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The Internet Government Politics

Could the Web Not be Invented Today? 267

An anonymous reader writes " Corante's Copyfight has a piece up about this new column in the Financial Times by James Boyle celebrating (a few days on the early side) the 15th anniversary of Berners-Lee's first draft of a web page . The hook is this question: What would happen if the Web were invented today? From the article: 'What would a web designed by the World Intellectual Property Organisation or the Disney Corporation have looked like? It would have looked more like pay-television, or Minitel, the French computer network. Beforehand, the logic of control always makes sense. Allow anyone to connect to the network? Anyone to decide what content to put up? That is a recipe for piracy and pornography. And of course it is. But it is also much, much more...The lawyers have learnt their lesson now...When the next disruptive communications technology - the next worldwide web - is thought up, the lawyers and the logic of control will be much more evident. That is not a happy thought.'"
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Could the Web Not be Invented Today?

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  • by Archeopteryx ( 4648 ) <benburch@p[ ] ['obo' in gap]> on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:44AM (#13956361) Homepage
    ...we must kill ALL the lawyers.
    • by flannelboy ( 344272 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:59AM (#13956403) Homepage
      I think we are overstating Lawyer's ability to figure out what the next "big thing" will actually be. They are usually late to the game, and only in a position to post-sue, rather than preventitive sue.

      I think (may be mis stating this) Napster was around for at least a year before the lawyers made their way into court. Of course, that just proves that "better late than never" is also on the lawyers play card.

      Lets hope they don't shut down the current web as we know it!
      • There is no such thing as "preventive suing". You must allow the act to be committed before it can be taken to court. What happened was not that they lawyers were late, it was the RIAA/MPAA/others that were slow to realize that their business model was going to be compromised by p2p; something isn't a threat until its big and in your face. Of course, they were and still are blind to why they've been experiencing a weakened bottom line.

        Else there'd be a lot of people being sued for piracy at your 18th birthd
        • Aren't we also misusing terms here? P2P has nothing to do with the WEB. The internet itself has been around a lot longer than the World Wide Web and P2P applications technically do not use the web. So even if the web hadn't been invented, P2P still might have.
    • by dourk ( 60585 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:17AM (#13956451) Homepage

      Thank god.
    • I say we let them go.
    • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Saturday November 05, 2005 @04:01AM (#13956556) Homepage Journal
      ... but lawyers represent the rule of law. If you've ever been in a country that doesn't have lawyers, you understand the humor in that "Oh, I think we want to keep these proceedings as pleasant as possible" comment from Pleasantville [].

      • Lawyers do not represent the law, they obfuscate laws then charge enormous amounts of money to interpret those obfuscations. If they attempted to create the Internet, it would cost billions of dollars and never achieve a single connection as they would spend an eternity arguing of the legal rights with the only development being the continuous promulgation of new interpretations of previous suppositions and future possible ramifications ;).
        • The grandparent poster is right, it's not the lawyers fault. It is our legal system that is so broken it attracts the greediest, most amoral people to the legal profession. In a society as large, diverse, and advanced as ours we absolutely need a complex set of laws to govern everything and make things (for lack of a better word) "fair". It would be a terrible misstep to expect everyone to know enough to defend themselves, or to prosecute a criminal, themselves. What we need to do, rather than kill the lawy
        • Lawyers do not represent the law, they obfuscate laws then charge enormous amounts of money to interpret those obfuscations.

          Lawyers stretch and manipulate the law to the furthest extent permissible by the system to fulfill the requests of their clients. This is what they're paid to do, and someone will fulfill this need as long as it is possible to fulfill. To change it, the law would have to change the rules by which lawyers operate.

          If you don't like obfuscated laws, make a rule that laws cannot be obfu
    • I hope someday people can look back and say "boy, that was stupid! We used to put people in power to interpret what they thought was right and wrong on any given day and many, many more people to advise citizens on what they thought those with the judging power would agree to on any given day". Isn't that what it really comes down to?

      Using such an ambiguous language as human language (English, or whatever) seems like a silly idea. Computer language - something with very clear syntax rules - is the way to
      • Electrical Engineers do it with greater frequency.

