Dries Buytaert

Defending the Open Web

I recently had the opportunity to be on a panel at Web Summit with Mitchell Baker, the co-founder and CEO of Mozilla, and Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic. We talked about the power of Open Source and the Open Web.

In 2020, the threat to the web's openness has gained more mainstream awareness. Between big tech hearings in U.S. Congress and ongoing consumer data privacy issues, there are a lot of problems that need solving.

Our Web Summit panel only scratched the surface on some of these issues. Matt pointed out that we've been quick to trade our freedoms on the web for conveniences. Of course, companies haven't made that exchange very obvious to everyday people. Instead of 20-page user agreements, something clearer like nutrition facts labels could help people understand the contracts they're making with companies.

I pointed out that there is a shared responsibility among technology companies and governments to make the web better for everyone. I believe in the idea of a governing body for technology, kind of like an FDA for algorithms. Just as the FDA protects people against harmful pharmaceuticals, there should be a regulator for high-impact software. Privacy laws like GDPR are just the beginning of making sure that consumer data isn't abused.

Mitchell added that beyond regulation, technologists play an important role in developing clearer, fairer and more open alternatives for people on the web. I couldn't agree more. Open Source is an important contributor to maintaining the Open Web, and technologies like the blockchain hold potential for making the Open Web more robust.

To watch a video recording of our panel, visit https://youtu.be/qaIYdsy-Gb8. We only had 20 minutes, but this is the kind of conversation that could have lasted hours. Let's continue this important discussion in 2021!

— Dries Buytaert

Dries Buytaert is an Open Source advocate and technology executive. More than 10,000 people are subscribed to his blog. Sign up to have new posts emailed to you or subscribe using RSS.