Lawrence Lessig has a thoughtful post about something that I've been mentioning in recent talks I've given, but haven't blogged much about.

I'm often asked to speak about "Web 2.0". I personally think that people are trying to build Bubble 2.0 on top of Web 2.0. Instead of becoming a platform for the future of the Web, it's possible that Web 2.0 is becoming the platform for the short-term future of greedy people. However, I do think that it is important to understand that the recent success and surge in innovation on the Web is due to a semi-new set of principles. Part of the principles are a return to fundamental principles. The innovation on the Web and the Internet is driven by what David Weinberger has called "Small Pieces Loosely Joined" - a network created by small groups working together around open standards. It is and was a community of people and projects trying to connect to each other.

Bubble 1.0 brought the "customer acquisition and barrier to entry" phase with players such as AOL and Yahoo gobbling up companies and focusing on barriers instead of connectivity. A good example of a technology that happened to emerge during these days is instant messenger. Even today this spoiled brat doesn't interoperate properly leaving its users on their little Bubble 1.0 branded islands.

I think Tim O'Reilly's description of Web 2.0 is the best one I've ever seen. (Read it if you haven't.) My own view is that after Bubble 1.0 collapsed many of the unemployed or the recently happily "exited" entrepreneurs and developers started building tools in the spirit of Web 1.0 - in communities of people collaborating around open standards. The big difference was that many of the dreams we had during the Web 1.0 era were now more feasible with broadband, wireless, higher penetration, stabilization of various standards, faster computers and some lesson learning from the bubble.

I still remember when we were building Infoseek Japan I kept talking about how the web was going to be an incredible place for user publishing and that Infoseek would be an engine that would democratize media and voice. I was ranting about something that sounded like blogs and the long tail. Unfortunately, it was too hard to keep your web page updated and search engines and methods were not yet smart enough to filter the noise and sort out the context. We ended up with most of the traffic going to the mega sites like CNN and Yahoo.

To me, Web 2.0 is about trying to get right those layers of the stack that we weren't able to get right the last time around.

One of the central themes of Web 2.0 is the ability for users to control their own data and the ability for people to share and remix. In this context, many, if not most good Web 2.0 services allow users to download, link and reuse all if not a substantial part of the content they work on.

While it is not easy to extract data from Second Life, the content of what you build in Second Life and videos that you make in Second Life are owned by the user.

As Larry points out:

# Flickr, for example, makes it simple to download Flickr images. (See, e.g., here.)
# blip.tv explicitly offers links to download various formats of the videos it shares. (See, e.g., here.)
# EyeSpot (a fantastic new site to enable web based remixing of video and audio) permits the download of the source and product files. (See, e.g., here.)
# Revver (the site that enables an ad-bug to be added to a video so the creator gets paid when each video is played) builds its whole business model on the idea that content can flow freely on the Net. (See, e.g., here.)

In this context, YouTube is a "cool" poster-child of the Web 2.0 trend, but doesn't meet the basic requirement of allowing the user to download videos from the site. While it is "sharing", it is what Larry is calling a "fake sharing site". I think Japanese sites such as Mixi are as well. (Mixi is a social network site that doesn't syndicate or allow remixing or including of content in the site but encourages users to create and upload content.)

Although we can't really expect users to initially understand the distinction, I think in the long run, users will understand that stand-alone or closed services do not allow them the freedoms that are becoming exceedingly more common in the Web 2.0 area. I do hope that the rush to Bubble 2.0 doesn't allow companies to trample over the core principles of the Web in their drive for more ARPU (Average Revenue per User). I think it is important to keep our eyes on the ball and not lose our focus on what is driving the innovation and the increasingly rich user experience.

UPDATE: Nick Carr responds to Lessig and mentions this post and Lessig responds.

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20 Comments

Hmm. Is WoW server down? LOL. Nice post, btw. I agree with your points but even sharing has problems. For example, P2P is hot in Korea just now with real money being made through sharing.

If you didn't know about this, it goes like this: users joins P2P 'clubs' and spends 'points' to download metered contents. To get points, they can a) buy using credit card or cellphone, b) receive as gift, or c) earn by uploading contents. The last part is most interesting. If your uploaded content is popular, you can earn a lot of points. This is important because you can turn points into money. I've heard of people making $50,000 a year uploading popular contents.

What kinds of content? Well, that's where the problem is. I think JAV is one of the most sought after content in Korea these days. So popular that, when a notorious uploader was arrested recently for uploading stolen JAV to P2P clubs, a horde of anonymous supporters appeared saying that the guy was a patriot because he saved the country a lot of money. Ha!

My point is that we have to be more concerned about the ethics of sharing as well as sharing itself. Even if YouTube allowed it's content to be shared freely, the question of ethics still remains.

Anyhoo, have you got a flying mount yet? ;-p

Sorry, what is JAV?

kek

Something related to this false openenness is the practice of republishing RSS feeds. It's basically republishing an RSS feed on your site without permission, thus stealing subscribers (the users think they're subribing to the feed of the site, but what happens if you go out of business or become evil and add *your* ads?), and some aggregators even go as far as replacing links with links to THEIR site.

Podshow used to do it, until a user outcry stopped them. Odeo is doing it, but they told me they'll stop that in their next release.

(Disclaimer, I run mefeedia.com)

Jonkichi A**kicking Video. kek

Yeah, youtube is a ''gipsy'' site. :))) ...in terms of really good content and download ability, see this:

www.undergroundfilm.org

- it's the best in the independent filmmaker (promotion), and a great idea. (btw see Android 207 short).

This site proves that ''all things don't have to be interactivity to be great''.
Just put great content, it will be recognized.

In my opinion we need to redefine or clarify the term "sharing". It applies to real world items that can't be replicated with the push of a button but also applies to the perfect replication of a digital product. The latter is, afaic, not "sharing" but producing. It is the inappropriateness of the language that seems to me to promote confusion regarding the issues surrounding intellectual property. It's bad enough that the masses generally don't know anything about IP law; this only makes it worse. Perhaps the real difference between "fake sharing" and "true sharing" is really just the difference between "sharing" and "producing". If someone tells the mother of an teenage software pirate that her son is sharing it probably has less impact than if she's told her son is manufacturing illegal product.

Once we start using appropriate terminology, then maybe we can more clearly define what all this is really about.

"We ended up with most of the traffic going to the mega sites like CNN and Yahoo"

And aren't network effects giving us exactly the same sort of results this time around? What's YouTube, Flickr, etc except mega sites? The "innovation" being that people who provide content for the sites are now unpaid, and expected to do it for the joy and happiness of "community".

Csven: You can share information and ideas and it is only "illegal" in some cases where the government has decided to limit sharing in order to provide certain incentives for businesses and creators. The spirit of the sharing of ideas is best expressed in one of my favorite quotes from Thomas Jefferson.

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their densityin any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. -- (Thomas Jefferson)
The sharing of information is the core the competition of ideas, a pillar of democracy. It is also the core of the commons of culture. I don't think you can say that "sharing" is only for physical objects.

Seth: I don't think that financial return should be the primary measure of the value of content. I think Wikipedia is a "mega site" with more traffic than any reference site. The people there do not feel exploited and in my opinion are not exploited. Although there is a powerlaw distribution, "the long tail" argument is that there is still a lot of traffic in the tail. I think the tail has gotten longer and fatter recently.

Joi: I didn't say that sharing only applies to physical objects. I was pointing out that the concept of sharing is based on barriers to replication and production. A "share" is a portion of a whole. Do we share ideas or do we actually give them away such that they multiply and spread until there is no truly definable whole?

If a child "shares" a bike, are there two bikes after the event? No. There is an inherent control over distribution based on that object's physicality which is not inherent in an idea; and also not now in digital products and soon in physical goods as well. The same was true with vinyl records before cassette tapes. Sharing an album meant handing over the music encoded in a physical thing and no longer having access to the object. This kind of sharing is possible today with digital, non-physically encoded music, but the outcry over DRM is such that many people think nothing of breaching the control and moving their activity from "sharing" to "producing"; to replicating and thus destroying the concept of "whole". Does one share a secret, or reveal it such that it spreads uncontrollably, replicating like a virus? Sharing and replicating are not the same things and when that barrier is breached, creators no longer control distribution of their product and the incentive to create is thereby diminished. Let's not forget that Lessig has also said that creators should control the distribution of their creative effort.

When people can "share" more than just ideas, when they can inconsequentially reproduce the products of someone else's creative effort, then the door is open to a broader issue. And is it not control that is the central issue here? Even the Creative Commons is, at its core, still about control, is it not? And if we are going to have a meaningful discussion, should we not all use appropriate terminology understood by all?

Jefferson is fine when one sticks with "idea" in the context in which I've read this quote. In what I imagine to be his meaning, an "idea" doesn't automatically mean "product". Furthermore, it doesn't begin to imagine the convergence of intangibility and tangibility, but that's what we have happening today with digital entertainment and the emergence of rapid manufacturing. The competition of ideas about which you speak would arguably diminish if there was no incentive to develop new ones, and treating products as ideas arguably removes incentive.

Democracy does not necessarily mean right or good.

the major record companies own google shares, google buys youtube. the major record companies will shut down revver and any other competiting video services.

That is my one complaint with YouTube. You cannot download any of the videos. Perhaps there are copyright infringements to consider, but I'm hoping Google fixes that issue.

Csven,

Yep. You are 100% right. Your proverbial teenager created nothing, he merely squandered the works of others.

Joi,

I think you are intentionally creating a false dicotomy with your TJ quote. Sharing your own ideas or knowledge freely given is one thing, redistribution of the fruit of another persons labor without express permission to do so is another. Using TJ to justify such is chou lame.

Also could you clarify why Mixi is a "false" sharing site? As far as I can tell, users can link to outside content but not embed it, they can add their own text and image content but nothing else. I dont see anywhere that Mixi claims anything otherwise, but I dont claim to be fully literate in Japanese so I could easily have missed it were it so.

Personally I like Mixi and I see why it is very suited to Japan. Membership is by referral only and content is limited to what pepole could create or view on their phones. NB that this also is good CYI for Miki KK since as you know in Japan you are legally semi accountable for what appears in your page even if its embeded from somewhere else.

Don Park,

Nice to see you again! Tell me, are those pay2p2p things legal in SK? Its really legal to pay someone to host pirate content? Is it that SK has one of those 3rd world IP laws which says foreign stuff is OK to pirate or can users make money pirating SK produced stuff as well? That is really interesting, thanks for letting us know about it.

PS to Joi,

DP's introduction of new info is what TJ meant IMNSHO.

Csven: I still think it's difficult to make sharing/producing so clear cut. When I was a DJ I "shared" my music which increased the value of the original music because more people learned about the music and the music became more popular...

But I do agree that we should allow the artist to control their work. My objection is about technologies that promote "sharing" but do not allow the artist to control their content, especially if they would like their content to be downloadable and remixable.

Chris: I saw that Nick Carr post. Lessig has commented about it.

I think you are intentionally creating a false dicotomy with your TJ quote. Sharing your own ideas or knowledge freely given is one thing, redistribution of the fruit of another persons labor without express permission to do so is another. Using TJ to justify such is chou lame.
I disagree. I think that the "redistribution of the fruits of another persons labor" is what sharing and the sharing of ideas is. I think that "without express permission" is only required for portion of the information that is shared on the Internet and that part is overemphasized.

Mixi is closed because it is not open. There is no syndication, mail is closed, there is no API (as far as I know), it is difficult to index... I use Mixi and I like it, but I think their model is based on having a island like AOL in the old days. It is solving problems and creating features by closing the doors and not about working with other companies and people to create open standards.

Chris: Short answer is that it's a matter of time. Unless something is clearly illegal and harmful or offers political incentives for cracking down, South Korean legal system does not actively pursue them. So new gray businesses in South Korea will grow until they are big enough to chop down.

A good example is a recent crack down on pachinko-like game parlor chain called Bada-sori (sound of the sea?) backed by supposedly regulated gift-certificate companies. Within a couple of years of relaxed regulation, Bada-sory market evolved and ballooned into a multi-billion dollar bonanza, attracting individuals as well as greedy unethical companies, mobs, and corrupt politicians and government officials. As it typically happens, some corruption scandal sparked overly eager prosecutors interest in the market and *wham* the whole thing collapsed in a matter of weeks, leaving a tens of thousands of people in ruin.

In case of point-based P2P businesses, most popular contents are adult videos which are necessarily produced outside the country. Unless foreign adult movie companies can mount an unignorable (hah) pressure on the Korean government, I doubt a crackdown will come anytime soon. Until adult movie industry evolves to tap the value of its own long tail (classic porn is increasingly popular after all), this won't happen.

Well, you *can* download the flash videos via a third-party site, but that likely violates the user agreement and anyway the quality of the videos is pretty low to begin with.

Up load bandwith always down if film file more than 2G sharing through network. Any solution?

I think your assessment is pretty on target. Including your assessment of youtube. It is definitely pre web 2.0. Having web 2.0 in it's truest form, however, has many repercussions on traditional business and this is where the real stumbling blocks are. Obviously due to copyright issues etc. Youtube would then also be guilty of overstepping copyrights, if it was fully web 2.0 (allowing full download ability and sharing.)
Very interesting post, nevertheless. Everything is moving more towards community, and this is what web 2.0 is really about – community. Sharing. That sort of thing. These are not 'traditional' business ideas, but most certainly open up wonderful new avenues of not only doing business (and making money) but also changing social issues for the better... (but now I am running ahead of myself.)

We ended up with most of the traffic going to the mega sites like CNN and Yahoo"

And aren't network effects giving us exactly the same sort of results this time around? What's YouTube, Flickr, etc except mega sites? The "innovation" being that people who provide content for the sites are now unpaid, and expected to do it for the joy and happiness of "community".

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