It’s not just about net neutrality or privacy anymore. Our future internet could be the very opposite of what it is today—free—specifically due to companies dominating their markets and the constant push to simplify the user experience.
Tim O’Reilly predicts a war is coming, one where we are at the mercy of the internet giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple: they stop making the services we are so highly dependent on interoperable.
It could be that everyone will figure out how to play nicely with each other, and we’ll see a continuation of the interoperable web model we’ve enjoyed for the past two decades. But I’m betting that things are going to get ugly. We’re heading into a war for control of the web. And in the end, it’s more than that, it’s a war against the web as an interoperable platform. Instead, we’re facing the prospect of Facebook as the platform, Apple as the platform, Google as the platform, Amazon as the platform, where big companies slug it out until one is king of the hill.
Chris Messina fears something similar as well: the death of the URL, as new formats for delivering web content are abstracting the website-going experience and letting ourselves relinquish control.
By removing our ability to navigate, choose, and share freely — these app stores are exchanging our freedom for a promise that they’ll keep us safe, give us everything we need, and do all the choosing of what’s “good enough” for us — all starting at ninety-nine cents a hit.
I know that if we always look at things with a worst case scenario in mind, we’ll never get any work done from here on out. But better to worry now than when it becomes impossible to undo things. I like how the Web is now, no matter how chaotic and crap-filled it can be.
And as for the giants bullying us into a corner, it makes me wish the Long Tail would stand a chance.