In my last post, I mentioned Bruce Lawson’s talk on the Extensible Web, before ‘going off on a rant’ about the long term viability of the Web as a development platform. Today, I would like to talk about a very basic thing he mentioned: URLs, Uniform Resource Locators.
Bruce was the third of three(*) prominent figures from the world of the world wide web who I’ve seen speak out publicly recently about the deteriorating ecosystem of The Internet. Until now, I’ve seen this as a reaction by the established potential monopolies to constrain the network of Free software that threatens their power structures, into hierarchical walled gardens that they hope to control. They could then compete to tempt us into their own secret garden and corral our social network into their own ‘safe space’, like gently grazing cash cows who believe they have free will. Big Data companies want a single point of entry to their private network of services, as a replacement for software licences; or to give away free because we, the click-cattle, are the product.
I was reminded a couple of days ago that a hierarchy is a structure built out of single points of failure. Internet Domains are notionally tree-structured. This may be the biggest design fault in the Internet Protocol stack.
Bruce’s talk pointed out that URLs are the key resources that we are losing. The Internet is hand-crocheted out of fine threads that can snap easily. They are connected onto ‘ports’ at IP addresses. They are the way straight through the garden gate to the heart of each garden. This interconnectedness provides the biodiversity we need. URLs are the addresses the postal service has allocated to each letter-box in the garden doors. They are used by the Internet to deliver your packets. If URLs have letter-boxes in the outside door and the gardeners can be trusted to deliver the packets then though the web is owned by private companies, it is still functional. If any URL is only available to those inside the walled garden then its threads to the outside world have been cut. The internal resources have been made private to a corporation. Soon, the gardeners can be paid in Garden-coin, to be spent only in the company shop.
If the URLs are hidden, we won’t have an Internet. We will have a tree of nets, like before the Internet was created, when no-one got fired for buying IBM and IT Directors ate well.
Any similarity between this tactic and the UK government’s attempts to force cities to elect a mayor as a single point of contact, instead of the current ‘networked chaos’, in exchange for ‘local, distributed democracy’ is entirely imaginary/a lie/coincidental/true. Whatever.
As ‘Sun Microsystems’ might have said, “The Network is the Democracy.” Our revolution is under attack from reactionary forces. We must storm the barricades.
* The other 2 were:
David Winer, @davewiner inventor of RSS and the Iranian Blogfather, Hossein Derekshan who suffered more than most of us for blogging