The Gopher story is a perfect case history for Adversarial Interoperability. The pre-Gopher information landscape was dominated by companies, departments, and individuals who were disinterested in giving users control over their own computing experience and who viewed computing as something that took place in a shared lab space, not in your home or dorm room.
Rather than pursuing an argument with these self-appointed Lords of Computing, the Gopher team simply went around them, interconnecting to their services without asking for permission. They didn’t take data they weren’t supposed to have—but they did make it much easier for the services’ nominal users to actually access them. ❧
Annotated on February 23, 2020 at 08:39AM
Today’s Web giants want us to believe that they and they alone are suited to take us to wherever we end up next. Having used Adversarial Interoperability as a ladder to attain their rarefied heights, they now use laws to kick the ladder away and prevent the next Microcomputer Center or Tim Berners-Lee from doing to them what the Web did to Gopher, and what Gopher did to mainframes. ❧
Annotated on February 23, 2020 at 08:40AM
Legislation to stem the tide of Big Tech companies’ abuses, and laws—such as a national consumer privacy bill, an interoperability bill, or a bill making firms liable for data-breaches—would go a long way toward improving the lives of the Internet users held hostage inside the companies’ walled gardens.
But far more important than fixing Big Tech is fixing the Internet: restoring the kind of dynamism that made tech firms responsive to their users for fear of losing them, restoring the dynamic that let tinkerers, co-ops, and nonprofits give every person the power of technological self-determination. ❧
Annotated on February 23, 2020 at 08:42AM