Information Wants to be Free

A long time ago, this phrase was the watchword of those radical hacker types. Today’s appearance of lots of web services (and I mean the term in its loosest meaning — RSS feeds, REST APIs, SOAP APIs, and anything else on the web) tells me that information is getting freer. But it’s not free — not yet. Nearly every one of those web services comes with terms of use, license conditions, restrictions, provisos, and agreements. The information isn’t really free yet. It’s just kind of discounted — tantalizing, but not yet free.

I want to see it free like the Seattle Public Library’s web service is free. I was talking with a couple of the people who created and run the SPL’s web service and was really impressed with the attitude I heard: their job is to make it easy to get to the information they hold and they deeply get that.

So when does information get free?

And when does society get transparent?

Comments (2)

  1. i take it you disagree with Bill Gates’ take on Google? Microsoft should get out the DRM business. i always think MS is at its best when empowering people, not corporations.

  2. johnmont says:

    I’m not sure the question is the right question. It’s not about forcing corporations to do something that isn’t in their best interests (e.g. not enforcing copyright). It’s about showing that there’s value elsewhere in the chain that is potentially larger and enabled through making information free.

    In fact, much of the information is replicated in many places, but getting it into a format that’s useful (e.g. XML) is costly. Take the NOAA web site, for example: lots of weather data, but HTML only.

    There will always be information that has value in and of itself. But it strikes me that we could create more value if we could loosen the strings that close the mouth of the bag and let some of it out.