NEWS

There’s no stopping the Internet

What surprises does the Internet hold in store? For a start, the impending entry of the remaining two-thirds of our fellow human beings. For me, the Internet is a beacon of hope in a world that is otherwise a slough of despair. Despite persistent attempts by the state (chiefly the USA and in the EU) to control and tame it, and by the companies to make it a partner and to suck everything out of it, it continues on its subversive course. No surprises here, please. Yet there is an Internet confrontation, between movements in favor of an open code on the one hand, and the huge business conglomerates on the other, between free access and the imposition of a registration process by a growing number of web pages. Which of these will prevail? Network technology contains within it an interesting form of resistance to the autocracy of the state (typical of these are electronic surveillance tools, such as the US Carnivore) and the monopolistic greed of firms. The most impressive characteristic of web pages that require some form of registration or contribution is how rare they are and how difficult it is for them to survive. The operating system of Microsoft’s Windows monopoly will be eroded by the open code and (the free) Linux (Unix-type operating system) and will diminish in importance. It’s slowly becoming the code you use to enter Google – itself a monopoly, but for how much longer? Furthermore, various networks, such as Napster, promise culture online for free. Of course, it’s meeting with a rabid reaction from the intellectual property lobby and its accomplice, the state. Their attempt, though doomed to failure (nobody has ever halted technological progress), has had in the meantime disastrous consequences on the creation and exchange of new ideas. We’re talking about a kind of subversion, a new kind of revolution. But what we must understand is that this revolution is based not on ideology and revolutionary activity but on technological determinism and the profit motive. That doesn’t make it any less attractive, quite the contrary. Of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need our support and vigilance. See, for example, the website www.eff.org [of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which «defends freedom in a digital world»].