Saturday, February 10, 1996 by Dave Winer.
I just got back from a tour of the web.
I wanted to see what impact the blue ribbon and blackout campaigns have had.
Here's what I learned.
The most elegant statements
Several sites stood out with strong personal statements, done in unique ways.
Rick Smolan, http://www.cyber24.com/ was listening! Thank you Rick! The home page for 24 Hours in Cyberspace now has a big blue ribbon that points to the EFF page.
Mitch Kapor, http://www.kei.com/homepages/mkapor/ says "Any material that's legal in Barnes & Noble or the New York Public Library should be legal online."
Chris Gulker, http://www.gulker.com/ has a graphically beautiful home page. Of all the pages I visited, Chris's was the most appealing, especially since he comes from the print journalism and photography worlds.
Caryn Yaker, http://www.rock.net/ has fun! -- pairing a blue ribbon with an electric guitar in a gorgeous graphic that links to the EFF page.
The most elegant of all
Of all the places I visited, the one that got to me most deeply was Netscape's home page, at http://www.netscape.com/.
A black background.
A blue ribbon.
A short pause.
Netscape's home page.
Click on the link. Yahoo's wacky header. Fun!
Why is this page black?
Holding hands in cyberspace!
There were some remarkable missing statements from people and companies you'd think would want to take a stand.
Almost all the major software and online companies had nothing to say. Adobe, America Online, Apple, Borland, CompuServe, DEC, General Magic, IBM, Illustra, Lotus, Macromedia, Metrowerks, Microsoft, Oracle, Pointcast, Sun, UUNET were all business as usual.
Some Ziff publications are black, have blue ribbons, and point to the EFF page. Some even have editorial copy of their own. CNN has a very strong statement saying they won't stand on either side of the issue. I've gotten lots of mail on the CNN position.
None of the venture capitalist websites had anything to say about freedom of speech on the Internet, but many of the companies they invest in had something to say.
Of the Internet search engines, only http://www.webcrawler.com/ makes a statement.
How I looked
I visited places I thought of. I have a glossary of all the sites I've written about, I started there. I went to WebCrawler's top-25 sites. I used the VC websites as starting places, visited their portfolios. I wanted to check out the EFF board members, but they don't have links to the personal websites on the EFF site.
I used my bookmarks file. I used the EFF blue ribbon page and the Voters Telecomm Watch page. I looked at my friend's websites. "Alta Vista"!
About halfway thru the morning I wrote some scripts so that I could just press one keystroke in Netscape, type comments into a dialog, and go onto the next site. It got a lot easier.
Then I saw two sites that really made a difference for me. I smiled when I saw http://java.sun.com/. Web energy is alive at JavaSoft! Cooool. I had already been to Sun's corporate page -- no statement there.
Then I saw Netscape's site. Zooooooom! I think that was a pivotal point in my life.
I developed expectations. In general I didn't expect marketing-oriented sites to take a position. Or sites that aren't very actively developed. Or sites outside the United States, or with an international perspective.
Anywhere journalism is practiced, though, I wanted to see an editorial statement. I think every journalist has an automatic interest in the First Amendment. No writer is interest-free. Freedom is their first interest. That's what editorial pages are for. PC Magazine, http://www.zdnet.com/~pcmag/ did it exactly right.
Same with technology companies. Netscape's shareholders have an interest in free speech. It makes total sense, from every angle. I think the same can be said of all softwre and online companies. We need another leader to step out here.
Netscape is right to take a stand.
They have nothing to fear.
As long as we all speak up, they're right.
If we get the support of just three people -- Bill Gates, Gil Amelio and John Doerr -- we'll be over the top. I believe that's all it would take to get the whole technology industry to align with its interest in free speech on the Internet.
There are far too many URLs in this piece to include them in this email message.
I've uploaded a page of pointers to sites I visited, with comments at
Time to go for a walk!
PS: I think it would be a good idea if people leave their pages black for the next few days. Let's work with the people and companies who have not yet made a statement, to clarify their positions.
PPS: The web is realtime! As I go back to some of the sites, their pages have reverted to white backgrounds, and/or editorial statements are gone. Unfortunately, the threat to our freedom will not disappear as quickly.
PPPS: I uploaded the scripts I used, and the outline containing all the references. Click here to download it. Requires experience withFrontier and "Clay Basket".