes how the Web might be kept open despite all the mounting pressures to seal off chunks of it, which is the true drama facing the Web.

Berners-Lee's creation is no longer the exclusive playground of brilliant and creative hackers, nerds, geeks and academics; the big boys are massing at the gate. Entertainment and retailing are the Web's two biggest functions these days, along with e-trading. Increasingly, the ethos behind the Web isn't connectivity but greed.

Berners-Lee seems to float above this harsh, increasingly Darwinian reality. His dream is to have the Web become a much more powerful means of collaboration between people - a place where users come not only to browse but to create - and have those collaborations extend to computers. "Machines become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web - the content, links, and transactions between people and computers."

Both parts of Berners-Lee's dream are admirable, if not exactly stirring, but they're oddly disconnected from the ferocious practicalities of Web design, economics and competition. They're also written in so flat, technical and inaccessible a way that the non-geek hasn't got a prayer, a lost opportunity from an author sure to be remembered as a seminal technological figure of the century.

One of the Internet's great ironies is that it's grown so dramatically and remained so free primarily because none of the most powerful institutions in American life - government, journalism, business - paid it much attention in the first decades of its existence. It exploded before Congress, regulatory agencies, corporations, lawyers or the mass media had a chance to curb, control, exploit or acquire it.

That is, sadly, no longer the case. The predators are paying a lot of attention. Government regulators and law enforcement authorities are drooling over the Net and Web as unclaimed bureaucratic turf. Powerful institutions like law, medicine and education are frantic about the open sourcing of information - the sometimes involuntary use, re-use and sharing of information once closely held and copyright.

And business has now grasped that the techno-economy - in a few years, economists estimate the Net will be a trillion dollar economy in its own right - isn't winding down but just cranking up. The Web has become, for all these parties, too important to ignore.

Not surprisingly, Berners-Lee argues for the continued universality of the Web across the spectrum of human invention. People and organizations may have different motivations for putting things on the Web, but "for information to be universal, it can't discriminate between these. The Web must include information that is free, very expensive, and every level in between. It must allow all the different interest groups to put together all manner of pricing and licensing and incentive systems and always, of course, allow the user to just say no."

We need this kind of univerality, Berners-Lee argues, because that's how people operate in the real world. If the Web is to represent and support the "web of life" off-line, it has to cross all kinds of social, cultural and geographic boundaries.

A good argument, and well made. But what does it really mean?

The problem for the reader is that it's hard to find anybody arguing that the Web shouldn't be open - including the people trying to cordon it off and suck it dry. The problem with the way this book is written is that it ensures that mostly, Berners-Lee will end up preaching to the converted. He fantasizes about where the Web ought to go, but don't look for any useful guidance in how to actually get there.

The Web's next major stage, he writes, has enormous promise to radically increase the creative productivity of groups, corporations, society, depending on the evolution of new technical standards that the Web consortium is developing.

If the Web's first stage was about addressing and presenting documents, the next --- based on XML (extensible mark-up language) and RDF (resource description framework) -- may allow the Web to become more intuitive, intelligent and logical. The benefits are obvious, Berners-Lee says, the dangers a "Balkanization of the Web."

If companies, for example, insist on creating their own XML tags that aren't universally readable, the Web would no longer be an open medium for sharing information.

How would Berners-Lee prevent this from happening? How can anyone?

His simplistic response: support the Web Consortium in its fight as guardian of the Web.

As its creator, Berners-Lee is already one of the century's most influential scientists. But reading "Weaving the Web," one senses that his scientific skills are way ahead of his political and cultural instincts.

Fair enough. Supporting the Web Consortium is a worthy idea; it's hard to believe all but a handful of those reading this review on Slashdot would disagree.

But Berners-Lee is almost naïve in interpreting the political, cultural and economic context in which the battle for an open Web will will take place, and how profoundly different that environment is from the one facing the Internet's architects when they were designing domain names and protocols a generation ago.

He underestimates the rapacious power of American capitalism, especially the new media variety. The Information Age has spawned a whole new breed of corporate monsters - CBS Viacom, Time Warner, Microsoft, the Sun-Netscape Alliance, AOL, the computer companies, the telcoms - whose very existence depends on controlling chunks of the new digitally-sparked economy, sealing territory off and charging for access to information and services.

None of these billion-dollar powerhouses are likely to fall quietly in behind the Web Consortium because it's the right thing to do. Armed with lawyers, capital, and lobbyists who are influential in shaping policies in Washington, they're moving towards the Net with a fury.

They're not likely to encounter much in the way of organized resistance. Most Americans on the Web are amusing themselves with games and movie sites, e-trading or shopping. The computing professionals at the core of Web design and commerce take their freedom online for granted; they've never experienced any other reality.

In the United States, corporations have only one ideology: make the most money at all times in the most expedient way. There's no room in their management philosophies for ceding money to equalizing fantasies about the Web. If the Web is to remain as open and universally accessible as Berners-Lee and millions of others would like, there is only one way that's going to happen - head for the trenches and join in one of the bloodier brawls in the history of capitalism.

Because the Web is so individualistic a medium, with the technology surrounding it evolving so rapidly, it's difficult to imagine it being ovewhelmed by even these behemoths in the same way they've gobble up much of the rest of American culture and journalism. But it's not nearly as impossible as sometimes arrogant and spoiled nerds and geeks like to think.

Apart from the dangers of corporatism, the American political culture is one of the more primitive in the West. In Scandanavia countries have worked feverishly to wire up their governments, schools and residents. Not here. Presidential candidates like Elizabeth Dole have made restricted access to the Internet the centerpieces of their campaigns. Even techno-political opportunists like Clinton and Gore spend more time talking about V-Chips than Net access for kids. The primary response of the U.S. Congress to the emergence of the Net and the Web has been to pass not one but two laws restricting freedom of speech online. Blocking and filtering technologies have proliferated.

This week, in fact, a German policy research group teamed up with a U.S. scholar of the First Amendment to urge the creation of an international rating and filtering system for the Internet, a step towards the irrational and censorious rating systems that already presume to make movies and TV shows "safe" for children. The proposal generated substantial media attention and approval in the United States.

