I have blogged in the past about threats to the open web and what to do about them. It is easy to be dismissive of concerns about Apple’s philosophy of control which necessitates a partially closed system. But there is a real danger in being so seduced by the sleekness of a device and its user experiece that one does not reflect on whether the trade-offs in terms of restrictions are actually worth it. That becomes all the more relevant as Apple is beginning to use control of the playing field to tilt it to its favor, as evidenced by Marco’s post yesterday about the use of private APIs in the iBooks apps. In the case of Apple, I am glad that the market is at work thanks to Google’s Android push (that push itself is not without problems due to Google’s ability to cross-subsidize).
Also yesterday we saw a major setback with respect to net neutrality as a court ruled that the FCC lacks sufficient authority to regulate broadband providers. Again there is a real risk here to be swayed by claims of cost and capacity limits to accept restrictions on the flows of information that could be far more severe than any perceived benefit. Here there is much less of a market force at work as a potential corrective because in many local markets there is only a single broadband provider available and at best most markets have a duopoly.
I do believe that the price of Internet freedom too is eternal vigilance, which is why I keep raising concerns like these on this blog and support others who do. At the end of the day if all the concerns wind up being unwarranted, no harm will have been caused by having raised them. But if we were to find ourselves in a world where a small number of companies controls what applications go onto our devices and how those devices can access information we will have suffered great harm.