Sunday, October 15, 2006

Something to Think About

Saw this blurb on Fumare. Interesting. I don't necessarily buy his thesis, but it certainly does give one something to think about.
Robert Cox: When will the right recognize the cost of conceding Web 2.0?
WASHINGTON - If you doubt the Internet is causing a sea change in politics, just ask “independent” Senate candidate Joe Lieberman, who came out on the wrong end of a blogger-fueled campaign for the Democratic nomination in Connecticut.

That was no accident.

In the waning days of Howard Dean’s abortive presidential campaign, I met many of the talented folks who played a role in turning the Dean Web site into a powerful fundraising tool that propelled an unknown candidate into the national spotlight. At various blogging conferences since, I have had the opportunity to observe many of these bright minds strategizing on how to best leverage the emerging world of blogs and other “social networking” services known as “Web 2.0” to advance their liberal political agenda and win elections.

Their common refrain: “We need to own the Internet the way the right owns talk radio.”

They got me wondering whether the online “conservative elite” was aware of what the left had in mind and, if so, whether they were concerned. During the past few years, I have had the opportunity to ask this of Internet specialists working on the Bush-Cheney campaign, top officials in the Republican National Committee, communications specialists at the White House and dozens of top conservative bloggers.

A-List blogger and talk radio show host Hugh Hewitt’s response was typical: “It doesn’t matter who creates the tools used by bloggers, but what bloggers do with those tools.”

When I suggested that ceding control of the major “nodes” in the online world to the left was a huge mistake, they were dismissive. It became clear they could not imagine one day finding themselves boxed out of what is fast becoming the biggest force in electoral politics.

Enter Fox News pundit, author and top-rated blogger Michelle Malkin. Last week she received notice from YouTube, the world’s most popular video sharing service, that her video had been deemed “offensive.” The result? Her account may be terminated and her videos deleted.

YouTube refused to say why her videos were “offensive” and there was no avenue available to challenge the decision. Today, her videos are gone and her voice is suppressed on the most important video “node” on the Internet.

Some might note that Malkin can still host her videos elsewhere. Of course she can, but that would fail to understand the powerful forces of “network externalities” at play online. There is no Avis to eBay’s Hertz for good reason: Once an online network is fully catalyzed, there is no reason to join an alternative network. If you want to get the most money for your Beanie Baby collection, you are going to want access to the most potential bidders — and that means eBay.

YouTube is poised to become the eBay of video file sharing. If you want the biggest audience for your video, you want access to the most potential viewers — and that means YouTube.

Google understands this dynamic, which is why the company announced Monday that it will purchase YouTube — a company that has never made a dime — for $1.65 billion. YouTube fits very well within the Google online media portfolio. The company already owns, the most popular blog hosting site online, and Google News, which in two short years has become one of the top news sites in the world.

Don’t think it matters? Consider that, according to USA Today, 98 percent of the money donated to political parties by Google employees — “Google Millionaires” — went to Democrats.

But it’s not just Google’s media and financial muscle that benefits the left. Liberals run the leading blog search engine — Technorati. They run the leading blog software manufacturer — Six Apart. They invented two of the most important blogging technologies — Podcasting and RSS. The list goes on and on.

It may not matter who manufacturers your radio since all points on the dial are equally accessible and the choice is tiny compared to the number of Web sites, but on the Internet, where popularity is often directly proportional to technological acumen and popularity, once achieved, breeds more popularity, who builds what means everything.

Malkin may have been the first casualty in the coming information war but she certainly will not be the last. Yet online conservative elites seem not to care. They fail to realize that voters are increasingly accessing news and information from these new media sources and that these sources are using their editorial discretion to publish and promote a liberal — not conservative — agenda.

Still think it doesn’t matter? Just ask Michelle.

Robert Cox is a member of The Washington Examiner’s Blog Board of Contributors.

Technology always runs in front of the rest of our culture, particularly, the law. While the law has done a lot to catch up with the internet, it still has a ways to go. However, I think that sites like youtube will eventually be treated, not like newspapers or television, but more like a "public square". As a result, the people who run these sites will not be able to arbitrarily suppress voices they disagree with. Moreover, if the folks who run youtube had any sense, they should have picked someone besides Michelle Malkin to muzzle. Something tells me that she won't go away quietly!

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