Only just last year, I told @brainlock (in real life, so I can’t link) that the coolest thing about our industry was that you don’t have to ask for permission to do anything.
Want to start the next big web project? Just start it. Want to write about your opinions? Just write about them. Want to get famous? It’s still a lot of work and marketing, but nothing (aside of lack of talent) is stopping you.
Whenever you have a good idea for a project, you start working on it, you see how it turns out and you decide whether to continue working on it or whether to scrap it. Aside of a bit of cash for hosting, you don’t need anything else.
This is very cool because is empowers “normal people”. Heck, I probably wouldn’t be where I currently am if it wasn’t for this. Back in 1996 I had no money, I wasn’t known, I had no past experience. What I had though was enthusiasm.
Which is all that’s needed.
Only a year later though, I’m sad to see that we are at the verge of losing all of this. Piece by piece.
First was apple with their iPhone. Even with all the enthusiasm of the world, you are not going to write an app that other people can run on the phone. No. First you will have to ask Apple for permission.
Want to access some third-party hardware from that iPhone app? Sure. But now you have to not only ask Apple, but also the third party vendor for permission.
The explanation we were given is that a malicious app could easily bring down the mobile network. Thus they needed to be careful what we could run on our phones.
But then, we got the iPad with the exact same restrictions even though not all of them even have mobile network access.
The explanation this time? Security.
As nobody wants their machine to be insecure, everybody just accepts it.
Next came Microsoft: In the Windows Mobile days before the release of 7, you didn’t have to ask anybody for permission. You bought (or pirated if you didn’t have money) Visual Studio, you wrote your app, you published it.
All of this is lost now. Now you ask for permission. Now you hope for the powers that be to allow you to write your software.
Finally, you can’t even do what you want with your PC – all because of security.
So there’s still the web you think? I wish I could be positive about that, but as we are running out of IP-addresses and the adoption of IPv6 is slow as ever, I believe that public IP addresses are becoming a scarce good at which point, again, you will be asking for permission.
In some countries, even today, it’s not possible to just write a blog post because the government is afraid of “unrest” (read: losing even more credibility). That’s not just countries we always perceived as “not free” – heck,
even in Italy you must register with the government if you want to have a blog (it turns out that law didn’t come to pass – let’s hope no other country has the same bright idea). In Germany, if you read the law by the letter, you can’t blog at all without getting every post approved – you could write
something that a minor might see.
«But permission will be granted anyways», you might say. Are you sure though? What if you are a minor wanting to create an application for your first client? Back in my days, I could just do it. Are you sure that whatever entity is going to have to give permission wan’t to do business with minors? You do know that you can’t have a Gmail account if you are younger than 13 years, do you? So age barriers exist.
What if your project competes with whatever entity has to give permission? Remember the story about the Google Voice app? Once we are out of IP addresses, the big provider and media companies who still have addresses might see you little startup web project as competition in some way. Are you sure you will still get permission?
Back in 1996 when I started my company in High-School, all you needed to earn your living was enthusiasm and a PC (yes – I started doing web programming without having access to the internet)
Now you need signed contracts, signed NDAs, lobbying, developer program memberships, cash – the barriers to entry are infinitely higher at this point.
I’m afraid though, that this is just the beginning. If we don’t stand up now, if we continue to let big companies and governments take away our freedom of expression piece by piece, if we give up more and more of our freedom because of the false promise of security, then, at one point, all of what we had will be lost.
We won’t be able to just start our projects. We won’t be able to create – only to work on other peoples projects. We will lose all that makes our profession interesting.
Let’s not go there.