        Have fun parsing what I've just said.
      • by Dashing Leech ( 688077 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @10:14AM (#13957265)
        "Computer language - something with very clear syntax rules - is the way to go. "

        I seriously hope you are joking. There's a bunch of problems with that idea that are immediately obvious. First, the main problem is that there is no hard line "right" and "wrong" in most cases. Whys is it safe to go 64.9 mph but 65.1 mph is unsafe? That's unreasonable. However, the law has to say something because going way to fast is definitely dangerous. The "reasonableness" is often part of the law. The only way to program that is with some sort of fuzzy logic.

        Second, related to the first, is that the problem with the ambiguity of the law now is that it is, in fact, being written like computer syntax. Since there are few absolutes, all sorts of exceptions (if ... then) and variability ("reasonable") have to be built in. Ambiguities tend to be these cases. "Don't kill" is easy. Except self-defense. Except defense of a third person. If you are insane, different punishment. How abonormal do you have to be to be insane? Who judges? And so forth. That is exactly why laws are unreadable, because they try to fill loopholes and cover all cases like a computer program needs to do.

        Third, how they hell are people supposed to understand what the law says? People speak in English, they don't speak computer languages. Programmers might be able to reverse engineer it, so then the programmers would effectively become the lawyers, which in follow the second problem above, is exactly the case now. Lawyers reverse engineer the language of the law to see what it says.

        In short, computer-like syntax is the problem here already. Unfortunately, since all situations are essentially different, and there are few absolute rights and wrongs, there is no real solution that works well.

    • by Mr.Progressive ( 812475 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @04:39AM (#13956626)
      After killing all lawyers, you're going to need a hell of a legal team...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @05:54AM (#13956763)
      Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment? That parchment, being scribbl'd o'er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings; but I say 'tis the bee's wax; for I did but seal once to a thing, and I was never mine own man since.
      • Excellent!!! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Archeopteryx ( 4648 ) <benburch@p[ ] ['obo' in gap]> on Saturday November 05, 2005 @09:49AM (#13957198) Homepage
        You are the ONLY one to have gotten the reference; Shakespeare's "Henry VI, Part Two"

        From act four;

        ALL God save your majesty!

        CADE I thank you, good people: there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers and worship me their lord.

        DICK The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

        CADE Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment? that parchment, being scribbled o'er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings: but I say, 'tis the bee's wax; for I did but seal once to a thing, and I was never mine own man since. How now! who's there?

    • As a lawyer, I find it disturbing (and amusing) how much is blamed on lawyers. Lawyers are hired guns. A lawyer does not and can not patent anything or sue anyone by him/herself. It is usually businesses and the people who run them that make those decisions. It is business people that decide what to lobby. Yes, lawyers counsel those clients and help them with strategy and often shape arguments.

      Admittedly, lawyers always have the option to decline representation for something they find morally reprehe

  • by krajo ( 824554 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:46AM (#13956368)
    of a great new way to share stuff on the net anonimously ! Wait a sec there's someone knocking on my front door. Be right back... "And in related news, inventor found lynched by a mob of record executives. Now sports."
  • Thanks Tim! (Score:5, Informative)

    by DDiabolical ( 902284 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:48AM (#13956373)
    It's completely down to Tim Berners Lee that the internet is a free and open as it currently is. Preceding the Linux or the GNU, he was a real hacker creating something that he couldn't have known would change the world. He did it without profit in mind and as such it's been allowed to flourish.

    Sure, the military may have created the fundamentals, but Tim was the first to put them to good use :P
    • And lest we forget, IRC and Usenet contained the seedy underbelly of the Internet *long* before the Web was thought of.

      Hell, Veronica was a slut for Archie. They also liked to use Gophers in their sex games, I heard.
    • Re:Thanks Tim! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sleeper0 ( 319432 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:12AM (#13956437)
      Tim did a good thing for sure, but it was hardly unusual for things for the internet to be written without profit in mind - it would have been crazy at the time to think there was any money to be made there outside of services. And you might want to check your timeline, tons of people were using GNU software back when USENET, UUCP and 56k leased lines ruled the day.
      • tons of people were using GNU software back when USENET, UUCP and 56k leased lines ruled the day.

