Customers Will Be in Control | Doc Searls @ WSJ

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The move toward individual empowerment is a long, gradual revolution. It began with the first personal computers, which caught on in the early 1980s. With PCs, people got the power to do what big business called “data processing”—but in many more ways than any company could ever do. The next stage in the revolution was networking. There were “local area networks” and “online services” available before the Internet, but none that made individuals free to network on their own. The Internet did that.

The third stage was smartphones. With smartphones, the individual has both computing and networking in a device as portable as a wallet—but not as personal. Smartphones do provide a lot of freedom, but they are still controlled by phone companies, and in some cases (notably Apple’s) also by the manufacturer. This wasn’t true of the PC, and it isn’t true of the Internet.

This revolution in personal liberation and empowerment won’t be complete until we are free to use our computing and networking powers with any device we like, outside the exclusive confines of “providers.” This won’t be easy. Big companies and old industries are notoriously bad at changing their ways and giving up control, even when obvious opportunities argue for embracing openness and change. There is also big money behind “big data” and supporting the belief that marketing machinery can know people better than people know themselves.

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