Monday, April 21, 2008

The true power of the internet

So today I witnessed what I find to be absolutely and completely staggering display of the true power of the internet. TED talks is a site that features relatively short video broadcasts of discussions by big movers and shakers in the science and technology fields. Many times people can't make it to large conferences, but the information is still very valid and the folks over at TED.com work to bridge that divide.

Amazingly, the most recent TED talk that I received notification of was by a researcher named Johnny Lee. I found out about Mr. Lee about 2 months or so ago via YouTube. A co-worker had come across a link via Digg about a story of this guy who'd taken a Nintendo Wii Remote and rigged it to do some pretty cool demonstrations via the InfraRed camera inside a small, $40 handheld device. Very slick stuff and relatively inexpensive.

What completely stunned me about Mr. Lee today was that he was sharing a venue with the likes of Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, or award-winning theoretical physicist Stephven Hawking. Heck, he gave his presentation preceding former Vice President Al Gore giving an update on the climate crisis. This seemingly no-name researcher stumbled across a great little discovery and, harnessing the power of the internet for distributing his message, now has a platform to tell the world about it. And he's being recognized alongside worldwide political and scientific personalities. It's simply amazing and that is when it hit me. The internet's true power isn't anonymity for users, it isn't free speech, or 24-7 access to information. Those are all great things.

The true power of the world wide web is in distribution.

Distribution of a message, an idea, products or even workforce. The reason that the RIAA and MPAA are so vehemently opposed to digital downloads is not really that they're losing a CD-sale. They're losing the distribution method that they've had tied up from the radio stations all the way down to the retailer for decades.

The iTunes Music Store and Amazon.com both cut out the sales channel, while solutions such as digital radio and Muxtape.com cuts out the frontman. The marketing VPs and music execs that used to be able to spoon-feed Brittney Spears to a bazillion hungry teens have just lost their ace in the hole and they're scared pant-less.

I guess the thing is, as a web developer, it's easy to get caught up in the minutiae of new HTML specs, or CSS, or browser versions, or new developments, techniques, and designs. But we should all stay mindful of the real reasons people are online and work toward making those better. Easier distribution, easier access, faster experiences... Simple. Elegant. Brilliant.

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