        You might want to check your timeline, 14.4kbps ruled the day back then. ;) And that was fast! I prolly still got an old Hayes modem collecting dust in some closet from back then.

        56k only came after the WWW took off, circa 1993-94. And there were 2 competing chipsets then, Rockwell's V56 and US Robotics X2.
        • Re:Thanks Tim! (Score:3, Informative)

          by sleeper0 ( 319432 )
          56k leased lines were the t1's of the day - dedicated point to point links that ran at 56kbits, far faster than any modems at the time could. UUCP, bang path email and USENET were all rocking long before 14.4k modems hit the scene.
        • Ah, some of us used Trailblaizers, 19.2k !
          Lightning fast, just like plugging into a terminal line (also fed at 19.2k).

          Unless of course the sole Trailblaizer line was taken, then it was back to 2400 :(
          • Unless of course the sole Trailblaizer line was taken, then it was back to 2400

            Ha! You were one of those rich kids, huh? We were happy with our 300 bauds phone couplers, uphill both ways! ;)
      • using GNU software ... 56k leased lines ruled the day.

        ... even EMACS?

    • Re:Thanks Tim! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sj_walton ( 114809 )
      Where did the military come into Markup Design ?

      ARPANET with 4-nodes was up and running Dec '69, MILNET came after that
      80 something iirc

      Anyway the point of the thread is still valid, the freedom of the network provided the environment for free thinking and sharing of knowledge.

      email, ftp, usenet etc etc came along

      I was working at Reuters in late 70's and we developed a packet-switching network for some of thier early Financial systems

      They couldn't have been the only ones !

      TCP came in 82 or 83

      Then the layere
  • by tonywong ( 96839 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:50AM (#13956377) Homepage
    Just remember that networking was not a new phenomenom before the web.

    We had Compuserve, Prodigy, Bix, eWorld, and probably a dozen other big ones that I can't recall. All of them got steam rolled by the internet because it was so 'disruptive'. One of the properties of being disruptive means upheaval and loss of a certain amount of control.

    Perhaps google will introduce the next phase of communications through wireless gateways that are free, and put cell phone providers in the category of technological has beens...who really knows what will work and what will fail until it is done?
    • by sleeper0 ( 319432 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:02AM (#13956410)
      Agreed. Why on earth wouldn't http and html be invented today? Only because possibly the niche is already filled. Does a would be inventor have to run their protocol by the property lawyers or disney before it gets popular now? Someone should inform Bram Cohen. I'm pretty sure the printing press, telegraph, radio, television, telephones and more were all disruptive technologies for some reason or another in their day. Thinking we've hit some kind of wall isn't looking very hard at the issue.
    • The "island" services were expensive and really nothing more than national bulletin boards. The mistake they made was simply not providing good access to the internet quickly enough. They all had the infrastructure but simply didn't react quickly enough to demand. AOL would have went the way of the dodo too but they must have got some great deal on bulky floppy disks cause they sent out a shitload of them and managed to save themselves.
    • I had BBS's, and FidoNet (along with a few more obscure ones).

          We had fairly established, while unregulated networks. I won't say communication was fast, but it was there. I don't really need to review the wonderful capabilities of BBS's. Probably 25% of the folks who read here were users when BBS's were big.

          Could the internet be reinvented? Sure. But, like any large platform, it started small. The next Intranet is being built by a half dozen teenage kids in their darkend bedrooms around the world. It isn't anything now, but will be the biggest thing the world has seen.
  • Remember (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Without the invention of the "Web" the world of today wouldn't be as it is. Thinking about the question at hand can lead nowhere since noone knows what a world without the Web would look like today.
  • ...unnecessary external influences.

    Not always, but people invent new modes of communicating and sharing data regularly, and thinking that other interests would drive the evolution of a new medium ignores that ... we still are inventing things (P2P) and generally no, they aren't.

  • by ReformedExCon ( 897248 ) <> on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:54AM (#13956391)
    First, if there were no internet and someone were to "invent" it today, it would be very similar to the Internet that was created years ago. It wouldn't have much content aside from a few indexes and maybe some scientific or technical content.