Overall, the response to the Web's growth hasn't been a movement to ensure universal access to digital technology, but a campaign to regulate, curb and privatize the net and the Web.

Despite all the hype about the government's efforts to rein in Microsoft's aggressively monopolistic business practices, few analysts believe the federal government is really a match for gargantuan Microsoft, or can actually curb its power.

If Berners-Lee has identified the right issue - keeping the Web open and free -- "Weaving the Web" stumbles badly in offering concrete solutions. An open Web won't depend on standards and protocols nearly as much as on politics and power. The epic political struggle of the 21 st Century looks to be about individualism versus corporatism, and the Net and the Web will be prominent battlegrounds.

Berners-Lee is heroic in his creativity and selflessness, but unless you want to fling "Weaving The Web" at the charging legions of the Sun-Netscape Alliance, his literary venture isn't as useful or inspiring as the author or his great creation.

Purchase this book at Amazon.

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Weaving The Web

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    What a remarkable coincedence. The other day I was going to say that Tim Berners-Lee should be nominated for that GNU Free Software award.. After all, how could the community produce software so quickly without the aid of the Web? Much of the free software movement wouldn't have been possible without this marvelous creature.

  • The same goes for P3P. Nobody is forcing you to visit all these evil moneygrabbing sites - if you don't want to give out your personal details, you don't have to.

    Except that the vast majority of people, who are stupid, will like P3P because it relieves them from typing in the same personal information over and over again. After a while, commercial sites won't let you in anymore unless you switch on P3P. Lying about your identity becomes much more difficult; you'll have to juggle different P3P profiles.

    The Direct Marketing Association of junk mail fame backs P3P. Be afraid.

    Protocols can be dangerous.

    --

  • by bain (1910)
    Well .. if you think about it .. he is ..

    there are so many linux machines out there .. and the kernel has so many internet protocols and other nice things that linux has become part of the internet and WWW ...

    so in a sence he's right ..

    Tho I would love to know what else Linus has done appart from just linux ..

    Bain
  • Why is it when reading this review I felt like I was reading the same 3 paragraphs over and over again. Katz talks about the "rapacious force of capitalism" at least 3 or 4 times.

    Good writing is succint and to the point. Not droning on endlessly about the same thing, making one's point 15 different ways. If you write it once, clearly, then there is no need to repeat yourself.
  • I'm familiar with journalist structure, but that's not what Katz did here. In the meat of the review, he basically reiterates the same contrast between TBL's utopian view of the web versus "rapacious capitalists at the gate."

    There's a difference between repeating with more detail and repeating ad nauseum.
  • Just wait for the battle for the global directory comes into play. Which company's technology will hold the golbal directory? Will it be standards based, or is the current race for directory dominance going to decide who does what? Which consortium, group or government will hold the keys? Someoneone after all must manage the whole shabang.

    Up to this point, most directory services have been local in scope, holding the HR, IT, asset management and public key/security information for corporations and government departments. That will change as the push for the extranet evolves.

    Look at the Internet in terms of it's technological parts and you have several smallish battles for dominance. Who controls the bandwidth? Who can seize control the edges of continental divides? What protocols and languages will become the defacto standard? All three of these issues have had coverage lately, but I submit that they are small potatoes.

    You can believe that the big boys are eyeing the global directory. It is still a ways off, but that's the big one. I'd bet that there will be very _real_ and deadly fight for peices of that pie. Let's hope that the powers that be are smart enough to agree that there must be open standards used, and that an independant, multinational group must be mandated with overseeing the thing. Even at that, I worry about the resolve of our political leaders, and the greediness of corporations.
  • I guess mass adoption is the mark of genius. I have long suspected such. The French apparently dig Jerry Lewis, but is he a genius?

    HTTP betamaxed the efficient and textual gopher protocol, which is one of the greatest inventions since ANSI-BBS.

  • W3C has long passed out of the time when it was useful to web development. Today, it's a closed group of industry execs who meet to find ways to make the WWW more profitable, not more useful or more informative or better.

    So CSS isn't useful? What about HTTP-1.1, or XML? How would you suggest that new standards are worked out, if not by the W3C? Should we go back to the days of incompatible proprietary crap from Netscape and Microsoft?

    They're responsible for the most dangerous threat to free speech, PICS, and the most dangerous threat to privacy, P3P.

    Er... how can a standard be 'dangerous'? You might as well say that HTTP is 'dangerous' because it allows children to view pornography.

    If you don't want to use PICS, you can turn it off in your browser. If you're worried that this won't be possible, remember that you have the source to Mozilla and if necessary could comment out all PICS support.

    The same goes for P3P. Nobody is forcing you to visit all these evil moneygrabbing sites - if you don't want to give out your personal details, you don't have to. I suppose that HTTP authentication is dangerous because it allows sites like the New York Times to force people to register?

  • by Signal 11 (7608)
    *cough* Unless he wrote this book himself, I think you're doing him a disservice by saying his vision was naive. After it's all said and done, it's easy for critics to go back and say that you were naive, stupid, didn't know what you were doing, and a plethora of other things. What these critics will universally fail to grasp however - is that ground-breaking work is hard, frought with difficulty, and often bears no fruit.

    I'm reminded of a quote from the Guiness book of world records - Babe Ruth, argueably the greatest baseball player of all time.. couldn't even hit the ball half the time.

    --

  • Once again the uneducated public is informed how perfect a society of interconnected, networking souls are the true path to righteousness. The web is nothing more than advertising we pay for. I argue that TBL's day of information sharing for the sake of research went away a long time ago. The web developer of tomorrow is closely aligned with the corporate lawyer / PR man. Closely screen ANY information to ensure that no individual can gain access to the REAL truth.

    Maybe the real thinkers should be looking forward to that next technology which will move us past the web and onto the next frontier of human evolution?
  • Christ on toast. Katz criticizes someone else's Vision of the Web because it's not utopian in the same way as Katz's utopian Visions.

