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I Wish They Would Leave It Alone
June 25, 2006 8:12 PM   Subscribe

When I invented the Web, I didn't have to ask anyone's permission. Tim Berners-Lee talks about net neutrality.
posted by Drunken_munky (55 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
There is simply no reason to oppose Net Neutrality unless you own stock in, or work for one of a handful of telecom companies.
posted by delmoi at 8:28 PM on June 25, 2006


Congress "run by the misguided short-term interested of large corporations"?

preposterous I say (gag).
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:29 PM on June 25, 2006


Let's see whether the United States is capable as acting according to its important values, or whether it is, as so many people are saying, run by the misguided short-term interested of large corporations.

HR 5252 needs to get past the Senate for final approval.

If you believe in the Internet as a public good, and don't believe that corporations should be given yet more control over the flow of information to American citizens, then contact your Senators and let them know they should support Net Neutrality before it is too late.
posted by Mr. Six at 8:31 PM on June 25, 2006


Maybe Warren Buffett will buy the internet.
posted by parki at 8:46 PM on June 25, 2006


There is simply no reason to oppose Net Neutrality unless you own stock in, or work for one of a handful of telecom companies.

Disclaimer: I am pro net neutrality.

But just for fun...

Let's say you own a bar. You sell beer and a nice place to sit down. Most people come in, buy beer and hang out. But some other customers come in and start selling sandwiches to each other. You don't want to throw them out -- after all, they're buying beer.

Some other customer comes to you and says, I'll pay to have the best table in this bar, so I can sell the most sandwiches. You think that's a good deal.

But then the city council comes in and says, oh no, this bar is important to our town. People need to keep running their sandwich-selling businesses on an equal footing. Besides, other people want that nice table so they can chat without too much trouble. So you can't play favorites with your tables. You can't sell your best table to the highest bidder.

But wait, you say. This is my bar. I built it myself. You can't come in here and tell me what I can and cannot do with my own bar.

And that's where the issue gets mucked up.

Welcome to America.
posted by frogan at 8:46 PM on June 25, 2006


But wait, you say. This is my bar. I built it myself

And that's where the analogy breaks down.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:49 PM on June 25, 2006


Yes AT&T single-handedly built the internet... or Verizon or or...

Yea.
posted by basicchannel at 8:54 PM on June 25, 2006


You can't sell your best table to the highest bidder.

This is where the analogy breaks down.

But wait, you say. This is my bar. I built it myself

Wrong again. The public paid for the pipes through higher taxes and fees for services that have not yet been delivered.
posted by Mr. Six at 8:58 PM on June 25, 2006


But just for fun... Let's say you own a bar. You sell beer and a nice place to sit down. Most people come in, buy beer and hang out. But some other customers come in and start selling sandwiches to each other. You don't want to throw them out -- after all, they're buying beer.

Did you have fun? I hope you did, because your analogy certainly isn't useful for any intellectual purpose. I'm not going bother enumerating the ways a nationwide fiber optic network will billions of miles of line built using public resources and rights-of-way by companies who for the most part have local monopolies and captive customer bases, because that would be a huge waste of time.

The only thing analogies do is make debate more difficult by confusing the hell things and you end up with people arguing whether a Jewish bartender should be able to ban non-kosher bologna in the sandwiches his patrons are selling.
posted by delmoi at 8:58 PM on June 25, 2006


Let the Jewish bartender be Warren Buffet.
posted by parki at 9:01 PM on June 25, 2006


He'd give away all the drinks!
posted by geoff. at 9:05 PM on June 25, 2006


A billionaire walks into a bar...
posted by shoepal at 9:06 PM on June 25, 2006


... and says "ow!"
posted by absalom at 9:14 PM on June 25, 2006


Let's say you own a bar.

Much as I like any and all metaphors dealing with bars, we've seen, most recently in the wifi-thief thread, that analogies and metaphors for this net.stuff tend to muddy the water more than anything else.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:30 PM on June 25, 2006


Yeah forget the "let's say you own a bar" and how about starting with "let's say you own a right to a protected monopoly on a public resource".
posted by Space Coyote at 9:40 PM on June 25, 2006


I like analogies, and I want a sandwich. What's wrong with that? If congress is telling me I can't have a sandwich in a bar, then fuck congress. Does it have ham on it? I think sandwiches made by people are better than sandwiches made by companies.
posted by JWright at 9:41 PM on June 25, 2006


Let's say you own a bar

Everybody Comes To Sparx'!
posted by Sparx at 9:42 PM on June 25, 2006


What's amazing to me is that Tim Berners-Lee actually buys into his own publicity.