    If the internet were created today, none of us would be online. We'd still be doing all the tedious tasks like making phone calls to clients and friends, and using hardbound encyclopedias and journals to find information. Newspapers would be making a ton of money selling ad space and subscriptions. Television would probably have a lot more content related to the writers' and producers' interests rather than based on viewer feedback.

    In short, if the Internet were invented today, it would not have reached us mere mortals yet. And there is no reason to think that an Internet created in 2005 would be significantly different or more advanced than the Internet created in 1974.

    The Internet itself has changed the rules of intellectual property. Without it, the media conglomerates would not be in the tizzy that they currently are in. It is precisely because of the ease of broadcast that the Internet gives us that we have media content creators trying to find ways to use the law to restrict users. In very real terms, the Internet that we are talking about here is the one created 1999 by Shawn Fanning. Until the arrival of Napster, Internet piracy was a drop in the bucket. Now it is one of the most often used features of the Internet, and it is because of that initial software that media companies sat up and took notice of all the copyrighted bits being transmitted right under their noses.
    • The Internet itself has changed the rules of intellectual property.

      Becoming bitstreams made copyrightable works act like the ideas they are in theory; "intellectual property" is therefore exposed as an awful misnomer, I assert, because ideas do not fit the property model very well [].
    • Software patents would have prevented the web from emerging today if it didn't already exist. It might have still come into existence, but only as an expensive proprietary protocol/service like Compuserve was.
      • Software patents would have prevented the web from emerging today if it didn't already exist. It might have still come into existence, but only as an expensive proprietary protocol/service like Compuserve was.

        It's a chicken vs Egg thing. The US is currently so litigous because of the internet, so if the Internet did not exsisst and I just invented it and had support. It would all happen all over again.
    • If the Internet did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.

      Apologies to Voltaire.
  • A disruptive technology thwarts all attempts to stop it.

    The web, both its Light and its Darkness, is an unavoidable result of the transistor.

    Trying to control disruptive technology puts you squarely on the wrong side of history. The only thing to do is to spot the inexorable trend and adapt to it.

    Free software is next.

    Or else, global Bird Flu. Hard to tell.

  • When the next disruptive communications technology - the next worldwide web - is thought up, the lawyers and the logic of control will be much more evident. That is not a happy thought.

    What are you joking? The lessons learned from the transition from radio to television, movie theaters to Betamax, CDs to MP3s... ...were nothing!! Every single disruption, the media industry says OH MY FREAKING G-D WE ARE DOOMED!!!

    And then a few years later, they are making three times more money than they were before.
  • by karmaflux ( 148909 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:13AM (#13956440)
    ...well, at least this week.

    The web couldn't be invented today because the lawyers learned their lesson... from the web? I've heard the "hindsight is 20/20" saying, but this is ridiculous. Further, why the hell are they talking about WIPO and the Disney corp? It took the brightest minds on the planet, found at places like CERN -- and research budgets of an astronomical scale that could only have been bankrolled by government agencies like the US Army -- to get where we got with the internet and the web. I have never even heard a suggestion that something like this could ever have come from a pile of douchebags like WIPO.

    After reading this article, I wish I had found it in a magazine, so I could have the pleasure of throwing it in the trash. This is garbage.
  • The Web is fast becoming a legacy platform. About now, we have an opportunity to design a new platform from scratch and get it adopted. Let's learn from the mistakes of the Web. Which are: []
    • Everything is free, yet nothing is free. (Compensation paradox)
    • We don't know who you are, yet there is no privacy. (Identity paradox)
    • Write multiple times, yet it still doesn't run everywhere. (Compatibility paradox)
    • Code goes over the network, yet it's not mobile. (Boundary paradox)
    • The Web is not decentralized enou
  • by CornfedPig ( 181199 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:36AM (#13956491)
    The lovely thing about truly disruptive technologies is that, at least initially, they are seen as not-very-good solutions to second-tier problems (here's Wikipedia on Chistensen's definition of a disruptive technology: []). This feature (not a bug!) can give good ideas the time to get a few steps out of the cradle before incumbent industries, their lawyers, and the political powers-that-be in their employ try to strangle them. It isn't much, but sometimes a little bit of a head start is all you can hope for.
  • How would a new method of mass communication be controlled by an existing company or even corporate style?