    Damn thing is considered naive, evidently because it doesn't have enough meaningless hypertechnoculture buzzwords.

  • It's funny that you mention this, because so much of what has happened to the web has been the emphasis of design over usability.

    I think a lot of the problems that have come about with letting the web grow organically is that for quite a long time, the dominant technologies on the web weren't open -- what with Netscape setting de facto standards, then Microsoft following suit.

    I don't think TBL is trying to make the web into something it's not -- it's more of optimizing the ways in which it is growing. People wanted "visual design" on the web. At first it was done through nasty Netscape hacks. The w3c saw this, and specified CSS to meet this need. People wanted a standard way to communicate available resources, and RDF emerged.

  • > brace yourself: the writing style is somewhere between low-key and comatose

    The book or the review?

    Come on, Katz. Of the last 5 book reviews, this is both the shortest book and the longest review. And it didn't even include the TOC.

    I guess I can kind of understand being a bit long-winded in a feature article, but you really must consider editing when writing a review...
  • > you could have stopped reading it if you thought it was too long.

    Oh, believe me, I did. But I'm interested in the book. I'd like to know more. Maybe someone can post a REAL review here...

    I've never flamed Katz for being long-winded in his features. It's kind of expected there. But come on, this is a review. Who write reviews this long? Crazy.
  • If you believe corporate greed ... is a major problem, what alternative system can you offer to achieve superior results to fufill individual and group expectations?
    Hear, hear!

    A lot of other responses to this article reflect a common belief that capitalism is a source of human suffering. Indeed, bad things happen in our predominantly capitalist system (speaking here as an American) but those bad things are mostly either unrelated to capitalism, or the direct results of violations of capitalist principles. Katz himself comes from a generation that, in its time, disdained capitalism for all the wrong reasons. Capitalism, while including competition, is fundamentally a system of cooperation.

    Capitalism is a system of voluntary exchanges which works best in the absence of coercion or fraud. When allowed, capitalism gives us Moore's Law, improved medical care, steadily improving quality of life for rich and poor, and other delectable yummies. But coercion and fraud can gum up the works.

    There is no magical reason why the American government should know what's right for the American people. But surpringly often, people know what's right for themselves. And if it isn't made a crime, they'll pursue it under their own steam.

    The government purports to be a unified entity, operating from reasonable-sounding principles spelled out in the Constitution and elsewhere. One is tempted to think of a friendly Santa-like figure who looks out for the public's best interests. In fact it is a hodge-podge of loose cannons all acting independently. The only consistency in all the buzz is the influence of special interest lobbyists, who use government to enforce coercion to pursue goals that cannot be achieved non-coercively.

    The only alternative to voluntary exchange is random coercion by a powerful government. Worst case, it's a local warlord. Best case, it's a far-off bureaucracy from which one can hide through anonymity. Either way, there is no reason to expect a government to serve the public good, much less to do so efficiently, its own rhetoric notwithstanding.

  • by r (13067)
    it always amazes me why people declare berners-lee to be a 'genius' or otherwise brilliant person for creating the basis of world wide web.

    the sad thing is, http is neither the only, nor even the first hypertext protocol (anyone remember gopher?) - it just happened to be the one that people started using, thanks as much (if not more!) to the availability of client software such as ncsa mosaic. the ingenuity of the web comes from the ways in which people use it, not from the protocols on which it's built.
  • by Zico (14255)

    Of course he isn't, and I would bet that Mr. Torvalds himself would be the first one to admit that. This and things like it are what make Mr. Katz's articles such a disappointing read. Is there any doubt that he just threw Linus's name in there, not because it actually belonged there, but for some cheap emotional appeal to the Slashdot crowd? It's plain dishonest writing.

    The irony of the "naive" and "comatose" remarks that he made is simply priceless. Just curious, but is Mr. Finger-On-The-Pulse-Of-The-Geek-Community still using Linux, or did he switch back to his old platform?

    Cheers,
    ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

  • Well, I DID stop reading it and went straight to the comments. It WAS too long.
  • NO the web certainly is not utopia, but plenty of information is shared still. Take a look at slashdot.org [slashdot.org] fo instance ;-) Seriously there is plenty of data and opinion published on the web for the benefit of researchers and other interested parties. The problem with the sharing on the web may not be so much the advertising as the sheer number of people with access.

    A site that may be set up for the serious discussion of some idea or academic study can be become overwhelmed by input from crack pots, zealots with some axe to grind against the site's subject, or the just plain ill-informed.

    The web still does allow people to collaborate and share information in new and innovative ways, it also does a whole bunch of other things that Mr. Berners-Lee never thought of. ISn't it great?

  • What about this book made Katz so sad?

    What I gathered (from the review - alas I haven't read the book) is that it's not the book that made Katz sad. Life is making Katz sad. The fact that people who didn't build the web are getting rich from it, while the pioneers aren't, bothers him. Even if it people like TBL don't seem to care all that much (maybe they've got more important things to think about).
  • Katz wrote:

    Berners-Lee is already one of the century's most influential scientists. But reading "Weaving the Web," one senses that his scientific skills are way ahead of his political and cultural instincts.

    ...and that's a bad thing?

  • I admit that TBT has its merits, no doubt about that but I think it's great time that his collegue Robert Cailleau deserves more credit than given untill now.

    Most of TBT 's work, as far as I know, was co-authored by R.Cailleau.
  • Fair enough. Supporting the Web Consortium is a worthy idea; it's hard to believe all but a handful of those reading this review on Slashdot would disagree.

    I hope a lot of people will disagree. The World Wide Web Consortium, despite its grandiose name, is nothing but an industry group of the largest, most powerful internet companies, which does its utmost to make all decisions and collaboration completely opaque to the internet community. If there is anyone in the whole world who least needs "support", it is IBM, AT&T, MCI/Worldcom, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, etc. etc.

