Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

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Late last night, Yahoo! launched a Creative Commons search engine, permitting you to search the web, filtering results on the basis of Creative Commons licenses. So, as I feel like I've said 10,000 times when explaining CC on the road, "Show me pictures of the Empire State Building that I can use for noncommercial use," and this is the first of about 13,000 on the list.

Excellent news. So who's next? Google? Nokia? Apple? Come on folks... ;-) Hardware, software and services that support Creative Commons is key for creating the sharing economy. Creative Commons was designed to enable machine readable encoding and this is a great example of why. Congrats to all who worked to make this happen.

Update from Boing Boing: DeWitt sez, "I added a Creative Commons search as one of the very first columns on A9 during our launch of OpenSearch last week at ETech."

In the last post I talked about wanting to break up monopolies and I was accused of being a hypocrite. The accusation was that ICANN was a monopoly. I responded by saying that ICANN is not a monopoly. One of the ideas behind ICANN was to break up the Network Solutions monopoly and encourage competition among registrars and registries. Also, if you want globally-consistent references, you need a root and an administrator of the root. ICANN is a non-profit and the board members do not benefit directly from the ability to regulate the delegation of top level domains (TLDs) and IP addresses. I think the trick is not to figure out a way to avoid anyone being administrator, but to figure out how to make that administrator fair. ICANN tries to address many of the issues by having a board composed of neutral members and members which represent the various constituencies. ICANN exercises a strict conflict of interest policy. Because of this, the board is very difficult to "capture" although a very broad group, such as the intellectual property lobby could feasibly have a great deal of influence over a number of the constituencies.

Anyway, having responded a bit defensively that ICANN is not a monopoly... and in the spirit of the soul searching from my last post, I do want think about what could make ICANN better. Even if I don't believe it is "a monopoly" in the sense of monopoly that I was talking about, it does have a monopoly over a particular aspect of Internet governance. I am going to Argentina next week to participate in the ICANN meeting so I suppose this is a good time to think about ICANN constructively and think about how I should try to contribute next week.

Just to frame this a bit more. I'm less concerned about what "evils" ICANN has done in the past and am more interested in what ICANN is doing now or should do in the future. ICANN is changing and fighting about the past is interesting, but not as productive.

A few things that I currently believe:

1 - The ITU can not manage names and numbers as well as ICANN and it's affiliated groups and I can't see anyone else who can.

2 - The basic architecture of ICANN - multi-constituent, multi-lateral with various working groups is correct.

3 - ICANN should and will eventually become independent of of the US Department of Commerce. The current goal is 2006.

4 - A completely distributed peer to peer directory service is technically feasible, but would be impossible to implement without causing complete chaos for people using the Internet today and isn't practical. Having said that, a more distributed directory system that sits on top of DNS may be useful, but that doesn't replace the DNS.

5 - ICANN should focus on names and numbers.

6 - ICANN should not become bigger than necessary to fulfill it's mandate.

Yesterday evening, Marko and I ran the closing session for Doors of Perception in India. Frankly, it was an amazing conference. There were minor logistical gripes like no wifi in the conference center (my excuse for not blogging for the last few days), but it was really incredible. Hats off to the whole team that pulled this together. Presentations ranged from self-organizing networks of manufacturers in slums to alternative currencies to the latest things going on on the web.

In the wrap-up session, I talked a lot about role of the open Internet in allowing bottom-up innovation and edge-inward work. I talked about the barriers created by monopolies. I said that it was the role of government to break up these monopolies and that we couldn't do it alone. I also talked about how Creative Commons was for providing choice and that we weren't saying that tradition media or content production models should go away.

Later, an elderly man stood up and said that all knowledge should be available to everyone and that he didn't think we should compromise on the copyright issues. He then said that the people are ready to fight and march in the streets and turn over the monopolies and we didn't need to sit around and wait for government. It turns out he used to live with Mahatma Gandhi's at his Ashram.

I felt a sudden pain. I realized that I was compromising and in fact evening softening my words assuming that the video of my presentation might end up on the Internet and that I would have to defend any hardline positions I took. I remember watching the movie about Gandhi (Irony alert. It was a Hollywood movie.) and thinking about the power of sticking to your principles and how this purity can move nations without violence or compromise and questioning myself and my methods.

I have always viewed my role as a sort of ambassador or bridge between groups to help provide a dialog. In talks to telephone operators or other somewhat old-school companies, I talk about their "challenges". To left-wing artists, I talk about the tyranny of the monopolies. The irony is that the recent trend of people posting audio or video files of my speeches online has made it difficult for me to maintain this split-personality / facade. I think it's a good thing that these things go online, but it reminds me a bit of politicians being criticized for what they have said at parties or "among friends"... or the Enron telephone calls. I have always encouraged this and poked fun myself. Being on the receiving end of this chilling effect is interesting. The core message I deliver doesn't change but delivery is slightly dampened.

I haven't been "outed" yet and I'm sure most people would understand what I was saying in the context in which my talks are delivered, but I sometimes say things that I'm sure I would say differently on my blog. In my mind, this is translated to words the audience understands in their frameworks in order to be constructive, but in a sense I'm being a bit dishonest. I also pull back on the "radical" throttle when I think it is going to offend my audience so much they will reject everything I say. Having said that, I've had a number of people get really upset. One publisher in Finland called my presentation about Creative Commons "disgusting".

My blog is probably the most "balanced" version of my position so just imagine that I'm slight more radical when I'm talking to the radicals and slightly more "soft" when I'm talking to conservatives. But my question is, am I compromising by adapting my words for the audience and where is the line beyond which I am not adapting words, but changing my position? What would Gandhi do? I suppose everyone does this to a certain extent but I was suddenly conscious of this gap last night.

UPDATE: Related post. "What would GW do?"

I'm at the airport in Amsterdam waiting board my flight to New Delhi. I'll be there for almost a week to attend and speak at Doors of Perception. The doctor in Amsterdam said that I didn't need malaria pills even though many of my friends are taking them. I hope they're right.

See you on the other side. This is only my second time in New Delhi and I'm looking forward to meeting everyone and getting to know the city better.

Blogads has done another survey of blog readers. This year the sample size is 30,079.

via Loic