People are trying to sort out the “old days” of the web vs today. Here’s my two cents.

And some people like to cook for themselves.

And sometimes people who cook for themselves like to eat out, and vice versa.

So I use Flickr even though I could program my own photos site, and have. I find it convenient to use their front-end. But I don’t have to. If I needed to cook my own meal, I would. I did.

Everyone always thinks the last turn of the cycle in tech was the first and the last time around the loop. It might be the last but it sure isn’t the first.

A picture named pollock.gifFor Marc Andreessen, who Felix Salmon quotes in this piece, the first wave of the web was his first tech experience. And it made him a billionaire and launched a fantastic career as an investor and tech iconoclast.

For me, it was my third time around the loop (I’m a generation older than Andreessen), but I didn’t make nearly as much money as he did, nor was I trying to. For me, the web was creative liberation. Seriously. I had given up on making software because everything was so jammed up and ugly in the tech world. The web freed up everything. We could create again, because I could set up my own net that no one owned but me. I didn’t have to get anyone’s approval to play with servers. I needed that to be creative.

Imagine if Jackson Pollock had to convince a big company that his art was worth making. That’s why when everything is controlled by companies, we get stagnation.

Being creative with tech is not for everyone, but so what. It mattered to me that I could be free. Obviously freedom doesn’t matter to everyone. And it was and is available to anyone who wants it and had the patience to keep it going.

  • And freedom matters to me in some activities and not in others. I feel no need to be free in creating new kinds of car engines. Or creating new paintings or works of music. There, I prefer the AOL/Facebook type of experience. I like going to art museums and Broadway plays, and to drive a fine car made by a big company I trust. But for me, I will always, till the day I die, want to run my own servers. Because that’s where I choose to be creative. And if I let other people do it, there would be unacceptable limits on my creativity.
  • And I depend on the fact that people who create in other artisitic areas are free to do so. Who would want to see an endless stream of idiotic movies programmed for LCD intellect and emotional maturity. You see the problem, it is possible for us to die as a culture. It’s happened before. But the human spirit is pretty strong. And there will be someone forcing the question of how to create, as long as there are new ideas to explore. It’s never been an easy sell that this kind of creativity applies to tech, but it does.

If you’ve only seen one turn of the wheel, it must be hard to extrapolate that because there were turns before yours that it’s likely there will be more to come. I don’t have any trouble imagining it because I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it.

I don’t say Andreessen is wrong, from his point of view the web never really was that wonderful. I accept his version of the truth, as his. But it’s not mine. For me, the web was, and continues to be, liberating.

  • We’re all like the blind men and the elephant. Salmon sees the web as broken, as do the others he quotes. But I see it as liberating. We’re all just reporting on the color of the lenses in our glasses. (And btw, all this discourse is happening on the web.)

About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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