Since around 1995, when the Internet was commercialized for the general public, millions and millions of us have enjoyed one of the great resources in the history of human communication (and I mean going back not just to telegraph and telephone but, according to historian Robert Darnton, going all the way back, to the invention of writing, in 4000 BC Mesopotamia). The World Wide Web, that open system of all the world’s documents in all the media that sits upon the Internet, is there for most of us, now even accessible through very inexpensive mobile devices that connect even the world’s poorest. And Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, and many other experts is concerned that, unless we all champion the Open Web, we are going to lose it. What a tragedy for human kind!
You may have heard about Sara Ruto, the enterprising women in Kiptsuri, Kenya, who contacted a sustainable energy group and convinced them to set up solar power in her straw-thatched dwelling in her remote village to recharge her cell phone. In order to sell the chickens that kept her family fed, she needed mobile phones to know chicken prices and do her business. Before solar power, she would walk a mile to rent a motorcycle to ride three hours to the nearest town with electricity where she could charge. Now she not only stays connected but has set up a small business where other villagers can recharge for a fraction of the price. And a village has been transformed, not only using the solar energy for phones but for light so kids can study at night when they are not needed for the family farming, and all connected to the Web to learn and even participate in a world to which, previously, they had only the remotest access. (http://tinyurl.com/4vdlec9). From those new participants of the World Wide Web to a project by kids in a public school in, say, there’s a click or two, a language barrier to be crossed perhaps (unless the Chicagoan happens to be an immigrant from Kenya), a cultural barrier, but an otherwise free flow of information and, more than that, connection, you to me, me to you. And that is the World Wide Web.
And yet, as we say recently in Egypt, the Web can be shut down. In China, too, the central government controls the Web. Between governments and commercialization, it could be a commodity to be bought and sold, subscribed to. And that’s a travesty, really, considering how much of the content of the World Wide Web—not the Internet, but the Web itself–is user-generated, created by people like you and me. Every time you rate a restaurant on Yelp! for others to see, every time you leave a comment on a Web page such as Facebook, you are contributing content. Who owns that content? Can you be disowned from your own content? And what do we, as citizens, need to do to champion this signal revolution in how we communicate with one another at work and in our daily lives?
This is the question that Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, has gathered a small group of experts to answer. They gathered in Berlin for five days and five of them wrote an entire book, An Open Web. You can find it and read about it here.
“As much as we love the open Web, we’re abandoning it.”
—Chris Anderson, WIRED Magazine
The Web was meant to be Everything. As the Internet as a whole assumes
an increasingly commanding role as the technology of global commerce and
communication, the World Wide Web from its very inception was designed
to be a free and open medium through which human knowledge is created,
accessed and exchanged. But, that Web is in danger of coming to a close.
This book shows what is happening and how you can play an important role
in keeping the web open.
An Open Web was written in 5 days by 6 collaborators. Zero to book in 5
days. It was an intensive process and loads of fun. You can also
participate by improving the book and keeping it alive! (see below for
details) – all edits are welcome! The Book Sprint was held in Berlin
January 17-21 2011.