Friday, June 20, 2008

Ancient History

Netscape and AOL, Jamie Zawinski, 31-Mar-1999 (emphasis added):
Some will tell you that an organization is the people who make it up, but that's not the case at all. The whole is larger and completely different from the sum of its parts. The system that we as a society have invented to run our world is a simple one. It's a game with a small number of rules. You put the pieces on the board, wind it up, and let it go. The thing is, the rules involved are all about money. The underlying theory is that you motivate people to provide value to society by making it be in their best interest to do so. But that's the intent; the mechanism is much less vague. The mechanism is money.

Corporations are not evil. That kind of anthropomorphism is inappropriate. Corporations are too stupid to be evil, only people can be that. Corporations are mechanisms. People can influence them, but by and large, corporations just follow the rules.

Bear in mind that, for a publicly-traded company, if a CEO makes a decision because it's the right thing rather than because it's the most profitable thing for the shareholders, he will lose his job, and possibly be sued into oblivion. That's the way the rules work.

For someone not solely motivated by profit, the way to win this game is to pick your goals such that your goals, whatever they may be, are aligned with the goals that the corporate mechanism will seek for itself. For example, if your goal is "working on interesting stuff," then the best way to do that is to find a company which looks at the stuff you're interested in as a way to meet its goal of "making lots of money."

And sometimes the only way to win is not to play.


... But if you think that non-censoring network access and publication will always be available because there will always be some people who want it, consider that Barnes and Noble have all but eliminated the independent bookseller, and that Blockbuster Video have all but eliminated the independent video store. And let's not forget that it is Blockbuster's policy not to rent NC-17 movies. We're not talking about pornography here: we're talking about movies that are merely not for children.

AOL is about centralization and control of content. Everything that is good about the Internet, everything that differentiates it from television, is about empowerment of the individual.

I don't want to be a part of an effort that could result in the elimination of all that.


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