Twenty years ago on April 30, 1993 Tim Berners-Lee, a physicist at the CERN Physics Lab in Geneva Switzerland presented the networking protocols that created the World Wide Web. (No – NOT Al Gore!!) The Internet, such as it was back then, was the child of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpanet, 1969), and had become a disparate mash-up of competing proprietary networks, such as CompuServe, Prodigy (remember), and the fledgling American On-Line, Gopher (see below), and others my foggy memory will not recall. You paid a fee to gain access to the information these Internet gatekeepers thought was valuable. There wasn’t much in the way of a browser, Mosaic was a few months away from releasing the browser that would become Netscape.
One of these early Internet access methods was called "Gopher" and was invented here at the University of Minnesota. If the U of M had decided to let Gopher go open-source, instead of trying to monetize it and keep it proprietary, we might just be surfing the GGG, the Great Gopher Gateway, instead of the World Wide Web.
The board at CERN needed to make a similar decision, and set the World Wide Web free, to serve the greater good of information and humanity everywhere. The rest is history.
There always seem to be two schools of thought at work in the world of commerce. One thinks of the world as a fixed sum game, a single pie, and these people are determined to "get their piece of the pie." This usually means their piece, and my piece, too! Not nice people. And then there are those who see the world as a pie kitchen, where you can always make more pie. If the Internet had not been turned loose back in 1993, it would not be the phenomenon it is today. Did Tim Berners-Lee turn down a fortune when he "gave away" his best idea? I think if we were to check, we would find that he is doing fine financially, and is one of the acknowledged experts in the field.
The lesson here is that not everything has to be for profit, or locked up, or owned. Not everything needs to be patented or copyrighted. This is why I am a big fan of Open Source and Creative Commons. Some things we are doing could just be given away as a gift to the greater good. We can always just make more pie.Share