An Internet You Can See Across

I remember way back when some of the first banner ads were being sold and trafficked and how relatively easy it was to track performance and actually know what was happening.

It was early then and the software today is way more advanced, but at the same time, much more complicated.

We used to be able to confidently know exactly how the world interacted with our content or our ads. It was, in so many ways, a simpler time.

But that simplicity was really based on a shared set of rules and expectations for how traffic would flow and how we, as in industry, collectively, would build this thing we were calling “the internet” and bring it out of the closed, walled-garden systems of Aol and CompuServe and to the masses. We also all were accessing the web from, more or less, the same device — basic web browsers on desktop machines.

Fast forward twenty years. The simplicity and elegance of a shared understanding of protocols and how to move users around the web has been replaced with an incredibly complicated landscape of multiple devices, emerging platforms and even larger walled gardens.

I will put aside for now the immense and obvious business benefits of a level playing field and what the changes here have done to hinder marketers’ ability to actually, you know, know their customers.

At Bitly, we believe in an internet you can see across.

This underlies everything we do. In marketing-speak, it’s actually our “Vision Statement.”

We think it is important for society that we keep building an open and level playing field, and not build walls (figurative or real). Free and open access to the web and its powerful, transformative ability to make the world a smarter, more free, more prosperous, better place has become a basic human right.

I bring this up today because, in our recent migration to a new data center and hosting provider, our Bitly links can’t be clicked on in countries currently under US embargo, including Cuba. Hat tip to the journalists who raised this issue.

The intent is to limit investment and development in countries the US Government has decided are not our friends. I’m definitely not going to wade into that debate, but we don’t believe the ability to click on a Bitly link as a consumer is the same thing. In fact, it’s the opposite. We’re not selling, we’re facilitating.

If we want to bring change to countries and regimes we disagree with, one of the best ways is to educate from within and provide access to all the different information and points-of-view. Limiting the ability to reach these sources is not a constructive strategy.

And, it certainly is not consistent with “an internet you can see across.”

We understand the rationale behind the rules in place from our partner and are working with them to change this. I’m confident that we’ll be able to address this with our partner, and if we can’t, we’ll try to find another way.

The world needs more access to information.

The Internet needs fewer walled gardens that restrict the free exchange of information between cultures, countries, and people.

People in Cuba and elsewhere should be able to see clear across the internet to the freedom and opportunity that they deserve.