The early days of the internet were truly astonishing. As people came to comprehend the power of networked information, they seized the many opportunities for innovation created by the open architecture of the web. Of course, the browser wars also showed that threats to openness and interoperability were a real danger. Today, Tim O'Reilly worries that escalating competition between large companies and closed platforms may drive the web towards a battle ground of locked down services and proprietary data.
As large, powerful players have emerged on the internet landscape, you don't have to look far to see some troubling skirmishes between opposing forces. O'Reilly touches on several examples where well known web applications include features designed to limit flexibility and user choice. To some extent, limits may be necessary to protect privacy, but in some cases, there is clear intent to lock in users at the expense of the competition. The situation is even more extreme in the mobile arena.
Will the large companies play by the cherished rules of the open web as we've known it? It may depend on how "the cloud" grows. As web service companies such as Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft make O'Reilly's notion of the web 2.0 "internet as a platform" a reality, they will have choices on how to maneuver. There is pressure for the giants to forge alliances, and leverage unique services as weapons to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace. But, history has shown that internet success often comes if you "do what you do best, link to the rest". O'Reilly urges companies to stick to their core strengths, maintain an open architecture, and embrace the "small pieces loosely joined" philosophy.
Tim O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, Inc., thought by many to be the best computer book publisher in the world. O’Reilly Media also publishes online through the O’Reilly Network and hosts conferences on technology topics, including the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, and the Web 2.0 Conference. Tim’s blog, the O’Reilly Radar “watches the alpha geeks” to determine emerging technology trends, and serves as a platform for advocacy about issues of importance to the technical community. Tim is on the boards of MySQL, CollabNet, Safari Books Online, Wesabe, and ValuesOfN, and is a partner in O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures.
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