Friday, June 12, 1998 by Dave Winer.
Hello readers! Happy Friday.
I've been busy working on the commercial release of Frontier. We're going forward. Learning a lot. Having fun, and struggling. But we're going to get there. Lots of new ideas. Coming sooooon. As they say, don't touch that dial.
On a walk yesterday I pieced something together, I was thinking about politics, I want to tell the story, and then get back to work on my programming.
I often assume that the government is stupid. If only they understood how the net and the software world work, they'd wise up and get out of the way.
But what if I'm making the wrong assumption. What if they fully understand what they're doing? What if they're not stupid? What could they be trying to do?
Sloppily, I assume the FBI is stupid in wanting to keep US software companies, like Microsoft, from building authentication and encryption into every incoming and outgoing net connection. But what if the FBI isn't stupid? What could they trying to accomplish?
Why is the government focusing the attention on Bill Gates, yet at the same time, setting us up for an economic collapse on 1/1/00?
Don't we need the software industry totally focused on avoiding this? It's weird, we know it's coming, we know *when* it's coming, but we're not doing anything about it.
Indonesia's revolution last month was organized on the Internet. The US software economy can empower the people of China if they can communicate without government interference.
It's been proven, the net can topple political systems. The change isn't coming, it's here. And it allies all the governments of the world. If the people are allowed to organize, things change. It's the haves versus the have-nots. The historical human battle.
Now it's a very dangerous game. Nuclear weaponry is coming into the open, and people are talking, in more realistic terms, about the probability of a nuclear war. Asia is falling into depression. Japan, a huge economy, with no nuclear capability, is getting vulnerable. And Greenspan says the US economy is great.
It's an insane world, and you can see it play out in the new politics of the software industry.
Part of our industry is run, today, from Washington DC. If something doesn't change, soon, it's going to be totally run from Washington. If 1/1/00 comes and we lose it all, even if just for a short time, and without millions of people dying, the public may call for the nationalization of computer networks, and the governments will be happy to do it.
I think that's where we're going. One-world government. The power of the Internet controlled. All they have to do is hold back privacy software for a couple of years while they let it play out.
In this light, the government lawsuit against Microsoft looks very different. They have to knock Gates off his perch. He's the biggest possible fly in the ointment. He has enough money, employees, millions of developers, and most importantly, he's the most admired public figure in the world!
Knock him off his perch. He could blow the whistle, and he'd be listened to.
Strategy: Give him an axe to grind. Of course he's against the government, just look at what they're doing to him. He's biased.
The browser wars were quieting down, Netscape is getting to work recasting as a portal, it's going to work, and it was the right thing for them to do from day one.
Netscape has an interest in net-based software distribution, it's the zig to Microsoft's distribution, which depends on having power over bits on virgin hard disks.
Windows *is* an open system. You can build anything you want on top of it. So what if Microsoft owns the OEMs. Netscape should always have been shooting for ownership of net-based distribution.
The goverment's role in the old faceoff between Netscape and Microsoft is to keep it going. It's a distraction, a good tactic. Argue over what Microsoft can and can't put into their operating system. Make the argument about something irrelevant like whose bits get to render HTML on the client.
The real issue is what kind of privacy, authentication and encryption tools we get, and when we get them. The US government wants to own that. They kill two birds with one stone in the suit against Microsoft, they discredit Gates and distract us from our power.
There's an HTML browser in Windows. Get over it. Netscape is going to be fine. Let's focus on privacy software. Does it belong in the OS? You bet it does.
If we can communicate with security we can be even more powerful. That's why the politicians want to control our access to privacy. The government wants to operate a virtual server that captures our email whenever they want to. They keep an archive, just in case they ever want to take you to court.
We got a look at the Microsoft execs' email. How would you feel if we got a look at *your* email? It could happen. You might be famous, overnight, and not be cast in a very good light.
I want companies whose sites I use and trust to know more about me. I've already tried this with amazon.com. They know a lot about me. They keep sending me emails recommending books I might like, and they've usually been right on. I want more of this, but I want to control who gets what.
I don't want my bank to know what my reading habits are. And I sure don't want Amazon to know my bank balance. I need control, you do too. (By the way, I also need to be able to view the information companies are keeping about me.)
I want to write an agent script that loops over all the nodes it can find looking for someone with a garden in New England that I can visit this summer. Or a piece of software that I wish someone would make.
Or to help me find other people who want to work with me to make the world a safer and better place thru free, private and secure speech.
In the new world, software power and political power are the same thing.
We have a date with history.
1/1/00. 568 days from now. That's going to be a big day, bet on it. What's going to happen? Will computer technology shine on that day, or will it cause a world economic collapse or nuclear apocalypse?
We'll be very vulnerable on that day.
I have a lot of fear here.