This web is your web

Slashdot it! Delicious Share on Facebook Tweet! Digg!
Milan Kopcok,

Milan Kopcok,

Web Working

When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web back in the early 1990s, he wrote a protocol that is open and free to use and akin to the spirit of the Free Software movement itself. To this day, he conceives the web as a means to connect people more than just connecting machines.

Big corporate telecom companies would have you believe otherwise. The likes of Comcast and Verizon would have you believe that the Internet can't just work like that; that it's not sustainable. They say that for the Internet to work, it has to be tiered; it has to have an expensive and fast freeway for "premium" content, delivered from corporations to consumers (and, God forbid!, not the other way around), and a goat path for everybody else. Otherwise, the Net will collapse under its own weight; it will implode.

Speaking of goat paths, I hooked up to the Internet for the first time in 1995. My 28.8K modem (that could also send faxes, which was neat) would ring up the Internet cafe down the road – the only Internet provider nearby at the time.

At first, I paid by the minute and tended to connect late in the evening, when the phone rates were cheaper. After a while, I got a sweet "wavy" flat rate, which meant that during the day I still had to pay by the minute, but for 12 glorious hours, from 8pm to 8am, I could go nuts and surf and download to my heart's content.

At the time, it was already pretty clear to me that traditional media, newspapers, radio and TV were going to take a hit. And, we didn't even have YouTube back then.

It was soon apparent that I wasn't the only one with the same idea. The media pushed back… hard. TV and newspapers would have you believe the Net was full of scammers and kiddie-porn peddlers. Ironically, it turns out that, in the wake of the BBC/Jimmy Savile scandal, there just may have been fewer pedophiles on the Net than in the mainstream media itself, but, whatever.

I distinctly remember a crime, dubbed by the Spanish press of the time "The Prostitute of the Internet." An entrepreneurial young woman set up a website and an email account to discreetly conduct business with her clients. And then she was brutally murdered. When I say "brutally," I mean it. I'll save you the details, but Spanish "brutally" is very brutal indeed. For some bizarre reason, the press blamed the Internet, and there were news reports on TV and in the papers harping on and on about how dangerous and unprotected you were online, how this imprudent and impudent woman had tempted fate by selling her charms over the interwebs. When the murderer was finally caught, it turned out he was a mentally challenged local farmhand who could hardly read, let alone configure a link to the Net, which was no mean feat at the time.

And then broadband came along. Thousands of petitions per second would bring all web servers to their knees, "experts" said. We can't let 500K connections go mainstream, or the Internet will collapse under its own weight; it will implode, they said. Turns out engineers are cleverer than fear mongers and here we still are.

I find it amazing and disheartening that the false and disproven "series of tubes" metaphor is still being trotted out by those who want to curtail the Internet and turn it into little more than a pay-per-view cable TV system.

Many private citizens, small companies, and organizations have gone mainstream, thanks to a free and fair Net, and they have made our lives so much more interesting and better that, in the interest of humanity, we must use every legal and technical mean to keep the Internet a level playing ground. I am not just talking about YouTube personalities, cute kittens, or one-meme wonders, entertaining as they are. I am also talking about – just to take one of many examples – Free Software. How could that concept ever have occurred without a global network that allowed a fast and free flow of data?

With a free and neutral Internet, we are not only guaranteed entertainment, but we are also guaranteed an equal shot to develop our businesses, access technical breakthroughs, and express ourselves freely.

It's time to push back and reclaim what was ours to start with: An open, democratic, free and equal Internet. With the tools we showcase in this issue's cover section, I hope you find what you need to pitch your virtual tent and claim a chunk of the Net as your own.

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF

Pages: 1

Price $0.99
(incl. VAT)

Buy Ubuntu User

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • The Linux shell is your friend

    The shell may look like an old-fashioned bit of technology, only useful for the Linux hardcore programmers and system administrators, but knowing a few commands and how to link them together goes long way.

  • Exploring the world with Ubuntu

    Just because you're a geek, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy going out into the open. Fortunately, Ubuntu can bring you the best of both the virtual and real worlds.

  • Protecting your private data from intruders

    You don't have to be a criminal to want to preserve your privacy. Fortunately, Ubuntu, and the Open Source community provide ways to keep snoopers at bay.

  • Linux software for your inner artist

    Whether you're into audio, video, print, or something else, many projects are available for Linux to help you develop your artistic creativity. In this issue, we cover a few projects that stand out.

  • From catch-up to leader

    For a while, it looked as though GNU/Linux was playing catch up to proprietary software. Now the tables have turned, and Linux is a leader in innovation.