    It woudn't! The thing about the internet and the www is that it grew out of research and academic use first. The corporations didn't even pay attention to the existence of a new media until years after it had been invented. I remember having discussions about the commericalization of the web in the 95/96 time frame. And this was what 5 or so years after the html had been devoloped and 20 or 30 years

  • In the U.S., my experience is that lawyers are, in general, the most immoral, amoral people.

    I had a friend who graduated in the top 5 of his class at an important law school. His entire approach was that he was learning how to break the law safely.
  • by dadioflex ( 854298 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:47AM (#13956517)
    Sure there's porn and piracy on the Web but there's probably a downside too.
  • Pay television (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ashtead ( 654610 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:50AM (#13956522) Journal

    Pay for content. The revolution with the Web is that there is no limitations or anyone controlling the contents there. It used to be, with television, radio, and books, that only the select few producers were able to reach a large audience. Now this has changed to be determined by what you, YOU the reader and potential producer, have to say, and whether, or rather to what extent anyone's interested in it. Now anyone can read, and thanks to Google, anyone can find something they're looking for (as in it may not be what they want, but it will be what they need).

    Had the web been created today by any media corporation or association of these, it would have been just another variation on the pay-for-content and "We produce, you consume" theme that is the bread and butter of the media companies today. They do not want to have any competition. And they do not want to surrender their control of the distribution channels.

  • I'm sure some of you can remember how the internet used to be 1994. Web pages were few and mostly from colleges and college students. No ads, no javascript, no flash, almost no commercial content whatsoever.

    The internet was already there and it was ok the way it was. Then came more sites, search engines, Netscape, Windows 95, cheaper and faster private internet access. And with it all the vultures who came to sell things over the internet and all the lawyers who came to get their piece of the cake.


  • Electricity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @04:02AM (#13956561)

    If electricity were discovered today, it would be deemed too dangerous for the public.

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Saturday November 05, 2005 @04:04AM (#13956563) Homepage Journal
    Corporations are the kiss of death for these things.

    In the beginning there was the PLATO network which had a working prototype designed for mass-market which would have amortized itself within 5 years easily at $40/month service, including the rental of a bit-mapped graphics, touch screen, plasma displays. It had realtime multiuser games, even some multiuser 3D first person shooter games [], as well as email, discussion fora (the origin of Ozzie's "Notes") and the ability for anyone to write programs for anyone else to run via the network. A single Cyber 760 benchmarked out at several thousand simultaneous users with 1/4 second response time. "Management" decided to focus on the higher profit margin corporate education market.

    So I left PLATO and took up position as architect for the authoring system for the mass-market videotex experiment conducted by AT&T and Knight-Ridder News called "Viewtron" -- a service of the joint-venture company, Viewdata Corporation of America. They had done market research which showed that the thing people most wanted was discussion. Having been from PLATO this was no surprise and indeed it was obvious to me people wanted to be able to provide publications and software services to the public. But when I presented an architecture whose primary discipline was to treat the desktop computer as the host system nearest the user (ie: P2P in 1982) I was told by a decision-maker that "we see videotex as 'we the institutions providing you the consumer with information and services'" Yes that was what he said. He may have been trying to get my goat but that is in fact the direction they took things. In any event I was about to be told by the corporate authorities that my P2P telecomputing architecture, which would have provided a dynamically downloaded Forth graphics protocol in 1983 evolving into a distributed Smalltalk-like environment beginning around 1985, would be abandoned due to a corporate commitment to stick with Tandem Computers as the mainframe vendor -- a choice which I had asserted would not be adequate. (At least Postscript survived.) I was subsequently offered the head telecomputing software position at Prodigy by IBM and turned it down when they indicated they would not support my architecture either, due to a committment to limit merchant access to their network to only those who had a special status with the service provider (IBM/CBS/Sears). The distributed Smalltalk system was specifically designed to allow the sort of grassroots commerce now emerging in the world wide web. (Now that via AJAX people recognize JavaScript is similar to the Self programming language and the Common Lisp Object System there is some resurrection of the original vision.) But this wasn't in keeping with IBM's philosophy at that time since they had yet to be humbled by Bill Gates coup but already Gates had locked in his position as the bottleneck between Moore's Law and software by retaining ownership of MS DOS while it was being distributed on IBM's hardware.