    Berners-Lee's primary fear is "Balkanization"; his primary solution to that is PICS [censorware.org], which promises to censor the internet to such an extent that no one will be offended by any part of it (and thus it can all stay together in one big interconnected lump). This is, of course, total crap: network effects make being connected to the primary Internet so much more useful than only having a slice of it that people with proprietary networks (AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve, lots and lots of others) have fallen over themselves rushing to connect - and now they are essentially all connected, in one fashion or another, and I predict that it will never split - it's simply too valuable to be interoperable with the other 99% of the Internet to split off. Berners-Lee's "fear" is nothing but a red herring.

    Berners-Lee's other work primarily includes those protocols which are deemed to be most profitable to the aforementioned internet giants. The P3P protocol, for example, is a standard for forcing all web visitors to disclose their name, SSN and checking account number to every website they visit - imagine the profits! W3C has long passed out of the time when it was useful to web development. Today, it's a closed group of industry execs who meet to find ways to make the WWW more profitable, not more useful or more informative or better. They're responsible for the most dangerous threat to free speech, PICS, and the most dangerous threat to privacy, P3P. Why in the world would anyone want to support them?

    --
    Michael Sims
  • I disagree. All that link does is allow you to buy if you are so inclined. There is nothing forcing you. If Katz gave the book a glowing review, and you bought it, and hated it so much you burned it, then you wouldn't ever listen to Katz's opinion again (...).
    The commercial interests are there and they have to be. Rob and team need to eat (although that other thread says that won't ever be a problem again). The thing that makes the Net so powerful is that one step from research to purchase, facillitating that is what made Bezos a billy-on-air. Personalization and trust become bigger factors in purchase decisions, not images of hot chicks and fire (like TV). Plus with the huge competition (which is not likely to go away since /. has shown that you can run a site from you house and end up a milly-on-air) if a site pisses you off, you can leave and never come again. If you did that with the major TV networks you would stop watching TV after, say, about 15 minutes.
  • I dunno. E.F. Codd presumably made a killing of the relational model, by promoting himself as the final arbiter truth and convincing a lot of companies they had to get their products "certified".

    Aparently what it takes is to be a shameless, hard nosed, self promoting wind-bag.
  • AIR, this is brought on by the newpaper enforced "pyramid-scheme" of writng a story.

    I'm not a journalist, nor do I play one on TV, but as my recollection goes it is something to the effect of
    "1. Make point in first 15 words"
    "2. Repeat main elements of story"
    "3. Repeat with more detail"
    "4. Etc..."

    This was done to make things easy for the Editor to cut the story down to size to fit in the space available in a column, without having to worry to much if info was lost.

    Unfortunately, this technique is not as relevant on the web as it is in newspapers. Now it tends to just annoy readers, especially when space is no longer an issue.
  • It's also hard to see the W3C as a worthwhile standards body when their processes allow abuses like Microsoft's patenting of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), for which they had participated in the standardization process. Who needs a consortium to develop proprietary standards?!
  • Amen to that.

    katz calling berners-lee 'naive' on ANY issue related to the web is so laughable it hardly deserves a response...

  • Maybe not an architect of the net or the web, but he's the architect of the platform that supports my little piece of the web -- and a huge number of others. I wonder just how many Internet nodes are running his little operating system... In any event, Linus has definitely made the net bigger and better.
  • Think of LT as a guy who (in concert with others ... lots of others) showed what can be achieved through inspired use of the Internet.

    Torvalds is at the center of "the Linux phenomenon," which, for better or for worse, is largely an internet phenomenon (at least in the public perception, and to a great extent, in fact). The OS is the poster child for the whole open source concept (never mind whether it was first, or whether other things deserve mention just yet). Did Linus Torvalds or his creation build the internet or the web? No, but that's not the only valuable thing one can do for the 'net (or for the computing world at large).

    So at least an "honorable mention" for Linus (and while we're at it, RMS, ESR and lots of other acronymious folks) is in order ... but we'll see whether something bigger and better comes out of Linux and, more generally, open source.

  • On the contrary, I think a bad review by Katz could help sell the book to /. readers.
  • Supporting the Web Consortium is a worthy idea; it's hard to believe all but a handful of those reading this review on Slashdot would disagree ...

    The reason is that not many people really know what's up with W3C; not that it's a fundamentally "worthy" idea. Raph noted some of the issues, but there's more to consider:

    • W3C process is really closed
    • It's so rushed there's no time for adequate consideration of its proposals
    • Trying to raise technical issues outside the small club of WG "insiders" isn't generally practical
    • One person (Tim B-L) has excessive power, namely the ability to ram decisions down WG throats in the face of considerable strong argument otherwise
    • There's no effective role for testing in their processs until after the spec's out the door (when it's too late)

    W3C really needs some reform. Have a look at some of the discussions relating to XHTML and its abuse of the namespace spec. (The XML-DEV list, which has a significant portion of the key XML developers -- and way too much traffic, they need slashdot technology!) You see all of the points above brought out. W3C has achieved no credibility in those discussions; rather than addressing the issues that have been raised, the statements from W3C folk (none "official") all ignore those topics and arguments. The same is true for the official feedback channels ... heck, it can be hard enough even getting your posts archived so they're part of the visible public record.

    And those XHTML issues are not the only examples of such process failures. DOM has had them, as have other specs. This isn't being made up, and it may well be typical.

    Tim's a nice enough guy in person, I guess, and he certainly knew enough to accept the ride the CERN stuff was offering. But to claim that he invented the web is a bit much, given the number of similar technologies that predate the HTML/HTTP package. He was lucky, right place at right time (just like the Web $Zillionaires). And his book is an attempt to capitalize on that.

    Today, the web is evolving more significantly outside the scope of W3C. Consider Slashdot's backend, or Amazon's, or E*Trade's. Do they need more standards, particularly? Not a chance. How about needing the existing standards (HTML 4 from 1997, CSS 1 from 1996) to have real teeth? Now we're talking ... but that's not what they're delivering, or trying to deliver.

    I guess what I'm saying is that the web is ours, we're building it more than W3C, and don't assume the W3C has more than an accidental role. It could become worthy of more, but today it isn't; just look at the realities, and how few of the really useful technologies need to be driven by W3C to succeed. Other groups are already doing better.

    - Jojo

  • Seconded. Right place, right time does not equate to genius; Tim didn't create the ubiquity or any (!!!) of the basic ideas.

  • Why made you think he was trying to convince "corporate monsters"? Yes, the corporations will do whatever they can get away with, and they'll do it no matter what TBL says, so what would be the point?

    Open standards will win if:

    1. Geeks and high-tech entrepreneurs continue to create businesses based on open standards.

    2. Consumers are educated enough, or the benefits of openness are obvious enough, that the open-standards-based businesses begin to win.

      So who should rightly be his audience? Obviously, geek entrepreneurs, and maybe some proportion of consumers. And maybe the corporations can read it later, if they want to survive.

  • One of the Internet's great ironies is that it's grown so dramatically and remained so free primarily because none of the most powerful institutions in American life - government, journalism, business - paid it much attention in the first decades of its existence. It exploded before Congress, regulatory agencies, corporations, lawyers or the mass media had a chance to curb, control, exploit or acquire it.

    So would you call that "security through obscurity?" That'd be even more ironic! ;-)

    --LP
  • I would bet that if you asked Tim Berners-Lee or Linus Torvalds if they even had an inkling of how big their creations would grow when they started, they would each admit it wasn't something they ever thought about until it happened. These are quiet creators, which is probably why they're both so nice. I would also guess that if Linus Torvalds wrote a book about "Creating Linux" that Jon Katz would also think the style was "somewhere between low-key and comatose", but guess what, I would probably go buy it and read it anyway. However, what I won't bother reading anymore are book reviews by Jon Katz, because when I read a book review, I am looking for is the reviewer's fair opinion of the book, not his opinions about the "harsh Darwinian reality" he seems so frightened of. What bothers me Mr. Katz is that you tried to disguise your rant as a book review and it was very unfair to Mr. Berners-Lee. You should go try to quietly create something nice.
  • by shomon2 (71232)
    If TBL has taken on a role as protector of the web from balkanisation, he is truly seeing the tool theory clearly: I wouldn't really call the web a tool, any more than sledgehammers, potatoes, love, or money are tools.

    Let's say the internet is a "thing". We all see it in a slightly different way and give it a different set of values, and then use it accordingly. The fact that the internet is being used for monetary gain is a clear picture of what the values of some people are.

    Tim Berners-Lee has seen a great vision of what it is, and that is his own mission and duty, not so much that of the money people (Whose mission might be to act as an obstacle to him?). Each of us can have our own vision of it, and therefore our mission to do with this as well.

    But I believe I should support what he's saying, support the web consortium, make the web a good place. Money can be a beautiful "thing" too, but it's the bad aspects of the values we give it that are what I'd be more wary of.

    Maybe at some point we'll understand, even if we're big greedy caricature businessmen, that you can't really use something if it's all fucked up. The earthquake in Taiwan comes to mind: How much computer hardware money would have been saved if those houses had had better protection, if there were better support for victims, more resources for this kind of disaster? If people didn't already have an understanding of some simple and narrow-minded kind that being ecological for example might be a good idea, then absolutely no-one would invest in ecological business practices (recycling, not polluting, etc). The reason people invest in that stuff is that it makes simple economic sense to do it!

    In the same way, how much money can we save by adhering to the ww3's standards now? As well as all the other values we can gain from it...

    In short, Tim, keep your head up there in the clouds, stay skint and visionary, keep inspiring and standardising the www!
  • Jon is going against what he wtote about Thomas Paine. After all Thomas Paine contributed all his royalties from _Common Sense_ to the American Revolution.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.05/paine_pr .html
  • Well Jon, you're still misspelling 'Torvalds' and still using news bits (in this case a review) as a launching pad for your hot air rants. Haven't you learned anything from your too-long stint on Slashdot? This article was only nominally a book review. It's way too long -- look at the other Slashdot book reviews! They have a single coherent point, sometimes two, they are clear and plain, and then they end.

    Let's take a closer look:

    Berners-Lee appears either not to hear or not to want to pay much attention to the frenzied pace of Web development and change. He's much too reflective.

    Perhaps the Web isn't changing all that much? Perhaps Berners-Lee anticipated what small changes have occurred? (He is highly intelligent, after all.) Since you don't give examples of what you think are huge changes (these putative changes are not self-evident), we don't know what you're talking about. And what are the 'rapacious Great Whites circling his creation'? Amazon.com and hucksters of that ilk? I dunno -- I have to guess because you don't say.

    As for 'architects of the modern Internet and WWW', Linus isn't one of them. Before you go around claiming to know who's who of the architects of the Internet, read an RFC or two. Your articles will be better for it.

    the fundamental software for identifying and sharing information on the Web remains a public, widely accessible standard. This is a monumental political notion, one little appreciated in the offline world, where the very idea of distributing information freely seems traumatizing.

    Yes, we know that you are happy with yourself for being a countercultural Wired-schooled neo-Libertarian, and a master hacker too boot ('I figured out the MS Word question mark problem!'), but trust me: author bios are best when they are free of inane commentary.

    His failure to grasp the elemental reality of American capitalism permeates this book. "What is maddening," he writes is the "terrible notion that a person's value depends on how important and financially successful they are, and that that is measured in terms of money."

    Sounds to me like he did grasp the reality of American capitalism. So what if he disdains it -- he's highly intelligent, remember?

    Then there is Berners-Lee's style, which is somewhere between low-key and comatose.

    No neon green text on a bright yellow background, you mean. He's highly intelligent...remember?

    I'd continue, but your review is so long this post would grow like a cancer. So I'll stop. All you've done is demonstrate your naïveté and the fact that you don't understand Berners-Lee. Go back to Wired, if they'll take you back. Boot Kevin Kelley in the groin for me while you're at it.

  • While I tend to agree regarding the privacy issues, I've also have some unpleasant experiences with the W3C over strictly technical issues. If you search the W3C mailing list archives for the DOM and SVG working groups, you'll see some of this discussion.

