An “information wants to be free” pioneer issues a mea culpa:
INTERNET idealists like me have long had an easy answer for creative types â€” like the striking screenwriters in Hollywood â€” who feel threatened by the unremunerative nature of our new Eden: stop whining and figure out how to join the party!
Thatâ€™s the line I spouted when I was part of the birthing celebrations for the Web. I even wrote a manifesto titled â€œPiracy Is Your Friend.â€ But I was wrong. We were all wrong.
Like so many in Silicon Valley in the 1990s, I thought the Web would increase business opportunities for writers and artists. Instead they have decreased. Most of the big names in the industry â€” Google, Facebook, MySpace and increasingly even Apple and Microsoft â€” are now in the business of assembling content from unpaid Internet users to sell advertising to other Internet users.
Thereâ€™s an almost religious belief in the Valley that charging for content is bad. The only business plan in sight is ever more advertising. One might ask what will be left to advertise once everyone is aggregated.
How long must creative people wait for the Webâ€™s new wealth to find a path to their doors? A decade is a long enough time that idealism and hope are no longer enough. If thereâ€™s one practice technologists ought to embrace, it is the evaluation of empirical results.
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Affordable turns out to be much harder than free when it comes to information technology, but we are smart enough to figure it out. We owe it to ourselves and to our creative friends to acknowledge the negative results of our old idealism. We need to grow up.