    Lest people think the government is the ultimate savior in all this -- I did make a run at developing this sort of service on my own nickle using PC hardware but was squashed by the U.S. government when it provided UUCP/Usenet service, via MILnet, to a XENIX-based competitor in San Diego and would not offer me the same subsidy. MILnet was, by law, not for public access. Rather it was exclusively for military use. My complaints to DoD investigators resulted in continual "We're looking into it." replies. By that time Usenet was taking off and I couldn't get a seed market to finance any further work.

    What Berners-Lee did was admirable in that he aimed lower -- for the low hanging fruit of simple document presentation. The sacrifice of P2P was, however a bit much to sacrifice. I still think that should have remained the "primary discipline". Things are slowly recovering though.

  • by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @04:07AM (#13956566)
    Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN in Switzerland when he invented the web. There would be absolutely no problem inventing it there today.

    Perhaps it would have been much slower to penetrate the US market, but that would not mean it couldn't exist basically as it does now.

    There have been recent articles here about how the US is slipping into a technical dark age. This is just one more example of how that's true.
    • Well, lets say the web is looking tired and a replacement is proposed, you have to think who will be proposing it?

      Given the cynicism about Microsoft their proposal would be rejected, likewise with Apple (but then they use open source, they don't release any of their work other than patches to open source). There's few companies who would be trusted.

      So it just leaves the standards bodies like W3C.
  • by catwh0re ( 540371 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @04:23AM (#13956596)
    The internet is an extension of ideas that we already had. Bulletin boards allowed small groups of people to interact, particularly with things like MOOs/MUDs. Then CompuServe was alot like the internet before the internet really took off, despite being a commercially owned entity, and yes it was a bit like pay tv.
    • I didn't truely appreciate the magic that was FidoNet back then... actually, I'm still not exactly sure how it managed to route messages from BBS to BBS until it reached the other side of the planet.

      In some ways, BBS's were better than the 'net today, it was a real community since people tended to call BBS's that were in their own city. Nowadays, I don't have any idea where Slashdotter's live... plus there are sooo many more users per site...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A disruptive Technology is one that "disrupts" the currently technology. was "disruptive technology" to strip malls. Strip malls were "disruptive technology" to department stores. And department stores were "disruptive technologies" to the old corner stores. In this sense, a WWW could be invented today. The majority of the population (including lawyers) can't predict disruptive technologies - so their creation can't be prevented.
  • Considering that the web is a 'recipe for pornography' while the minitel isn't is a mistake: in truth FT the company operating the minitel was making a big part of the money with 'sex sites'.

    Maybe this was possible only in France where sex is not too much a problem..

    It probably helped that at the time, the sex was very abstract on the minitel: only crude drawings and text interaction, no photograph.

    Apart from this inacurracy, I agree with the article.
  • That is actually one of the most heartening things I have heard in a long time. The only thing that will make people sit up and do something about the increasingly troubling grip of corporate intellectual property on our society.

    A future where IP eventually stops progress and would ultimately then be reformed sounds far better than one where we are insidiously subject to more and more control with corporations deciding not to give us internet porn and other disruptive and disliked social changes.
    • you'll never see 3D rapid prototyping printers become common. The technology would be too disruptive if you can simply begin printing out parts for things in your house.

      Can you imagine all the sorts of property holders that would be affected by 3D rapid prototyping and would be getting involved in intellectual property issues if that technology debuted?
  • Think of what the Industrial Revolution was like, how Britian tried to keep factory technology out of the hands of other countries. It is all about control and money.
  • Minitel (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anne Honime ( 828246 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @05:43AM (#13956748)
    I think the minitel comparison is completely unfair ; minitel was operated on normal telephone lines, therefore, anybody with a line and a computer could open a non-profit minitel service or a bbs, and many did. Now long forgotten french home computers made by Thomson were sharing their charset (no ascii) with minitel for exactly that purpose.

