How to keep the Mobile Internet free and open in 2020?
# Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Open Web
In 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, an Internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing while at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory. He wrote the first web client and server in 1990.
Berners-Lee made his idea publicly available and didn’t claim any patent or royalties. The result, no one owns the web. His contribution has made web-based innovations possible, which include almost all successful Internet companies we see today.
# Google, beacon tower or Big Brother?
For a while, Google has been the beacon of a free and open web. It has indexed the jungle of web and offered it to the world to use for free. Whatever comes up in your mind, you can initiate a search. Google gives amazingly relevant results. We get used to Google so much that we almost forget how to live and work in a world without it.
But the free and open web was put to an end in 2007 when Apple introduced its sleek iPhone and Appstore that goes with it. Ironically, Google plays a part in Apple’s murder of the open web, with its own mobile operating system Android to compete against Apple.
# Pax Apple
Steve Jobs, the Apple founder, is different kind of a man than Tim Berners-Lee. Berners-Lee gave the web to the world, while Apple attempted to patent a rectangular with round corner.
Apple put Internet into its little piece of software with glossy icons that Steve Jobs affectionately called apps, which runs exclusively on iPhone. The world’s trendiest people walk on streets of metropolises, putting iPhone to their cheeks with a cup of Starbucks in another hand. It is a statement of superior style, education, taste, and social status. Who doesn’t want an iPhone?
Most importantly, iPhone for the first time has made Internet easy to use on a device of this size, comfortably fitting into your hand. IPhone and Appstore were so successful, that Google had to follow with its own Android and Android Market.
The Mobile Internet Age dawned. App has ruled the tiny screen ever since.
# The Appstore is the New Internet
Today apps are the primary way we interact with the Internet. Appstore and Google Play together is the Internet literally. Unlike the open web as a public domain, Appstore and Google Play are owned by two most successful tech companies on our planet.
On open web, you can publish and have access to almost anything, on the new mobile Internet; you need approval of Apple and Google even just to make your apps visible to the world. Apple and Google have their own versions of censorship. I am not saying porn is good, but I see more danger of living in a world that Apple and Google decide what content is appropriate or not.
Should we call Tim Cook and Larry Page? Anyone has numbers?
# Appstore “Recommendations”
Suppose we live in a world ruled by a wise and benign ruler, he is never wrong in anything, but you don’t have option to have him replaced. Guess what? I would rather to have an asshole as president if I can have him changed with my vote when I want a change, or simple get bored.
It is the same thing with the Play Store recommendations. Google might know me better than myself, but I still want a “manual tool” that I can use to find out myself sometimes, than being spoon-fed with its all wise recommendations. I know alcohol is bad to my health, but the thing is, it is for me to decide.
# Can Mobile Internet be Free Again?
There is no reason that mobile Internet must be caged in apps and appstores. Why can’t they be writable, sharable, downloadable and uploadable like the Internet was on open web or open marketplace that no company or individual can claim ownership?
Let’s re-imagine how the mobile Internet could be, there is no reason that we can’t reconcile a better experience and the freedom of open web. Hereafter are possible solutions:
# Open Source App-store
What if we build an open sourced app store for Android apps, which everyone, developers and users, can upload, download apps and share with the world?
It is identical to Appstore or Google Play Store, but with one difference. It is not managed by a company; instead it is managed in a way like Wikipedia. It is a public app archive like a library. Maybe it should stay as a public facility like a library and supported by donations.
# Free Community to Share Apps
Since 2007, Twitter works great in discovery of things. What if there is a community which everyone, including developers and users, can upload and review apps? Anyone can post a review on any app. It dosen’t work for iPhone, but it is technically viable with Android. Actually, I have built such a platform that is called Swably. You may want to try it how it feels.
Unless we are content living in a minority report world that we are pushed with “recommendations” powered by AI algorithm, we better start helping each other and sharing now. Good news is at least Android is open enough to allow this happen.
# A Very Alive Open Web
HTML5 is not yet the preferred choice of technology in today’s mobile Internet. But html5 is important. Even in a world that app rules, we still need a landing page when we share links from apps.