Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is the web different? - Hell yes!

Dave Rogers points to Dave Weinberger's post "Is the web different". I'm here to put myself firmly in all three camps... which actually puts me in Dave's camp trashing the previous three... ;-)

  • I'm a web utopian because I do believe that the connectivity of the internet, as expressed via the web can be used by those who want to make the world a bit better. I believe that blogging is a long term good, because it enables conversations and knowledge sharing that would otherwise never happen. Google is your friend here... if you know the magic spell to use... aka the right key words
  • I'm a web dystopian because I realize that the web is biased towards an infrastructure that requires corporate or government approval to keep the lights on... making censorship a root issue that is always a constraint, unlike email. (I can say ANYTHING in an email to a friend, and it doesn't stop it from arriving)
  • I'm a realist because I know there are always ways around things. For example... you really can't say ANYTHING in an unencrypted email because it's being read by the authorities, who might flag you as dangerous.
  • I'm a realist because you can have perfect encryption, if you're willing to pay the freight and do things right... making censorship hard again.
  • I'm a tangentialist because I keep going off on tangents.. (do those have anything to do with Tangiers?)... ha ha
Anyway... Dave Rogers seems to point out that Dave Weinberger's analysis is deeply flawed... he's right. So is my analysis of all of their stuff... because I'm human.

I think the web is different because its host environment is ephemeral, and can disappear in a flash. If the server isn't there when you want the page, the page doesn't exist.. for anyone, anywhere. This is a virtue and vulnerability... the essence of the web.

Email is store and forward... like letters, or phone calls, or FedEx for data. Once information is shipped... it stays shipped, you can't unship a package by confiscating a truck.

The pages sit on the server, vulnerable to all number of attacks from faulty power or hardware, to rogue Federal Judges, or rogue Submarines for that matter. The ability to share information via the web is ALWAYS provisional, subject to approval.

It's amazing to see how well it's done, even with it's deep flaws. (I've written plenty of times about the true crap that is HTML, for example).

It's a mixed bag... and this is a long enough ramble... I hope you find value in it.

Summary: The web is fragile

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