    At the time it was released (begining of the 80's), minitel was probably one of the most advanced and low cost electronic net in the world, it greatly helped many people to get acquainted with technology. And it had porn too.

    Lack of evolution and internet competition killed it, but for 15 years I can't think of anything more or less competing with it anywhere in the world in terms of accessibility and richness of content. And it delivered for (almost) free ! The terminal was lended by France Telecom to anybody at no cost. You paid for the service, at the price of a (sometimes premium) communication. Not really cheap, but a strong incentive for sure.

    For certain services, I still use it today, because minitel warrants the user he's talking to the right person (no MIM hack), and the price has no hidden traps.

  • When the next disruptive communications technology - the next worldwide web - is thought up, the lawyers...

    will be as clueless as they were before. Will think that the new technology is some geek playground with no real world use. And then it'll be too late.
  • I see many people on here making comments starting with "if the internet were created today..."

    Please stop. The article references the web. The web is not the internet. It is merely one of the services available on the internet. The internet was invented in the late 60's by the US Defense Dept (DARPA). The web was invented in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee as a way of sharing documents that was better than Gopher and FTP.
  • Not Fair Comparaison (Score:4, Informative)

    by trollable ( 928694 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @06:24AM (#13956807) Homepage
    Your comparaison with the french minitel is not fair, IMHO. If the internet would look like the minitel, it would be:

    1) Cheaper
    At that time, connections were charger per minute. The range for the minitel was between $0.05 and $2.00, the range for the internet started at $0.35. Addtionaly, the terminal was FREE.

    2) More used
    There was millions of minitel users in France, and only tens of thousands of internet ones.

    3) Faster
    Well, the minitel modem was only 1200-bps, while you could get a 9600-bps one for the internet. However, the route was direct and the pages much lighter. So the time-per-page was lower.

    4) Styled
    The minitel was a character terminal, black and white. Colors and graphics were introduced later. Same for the web. But you could get some effects.

    5) More organised
    The minitel had a single namespace (mainly 3615). Not a really good thing but definitively more organised and controled.

    Finaly, the minitel could be connected to a PC (via serial). You could use it confortably from your PC or you could connect BBS. You could even host your own server. At that time, it was almost impossible on the internet.

    ---- []
  • What would a web designed by the World Intellectual Property Organisation or the Disney Corporation have looked like? It would have looked more like pay-television, or Minitel, the French computer network.

    Perhaps as The Microsoft Network [] was originally supposed to be? Before everyone decided that they didn't care for it, that is.

    For those who don't remember back to 1995, Microsoft had originally intended to make The Internet obsolete by leveraging its OS monopoly to steer everyone to the alterna

  • Does this idea ever matter? If you create standards that enable a similar institution eventually you will get an AOL. AOL is 90 percent there for the internet. Also researchers would make the web not be so mickey mouse.
  • Remember the Fidonet? The Net that ruled all of the Pack (Minitel, Compuserve, whatever)?
    A net entirely built and controlled by citizens!
    Now imagine a Fidonet protokoll that supports web-like features such as easy cross-referencing and images.
    The quality of a network like that would be much higher than what we have as the web today.

    I'd pick an entirely cititzen controlled modern asynchronous net over the web any day.
  • The lawyers have learnt their lesson now...When the next disruptive communications technology - the next worldwide web - is thought up, the lawyers and the logic of control will be much more evident. That is not a happy thought.'"

    James Boyle might write in a formalised and superficially eloquent style, but this last sentence proves that he is still what is referred to on Usenet (and here) as a troll.

    A question for Boyle and all the other such fearmongers:- If Disney and the other robber baron conglomerates
  • The same could be said for libraries. If they were invented today, the publishing industry would be all over them. You want to do what!? For FREE?? SOCIALISTS! COMMUNISTS! They would raise such a big fuss, that it would become a crime to lend books out, and police would randomly stop and search people to see if they had a library card.

    When you think about it, libraries are a bit socialist, but I think the benefits far outweigh the harm.


