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Evan Williams vs the Internet

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 by Dave Winer.

In October 1994, at the dawn of blogging, I wrote a piece that actually shook the software world. At the time, the idea of a mere software developer expressing an opinion in public, unedited, in his own words, without the help of a major publication, was unheard of. It had never happened.  Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named airbus.gifThe piece was called Bill Gates vs the Internet. The thought was pretty simple. The tech industry was mired and exhausted. Too many BigCo's struggling to be the one who controls the future. As if a company could control the future. But the headlines in the business press encouraged them to think this way. Much as the leading tech blogs encourage Schmidt, Zuckerberg and Williams today to think of themselves as masters of the universe. They aren't and it's a losing strategy today as it was 15 years ago. Permalink to this paragraph

The problem for Bill Gates in 1994, the newly crowned King of Tech, was the Platform Without a Platform Vendor, the Internet. The difference between the Internet platform and the Microsoft platform was this: No Microsoft. No one to hold on to the family jewels. No one to put a developer out of business if they personally offended Bill. No one to keep the personalities of developers under control. No one to cut off their air supply. Permalink to this paragraph

In 1994, there was a revolution brewing. Bill didn't believe. But it happened anyway, even though he struggled mightily against it.  Permalink to this paragraph

Blogging is one of the things that came out of this revolution, and along with it archives. So I can point to a piece I wrote in 1998 and it's still there. It was systematized, in software. This idea didn't come from a BigCo, and it didn't get killed by one. The free Internet solves problems pretty well. BigCo's don't solve problems. Permalink to this paragraph

So now instead of Bill Gates it's Evan Williams.  Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named silo.gifI read the piece on TechCrunch and thought it sounds like the transcripts of conversations from Microsoft in the mid-90s. Both were trying to compete with the Internet. Ev's problem is how is he going to keep his key engineers from defecting to the competition. How are they going to let developers use the "firehose" without using it to kill TwitterCorp. These are problems the Internet doesn't have. It doesn't employ any engineers, and when they leave one company to work for another they still work for the Internet. On the Internet no company owns all the data, so no one can control it. If you don't like the way a service works, use another.  Permalink to this paragraph

The tech industry keeps having this argument with the Internet. It keeps thinking "this time we gotcha" but nahh, the Internet keeps right on going.  Permalink to this paragraph

Moral of the story: If you find yourself in competition with the Internet, you should find a way out. Imho. Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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