    The fundamental problem is that, unlike the IETF, the W3C process is closed. Really closed. Members of a working group are obligated to keep the discussions of the working group confidential. There are open mailing lists for public comment, but trying to actually raise technical issues and see them addressed is like pulling teeth.

    I know the W3C tries pretty hard, and it seems kind of unfair to pick on them, because they're far less avaricious than the typical make-10^9-buck-quickly Internet scheme, but their process is just not good. You see this reflected in their specs, which are often more complex than necessary, contain technical flaws, and have too much concession to industry demands.

    "Rough consensus and working code" forever!
  • This review is needlessly cynical. Yes, the world is a harsh, difficult place. But the very naivite of which you accuse him is what led him to bull through the resistance to his ideas and demonstrate them in action. Don't be too sure that this naivite is a weakness, even now. And why so quick to post a bad review that will almost certainly cost this book readers who might well have appreciated it if you hadn't discouraged them from trying?
  • I'm not sure that we should expect anything more, or less, from Tim Berners-Lee. Even with a ghost writer, he's not a historian, and the story that I think Jon Katz wanted to hear really required a historian to write in an entertaining and accessible fashion.

    I was stumbling through a book store in the World Trade Center the other day and I found Weaving the Web in audiobook format. I had not heard about this book at all, and I was surprised that they chose to make it an audiobook because I assumed that it would be a fairly cerebral book.

    Now that I have finished listening to it, and on the basis of what Jon said, I believe that the book benefitted from abridgement. The book is probably less out of focus and boring in the spoken form, although Tim Berners-Lee will not make a second career as a narrator.

    I was glad to have picked this book up, as I was to pick up the book Dealers of Lightning, because it gave me an overview of formative events in the technology I use. I did not know very much about the W3C, who was involved in its creation, nor what they were trying to accomplish by creating it. If you wonder what happened before Netscape Navigator 1.0, you may find portions of this book quite useful.

    I believe this book also gives credit to some of the more unsung pioneers of browser technology. And, for someone who probably does not live and breathe capitalism in the Darwinian sense, I think Tim Berners-Lee does a pretty good job explaining what made the first widely-distributed web browsers preferred over other technically-important, but less commercially viable, browsers.

    Finally, had I not read this book, I would not know how much Tim Berners-Lee wants the Web to be a medium for two-way communication. He clearly seems to favor the sort of community that is being built here. More interesting to me, however, was the idea that he thinks that browsers should include fairly robust editing tools, or that browser-server interaction should facilitate more seemless content contribution.

    Overall, I'm glad I took the time to hear it, but I agree that it took commitment to get through parts of it.

  • If Tim Berners-Lee had tried to get rich (or even make a small profit) from the WWW, it never would have made it. Not only would it have been a failure, but something else would have been perfectly happy to take it's place and he would have lost out entirely in his small potential customer base to more elaborate hypertext systems. He would have just wasted time, effort, and money trying to sell it and I'm sure he knows it perfectly well.

    No wonder he gets annoyed when people keep bugging him about why he didn't cash in.

    What is the WWW that he created? Just HTTP and HTML (and, I suppose, URLs). HTTP was never entirely necessary, the browser could log into FTP servers and get the file in the address or whatever, but at any rate HTTP is just the obvious modifications to make transparent linking simple. HTML is okay, but it's not really unusually well suited to the job. Any reasonably complete document format with hyperlinks hacked in would have done the job.

    Realistically, he might have brought the WWW along a year quicker than it would have shown up on its own. We might have been using plaintext in an FTP client with a text reader modified to recognize FTP addresses with a path appended (IMHO, we might have been better off if the idea of hidden "links" was never invented and you could always see the address you were going to). We also might have had something like Curl as the basis of the WWW, and not have to be messing around with Javascript and Java and XML and all that other junk.

    Hypertext had been around for a while before the WWW, as had the internet. Somebody was going to put them together sooner or later, and it was inevitable that it would take off like a rocket. The WWW that Tim Berners-Lee created isn't so much a particularly good implementation, just the first free one.
  • everything is gonna be allright.

    An extremely sad tone came through this article. What about this book made Katz so sad? Capitalism might be keeping the web from being a totally open forum, but it sure is employing a whole lot of web people. One advantage that we have (those that want to keep it free) is home field advantage. Everything and everybody else that comes now, has to come to our house, steal the cow, and lock the door on the way out. It's a lot easier to do that if somebody doesn't already live there.
    The recent Corel licensing stories are a sign of the strength of the community. The message "don't cater to us, and we won't use your stuff." That's a powerful message.
  • Interesting snippet from this ZDNet story [zdnet.com] on the andover.net IPO and /. aquisition:

    Andover.net paid $1.5 million to acquire Slashdot.org and $367,000 to acquire another Linux/open-source site, Freshmeat.net. Both will receive further cash and stock considerations if the founders, notably Malda and a couple of others, remain with Andover.net for two years. Malda will receive an additional $3.5 million plus stock over the next two years should he remain with Andover.net.



    Now *I* could be quite Zen with that!

  • I think TBL's comment about a man's worth not being necessarily tied to his financial success is particularly significant to this forum. The Open Source community is a place where people are judged, not by how much they are worth, but by how much they contribute. TBL has contributed more to the world of technology than almost anyone out there, and I for one feel that his worth is measureless. The same goes for people like Linus Torvalds, who's worth can only be measured in the usefulness of his contributions - and I don't need to tell anyone on /. how wonderful those are.
  • "Genius programmers tend to be inward-looking, understandably, and Berners-Lee appears either not to hear or not to want to pay much attention to the frenzied pace of Web development and change. He's much too reflective."

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Katz is so busy writing his off-target opinions on "geek culture" that he doesn't really.. well, DO anything.

    More code, less talk.

