I continue to be focused on the future of the Internet and aware of divergent paths. In the later 2000s, following a period of digital and media convergence and given broad adoption of evolving high speed (broadband) network connectivity, the Internet has become an environment for mixed media and marketing. The Internet is increasingly centralized as a platform that serves a global business engine. It’s a mashup of business to business services and business to consumer connections, a mashup of all the forms of audio, text, and video communication and media in a new, more social/participatory context: the faceless consumer now has an avatar, an email address, and a feedback loop.
The sense of the Internet as a decentralized free and open space has changed, but there are still many advocates and strong arguments for approaches that are bottom-up, network-centric, free as in freedom (and sometimes as in beer), open, collaborative, decentralized. It’s tempting to see top-down corporate approaches vs bottom-up “free culture” approaches as mutually exclusive, but I think they can and will coexist. Rather than make value judgements about the different approaches, I want to support education and thinking about ethics, something I should discuss later.
Right now I want to point to a collaboration forming around the work of Venessa Miemis, who’s been curating trends, models, and projects associated with the decentralized Internet model. Venessa and her colleagues (including myself) have been discussing how to build a decentralized network that is broadly and cheaply accessible and that is more of a cooperative, serving the public interest rather than a narrower set of economic interests.
I’ll be focusing on these sorts of projects here and in my talks on the future of the Internet. Meanwhile, here are pointers to a couple of Venessa’s posts that are good overviews for what I’m talking about. I appreciate her clarity and focus.
- Next Net Infrastructure & Roadmap for Municipal Broadband Networks
- 88+ Projects & Standards for Data Ownership, Identity, & A Federated Social Web
There’s also the work of Michel Bauwens and the P2P Foundation, which I’ve followed for several years. The P2P Wiki has relevant pages: