The Web is Like Canada

Building an Igloo

Five and a half years later, and Joe Clark’s The Web is Like Canada still rings true — chiefly, that the web may be best defined by what it is not.

For those unfamiliar with the conundrum of Canadian identity: we have an abundance of iconic symbols, but lack a set of generic traits to pigeonhole the populace. We are everyone, and we are no one. The online world isn’t much different. It endures a constant battle of redefinition, with no real end.

Where’s the beaver?

The first generation of buzzwords are now just a distant memory — convergence, portals and push. They’re the inbred cousins that you locked in a shed and forgot about. Yet, they still managed to pop out a couple of bastard children — AJAX, community and web 2.0. Just remember that most of it doesn’t mean anything to real people:

Among the crowd that actually runs Web “properties”, there are no alternatives, a lack that masquerades as a “standard”. Their Web is Starbucks; it is the three American broadcast networks before cable TV; it is a single-newspaper town. Their Web is Pleasantville before colourization. It is mainstream in the worst possible sense.

I’m not saying there’s a problem with the stupid nature of Vocabulary 2.0, language issues are part of what makes Canada great. We just need to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Democrazy served cold

Startups are not new, neither is building to flip. A business has parallels to constructing a nation, but we need to remember that nation-building on a whim is going to give us trouble.

We old-timers wonder why the oligarchs are throwing so much money down the tubes in an effort to overthrow the existing Web. We believe in a certain kind of Internet, one that’s open to new ideas but not open to every cockamamie idea.

We’ve been down this road before, and we’ll be down it again. So, heed Joe’s words and let your voice be heard:

What I want to happen is for the wise elders of the Web, those of us who’ve been online forever and really do know better than the neophytes, to use the concepts derived from the perpetual struggle to define Canadian identity as an arrow in our quiver in efforts to shoot bad ideas out of the sky.

Blam blam. Arrowed.