Open Web and Why YOU Should be Paying Attention

Facebook opts you automatically in with their new facial recognition software, Apple is going to start taking 30% of revenues from developers, the US Border Patrol is searching and seizing laptops without a warrant, the government is entering people’s social network accounts. Not to mention the ridiculous media coverage of stuff none of us care about, like Anthony Weiner’s wiener. (By the way, W-E-I-N-E-R is a German name and would be pronounced W-H-I-N-E-R, just so you know.)

It’s getting exhausting being this frustrated and annoyed at the gradual deterioration of our rights, the uselessness of US media outlets and the takeover of everything (including our privacy) by gigantic, asshole corporations and the US Government.

I support the Open Web Movement because of it. Because the power of the people lets me know what’s going on in the world, the good, the bad and the ugly. Without an Open Web, we can’t stay informed. Imagine if our collective voice was drowned out by corporate opinion.

Let’s start with the definitions. Open Web is:

decentralized: This is probably the biggest one. Listen, if something is centralized, it means that something is under a single authority. Do you really want the board of directors at Facebook giving you medical advice? Not a single one of them studied medicine, just so you know. Do you think the management of Apple has any authority on ancient Babylonian culture or the amount of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? No, no they don’t and they shouldn’t either. Authority on those subjects belong to people who actually studied and researched those subjects. We should have information coming in from any and everywhere because the more people are given the ability to be curious, to study, to write, to read, to create, the more likely it is that the rest of us will get information that is actually verifiable. And in order to allow people the ability to post their views on any subject, they have to be able to post them without going through a centralized web. No one corporation or person should have the authority to say “You can’t say that.”

innovation and hackability: What if you had to ask permission to wear your favorite belt with your favorite pair of jeans because they weren’t made by the same company? Or if you had to contact Coca-Cola and Captain Morgan‘s every time you wanted a rum and coke? Giving people the ability to make decisions about how they use the Web and what they do with it leads to innovation, especially when people have the ability to remix (hack) what someone else already created.

transparency: Innovation is stymied when it’s not evident how something is made, what it’s properties are or where you are…In short, the Open Web is transparent, meaning that you, I and everyone can see how something is built (source code), where we are (URLs) and how we got here (http and rest)

I’ve decided to grade Apple and Facebook on their openness. Why? Because I can, and maybe it will get some of you thinking about whether or not you too want to be an advocate for keeping the web open. There are more definitions that make up the philosophies of the Open Web, but I think these three must make it painful obvious that Apple and Facebook (both FAILED my assessment), among others are not looking at keeping the web open, they really don’t give a shit, but YOU should.

It’s actually not that difficult to support the Open Web Movement. Here are some easy things you could do:

  1. Give money. Yep, donate. Donate to one of the many organizations that are fighting to keep the web open. I’ll even help you out. You can donate to Mozilla, Creative Commons or Wikipedia. You can donate to unhosted (decentralizing data storage), P2PU (open education advocate) or ubuntu (open source operating system). Donate to an open source developer you know. There are hundreds of ways to donate money to projects supporting the Open Web.
  2. Firefox Download Button

  3. If you don’t have money to give, give some time. Any of the above mentioned projects will happily accept help. Contact them, they’ll be thankful for 10 minutes of your time.
  4. If you are a designer or developer, a publicist, activist, community organizer, writer, lawyer, have an MBA or a million other skills, you could contribute to an open source project. Trust me, open source projects need more people with AND without technical skills.
  5. Download Firefox.
  6. Wikipedia has an impressive backlog of improvements that need to be made – edit some text, fix layout issues, submit ideas and images to make Wikipedia better. (This is actually the same as number two, as Wikipedia is an open web and open source project, but I’m listing it separately because it seemed necessary).
  7. Image representing OpenID Foundation as depict...

    Image via CrunchBase

  8. Start using OpenID. It’s a decentralized standard, and helps you control your online identity.
  9. Use Open Web tools. Here’s a list.
  10. Just BE AWARE. Use the Web, don’t just use proprietary software. I’m not saying you can’t use proprietary services at all, I’m saying you should think about what you are doing on the web. Understand that your participation is vital. Understand that Facebook is controlling all of your data when you put your data on Facebook. They OWN your pictures, your words, your social circle. Be upset, be afraid, talk to people about it. If the web closes, if all information is controlled someone else will be deciding what you can and cannot find on the web, and that is just dangerous.

The truth is the major corporations are pushing the general public towards a closed web, and we’ve got to fight back. I’m giving suggestions because I don’t know what else to do and today’s news just bummed me out.

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  6 comments for “Open Web and Why YOU Should be Paying Attention

  1. June 8, 2011 at 2:11 am

    Wonderful post! Go the rant I say.

    Your list has got me i) using Firefox again (I just went with the default browser when I got a new laptop), ii) considering doing some editing on Wikipedia, iii) checking out Unhosted (not sure what this is I will have to get my brother to explain it to me), and iv) thinking about how to help people learn about this stuff.

    Thank you!

  2. June 8, 2011 at 5:16 am

    That is a hell of a post!
    I attended the open help conference. One very interesting sentence that Janet Switcher said (aside of the conference) was “if the service is free, you’re the product”. That’s quite of an interesting piece of thought.

    Thanks for this post. It’s going to be some sort of reference for me from now on.

  3. Stéphane Péchard
    June 9, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Nice post! What about a unified openness assessment scale, to be able to evaluate different Internet actors (and not only Apple and FB, but also Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Mozilla, diaspora*, etc.)? Your post made me think about a Open Web hall of fame (like Greenpeace for green attitude) that would allow users to see in a glance what trust they can put in which actor. Just thinking… Do you know such a thing, or am I dreaming?

    • laura
      June 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      I haven’t heard of a rating system for Open Web, but it’s a pretty good idea!

  4. Nena
    June 22, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Wow, my birthday is in Feb. but after having read this fab article I ll get my ass out of FB rather sooner than later. Also I have now some new ideas spinning in my head in terms of a thrilling master-project ;-) Am very much booked out right now but will try to work on it asap and put it up on PODIO. BTW as PODIO doesnt seem to be very Opensource… check out this (if you havent already) http://www.opennetworx.org

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