Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Broadcast vs. Communication

It seems that most of the mainstream media companies (Viacom, Disney, NBC, CNN, etc) think the internet is a broadcast medium. They put stuff up on their pages, users just consume their pap, just like TV, with very little control other than the channel, or the big red button (the ultimate choice not to bother). They want to control how that material is seen, and prevent anyone from using it in any other way. But immediately, everyone that views it gets a local copy (with the exception of streamed stuff) in their browser if not their cache too. It's not just an ephemeral signal, here now, gone now.

In contrast, the web is, and always has been, a communications medium. I put stuff up (like this blog), you can consume it if you like, but (and it's a big but) you can put up a response of your own, without need for any more license than I. Your response can be a comment here, or in your own space; a blog, a forum, a web-page, on IRC, or some new medium I don't know about yet, or have forgotten about.

Of course, the internet goes much further than the web: email, nntp, gopher (are there any gopher servers left?), ftp, and many more protocols not normally visible to mere mortals like you or I.

The future of the internet as a (reasonable democratic) communications medium depends upon the 'long tail' standing up to the big media companies, the organisations representing them directly (RIAA, MPAA, BPI, I'm looking at you), and those that don't officially (national governments, I'm looking at you!) to ensure that the internet remains a domain of free expression for the exchange and development of ideas.

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