[Home]  [Links]  [grouch] 

The New Babel

Language is such a basic part of our daily lives that we take it for granted. The only time we give it much thought is when we need to communicate with someone who speaks a different language. At an individual level, this can be a significant barrier. But on a global scope, it presents little trouble. Language is free. At least, human spoken and written languages are free.

There is a genuine plot in the world to make our digital languages decidedly not free. Sounds a little melodramatic, but it is not the storyline of a bad science fiction movie. The languages used by computers on a daily basis to communicate the world's business and individual chat, messaging, and browsing are under siege. Every protocol, packet, handshake and standard that you use by way of your computer to converse with another person on another computer is in imminent danger of being stolen and privatized.

It has been said that the Internet is not a network of computers, it is a network of people. This network is possible because some far-sighted people worked to create the common, public language used by the instruments of this network. There are many people still working diligently to maintain and expand this language of bits and bytes, protocols and standards. It is in everyone's best interest that the communication continues.

Yet, there is a company that is working feverishly to make sure that only their private language will work on this global network of people. For the sake of greed, they are intent on interfering with, subverting, and replacing the public language that we use to communicate with each other by way of our computers. If they attempted to steal our spoken and written language, it would be dismissed as an act of insanity. But this is a subtle burglary. It takes place inside the tools of communication, as pulses of electrical energy. We do not see it happening. It is just as real, though, and just as heinous a crime.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association's online document titled "Windows 2000: Blueprint for Domination" is not thrilling reading, but it details many of the normally unseen ways this product attempts to supplant our public digital language with a privately owned one. Piece by piece, this product appears to attack the open, standard language and replace it with a proprietary, secret one. HTML, HTTP, messages, audio, video, user authentication, transactions, file sharing, printer sharing, directory services, programming languages, web page design, network computing applications, Internet applications, network servers, Common Internet File Sharing, Kerberos, cross-platform distributed object oriented development environments (CORBA), directory access protocols (e.g. LDAP), and even one of the very core protocols necessary for the existence of this Internetwork of people, Domain Name Service (DNS), are all attacked by this product.

Someone is trying to steal your language. It does not matter what language you think, speak or write. They are stealing the language of your global communication network. If they succeed, your ability to talk to your world neighbors will be subject to their whim and profit margin. They could choose to render it obsolete at any time it ceases to be profitable. The language of the Internet could be as fickle as fashion design, just to maintain a chosen profit margin.

You have a choice to make. Do you accept this massive, global theft of public property or do you refuse their dangled carrots and sugar-coatings and keep the language of this network of people in the ownership of the people?