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Apple the No. 1 Danger To Net Freedom 354

CWmike writes "Columbia law professor Tim Wu, who coined the term 'net neutrality,' now says that Apple is the company that most endangers the freedom of the Internet. Wu recently published the book The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, in which he details what he calls 'information empires' such as AT&T, NBC, Facebook, and Google. He told The New York Times, 'It's largely a story of the American affection for information monopolists and the consequences of that fondness.' When asked whether the Internet could similarly be controlled by large companies, he told the Times: 'I know the Internet was designed to resist integration, designed to resist centralized control, and that design defeated firms like AOL and Time Warner. But firms today, like Apple, make it unclear if the Internet is something lasting or just another cycle.' Asked which companies he feared most, Wu replied: 'Right now, I'd have to say Apple.'" Wu has been in the news a bit lately.
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Apple the No. 1 Danger To Net Freedom

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  • by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @01:44PM (#34232638)

    And he wants the power.

    But he gives no inkling as to how Apple is actually dangerous to the net. I would think internet-focused companies like Google, Cisco or a raft of ISPs like Comcast would be much higher on the list.

    This guy just comes off as paranoid.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @01:52PM (#34232774)
    So let me get this right, the greatest threat to net neutrality isn't you know, Comcast which violated it, Microsoft which runs the majority of desktop PCs, Google which is approaching number 1 in smartphone OS marketshare, and is number one in a multitude of areas, but instead is Apple which has a decent, but falling smartphone marketshare, has a very low amount of marketshare with desktops/laptops, doesn't cater to the masses, and sells expensive stuff that the average person can't afford.

    Of course Apple would want to control everyone's computers, Apple loves control but Apple doesn't like selling cheap stuff. When the choice is between a $450 laptop that can do everything you want to do for the average person or a $350 desktop, an Android handset free on contract on any carrier, etc. or a laptop line -starting- at $999, a tablet -starting- at the price higher than most laptops with less features, desktops -starting- at around $500-600, iPhone on AT&T only for $99-200 on contract, etc.

    Apple isn't a threat to net freedom because Apple doesn't produce cheap enough things for most people to buy.
  • Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Monday November 15, 2010 @01:57PM (#34232852) Homepage

    I know we all like to hate Apple but... really? They're fighting against Flash! Yes, they support DRM, but they also pushed for $1 song downloads. I'm not saying their great, but they can't be the number 1 danger.

    I think the idea of the Comcast/NBC merger is far more dangerous. That would be one company with control from content creation all the way to distribution. They could block your access to streaming. They could prevent Time Warner customers from viewing NBC shows on Hulu or They would have their own news media outlets to spin the stories about how that blocking is good for customers.

  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @01:57PM (#34232860)

    There are a lot of companies where accusations can be leveled at for limiting Net freedom. Apple is scary to some because it hits people at the endpoints; a place that is normally open. However, if you lock down the endpoints where people can access the Net, it is a lot easier to get revenue streams in and in the future, censor those who are not liked.

    However, it is like no one snowflake saying it caused the avalanche -- name a cellular device maker who has made devices less restrictive than 1-2 years ago? Motorola has the eFuses, The HTC G2 reinstalls, Apple's and Microsoft's offerings are closed. In fact, there is really only one open phone out there available in the US (Nokia N900).

    So, I wouldn't just blame Apple. I'd blame the cellular carriers forcing phone makers to add more and more user hostility into their devices.

  • by LS1 Brains ( 1054672 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @02:00PM (#34232884)
    Paranoid much, or is this anti-fanboyism of a higher caliber? Apple couldn't control the 'net any more than Microsoft or any other large could, which is to say ... they really can't. Sure, there can be bandwidth shaping terms and conditions thrown around, there can be prioritization of packets, and all the other things that have been happening on various network segments since the "good old days." I guess it's just more fun to demonize large corporations for taking part in doing business with whatever tools are available to them. Apple, Microsoft, etc. don't own the backbone. Nobody (singly) owns the backbone. Google is moving towards putting a LOT of fiber in the ground, so if you were to throw conspiracy theories around don't you think Mountain View would be more "dangerous" than Cupertino? That's not to say I believe Google is doing anything nefarious, because ultimately they're doing what is in their power to further their own brand, on their own dime. The 'net will operate with or without them - that's the beauty of it. Don't want to use Google's glass? Then don't establish a peering relationship with 'em. Simple.
  • Re:Greenpeace (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @02:05PM (#34232968)

    Exactly! If I had to pick the biggest threats, I'd say most any telecom company or the recording/media companies would be up there. How can someone who coined the word "net neutrality" conveniently ignore the threat that these companies pose by wanting to control who gets to have access?

    I also count Facebook among the more significant threats to internet freedom, simply because they have achieved an enormous amount of power through the data its users have stupidly provided them. Google has done similar, but Facebook is especially strident in the way they exploit their users. That the internet has evolved so that Facebook has become so big is enough reason to consider them a threat.

  • by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Monday November 15, 2010 @02:15PM (#34233140) Journal

    AT&T and Google were mentioned, but not MS. Hmm.

    It surely isn't because Microsoft is good, not with such things to remember them by as OOXML, which was merely one of the more recent of many attempts at lock in, forced upgrades through contrived changes with their proprietary file formats, and perhaps most of all, the "Microsoft tax". Has Microsoft become that feeble? Strip away Windows and MS Office, and more than half the company is gone. One doesn't hear about the Xbox, and their music players, e-book readers, phones, and other software offerings being that significant.

  • BIG Announcement (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Monday November 15, 2010 @02:27PM (#34233358) Homepage Journal

    Jobs will announce that The Internet will now be referred to as iTunes.

  • by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @02:48PM (#34233732)

    First of all, despite Apple's relatively minor share of devices, they are one of the most influential companies on the planet with a market cap of over 280 Billion Dollars US. To get an idea of what that means, compare Apple to the market caps of Google, Microsoft, GE and ExxonMobile.
    Despite the author's agenda, he is right in believing that Apple is a major threat to net neutrality. iTunes dominates the online music market, and by its success Apple is forcing every other information distribution service to get in line with them to find customers. They influence how all the players operate, not just themselves. Apple's new model of "control everything" was a hit with consumers who didn't want to have to figure out how to get gadgets to work. Their iron grip can break down our resistance to closed technologies.


  • by ebbe11 ( 121118 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @04:38PM (#34235258)

    Your hypothesis IS interesting, but doesn't seem supported by the facts. Apple does wield a lot of control over apps on iPhones, but they do it as a differentiator to make customers happy and sell more hardware. Apple doesn't limit apps because app sales are so profitable. They do it because people who aren't geeks don't want to have to go multiple places to get apps, don't want to deal with malware apps, don't want to worry about security, don't want their kids having access to porn apps, etc.

    But in doing that, they impose American morals and standards on the rest of the world. There is a Danish tabloid newspaper (Ekstrabladet) that has had to censor their iPhone app in order to get it approved. This paper has for last thirty years or so published a picture of a very lightly dressed girl on page nine in every issue (known as "the page nine girl") and no one in Denmark takes offense of that. But you won't find a "page nine girl" in their iPhone app - because Cupertino doesn't like that.

    The real question is: what will Apple block next? Unfavorable descriptions of Apple products? Articles that are critical of US politics?

    I'd say that you Americans should be worried about how Apple may limit your free speech - because in my opinion, they are well on their way.

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.