  • Tim Berners-Lee was on the NPR [npr.org] radio show Fresh Air [whyy.org] on 9/16, talking about his book. The entire interview is available on-line, from
    http://whyy.org/cgi-bin/FAshowretrieve.cgi?2708 [whyy.org]

    I recommend it, it's very good listening

    - Seth Finkelstein

  • I met TimBL earlier this year for an interview I did for The Times of London. A very nice man indeed. I also asked him about the cash - whether he was jealous of Jeff Bezos et al.
    He wasn't, he said: they make their money from selling books (or whatever) not the internet. That, he said, was just a tool.

    I don't know if I'd be quite as zen as that.
  • Slashdotters-
    The book and the review bring to the surface a few interesting points about the future of certain liberties we have come to take for granted. Take, for instance, the rating system discussed near the end of the article. Who is responsible for determining what is "safe" for kids to view and what is not? Apparantly the Government has ideas in that area. Hey, why not, its the same government that takes 1/3rd of our earnings in taxes. Thats the funny thing about governments though, isn't it?

    Last time I checked, they were supposed to be working for us. I don't know, maybe I'm too old-fashioned. But lets look at it this way. If the government made cars, a Chevy would cost $80,000 and you would have to refill the gas tank every 10 blocks. If we had to buy food like the Government buys weapons for the military, we would starve to death in the supermarket while deciding between brands of apples. What started out as a good and well intentioned thing has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Yes, I can see the need to take taxes to make the government run. Yes, I can see the need to put checks on Military spending - but not to the extent where I go broke paying taxes and the military cant enter into a successful campaign with a lack of weapons.

    Which brings us to what we are looking at now. Rating and potential censorship of the Internet. "For the good of the children". No. Sorry. Dont buy it. Some shmuck thinks that they know better then we do. It is not up to the government to decide what is safe for our kids (and us) to view on the Net and what isn't. It is not for the Government to decide what is safe for our kids to watch in TV or see in the movie theatres. I do not recall anything in the constitution delegating censorship or ratings to the Federal government, and I seem to recall something about all unlisted powers being sent to the state, in which case regulations are at the wrong level.

    The Internet has always been a place of open-ness. Open standards, open software (for the most part). If I wanted to make a Web page, I could go out and find out how to and by god put up a Web page. If I wanted to host an IRC server, by god I could go out and download the server code and compile it. Or I could write one from scratch. We have a set of guidelines defined for everything, under the Request For Comment system. All IRC servers comply with the basic specs set out for IRC servers by the RFC. All SMTP servers comply with the basic specs set out by the RFCs. Private network IP addresses were set out by RFCs. We have flexibility, and that is good.

    But flexibility can be bad as well. Take, for example, the XML issue Katz and Burners-Lee bring up. In order for the Internet to survive as a viable and open medium that we have all come to know and love, it has to stay open.

    Perhaps I am rambling, it is a bad habit of mine. Perhaps next time I wont stay up 36 hours before I post to /.. These were merely the first thoughts that came to mine reading the review. The book sounds a bit dry, but I can guarantee I've read worse. I think I'll grab a copy and read it through. You never know, even naive people can have good visions. If you want an interesting look at a possible could-be, albeit a political one (god knows how far off track are political system is right now) try Tom Clancy's Executive Orders. You never know.

    I'm done rambling for now. Maybe I'll go get some sleep so I can maybe regret and be embarassed by this post later.

    -Captain Keen
    --
  • Captain Keen said: Who is responsible for determining what is "safe" for kids to view and what is not? Apparantly the Government has ideas in that area.

    Or at least certain members of Congress do. Please don't confuse the federal bureaucracy with the Reps and Senators who have to make a name for themselves to assure their reelection: the two groups are often at odds over what the agencies should be doing. This is one reason budget bills take so long to pass: they are the most powerful tool Congress has to micromanage agency business (although summoning agency heads to hearings is another popular approach) and when one group in Congress wants to order certain actions, like increased timber sales or granting export licenses to a particular company, there's usually another group that will fight hard to make sure those actions don't make it into the final version of the budget.

    There isn't a single federal agency that wants to get into the business of deciding what people can and can't say online: they know it's not only a no-win situation (because people's standards and tolerances vary) but also contrary to the 1st Amendment. But members of Congress have no compunctions about advocating positions that they think will get them votes, even if they are clearly illegal: when I was a fed, our agency once received direct instructions in our appropriation bill to spend money in a way that violated federal law. Congressfolk pander to groups that can promise them votes, and socially conservative groups promise that waving the banner of "child protection" will bring in the votes.

    If the government made cars, a Chevy would cost $80,000 and you would have to refill the gas tank every 10 blocks.

    This is a cute phrase, but do you have any evidence to back it up? Some vehicles actually made by governments: the East German Trabant--badly unreliable but dirt cheap, reasonably good gas mileage because gas was, and is, so expensive in Europe; the HumVee--really pretty reliable, can handle terrain that your Ford Explorer can't but costs some $150K and gets, I believe, similar gas mileage to passenger cars; the original Jeep--reliable, cheap, I don't know its gas mileage off hand but I know there weren't gas stations every 10 blocks in the jungles where they went. Some expensive, some not, none as fuel-inefficient as you claim.

    I do not recall anything in the constitution delegating censorship or ratings to the Federal government, and I seem to recall something about all unlisted powers being sent to the state, in which case regulations are at the wrong level.

    You're right about censorship not being a delegated federal power, but that hasn't kept the government from exercising it. One of the first laws passed by the first Congress was the Sedition Act, which made speaking against the government, in voice or in print, an act of treason punishable by death. And some people were actually executed for it while the Revolutionary War was still going on. The Supreme Court later struck this one down as contrary to the First Amendment, but not until a few decades later (!) As to unlisted responsibilities, you're thinking of the Reserved Powers clause (near the end of the Constitution), which does indeed say that any powers not specifically delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states. But regulation of interstate commerce is one power specifically reserved to the federal government (in an earlier clause) and since the telephone system was ruled as interstate commerce the Internet is considered the same. You wouldn't want state-by-state regulation of the Internet: that could cause foolishnes like not being able to send email to Kansas advocating the theory of evolution. Of course federal regulation could be just as bad, but then the 1st Amendment-based lawsuits to overturn stupid laws only have to be filed once instead of 50 times.

