Keeping the djinni out of the bottle

In many ways I see the problems with Google’s centralization as just another facet of a tension that has existed since the Internet started: the tension between the decentralized “every end-user is his own service provider” model and the centralized fiefdom model where you sign up for one of a handful of service providers. I think it was the coming of the Web in the early ’90s that finally tipped the scale in favor of the decentralized model, and as a result we saw an explosion of URLs and email addresses that weren’t only from AOL, CompuServe or Prodigy. This, I think, was all for the better. But now the proliferation of GMail addresses and Google Base scare me precisely because they smack a little too much of the fiefdom model we so wisely avoided 15 years ago.