The web’s future is its past

I’ve been watching the first episode of Virtual Revolution (BBC2 Dr Aleks Krotoski). It is excellent and raises a number of fascinating points.  I’ll just concentrate on one. If the web was born of a notion of free access to information and libiterian ideals why is it now dominated by a few big companies like Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook.  The reason seems to be the same as in the offline world; that good brands are just better at what they do.

Us poor consumers can’t be bothered to investigate every search engine, comparison site or travel shop. We find one that works, like Google, and stick to it. So the rules that apply to great brand offline apply online. Serve your customers well, make it easy to do business, innovate and be honest and you know what, you’ll do well.

So why should the web be any different. We may applaud liberty and freedom but we really want is efficiency and simplicity.  So I might embrace the hippy dream of egalitarianism but what I really need is something that works.

In December 2002 when Tim Berners-Lee got his Knighthood.  I emailed him to thank him for what he had done and to say how slow our nation had been to acknowledge his achievement.  A week later I got reply.  It was like God answering.  As Stephen Fry said in the program.  “He did two great things.  He invented the Web and then he gave it away”.  Bless you Tim.


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