"When I invented the web" indeed.

Feh.
posted by tkolar at 9:43 PM on June 25, 2006


While the concept of hypertext had been around for a couple decades, it was Berners-Lee who wrote a protocol, wrote a server, wrote a client, and put it all on a decentralized network ("Internet"). He did, indeed, invent the Web.
posted by Mr. Six at 9:49 PM on June 25, 2006


I like analogies, and I want a sandwich.

Metafilter taught me that juries will convict ham sandwiches, if left unsupervised.
posted by Mr. Six at 9:50 PM on June 25, 2006


billions of miles of line built using ... rights-of-way by companies

And who paid for those rights-of-way?

Guys, you can't get around this annoying little fact that the telcos own their wires, and the debate boils down to where we draw the line as to how the government can dictate the actions of private companies.

They bought the right to build the wires. Then they built the wires. And now we're saying, decades later when the system grew into something totally unrecognizable from when it started, we get to tell them how to use the wires. Okayyy...

You guys strangely have a lot of faith in your government to do what's right. Me, I'd like it to just stop doing things in general.
posted by frogan at 10:08 PM on June 25, 2006


Then they built the wires. And now we're saying, decades later when the system grew into something totally unrecognizable from when it started, we get to tell them how to use the wires.

We have always had that right; we get it when we grant a monopoly. The only way the laissez-faire approach you offer can work is if there is true competition, that is, if more than one company can run a wire pair to your house. However, it's not economic or even particularly sane to do so. (Cable is no comparison, it's a completely different physical network topology.)

But another option which would satisfy requirements (though certainly it would infuriate the telcos), is a UK style unbundling requirement. That would break the monopoly and permit genuine competition. True, it would force the telcos to allow competitors to use "their" wires, but they have long since chiseled the cost of those wires out of the municipalities and the customers, many, many times over, so frankly, my heart bleeds.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:25 PM on June 25, 2006


hey bought the right to build the wires. Then they built the wires. And now we're saying, decades later when the system grew into something totally unrecognizable from when it started, we get to tell them how to use the wires. Okayyy...

I understand that you really believe this is the situation, but you should re-read the comments above and reconsider the meaning of terms like "a right to a protected monopoly on a public resource." specifically, you may want to consider the terms "protected monopoly" and "public resource."

also, you should consider the meaning of sentences like "The public paid for the pipes through higher taxes and fees for services that have not yet been delivered."
posted by shmegegge at 10:50 PM on June 25, 2006


you should consider the meaning of sentences like "The public paid for the pipes through higher taxes and fees for services that have not yet been delivered."

I really wish people would consider clicking on the links and taking the trouble to read them:

Instead of deploying the high-speed fiber-optic lines [the telcos] promised, they were content to collect profits, tinker with existing copper connections instead of rewiring, and roll out inferior DSL services. The FCC defines anything above 200 Kbps as broadband (1000 Kbps = 1 Mbps), allowing them to claim that Americans have broadband access. However, this definition is a politically-driven embarrassment for technologists, the equivalent of two tin-cans with string.

Yet—and here is the most troubling part—the phone companies got paid anyway. Through tax breaks and increased service fees, Verizon and the old Bells reaped an estimated $200 billion since the early 1990s to improve subscriber lines in the United States. And what have American consumers received? The most common DSL Service over the old copper networks tops out at 768 Kbps in most areas—a hundred times slower than routine connections in other countries. [emph. mine]

posted by Mr. Six at 11:14 PM on June 25, 2006


What's amazing to me is that Tim Berners-Lee actually buys into his own publicity.
"When I invented the web" indeed.


How he can even say this when everyone knows it was Al Gore is a complete mystery to me.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:20 AM on June 26, 2006


And here I was just admiring MeFi for having grown up enough to get 24 comments into this thread without someone trotting out that one.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:24 AM on June 26, 2006


"When I invented the web" indeed.

actually, he did. that doesn't change just because people incorrectly refer to the internet as the web.
posted by quonsar at 4:26 AM on June 26, 2006


"When I invented the web" is maybe the coolest thing ever said.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:53 AM on June 26, 2006


What's amazing to me is that Tim Berners-Lee actually buys into his own publicity.

