The future of Internet (and how we didn't stop it)

Quite a few years ago, I read a book by Jonathan Zittrain called "The future of the Internet: and how to stop it". Apart from being a great summary of how not just the Internet, but also personal computing developed, there's one thing that always stuck with me.

You see, what Zittrain formulated in the book (and the thing he wanted us to stop), is a development we are all now embroiled in: the fact that a few very powerful companies now control which applications we can (without too much hassle) put on our phone and which ones we can't.

I was reminded of the book when I saw this post by Musk, where he seems to be just totally flabbergasted that Apple charges developers 30% of every sale.

Elon Musk asking in a tweet: "Did you know Apple puts a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store?

Of course Apple charges developers whatever they want, and they will also gladly decide which apps are allowed in their app-store (which is the actual meat of the matter here - they could very easily remove Twitter from their store and there's literally nothing Musk could do about it from a legal standpoint).

And that, my friends, is what Zittrain was talking about and which stuck with me all those years. It's the reason why I've never even entertained the thought of buying Apple products (even when I finally had the means to do so). It's the reason why I've always tried to use open platforms and ecosystems.

Let me leave you with this quote from Zittrain's book, which seems awfully prescient for something written roughly 17 years ago:

The challenge facing those interested in a vibrant global Internet is to maintain the core of that experimentalist spirit in the face of growing pressures. One path leads to a velvet divorce, creating two separate Internets with distinct audiences: a return to the quiet backwaterfor the original experimentalist Internet that would restart the generative cycle among researchers and hackers distinct from consumers who live with a new, controlled Internet experience. Two Internets would consign the existing grid to an appliancized fate, in which little new happens as existing technology players incrementally modify existing applications without the competitive pressure of grid-enabled innovation arbitrage.

PS: The book is under a creative commons licence, so the link at the beginning will let you download the whole thing. Do it!

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