Reviews for Read Write Own

by Chris Dixon

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A tech entrepreneur sounds a call for a new internet free of predatory capitalist control. The early internet was a libertarian’s paradise, its backbone built on government technology that was effectively released into the public domain. However, writes the author, “starting in the mid-2000s, a small group of big companies wrenched control away.” Those companies have not only laid claim to the vast bulk of internet traffic; they’ve also established networks on which other entities are dependent. If you want to start an online company, you must go through the intermediation and monetization protocols established by mega-corporations. “The network,” Dixon adds, “went from permissionless to permissioned.” Given that these corporations are unlikely to cede any of their privilege, the author argues that internet consolidation is best defied by building a blockchain network in which individuals and not corporations own their words and creations. As an example, he notes that while no company owns email protocol “and anyone can access it,” corporations have still managed to get their hands on it; in a blockchain environment, any subscription fees or ad revenues that accrue go to creators and not “network intermediaries,” thus encouraging innovation and investment. A case study in how this innovation has been stifled is the decline of RSS, technology that was harder to negotiate than the free services such as Twitter and Facebook, which aggregated content at the cost of effectively creating a captive audience. The technology underlying blockchain is arcane, and while Dixon does a game job of explaining it to civilians, readers are still likely to be mystified by many aspects. It doesn’t help that many of its protocols center on the murky world of cryptocurrency, of which readers should rightly be suspicious. A sharp-edged manifesto for “new networks with better architectures”—better because they’re free of corporate control. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.