Disempowering the user.

I think what really happened was that in the early days of personal computing, decisions were made to give the user an enormous amount of freedom, to communicate without barriers and to share files. And consumers started to use those to, you know, trade information, outside of the boundaries of the law. Since about 2007 or 2008 though we’ve seen a complete shift in this paradigm. Since that time the technologists and the rights holders have really been working together to disempower the user and to turn them more into a customer. So the goal is no longer to empower the computing user, it’s to extract value from them. And I think if you look at your smartphone you’ll see that: it’s a lot more closed than a PC used to be. You almost always have to go through a corporate intermediary. And that was not the case in the early days of computing. There was a period there where the average user had an extraordinary amount of power to do, basically, what they saw fit.

This is a quote by Stephen Witt, author of ‘How Music Got Free’, as mentioned in The Pop Star and the Prophet (around the 20 minute mark), a BBC podcast published back in September — if you’re a music lover in addition to a technology enthusiast, you should listen to the podcast and, perhaps, read the book.

And while his book is probably only tangentially interesting to anyone interested in the history of technology, but without an interest in music, the quote couldn’t possibly be more accurate or well-put.

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