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Economics tends not to take such an alarmist approach to the future of the Web, viewing it with more equanimity or acquiescence, depending on your perspective. In this column I want to illustrate that approach by discussing a specific practice, gatekeeping, which is an anathema to many openness advocates. Gatekeeping encompasses two related activities. In one case, a vendor controls and manages a user's access to proprietary content, charging a fee for access. Famous recent practitioners include Rupert Murdoch, whose company, News Corp, owns the Wall Street Journal. His company does not allow unrestricted viewing of online articles from the Journal. From time to time Murdoch publicly mutters a threat to block search engines from indexing his site if such blocking could lead to more revenue. In a second type of gatekeeping, a vendor uses proprietary code to control and manage a user's, developer's or advertiser's experience. The most famous practitioner of this approach is Bill Gates. Recently, Steve Jobs, whose rules for iPhone application developers change frequently, has been getting all the attention for restrictive practices.
Date of Publication: Sept.-Oct. 2010