explosion.jpgA simmering debate about how much companies like Google and Oodle are allowed to duplicate from other sources has exploded into full force.

We woke up this morning to an emotional torrent on multiple sides. The significance of this stems beyond Google and Oodle and infects the entire information economy. How it is resolved will have major consequences for the economy — destructive for some, constructive for others. Some say interests of individuals are being relegated to those of a few big companies. But there is no arbiter in this battleground. This is vicious trench warfare that will be pretty bloody for sometime to come.

The issue has been burning hot on the back burner for a while. Google has been prodding publishers to allow Google to scan content, so that it can provide search results to its users, but publishers have balked, fearing what it could mean to control of content, and their ability to…

charge for it. Google argues back that its results won’t provide the full content, only excerpts — and this would expose creative work to a greater number of people.

Meanwhile, a slew of companies like Oodle are “scraping” information from other sites, such as Craiglist for job listings or real estate listings. As we mentioned earlier, this has finally just pushed Craigslist, once considered a paragon of community-friendly, even hippy and anti-corporate philosophy, to ban Oodle from such a practice. This has sparked a fired up discussion at Oodle’s Web site.

And eBay, another company known for relying on its community, has now made PayPal its only payments processor, citing the business interests of other companies as one reason it is shutting out others, writes Yannick Laclau.

What’s happening? We’re seeing the issue develop into a more widespread intellectual backlash against the whole idea of openness — where worship of open source and democratic participation are the holy tenets of the supposed Web 2.0 era.

The backlash spreads beyond the “scraping” issue. Check out this essay by Nicholas Carr, titled the Amorality of Web 2.0. It is a remarkable criticism of those who are trying to turn Web 2.0 into a sort of religious, rapturous destiny. He is particularly scathing of some articles by Wired (here and here), which he says is a chief contributor to this idea that the “Web will grant us not only the vision of gods but also their power.” He is contemptuous of those who make the amateur the central actor in the Web 2.0 era, and who say open companies like Wikipedia show us how the Web is allowing us to pool our “individual brains into a great collective mind.”

But at a factual level [Wikipedia is] unreliable, and the writing is often appalling. I wouldn’t depend on it as a source, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to a student writing a research paper.

He then goes on to rip examples of Wikipedia entries, including for Bill Gates and Jane Fonda.

By the way, Carr is the guy who pissed off many in the valley with his essay, “IT Doesn’t Matter,” a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, Om Malik provides a great overview of the open/close debate unfolding, and what it means for the individual. The individual is supposed to be empowered, but is that really happening?

I wondered out loud, if this culture of participation was seemingly help build businesses on our collective backs. So if we tag, bookmark or share, and help del.icio.us or Technorati or Yahoo become better commercial entities, aren’t we seemingly commoditizing our most valuable asset – time. We become the outsourced workforce, the collective, though it is still unclear what is the pay-off. While we may (or may not) gain something from the collective efforts the odds are whatever “the collective efforts” are, they are going to boost the economic value of those entities. Will they share in their upside? Not likely!

Take Skype as an example – it rides on our broadband pipes, for which we a hefty monthly charge. It uses our computers and pipes to replace a network that cost phone companies billions to build. In exchange we can make free phone calls to other Skype users. I have no problems with that. I had no problems with Skype charging me for SkypeIN and SkypeOUT calls as well, for this was only a premium service only to be used if and when needed.

And Jeff Nolan, a venture investor and though-leader for the giant software company SAP, has come out and challenged the thoughts of people like Jeff Jarvis, the blogger and supporter of open media, whose views have become widely read — and accepted by many — over the past year. In particular, Nolan questions the notion that companies should rely on outside participants — their “community” influencers — to help develop products for them, as Jarvis advocates.

The links are numerous and growing. The comments on these are enough to keep your reading for a bit.


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