You're precious. Don't ever change.
posted by Jairus at 7:53 AM on June 26, 2006


So the public builds a bar, and gives it to you, essentially for nothing, because you promise you'll make it great. You get to be the only bar in town.
You put some peanuts on the counter.
And the brewers pay you to provide their beer.
And the customers also pay you just to get in the bar.
So when one beer gets popular, you decide you'll charge its brewer even more, otherwise you'll put it on one shitty fountain, in the far corner.

Jesus, a pub analogy is the worst possible one for this situation, clot.
posted by bonaldi at 7:56 AM on June 26, 2006


What's amazing to me is that Tim Berners-Lee actually buys into his own publicity.

Yeah, that Tim Berners-Lee. What a selfish, narcissistic bastard.
posted by blucevalo at 8:10 AM on June 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Not disputing Berners-Lee's status as web inventor, but how often do people refer to having "invented" computer programs?
posted by aaronetc at 8:49 AM on June 26, 2006


It's interesting to see everyone do a 180 and start defending "invention" here. If he had patented his software and started licensing it, people would be trotting out prior art left and right.

However, I need to back off a little here because when I wrote the first comment I had missed the capital -- that all he is claiming invention of is the "Web" as in World Wide Web. No question that was his software and his creation. I was just irked because I thought he was buying into the mythos thats been built up that he somehow created all of the underlying concepts out of whole cloth.
posted by tkolar at 9:00 AM on June 26, 2006


Not disputing Berners-Lee's status as web inventor, but how often do people refer to having "invented" computer programs?
posted by aaronetc


"The web" isn't a computer program, it's a protocol.
posted by Happy Monkey at 9:17 AM on June 26, 2006


So wait. This bar. Does it have wireless?
posted by Jofus at 9:30 AM on June 26, 2006


"The web" isn't a computer program, it's a protocol.

????

The "web" is a set of conventions characterized by hypertext and the use of URLs. The underlying protocols are almost entirely interchangable -- HTTP is the most common, but FTP, SCP, Gopher, and for that matter SMTP can be and are used to transfer documents around.

In many ways, being addressable with a URL is what defines something as being part of the web or not.
posted by tkolar at 9:37 AM on June 26, 2006


mr. six,

I did read the links, nothing you quoted or emboldened is any different than the sentence I drew attention to. What the public pays for and what the public gets are not the same thing. We paid for better than we got, but we still paid for it, suckers that we are. We also paid for the old copper shit that a lot of us are still running on.

I really wish mefi users would read other users' comments more carefully instead of just being pricks.
posted by shmegegge at 9:43 AM on June 26, 2006


Is it ever worth going to war over sandwiches?
posted by Four Flavors at 9:49 AM on June 26, 2006


I did read the links, nothing you quoted or emboldened is any different than the sentence I drew attention to.

Really.

I like ham sandwiches. I wish Metafilter would stop calling juries that convict them.
posted by Mr. Six at 9:55 AM on June 26, 2006


It's interesting to see everyone do a 180 and start defending "invention" here. If he had patented his software and started licensing it, people would be trotting out prior art left and right.

What does this have to do with Berners-Lee not inventing the web?

But I will say that, had he gone the usual corporate or academic route of securing a temporary patent and licensing out his work, the web would probably be some cludgy hybrid of gopher with other protocols. There's no way the web could have taken off had it been patented and licensed, because the existing protocols worked "well enough" up until that time.

I was just irked because I thought he was buying into the mythos thats been built up that he somehow created all of the underlying concepts out of whole cloth.

A lot of inventions are clever combinations of existing ideas or knowledge. That the ideas or knowledge may have been around for awhile doesn't diminish the importance of the invention, nor does it mean that the inventor has any less right to claim credit for his efforts.
posted by Mr. Six at 10:05 AM on June 26, 2006


Really.

yes. really.

Instead of deploying the high-speed fiber-optic lines [the telcos] promised, they were content to collect profits, tinker with existing copper connections instead of rewiring, and roll out inferior DSL services.

so, we paid for high speed fiber-optic lines. we did not get them. you tell me in what world that situation does not fit the description of "paid for the pipes through higher taxes and fees for services that have not yet been delivered."
posted by shmegegge at 10:15 AM on June 26, 2006


This thread has got me drunk. Who wants to sellme a sandwich!
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:41 AM on June 26, 2006


Mr. Six wrote...
A lot of inventions are clever combinations of existing ideas or knowledge.

