The future of the internet: The internet has been a great unifier of people, companies and online networks. Powerful forces are threatening to balkanise it

The first internet boom, a decade and a half ago, resembled a religious movement. Omnipresent cyber-gurus, often framed by colourful PowerPoint presentations reminiscent of stained glass, prophesied a digital paradise in which not only would commerce be frictionless and growth exponential, but democracy would be direct and the nation-state would no longer exist. One, John-Perry Barlow, even penned “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”.Even though all this sounded Utopian when it was preached, it reflected online reality pretty accurately. The internet was a wide-open space, a new frontier. For the first time, anyone could communicate electronically with anyone else — globally and essentially free of charge. Anyone was able to create a website or an online shop, which could be reached from anywhere in the world using a simple piece of software called a browser, without asking anyone else for permission. The control of information, opinion and commerce by governments — or big companies, for that matter — indeed appeared to be a thing of the past. “You have no sovereignty where we gather,” Mr Barlow wrote.
http://www.economist.com/node/16941635?story_id=16941635

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