The Internet doesn’t belong to anyone, it can’t, it’s too late for that. It is impossible to imagine how it can ever be a utility, corporation or unified power unto itself. It is a contentious, fractious, complicated, dynamic and glorious thing that rivals international politics for complexity and impact. Despite the fantasies of conspiracy theorists, the aspirations of corporations, the dreams of Governments and the doubts of the public; like it or not the internet is a partnership.
As if it weren’t enough that we are dealing with a dynamic technology the likes of which we have never experienced before, we (government, industry, public, academic) are also forced to participate with factions, entities and situations we don’t understand and don’t like very much.
Maybe it’s evolution or God is testing us or maybe it just is and that’s that.
The internet is a blurry doppelganger of our world – part public, part privatized, part politicized, part bureaucratized and completely energized. If you think of the Internet as a world, it all becomes more comprehensible. In the physical world we discovered détente, for better or worse, but in the younger Internet world the concept seems to elude us. Despite the lessons of history and the intelligence it has taken to foster the internet, each community steadfastly believes their views are unassailably correct – the governments want to regulate and legislate, the companies want to accrue and sell product (information) and the civil society believes everyone is beholding to them. No one wants to openly admit that the truth lies somewhere in the middle or delve into that truth.
So, under-informed politicians push their governments to make well intentioned yet misguided laws, companies make content policies based on their ideals and the company’s bottom line and the public wants to be able to say anything about anyone, anytime – as long as it’s not about them.
Everybody thinks their position is important, best and most valid. But the companies, the public and the governments all need each other, one way or other, like it or not. So no one gets everything they want and that’s how a good partnership works.