A lot of other "inventions" are simply refinements to things that other people have already done. For example, Gopher was already in wide use before WWW showed up. WWW was a superior implementation, but the core "distributed sets of documents linked by hyperlinks" idea was already fully implemented.

And don't even get me started about HyperCard.

That the ideas or knowledge may have been around for awhile doesn't diminish the importance of the invention, nor does it mean that the inventor has any less right to claim credit for his efforts.

Oh good. I'll stop feeling cynically opportunistic about this, then.
posted by tkolar at 10:51 AM on June 26, 2006


A lot of other "inventions" are simply refinements to things that other people have already done. For example, Gopher was already in wide use before WWW showed up. WWW was a superior implementation, but the core "distributed sets of documents linked by hyperlinks" idea was already fully implemented.

Gopher didn't support MIME types, so you couldn't use it for much more than text.

Your point about HyperCard is taken since it smooshed together lots of object types, but it didn't initially work over a network.

HTTP put these and other ideas together, added missing pieces, and put it up on a decentralized network. While it seems obvious in hindsight, it is nonetheless a significant work.

And again, frivolous patent applications do nothing to diminish from Berners-Lee's (or anyone else's) invention.
posted by Mr. Six at 11:11 AM on June 26, 2006


Had Berners-Lee attempted to encumber his software with a lot of metasystemic use restrictions, I doubt we'd have heard of it.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:18 AM on June 26, 2006


Gopher didn't support MIME but you could use it for any kind of data you wanted. I remember getting images over Gopher daily. RFC 1436 allows several specific types and a catch-all binary type for which the client should figure out the data type from the filename extension, just as Windows still does today for local files. Clearly you can use Windows for more than just text.
posted by grouse at 12:53 PM on June 26, 2006


HTTP put these and other ideas together, added missing pieces, and put it up on a decentralized network.

(I'm not sure why you call out the "decentralized network" part, as that had already been done with gopher. )

While it seems obvious in hindsight, it is nonetheless a significant work.

There's no question, WWW was a major step forward and Tim has every right to be proud of it. As I said before, my original statement was based on my misperception that he was accepting credit for a whole lot more than just WWW.
posted by tkolar at 1:38 PM on June 26, 2006


"The web" isn't a computer program, it's a protocol.

Is not "protocol" a subset of "computer program"? I didn't say it was an application or anything that specific.
posted by aaronetc at 2:27 PM on June 26, 2006


aaronetc writes "Not disputing Berners-Lee's status as web inventor, but how often do people refer to having 'invented' computer programs?"

You mean like Larry Wall, Dennis Ritchie, Niklaus Wirth, Ken Thompson and Grace Hopper?
posted by Mitheral at 2:34 PM on June 26, 2006


Is not "protocol" a subset of "computer program"?

No.
posted by grouse at 2:54 PM on June 26, 2006


If I pay to connect to the Net with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can communicate at that level.

for a man who invented the web (and i do have all respect for him and give him the credit for his claim), i'm disappointed that the word "that" in the next to last word of the above sentence is woefully ambiguous. it doesn't seem to clarify net neutrality at all.

at which level is "that?"
posted by 3.2.3 at 5:46 PM on June 26, 2006


program: A set of coded instructions that enables a machine, especially a computer, to perform a desired sequence of operations.

HTTP does not conform to this definition?
posted by aaronetc at 7:54 PM on June 26, 2006


No. HTTP is a description, a specification, a method to encapsulate and transmit the "desired sequence of instructions".

In other words: a protocol.
posted by Pinback at 8:21 PM on June 26, 2006


You guys strangely have a lot of faith in your government to do what's right.

VS the faith we shoudl have in corporations and the way they treat the customers?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:19 PM on June 26, 2006


As with health care, as with automobile insurance, as with rail transit, as with education, public ownership and control is (a) cheaper for the consumer and (b) lower risk.

Canada's public healthcare costs 1/3rd per capita the cost of the US's healthcare.

ICBC, BC's public automobile insurer, posts some of the lowest rates and does so without unfair discrimination (no age/sex penalties).

Britain's rail system ran better under government control than private control, AFAIK.

The US's experiments with charter schools has been a dismal failure more often than not.

The government should get in the business of delivering Internet access to its citizens. It is an infrastructure element that is vital to the success of individuals and companies.

Like health, like education, like transportation, the internet is a service that everyone should have opportunity to use it freely (as in speech; and with subsidization for those that can not afford it (ie. free at the library, like newspapers and books)).
posted by five fresh fish at 10:18 PM on June 26, 2006


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