Dave Winer's essay about the two-way Web discusses two important things on the way to a third:
- Weblogs are just the latest development in making the Web, and communication in general, easier for a wider variety of people.
- Open file formats and accessible information are far more important than open source code in software -- essentially because everyone wants to be able to read their work in one or ten or fifty years, but not many people actually write programs.
His third, derived point is that giving regular people power over their own information is what makes the Internet different from media like television, radio, print, movies, and so on. So for people who do write programs, he argues:
I strongly believe there are ethical rules [of being a software developer], we just have never written them down or even discussed them. It involves not locking users in. Giving them choice. Telling them what the risks are in using the software. [...]
[...] much more important than having access to the source of the program, a program must give you complete control of your content, and for that, you must be able to get a copy. And you must be able to use some other piece of software to read it, that's why interchange formats and protocols are so important.
I think the companies that really understand that point, from giants like Apple to small firms like my friends at Navarik, will be in a better position than their competitors down the road. Preventing people from moving their own information around makes your customers your enemies. The way to make them your friends is to build better tools to work with that information, their way.
Disclaimer (added May 2004): While I now work for Navarik Corp., this site is my own, and doesn't represent the company's position on anything.