Apple Broke The Internet

We almost made it

The last decade has been the decade of the Internet. The focus of our lives shifted from the local to the global. Our applications transformed into services. The desktop application made way for the website, the web application, accessible everywhere. We almost made it.

In the web development community, there has been a lot of commotion over Internet standards. These are the standards that define how web applications should be built. Up until 2005, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the dominant browser, but it was broken. It didn’t adhere to the standards. Microsoft didn’t need to. They were the only game in town. So developers built for Internet Explorer, and not for standards.

During the second half of the decade, web developers had to support multiple browsers. When building the site, they had to resolve the Internet Explorer’s quirks along side Firefox’s rigid support for standards. Slowly, Microsoft realized it was losing market share, and it updated its browser. Now all four major browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome) support the standards fairly well and it is much easier to develop web sites. We almost made it.

Ubiquitous, accessible services, from any browser on any device. Almost.

One iPhone To Rule Them AllSteve Jobs Delivers iPad

The iPhone changed the landscape for web applications. With the AppStore, the rich capabilities of the iPhone, and the lack of Flash, it made a lot of business sense to build an iPhone application for the service. YouTube, Facebook and even your local bank, all doubled-up their efforts and brought you an application to go along with their corporate website. It’s just this one, very lucrative, market, you see.

The smartphone war is just beginning. Android, Windows Mobile 7 and Symbian^3 are coming out as well, each with it’s own set of devices, software tools, application store and no apparent standards. Internet standards have just become obsolete.

The mobile Internet is coming, but it isn’t coming with websites for mobile devices. It’s coming with application for mobile devices. Being a service provider just became a whole lot more complicated. The company now need to support four or five different applications (including one website) so their customers will be able to use our service and pay us money. Installable software. So 90’s.

Net Neutrality Took One For The Team

With these events over on the mobile side of things, I’m extremely amused by all the fuss on the Net Neutrality front. Don’t get me wrong, I think Net Neutrality is extremely important, I just think we’ve already lost the battle.

The iPhone had 99.7% of the mobile application market in 2009. It’s too expensive for most service providers to support more than a couple of product lines. They have a website and an iPhone application, so they abandon the mobile website or any other device.

Net Neutrality tries to protect the openness of the Internet, so we all get the same access to the Internet, no matter which Internet provider we are using. I may get neutral network access from my Telco provider, but I’m not getting any neutrality from my device provider. It’s a good thing most services have a website, so I can always find my content there, but there are some iPhone specific services that are not accessible on any other device. So, in our day and age, where does the Internet stop: at the router, at the browser or in my device? I’m sure we don’t want to regulate these devices or services. I just wonder if there’s any point in pretending we can preserve the notion of the free and open Internet.

We almost made it, but Apple broke Net Neutrality with the iPhone.

No porn for you. Come back one year!

Good and Evil are in battle over our internet. Good, in this case, will be represented by freedom of information. This leaves Evil with the difficult job of censorship. During the last years, it seemed as if Evil is fighting a losing battle. Last time, I’ve mentioned how the media moguls are losing grip over the media channels, and how we are now exposed to more sources of information than ever before. This means freedom is increasing.

However, I neglected to mention a danger brewing on the infrastructure of the Internet. As more and more of our information is moving onto the net, we are losing other ways of communication. There are no substitutes to the Internet. As distributed as the content on the Internet is, the gateways into it are few and well controlled, and the few that once controlled news channels are replaced by a few who control the Internet.

I’m talking about Internet censorship. The most famous operation of this kind is the Great Firewall of China, playfully named after the great wall, is, in fact, no laughing matter. Google took a relatively bad hit for complying to the demands of the People republic of China. The company’s mantra of Don’t be Evil has been tarnished so badly, that it is no longer recognized with the company any more. Google is now a little bit evil.

Censorship is a slippery slope. Censoring illegal activity, for example, sounds like a good idea, when “illegal” refers to pedophilia. It sounds terrible when it is “illegal” to disagree with the government. Where do we draw the line?

Big brother is always watching

Technology is not on the side of good. Technology is impartial. That is why I love computers so much. They’ll never hate me for who I am (even though some people will feel otherwise). The same technology that powers our search engines and the plethora of new semantic ad placement algorithms, is now creeping into internet blockers. As technology gets better, more and more countries will be able to deploy their own net over the net, and filter out any “bad influence”. There will be no need for the army of cheep labor that China can command, and we’ll see it more often. Heck, even Australia has a system in place to automatically flag websites.

In some countries there is a desperate need for a way to bypass these filters. During the Iranian election, the only means of communication between people had been sites like Twitter and YouTube. You’ve seen how well the news reported the issues.

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Real-time is faster, for now

For now, the manual filters are slow. No matter how many people you can put on the filtering side, there will be more people on the information broadcasting side. So, in the mean time, the real-time media is faster than the governmental firewall. This is why real-time media is so important. For a long time I’ve been looking at Facebook, Twitter, etc. as places to go to when I’m bored. But where speech is NOT free, Twitter and FriendFeed are the only way to get around censorship. That is why China turned off Twitter, completely.

We need a way to bypass the Internet. Only by doing to the Internet gateways what blogs did to news sites, we will ensure the victory of Good.