World of Ends
What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else.
by Doc Searls and David Weinberger
There are mistakes and there are mistakes.
Some mistakes we learn from. For example: Thinking that selling toys for pets on the Web is a great way to get rich. We're not going to do that again.
Other mistakes we insist on making over and over. For example, thinking that:
When it comes to the Net, a lot of us suffer from Repetitive Mistake Syndrome. This is especially true for magazine and newspaper publishing, broadcasting, cable television, the record industry, the movie industry, and the telephone industry, to name just six.
Thanks to the enormous influence of those industries in Washington, Repetitive Mistake Syndrome also afflicts lawmakers, regulators and even the courts. Last year Internet radio, a promising new industry that threatened to give listeners choices far exceeding anything on the increasingly variety-less (and technologically stone-age) AM and FM bands, was shot in its cradle. Guns, ammo and the occasional "Yee-Haw!" were provided by the recording industry and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which embodies all the fears felt by Hollywood's alpha dinosaurs when they lobbied the Act through Congress in 1998.
"The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it," John Gilmore famously said. And it's true. In the long run, Internet radio will succeed. Instant messaging systems will interoperate. Dumb companies will get smart or die. Stupid laws will be killed or replaced. But then, as John Maynard Keynes also famously said, "In the long run, we're all dead."
All we need to do is pay attention to what the Internet really is. It's not hard. The Net isn't rocket science. It isn't even 6th grade science fair, when you get right down to it. We can end the tragedy of Repetitive Mistake Syndrome in our lifetimes — and save a few trillion dollars’ worth of dumb decisions — if we can just remember one simple fact: the Net is a world of ends. You're at one end, and everybody and everything else are at the other ends.
Sure, that’s a feel-good statement about everyone having value on the Net, etc. But it’s also the basic rock-solid fact about the Net's technical architecture. And the Internet’s value is founded in its technical architecture.
Fortunately, the true nature of the Internet isn’t hard to understand. In fact, just a fistful of statements stands between Repetitive Mistake Syndrome and Enlightenment…