Can't Touch This!
Tuesday, February 25, 1997 by Dave Winer.
I spun positive in The Promise of Push on Sunday.
I got a bunch of mail, some private, from people I respect, that wasn't so positive. As I read the reports of Marimba's latest strategic wave, very well executed stuff, I'm disappointed to see the direction this stuff is going.
They're creating a big presence. It's a small world. This is a stylized piece. That's what I write. But a disclaimer is required. You got it!
I have personal friends at Marimba. They're good people. I like them and support them on a personal level.
But a company is more than a few friends, and I realize that they're going to do what they're going to do, which is totally OK. I may not like it, that doesn't mean we can't be friends... We'll see! (There won't be any reports on this in DaveNet, sorry.)
To be clear: I have no confidential information, I have not been briefed on Marimba's future plans. All my opinions are based on publicly available information.
End of disclaimer. I'm writing about the category, not the company. There are lots of alliances, lots of big names. There's a common thread.
There usually is some music playing when a piece is being written.
Today the music comes from MC Hammer. Can't Touch This. Dah dah dah. Dahhhhh. Can't touch this! Repeat many times. Big smile. Head to the side. Silence. Can't touch this. The other side. Silence. Can't touch this. Back. Silence. Can't touch this. Break it down! Uh huh. I ain't going to be busted for me lyrics home boy!
One more time.
On Sunday, the promise of push. The positive view. Today -- fear, the dark side.
Anything new? No. It's the same battle that's been fought since CPUs first crawled onto motherboards and said Hello World. Yes, it's another infinite loop. Along comes push! One more time. Uh huh.
The battle: Who owns this? Who can touch this?
The Internet came into corporate America thru the back door.
Just like PCs and minicomputers before them.
The cycle repeats. The corporate wieners clamp down. Things get boring and predictable. It explodes again. They clamp down. Again and again.
I think push is the reaction to the last explosion. The web is a simmering kettle. Dangerous stuff.
Do you want to be a net potato?
I'm bored with Pointcast. I was happy with it when I first saw it. But the reality was sanitized and totally commercialized. I de-installed Pointcast, with some difficulty.
One-way is not the way of the Internet. When one-way is promoted as the next wave, I see diversity being limited and control of expression being invited in. I see it as something other than the Internet. The One-Way Net? Sounds like TV! Ohhh.
I'll keep the web. I'll keep my choices.
If you say push one more time I'm going to ask if you really want to be that open?
Hey, if you have a fulltime net connection, and are willing to open your hard disk to being pushed from strangers you're more trusting than I am.
Installing a new piece of software is an act of faith, sometimes undeserved. The other day I installed something. It installed an old thing in my System Folder without asking me. The new software worked. But now some other stuff that I depend on... doesn't.
What if they could do this without even telling me they're doing it? Sounds like nirvana to some. Sounds like a nightmare to me!
The art of upgrading is still evolving and chaotic and in many ways, demeaning. So what if there are new pipes that can carry frequent upgrades? What silver bullet do the push proponents possess to keep things from breaking?
When real system managers with jobs to protect get their hands on push they're going to demand even more security, more isolation, even less diversity.
Who's going to assume the liability for the broken systems? How does Corel and Lotus and McAfee know what other software is running on the systems they're installing software on? And do they have the time or motivation to do the testing required to be sure that their pushed upgrade really works?
OK -- suppose you work at a company. Many people do. You use a computer at the company. They own it, you don't. One more time. They own it, you don't. So if they want to install some new software on your computer, that's their right.
And if they want to delete some software, that's their right too. Corporate standardization. Everyone uses the same stuff.
With a push agent implanted on your machine, the network manager has the power to copy information onto your system. That's somewhat innocuous. But they also can copy information from your hard disk and put it anywhere. Anywhere. They *can* touch this! Uh oh.
You may want to keep things on your hard disk that you don't want your employer or co-workers to see. You have to trust them, it's part of your job. Inside the firewall there's no right to free speech and a very limited idea of privacy. You have to trust them... But do you?
There's the issue. Push can be a force for more powerful systems that make computers even more effective for communication.
Or it can be used to reduce computer networks to a uniform, flat, 1984-like world where no one dares to try out a new idea, even in private, for fear that someone who doesn't like them will know what they're thinking about.
Uniformity. The dark side. Communication, creativity and privacy. The light!
Can't touch this!
Wrong. They can.
Push is not pretty. I think it aims to flatten the net. To give the power back to the old way. I think Bookmarks are cool. I like websites. I like free-will and random behavior. Call me a Luddite if you want.
Push is a manufactured trend, subscribed to by the conglomerates and ad agencies and cash-hungry analysts, to serve their interests; promoted by high-tech leader wannabes and opportunistic startups.
I think push is anti-freedom. I don't dig it. Or, I don't dig the dark side of it.
If you use push to further free expression, it could be enabling and neat. But I don't think the proponents of push are thinking about it that way. I don't think they care what you say or what I say. One more time around the loop? One more time.
Remember Web Energy? The bright eyes and optimism. It was just a year ago. Now we're looking to IBM, Intel, Oracle and their ad agencies and thinking we see brilliance. No way.
But we'll try it anyway, with some harmless stuff and see what happens. I'll do a channel and see if the corporate wieners are willing to listen to another point of view.
PS: I went back to Netscape 3.0. The new 18MB thing, 4.0b2, started crashing. Spectacularly! Ohhh. Just like old times. I decided I can't touch this right now.