the eye of the storm

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the web is not the net

some musings inspired by file-sharing

For some while now, peer-to-peer networking, also known as file-sharing, has been a hot topic on and off the net, highlighted by Napster and its various imitators.

In all the various arguments and discussions about file-sharing everybody seems to have missed the one crucial point:

File-sharing is what the net is all about. It is the reason the internet exists. It is what the internet was created to do.

The World-Wide Web has so dominated the internet in recent years that the two have become synonymous in most people's minds (even in the minds of IT-literate people who ought to know better. But the Web is not the Net. The Net can be thought of as an operating system, in which case the Web is an application running under that system. It is, if you will excuse the introduction of Microsoft, as if the Net were Windows (fortunately it is a lot more stable!), and the Web was Microsoft Office.

But if the Net is an operating system, what facilities does it supply? Well, like most operating systems the most obvious service which it supplies is file-handling. It lets you browse, search for, view, and copy files. It's just that in the case of the Net these files are scattered across the whole world.

My point being? Well, the furore that is blowing up over file- sharing provokes the worry that some governments (you know who they are) might try to clamp down on and inhibit the concept of file-sharing itself. To do so, of course, is to threaten the whole reason that the Net exists.