Sunday 15 April 2012

The shrinking of the web

Last week it was announced that Facebook was buying the smart phone sharing app Instagram for a staggering $1,000,000,000 (£630m).

On the face of it, it looks like another buyout of a start up web company that although hugely popular doesn't actually make any money.

In the last few days, I've been reading about the various reasons why Facebook would want to spend so much on a small app.

One theme that's been interesting me, is the idea that Facebook's buyout is another example of big media corporations and governments trying to gain greater control of the web.

I read an article in today's Sunday Times that argued that tech giants like Facebook, Google, Apple and Yahoo want to buy up popular apps, so they can all be gathered into one space under their control.

All this is interesting as more people are accessing the internet through apps on smart phone or iPads, rather than using web browsers like Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.

In theory it could mean more content and information will become unavailable if you look for it on the web or through search engines. You'll only be able to access apps, social media and other content through a gate controlled by the big tech companies.

It looks like more people are becoming concerned at developments.

Today I was reading about how Google's Co-founder Sergey Brin was warning about the threats to an open internet from governments and corporations. But then I thought, aren't Google one of those major corporations that are looking to monopolise the web themselves.

It seems more like Google finding itself in a power struggle with Facebook. Google's power and influence as a Search Engine will decline if more people navigate the web through social media rather than search engines.

This week the Guardian are running a week long investigation into the battle for control of the web.

You begin to realise how revolutionary the internet is and how different interest groups around the world have their own reasons to try and control and manage access to the web.

With good timing I'm just about to start reading a book called The Master Switch by Tim Wu. The book explorers this issue further, arguing that the internet is the latest in a long line of communication technologies that started off as free and open before becoming centralized and closed through corporate power.

I shall let you know what I think of it when I finish.

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