The Web’s benevolent dictators

Reporting from web 2.0 summit. Are we over relying on web 2.0 giants?

This year in San Francisco the Web 2.0 Summit’s theme was “Web meets world”, the question in the intro goes: “How can the Web — its technologies, its values, and its culture — be tapped to address the world’s most pressing limits?”. From economic crisis to global warming, from failing healthcare systems to religious wars it seems that many of our most complex systems are reaching their limits… well, it strikes us that the Web might teach us new ways to address these limits. From harnessing collective intelligence to a bias toward open systems, the Web’s greatest inventions are, at their core, social movements.
More and more the leaders of the internet economy are turning their attention to the world outside their industry. And conversely, the best minds of our generation are turning to the web for solutions. At the fifth annual Web 2.0 Summit, these groups were brought together.
So … all this to say… this year I was there, and thrilled too; so many “gurus” of the internet and not only: from Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg to executive director of Larry Brilliant, from seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong… to the conclusion with an exciting speech by honorable Al Gore, not at all trying to hide his emotion soon after Obama’s victory and talking about the role of social web in these elections and in politics from now on…… so many themes, so many tracks to follow that I’d like to share with you, can’ t write everything now in one post of course.
Mmh, what could I start with?
Yes, I’d like to start with Rebecca MacKinnon, co-founder of Global Voices, a veteran journalist, blogger, and China expert, she is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Center where she teaches online journalism and conducts research on the Chinese Internet, free expression and corporate responsibility.
After a succession of journalists and bloggers pointing out the key role of social web in the American elections, and how things are going to be different now because of the transparency brought by the internet … here’s a speech with this title: the web’s benevolent dictators.
MacKinnon illustrated many situations where the government is controlling the internet, pointing out that yes, we often associate the internet and democracy, and in the US and in Europe we have the perception that non free countries are inevitably and thanks to the internet moving to the democratic.
But then there was this question: are we over relying on web 2.0 giants? Or do we need more alternatives? Like, what would happen if Gmail was closed, practically everyone is using it. Or think of what happened with Skype in China, where everybody was using it until it was discovered that the Chinese joint venture partner of Skype was hosting all messages in insecure servers that could be easily read and controlled by the government.
MacKinnon suggests more open source and more grassroots alternatives. Hope you enjoy her speech (see video).
Related links:

Censorship meets Sharism from Isaac Mao
and, for Chinese speaking: