Tech giants are stifling the internet – Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee

On the 29th birthday of the World Wide Web its founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee has written an open-letter condemning the dominance of the big tech players, pointing out the negative impact on competition and society on the whole.

While no specific names were named, it’s not hard to guess which companies he is talking about is you read the comment below.

“The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today,” said Berners-Lee. “What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms. This concentration of power creates a new set of gatekeepers, allowing a handful of platforms to control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared.”

The issue here is that the internet does not serve the little man which Berners-Lee hints was its purpose in the first place. While there is some logic to his argument, it is pretty much undermined with a complaint the biggest businesses in the world shouldn’t chase after the best talent or acquire innovative businesses to enhance their own platforms. Perhaps we should abandon the whole idea of modern day economics?

In a perfect world influence would not be concentrated in the hands of a few. The control of Facebook, Amazon, Google etc. would be more evenly distributed, but because of this scale innovations have been born. Google invested into the unprofitable Maps offering for years before it inspired various businesses and applications. How many SMEs have been created by Amazon’s scale? Would the information economy exist without Facebook’s contributions to how we view privacy and share details about our lives?

Berners-Lee might complain about the concentration of power, and it certainly isn’t a perfect scenario, but the internet is what it is today because of scale. Without scale of certain brands, credibility would not have been achieved and the online community which we have today would not exist. The sheep mentality is very evident today.

Everyone started going on Facebook because everyone else was already on there. Then everyone started sharing more because everyone else was sharing more. If Facebook’s community was split between 20 and 25 different platforms would the same snowball effect have been achieved? What would social media look like? Would we be as extroverted and open? Would the information economy exist? We’re not too sure.

It is easy to only concentrate on the part of the argument which you like and ignore everything else. Berners-Lee is doing this from his very, very high horse.

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