The end of the open internet?

"I think the age of the deeply competitive internet is over," says author and telecommunications lawyer, Tim Wu. "The next five years is going to be a story of the big four or big five."

"I think the age of the deeply competitive internet is over," says author and telecommunications lawyer, Tim Wu. "The next five years is going to be a story of the big four or big five."

Two weeks ago on Patch Monday, we looked at consolidation in the internet industry. Microsoft, Apple and Google are ready to compete with integrated technology stacks connecting mobile devices to cloud services. This week, Wu takes us on an even longer journey.

"Apple, Google, Facebook. Fabulous now," he says. "If they managed to dig themselves in, however, how are they going to look in 50 years?"

In his book The Master Switch: The rise and fall of information empires, Wu describes what he sees as a natural cycle in technology. Every technology that was once open and free eventually becomes centralised and closed as corporate power takes control.

It happened to the music and movie industries, now dominated by a handful of big players. It happened to the car industry too. It even happened to desktop operating systems. We now have Windows, OS X and Linux, and that's about it.

Wu talks about the future of the internet, the importance of network neutrality — a term he coined — how Egypt cut off the internet and soon restored it, America's so-called "internet kill switch" legislation, and even about Australia's National Broadband Network.

As usual, Patch Monday also includes my random look at last week's IT news.

To leave an audio comment for Patch Monday, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Tim Wu is speaking at the Digital Directions 2011 conference in Sydney on 3 March.

Running time 40 minutes, 16 seconds

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