by Sebastian Benthall

A week ago I attended the OneWebDay event held in Washington Square Park.  OneWebDay is “Earth Day for the Internet”–a day for global awareness and celebration of the internet, and a not-so-subtle PR event for the cause of net neutrality.  There was an impressive line-up of speakers: Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, and Jonathan Zittrain were the most prominent, but there were others who were accomplished as entrepreneurs (The Craig of Craigslist, the Guy Who Started Pandora) or who could be classed as web advocates or activists in some sense or another.  A video of the event can be found here.

These were my reactions, in no particular order:

  • Nick Grossman pointed out to that “OneWebDay” is an overly cumbersome name that will probably cripple the adoption of the day on the calender.  Also, camel casing–really?  “Web Day” would be much catchier.  I fear the former name has stuck already, but somebody really ought to try to get the alternative out there.
  • It is absolutely fantastic that the Web Movement, or whatever you want to call it, has a poet among its founding members.  John Perry Barlowt–summary–is s striking figure against a backdrop of nerds, and will give this historical moment a memorably Romantic aspect.
  • One of the most contentful speeches, in my opinion, was Gale Brewer‘s.  She directly addressed the problem of the digital divide, and explained how it was a problem even within the borders of New York City and how connectivity is being fought for as a local political issue.  Since the theme of the event was “Participatory Democracy on the Internet” (double check), I think it was especially important that the day’s speakers address this point.  If political access becomes more tied to internet access, that will only reinforce the existing political inequalities unless there is a concerted effort made toward universal connectivity.
  • One of the more interesting comments was made by the Guy Who Started Pandora.  While most of speeches and Q&A discussion were a harmonious choir singing praises of the internet and calling for a united movement for its liberties, this Guy (whose name I forget) pointed out that there is one point of discord within the web community.  “People have to remember that they still have to pay for things,” he said.  “People have to get out the mindset that all of this can be free, free, free.”  He had solved this problem with advertising.  But as a businessman in the digital music industry and also a former musician who had tried to make a living, he was clearly making a reference to music piracy and the common attitude that there is nothing wrong with it.  I believe that the tension he highlighted is a deep one, and that the politics of the web are not as unified as “One Web Day” implies.