Browsers should have been cars. Instead they’re shopping carts.

I want to drive on the Web, but instead I’m being driven. All of us are. And that’s a problem.

It’s not for lack of trying on the part of websites and services such as search engines. But they don’t make cars. They make stores and utilities that try to be personal, but aren’t, and never can be.

Take, for example, the matter of location. The Internet has no location, and that’s one of its graces. But sites and services want to serve, so many notice what IP address you appear to be arriving from. Then they customize their page for you, based on that location. While that might sound innocent enough, and well-intended, it also fails to know one’s true intentions, which matter far more to each of us than whatever a website guesses about us, especially if the guessing is wrong.

Shopping carts on rails according to a later analogy from Doc. And that’s really sad. I used to compare railways to telcos, their services, their time-table, their price. And the Internet to the personal vehicle. From Doc’s perspective it appears the mass consumer Internet is trending that way.

Doc Searls – Will the carriers body-snatch the Net with HTML5?

Background: telcos and cablecos – what we call “carriers,” and the industry calls “operators” – are hounded by what they call “over the top,” or OTT (of their old closed phone and cable TV systems). Everything that makes you, app developers and content producers independent of telcos and cablecos is OTT. ┬áNaaS, as Crossey explains it, is a way for the telcos and cablecos to put the genie of OTT independence back inside the bottle of carrier control.

The blathering about OTT, and its eager adoption as the term of craft to signify understanding, has irked since day one. Because since Day One, every service on the Internet has been (or can be) provided by other than the carrier.

Indeed this structural separation is the foundation of the freedom and flexibility that has caused the innovation for which the Internet is justly famed.

The idea that access to carrier customer information, in the two-sided model advocated for so long by Telco 2.0 (home to “Internet warming” scare monger Martin Geddes), will exclude some by becoming mandatory is a bit of a long bow. Indeed services may differentiate and appeal by not being geo-aware, or interested in all your demographic and social graph information.

That interest is conventionally held to be required for the nirvana of ad-supported services, but Doc Searls has for sometime predicted the demise of the model (or at least its marginalisation).

Too many too large and too clever organisations efficiently deliver their services using the Internet to be tempted by entering a global negotiation with local and national carriers to establish APIs, thus granting them the power Twitter is so casually abusing.

Co-operation at the level required for this strategy is mercifully beyond the narrow short-term self-interest of telcos to co-ordinate. All happy to ITU when the going was good, but competition has changed that happy band of brothers.

Telco 2.0, or at least Dean Bubley, illustrates this over-engineered habit time and time again:

In the long term, we’re not going back to X.400, the abstracted Internet market is so many orders of magnitude larger than any “carrier” that working with them (a pig of a job at the best of times) is very unlikely to be worth the grief.

Missing Elinor Ostrom

In Governing the Commons (1990), Elinor Ostrom says Hardin???s argument is not new:

Aristotle long ago observed that ???what is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Everyone thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest??? (Politics Book II, ch. 3). Hobbes???s parable of man in a state of nature is a prototype of the tragedy of the commons: Men see their own good and end up fighting one another???[1]

She goes on to cite a long list of other sources, the growing sum of which have long since snowballed into a single widely held conclusion: ???Much of the world is dependent on resources that are subject to the possibility of a tragedy of the commons.???[2]

Yet Hardin???s model, she explains, is an argument of one very narrow kind: a prisoner???s dilemma, ???conceptualized as a noncooperative game in which all players possess complete information ??? When both players choose their dominant strategy??? they produce an equlibrium that is the third-best result for both.??? The game is fascinating for scholars because ???The paradox that individually rational strategies lead to collectively irrational outcomes seems to challenge the fundamental faith that rational beings can achieve rational results.??? She adds, ???The deep attraction of the dilemma is further illustrated by the number of articles written about it. At one count, 15 years ago, more than 2,000 papers had been devoted to the prisoner???s dilemma game (Grofman and Pool 1975).???[3]

The “Tragedy of the Commons” is one of the lamest assessments of humans I know. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is equally bogus. Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma, now we’re talking interesting.

The Real Story of Send

What it doesn???t tell is the real story of email as we use it today. That story starts with RFC 821, by Jon Postel, posted in August 1982. It begins,

The objective of Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is to transfer mail reliably and efficiently.
SMTP is independent of the particular transmission subsystem and requires only a reliable ordered data stream channel.

What makes SMTP so useful and universal today is that it intentionally transcends any intermediator???s silo or walled garden. It simply assumes a connection. So do the POP (RFC918 and IMAP (RFC1064) protocols (used at the receiving end), for which the relevant RFCs were issued in 1984 and 1988.

Those protocols ended up winning ??? for all of us ??? after it became clear that their simplicity, and their oblivity to the parochial interests of network owners and operators, were what we really needed. That was in 1995. In the meantime, a pile of proprietary and corporate email systems competed in a losing battle with each other. Compuserve, Prodigy, MCI Mail, AppleLink, and a host of others were all obsoleted by the obvious advantage of having nobody own the means by which we simply send electronic mail to each other.

Forget the corporate green washing and smug self back patting, here’s the real story.

Doc Searls Weblog ?? Leveraging Hal [Crowther]

The cannibal capitalism that produced a Goldman Sachs and a Bernie Madoff is subhuman and obscene. There’s no form of government more inherently offensive than plutocracy—only theocracy comes close. When a citizen comes of age in a plutocracy, he has no moral choice but to slay Pluto or die trying.

The history of American plutocracy is shockingly simple. The Industrial Revolution fueled the metamorphosis of capitalism into a ravenous monster that devoured resources, landscapes and human beings on a scale no wars or natural disasters had ever approached. The wealth generated by this devastation created colossal corporations and financial operations far more powerful than elected governments; long ago the individuals who controlled these giants learned that it was cost-effective to buy up the politicians and turn governments into virtual subsidiaries. Along with the unprecedented wealth of the new ruling class came two protective myths, transparently false but widely accepted: one, that the feeble, compliant federal government was somehow the enemy of free enterprise; two, the outrageous trickle-down theory, which urged us to choke the rich with riches in the hope that they would disgorge a few crumbs for the peasants.


Doc Searls ?? Broadband vs. Internet

For years there has been a concerted effort by telephone and cable company operators to replace the nobody-owns-it Internet conversation with one about ???broadband,??? which is something they own and rent out. The U.S. government has been enlisted in this campaign, as have the rest of us. (I???ve used the term ???broadband??? plenty myself, for example, here.) But I began to get hip what was going on in the Summer of 2010, at a conference where a spokesman for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) gave a talk about the goodness of broadband without once uttering the word ???Internet.??? Recently the ITU has been further sanitizing this rhetorical body-snatch by talking up broadband as a ???basic human right???.

Framing. All important, and the good Doc exposes it.