Jacques Vallee, just might be the king of conspiracy stories. But that does not take away from his special place in the history of the Internet. He worked with Paul Baran, the inventor of packet switching and in many ways the true father of the Internet. While working at SRI, Vallee developed a Ïcomputer conferencing system.Ó Now, he invests in Internet related start-ups and has just written the first complete history of the Internet, The Heart of the Internet.
I got a chance to chat with him recently, and we discussed many topics. What I found most interesting was his passion for weblogs, and why he feels they are going to save the Internet. He sees weblogs as an extension of the computer conferencing concepts he had pioneered.
ÏWeblogs are a new form of that and I think this is what the networkÌs real purpose. Weblogs are much more practical than websites and people can interact,Ó he said. The French-born technologist believes that the weblogs will make a big impact in the way information is shared. ÏThey will have a big impact on journalism and politics,Ó he added. ValleeÌs views are counter to many other so called experts who believe that weblogs are adding clutter to the Internet, breakdown Google and basically reducing the value of the institutional media.
He believes that weblogs play a major role in this campaign, because it is the only way to find out how a particular politician thinks and reacts on an issue. ÏA 10-second quote on CNN does not make sense and the folks want to react to the information they get. Politicians who are in tune with this are more realistic. Howard dean has used it effectively and I think politicians cannot hide behind press releases and press relations officers anymore,Ó says Vallee.
In many ways he believes that weblogs can act as a counterweight to the growing control of large corporations on media and the networks. But he is still very worried about the future of the Internet. ÏPeople who built the network thought these would be new medium and the user would be in control of the information and where it came from. I think it was like that for the long time but I think it is turning into news media traditional and we are bombarded by the information we are getting in the under media,Ó says Vallee, who has chalked up a pretty decent record of both venture capital investments and predictions. ÏThe big companies need culture change; especially the cable companies which need to learn the concept of digital media,Ó he quips.
ÏMajor publishing companies and major telecom companies are trying to control the last mile and limit your ability to know,Ó he says. At his conspiracy theory best, he points out that as Internet becomes a mass medium, it will become a mediocre medium and will only end up being a distribution channel for big companies. ÏSpam, pop up engines, the advertisements, the search engines (like text ads) is becoming tools of the mass media. The search engines show the real information on the page five and six pages,Ó he says. I think otherwise because I think text-ads in many ways empower the small business owner and with right strategies can help counter the weight of billions of ad-dollars. But hey, thatÌs just me.
I will post part two of this chat later next week for I have not had the time to transcribe it as yet.