Archive for January, 2012
(Original at Dave’s Scripting News Blog)
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This time around, Apple has been the leader in the push to control users. They say they’re protecting users, and to some extent that is true. I can download software onto my iPad feeling fairly sure that it’s not going to harm the computer. I wouldn’t mind what Apple was doing if that’s all they did, keep the nasty bits off my computer. But of course, that’s not all they do. Nor could it be all they do. Once they took the power to decide what software could be distributed on their platform, it was inevitable that speech would be restricted too. I think of the iPad platform as Disneyfied. You wouldn’t see anything there that you wouldn’t see in a Disney theme park or in a Pixar movie.
The sad thing is that Apple is providing a bad example for younger, smaller companies like Twitter and Tumblr, who apparently want to control the “user experience” of their platforms in much the same way as Apple does.
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My first experience with the Internet came as a grad student in the late 70s, but it wasn’t called the Internet then. I loved it because of its simplicity and the lack of controls. There was no one to say you could or couldn’t ship something. No gatekeeper. In the world it was growing up alongside, the mainframe world, the barriers were huge. An individual person couldn’t own a computer. To get access you had to go to work for a corporation, or study at a university.
Every time around the loop, since then, the Internet has served as the antidote to the controls that the tech industry would place on users. Every time, the tech industry has a rationale, with some validity, that wide-open access would be a nightmare. But eventually we overcome their barriers, and another layer comes on. And the upstarts become the installed-base, and they make the same mistakes all over again.