    Jenny
  • This review was just too cynical to be taken seriously.

    How many times can we write "Drooling Monsters" to refer to American buisness? Come now; we're all adults here. We know what it's like to live, and it wasn't what was presented in this article.

    I expect better from Slashdot. Then again, I do expect the occasional sensationalist fear-mongering article.

    Here's an idea for headline news: "NICE GUY EXISTS; WORLD STUNNED."

    Riiiight... {:)}=

    Quote: "No American would wonder at [the idea that a person's value depends on how important and financially successful they are, and that that is measured in terms of money], which is not only terrible, but at the heart of American life.

    I don't know about JonKatz's friends, but in my circles, it's just not like that...

    People are doing pretty much what they've always done. There are some people out there who get their fix in making money. Some people are artists. Some are poets. Some are wanna-be revolutionaries. Some are religious. Some are scientists. Some are coders.

    No monsters under the bed, no monsters in the closet.

  • by Bucko (15043) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @12:47AM (#1668068)
    Notice the paths that students wear down on college campuses? This review made me think of them. The paths are often on the lawns and often do violence to any sense of design that the architects and landscapers had in mind, but they are always the most efficient route. They have to be.

    The web is going to grow in this way, no matter what we (or g'ments) do. We don't have much choice but to let it grow sort of organically, despite the best intentions of the Tim Berners-Lees of the world. The most we can do is regulate so that we don't choke on ads.

    Joe
  • by LL (20038) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @02:16AM (#1668069)
    His simplistic response: support the Web Consortium in its fight as guardian of the Web.

    Given the rather decentralised nature of the web, I'm not sure whether the concept of a "guardian" is valid. Let's face it, if a big enough organisation thought it was in its interest, W3C would be completely ignored (golden rule, he who has the gold makes the rules). Self-awareness of potential pitfalls, the ability to code up a superior alternative, and rapid distribution of the anti-body is the only defense against wholescale assimilation. From this perspective, one can view OpenSource as a necessary counterweight to the rapidly mutating virus of shifting specifications disguised as standards.

    But Berners-Lee is almost naïve in interpreting the political, cultural and economic context in which the battle for an open Web will will take place ...

    Geez, give the guy a break. You transplant a scientist from the collegial atmosphere of a research group into the shark-infested waters of ego-driven CEOs of the business world and you expect the same skillset and world-view to undertake a Jekell and Hyde transformation? I suspect he will grow into the role after a few decades of trying to pacify all those market gorillas to have table manners and use common standards.

    He underestimates the rapacious power of American capitalism, especially the new media variety. The Information Age has spawned a whole new breed of corporate monsters - CBS Viacom, Time Warner, Microsoft, the Sun-Netscape Alliance, AOL, the computer companies, the telcoms - whose very existence depends on controlling chunks of the new digitally-sparked economy, sealing territory off and charging for access to information and services.

    What wooly piece of thinking led to this conclusion? If you study the lessons of history, you'd find that opening up new worlds have a nasty habit of undermining previous socio-economic structures. The discovery of the New World and subsequent exploitation of the gold/silver mines led to such initial prosperity and later inflation that the royal houses of Europe could not withstand the tides of republicism (think French Revolution). Given that average Joe could have access to their own media making tools (digital cameras, video editing etc), what makes you think they will want to watch reruns of recycled storylines? It is quite likely that capitalism will adapt and evolve to morph into a form which would be unrecognisable to us as we know it. When a corporation becomes bigger than a mid-sized country, then suddenly social factors such as career structures and social/environmental responsibility becomes major concerns.

    In the United States, corporations have only one ideology: make the most money at all times in the most expedient way. There's no room in their management philosophies for ceding money to equalizing fantasies about the Web.

    This is a rather simplistic view of the role of corporations. Corporations are legal entities that reflect the values of the owners (shareholders). Money in this context is a somewhat imprecise measure of the efficiency of achiving the stated corporate mission. One can point to highly effective nonprofit entities such as Salvation Army which deliver highly valued social services at a lower cost than government departments. Corporations exist only within the framework of the wider communal desires of organised groups, whether city-states or national constitutions. For example, if a corporation suddenly decided that their mission in life was to be the best mercenary army on earth, I suspect governments would suddenly move to put a crimp on their activities. If the perceived popular view of corporations is that of greedy exploitative imperalists, then it is a reflection of the society and its values. If bread and circuses are desired by the population, then corporations will spring up to provide bread and circuses. Economics is driven by different beliefs in what is valued, whether a faster car or more interesting book. Decrying cultural mindsets and mores just because they are different to the "good ol' days" have been a continual theme down through history but social movements are mechanisms for permanently shifting group values (think reformation, think feminism, eco-movement, etc). If you believe corporate greed (which at least is designed to fight each other rather than the customer) is a major problem, what alternative system can you offer to achieve superior results to fufill individual and group expectations?. Of course, if you convince enough people to believe in anti-consumerism, then kudos to your karma.

    LL
  • by Hobbex (41473) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @03:01AM (#1668070)

    As much as I respect TBL, I think in many ways the common idea of that the web is the Net is very unfortunate. Yes, is a great medium for many purposes, and an acceptable one for others (forums like /. for example), but it is not the end all be all of the Internet.

    Will we loose the Web to the Disney's, the Elizabeth Dole's, and the Bertelsman Foundation's of the world? Maybe. It is a frightening concept, but we are still little fish in their world, and they have proved too many times before that they are willing to take battle at a loss to safegaurd their worlds against freedom and progress.

    BUT, with or without the Web, freedom on the Internet will not go away. Freedom, as weak a meme as it may seem in theory, has proved next to impossible to take away once it has been granted. We will just have to find another distribution system to move to, maybe one that is less comfortable for the dancing baloney of the superficial book burners of the world, but that fosters freedom even more than TLB's Web, still little more than a way to ask for documents off peoples file servers, will ever be.

    As long as we are connected, nothing else really matters.


    -
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