The marvellously destructive power of the Internet:
A rant by Mark Newton


blog You might have noticed that at Delimiter we love an epic rant, and as we’ve previously written, former Internode network engineer Mark Newton has form in this area. Whether it be on the issue of the Internet filter, the National Broadband Network or other topics, Newton is wonderfully unafraid to tell it like it is, and that’s one reason we love him (in a platonic sense, of course).

With that in mind, we commend you to Newton’s latest rant, cautiously entitled: Why the Internet is a marvellously capable gatekeeper destruction machine. Some choice tidbits from the full rant, posted on the AusNOG mailing list:

“Doesn’t matter what realm you’re talking about, the Internet takes the power previously enjoyed by gatekeepers, devolves it to end users, and poses the question: ‘Now what … ?’

It’s all the same theme: If you behave like a gatekeeper, the base technology of the Internet provides your customers with the means to bypass you. Look at the new markets service providers want to move into: Voice and TV, market domains which significant quantities of end users have already decided to replace with Skype and Bittorrent.

In the medium to long term, I’d expect those “new markets” to get commoditised every bit as much as bit delivery has been. You won’t make money by providing voice telephony to people connected to your Internet service, or pay-TV to people connected to your internet service … You’re emotionally invested in your business model because it’s yours. Your customers aren’t. They don’t care if you have an adequate margin.”

We find it hard to disagree with Newton’s comments. The Internet is basically a machine for disaggregating business models and endlessly copying information. And any business which gets in the way of that long-term is going to get stomped. It’s as simple as that — we live in a period of great technological change, and you can either get on that bandwagon or try futilely (hello, AFACT) to stop it.

Image credit: Nesster, Creative Commons


  1. He’s both right and wrong about voice and video content on the end of an NBN connection.

    Voice: Skype is great, so long as the receiving party is able to run skype and support a decent speed on their own Internet connection. Offering a voice service from a handset and then pushng it via IP to another town/state/country before offloading it back to a POTS service? Worth paying for, and therefore companies will pursue it. Remember international calling cards? Combine the two and voila!

    Video: BitTorrent is great, so long as the movie you want is avaiable and of suitable quality. You take a recent release and put a Camcorder version on BitTorrent and 99% of the file comments will be “This is crap”, “Cam sux”, “Is this a DVD rip?” type diatribe. Set up something that offers quality HD on a schedule at or near cinema release dates but before DVD/BR release and it’s worth paying for. Netflix and iTunes Movies in the USA are prime examples of what is possible if big media would just wake up.

    Pay-TV: TV on the other hand… big media better get with global release dates because the internet knows no boundaries and cares not for content restrictions. TV is now all digital, and DVB-to-HDD is trivial enought that someone making $1 (or even just kudos) out of recording it in a place of first release and uploading it to the Internet will do just that. Unless you are offering a content library of good HD episides that are viewable on-demand, forget it. ABC iView is a good example of how TV should be offered digitally over IP.

    • Dan, spot on.
      My generation “taped” music off the radio or borrowed library LPs – my days of “ripping” music off youtube or torrents not for me. Wanted to watch the Top Gear Vietnam special the other day – $2.99 for the download off iTunes. Like a song on the radio – I will pay $1.69 for it with a click. Why do I still need to wait months for the latest Survivor series to air on Nine? Quick look on youtube and off we go. Users like me will pay appropriately for the service we expect.

      As for Voice, my home phone bill down to $7 last month, including overseas calls at 5c/min. Only using my ISPs standard VOIP service, and know I could do better. However, limited mobile calls from the home phone – these are still outrageous – we can call a mobile in Europe for 12c/min, but costs us 29c/min to call an Aus mobile. Still some way to go in the mobile charging space, as we all know.

      Main issue for me is my Internet connection. My ADSL2+ is down to 2Mbps this week, normally I get 4Mbps. Just over 1km from the exchange. Got given a dodgy copper line – will it get fixed? NBN only 12 months away for me!

      A lot of disruptive changes ahead for Aus media/telcos in a post-NBN world – is this another reason why the Coalition are against it?

  2. but let’s not forget the power that ISPs wield in this paradigm though …. eg. if an ISp has a vested interest in a particular video content service, they can always throttle bittorrent traffic. Same deal with Skype; if an ISP offers it’s own voice over ip service, it can always id and deprioritise the qos for skype.

  3. I guess another question is it is a future we want?
    Regarding content, customers determine the price without ever understanding the cost. That’s ok short term, but will lead to fewer quality content producers over time. Witness the supermarkets and our declining farming sector, and the fact Australia imports the majority of it’s fruit and vegetables. Or the prevalence of KFC and McDonalds on every street corner. It’s cheap and accessible food, but it’s harming our health, which we eventually pay for through health taxes.
    Consumers think short term, and about their own pocket book.
    Web users can stomp on traditional content businesses, but is that always a good thing? For me, no it isn’t.

  4. I’m laughing my ass off at this.

    The Internet creates meta-gatekeepers. Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Baidu, ISPs etc etc

    These are very large politically active corporate monopolies.

    We are only “free” at their whim.

    Thankfully we have democratically elected governments.

    • @David: ‘Thankfully we have democratically elected governments.’ …who in some cases are trying to impose their brand of censorship on the www.

      But Mark is right (as usual), and ‘the marvellously destructive power of the Internet’ seems to have become an unhealthy obsession with some news and content corporations, who along with the Libs appear hellbent on stopping NBN any way they can.

      Strange bedfellows, all of them.

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