I’m on #TeamInternet

What I sent to the FCC in favor of #NetNeutrality

Chris Messina
Jul 12, 2017 · 4 min read

You may notice banners around the web today encouraging you to show your support for net neutrality. That’s because it’s Evan Greer’s “Net Neutrality Day of Action”, an effort to fight the Trump administration’s rollback of rules that promote the openness and nondiscrimination principle of the internet.

Facebook, Google, Reddit, Amazon, Twitter, Dropbox, and others have come together (yet again) to push the FCC forward in the right direction. And you should too.

If this issue is just rising in your consciousness now, here’s a bit of background and how you can get involved:

Up until now, I haven’t publicly spoken out on this issue — and I had to ask myself… why? TBH, I didn’t have a good reason, and since Mashable even made it so easy to figure out what to say and how to say it, I really had no excuse anymore.

So, here’s what I sent to the FCC. I encourage you to similarly personalize your experience in the comments you send to the FCC, and to go on record being on #TeamInternet.

If our efforts are not successful, I’m convinced that there will be no going back. Subsequent generations will be all the poorer for our lack of initiative and resolve. Let’s not fuck this up.

Statement submitted to the FCC

The principle of open internet and its availability contributed directly to my ability to launch and grow my career, and to give away ideas that have transformed the global culture, for the better.

In 2005, I co-organized an event called BarCamp, which celebrated the open and inclusiveness of internet culture. That event went viral and inspired derivative events around the world that have brought people together and spurred technological innovation the world over. The event and its descendants were all organized over the open internet, across space and time.

In 2006, I helped start the first coworking spaces in San Francisco. I believed, as did many of my friends, that there should be shared “third spaces” that had the vibe of cafes with the creative productivity potential of office environments. We combined these elements in Citizen Space, and then gave away the idea for other communities around the world to emulate. In addition to the thousands of coworking spaces around the world today, WeWork, a unicorn, benefitted from our use of the open internet to share our ideals and best practices.

In 2007, 10 years ago, I proposed the idea for hashtag and gave it away on my blog. The idea was first rejected by Twitter and instead adopted by third party developers who built apps for Twitter using its API. The hashtag grew in popularity over the following decade, and became widespread across all social media platforms because it was intended to be open and nonproprietary, borrowing from the design of the internet itself.

During that time, I also sought to develop a set of interoperable and nonproprietary protocols and technologies to make it easier to build social apps for the web without relying on a centralized provider, like Facebook. Working with collaborators from around the world and across the internet, we developed protocols for representing activities, identity, contacts, social interactions, and more. Several of these technologies (OpenID, OAuth, and ActivityStreams) have become widely used by internet giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, and others, as well as smaller independent developers.

The success and positive global impact of these initiatives cannot be understated or measured, yet their success was in large part driven by the open internet and the principle of network neutrality. Had I or any of my independent collaborators been required to pay additional access fees, or were unable to use the internet as a common carrier, our impact would have been irreparably impeded and harmed.

When I think about the next generation coming up and I think about the media environment in which they will find themselves, I do hope that they have the same public access and benefit of openness that I found when I started out building for the web when I was in high school, in the late 90s. Increasingly, young people are using products and services designed, built, and provided by a handful of internet companies — and one of the few counters to anticompetitiveness, stagnation, and exclusivity is preserving the unfettered openness of the internet and freedom to move throughout it.

I hope, for my own benefit, that the openness of the internet may be preserved, but more importantly that its openness is assured for the benefit of the next generation and specifically the entrepreneur or inventor who wishes to share their ideas freely and effectively with the global, internet-connected community.

Chris Messina

This can all be made better. Ready? Begin.

Chris Messina

Written by

Inventor of the hashtag. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Previously: Google, Uber, Molly (YC W18).

Chris Messina

This can all be made better. Ready? Begin.

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