The Tale of Two Webs

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, ending a symbolic ornament of the Cold War, the conflict that staked paranoia into the hearts of the people on the both sides of the wall. It has been twenty years since that chilly November morning, but since then, more walls has been created in Russia and China-the invisible ones that are far more segregative and deadlier than the Berlin Wall.

The walls are of course those instituted on the internet. It is true that a conglomerate can never monopolize a market like internet. That is the reason that we believe in little search engines that could like cuil. That explains why Orkut is phenomenal in India and Brazil and Friendster is in Asia in this age of Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. However, in nowhere is this gap more prominent than in Russia, where they apparently have an entirely different internet structure.

A photoshop contest winner in asked us to harken back to the past, and ponder about the future
A photoshop contest winner in asked us to harken back to the past, and ponder about the future

The Russians have Yandex, their own search engine. They have Russian equivalent of Linkedln. Instead of Facebook, they use, which copycats the former’s design. Instead of youtube, they have another clone, This self-imposed segregation creates a internet society similar yet different from the West in Russia, something  a Soviet Russia which invented this own version of MonopolyTM will probably revel.

However, it is bad for the outside world. Through social networking, one can have friends from Estonia, New Zealand, Peru, Germany, and South Africa but it is less likely to get one from Russia because they have their own social spheres, which hinders communication and spreading information-the values which can make the world a safer, better place in this new century.

Russians may not be deliberately disassociating from the Western networks, but China actually is, on the other hand. Taking lessons from glasnost and perestroika, China has learnt to monitor the websites,  to control the information available, and to change history itself. To use a recently popular buzzword, China imposed ‘pay to play’ policy on Google and Yahoo! to comply with its ideological whims. And when even the prestigious organizations like the IOC yield to China, and when social networking got filtered (MySpace launched squeaky clean, non-political China version), you know it is bad times.

Nonetheless, the specter of internet is haunting China and Russia. We have seen the advance of Web 2.0-an age where everyone contributes to the community. It is time to usher in the era of Web 3.0-an age where everyone is spurred into an action, whether it may be environmental, social or political. The era has already begun with grassroot internet movement for Obama presidential campaign, and has the precedent in 2001’s ousting of Philippine President Joseph Estrada through a riot coordinated through text messaging.

In 1989, China’s democracy movement was crashed in the bloody square of Tienanmen [see China’s efforts to change that history here] when the Politburo called in the troops from the far away provinces to quash the revolt. Imagine an era when the troops from afar feel equally compassionate and caring towards the revolting students. It is an era where globalization has bridged the gaps and information has spread its wings. It will be the era of Web 3.0-the era in which we truly transcends meager national boundaries to network and communicate, the era in which the web-coordinated governed supplants their puppet masters. It is an era I am looking forward to; it is an era we can achieve in our watch. Let a billion free netizens bloom.


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