    What harm?


    • Your comment made me imagine the entertaining concept of "readeasies" [] where once you got past Vinny the bouncer you could drink bathtub gin and swap books with the other patrons. For some reason I also picture everyone wearing zoot suits and flapper dresses...
  • When the next disruptive communications technology - the next worldwide web - is thought up, the lawyers and the logic of control will be much more evident

    No they won't. The "next web" will be a disruptive technology therefore the effects cannot clearly be foreseen. Lawyers & "logic of control" type people will not even notice what's happening until it's already too late. These people operate strictly within existing mental frameworks.

    To be able to forsee what's to come they would need to be visionar
  • AOL, CompuServe, GEnie all wanted to be a controlled internet. The internet won because of it's lack of control.

    I also disagree with the concept that lawyers will hammer down the next disruptive technology because now they're "prepared" for it.

    Sorry, but disruptive technologies are the ones that sneak in the back door, it's that thing nobody thought they needed but they really did. Lawyers by nature won't believe such a simple thing noone needs will be disruptive.

    They may react a bit faster once it becomes
  • I have a belief that things get better in the long run for good reason. Technology frequently gets beaten by better technologies. However much the defenders try and hold on, by FUD or lobbying, they lose eventually. If an idea is good it will win out in the end. Sure, in the short term it may lose, but eventually will get there.

    Open standards are part of this - they do a better job for customers than closed ones do. Remember, people tried this with various services. How big are MSN, AOL, Compuserve and al

  • [Not speaking for SunSITE, Metalab, ibiblio, or UNC].

    1) Before the great Cambrian explosion of 90-92, only a few, simple internet applications existed - primarily telnet, smtp, ftp, and DNS. In a manner that would shock most members of the Dover school board, these applications envolved through a process of trial, error, and descent with modification.

    When ITU attempted to replicate these applications through intelligent-design-by-committe, the species that formed in 84 proved immediately non-viabl
  • Most technological advances would be impossible today.

    Sure, *invention* would be possible, but you couldnt tell anyone else you did it.
  • That is a recipe for piracy and pornography

    Minitel was *always* all about the porn.
  • all bells and whistless without the balls ...

    unsearchable graphical mess of information, full with flash-like programs annoying the hell out of me, and disallowing e.g. blind people to do anything online....

    it would be completely proprietary, so to access someones network you would have to download 12312411233megabytes of trash windows-only programs, that would tell you after the installation something like this:

    "your country code is not supported" or "you must enter credit card number before you can look
  • Since there are a lot of youngsters on Slashdot, it's not surprising that the memory of the web's genesis is fuzzy to nonexistent for many of you. Let's put things into perspective, shall we?

    Flash back to the early 1990's. What was the term being bandied about by everyone, in the media, in IT, just about everywhere? Everyone was talking about the upcoming "Information Superhighway." And everyone assumed it was going to mean we'd have 500 cable channels. Digital shopping. "Video phones."
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @12:53PM (#13957977) Homepage
    The public Internet wasn't the first try. Look what came before:
    • Mead Data Central, which ran Lexis/Nexis. Good info at high prices.
    • Networked BBS systems, including Usenet over UUCP. Text info at low prices. (Anyone remember The Well?)
    • QuantumLink, a 2D virtual world with avatars. (With Commodore 64 clients at 300 baud! What a cram job.)
    • Minitel, the French system with good phone directories and expensive data services. (France Telecom fully deployed Minitel service in the United States, with dial-in ports all over the US. Few Americans used it, but the ability to send messages to France at no extra cost was great for anyone who spoke French. The literary standard expected in online chat was quite high.)
    • GEnie, Prodigy, MCImail, etc., the first big closed systems. Widely used, but not very good. No interoperablity, a big problem.
    • AOL, of course, which predates the Internet and didn't originally connect to it.

    The big push to interconnect first came from E-mail. Business to business E-mail was a huge pain when GEnie didn't talk to MCImail. Businesses insisted that their vendors get interoperablity working. That's what finally made the competing services interconnect.

Man will never fly. Space travel is merely a dream. All aspirin is alike.