The Internet is the most powerful, flexible and critical infrastructure ever invented. Every aspect of our daily lives is supported by this wondrous invention.
But here's the important thing.
We've passed the point where the fabric of our societies is supported by the Internet – the all pervasive Internet increasingly defines that fabric. Its architecture is becoming our architecture, and that is why any motion to challenge or change the way in which the Internet is governed must be subject to the most critical eye.
I've been on tenterhooks the past fortnight watching the deliberations of WCIT play out – the World Conference on International Telecommunications. WCIT is a UN body that has played a vital role over nearly one and a half centuries coordinating telecoms standards and interoperability and radio spectrum and satellite orbits, and it has tried once again to wrestle Internet governance from the hands of the open community that has shepherded it so beautifully to date.
Last night, the vote went against it. Thankfully.
Yet just as many fight the good fight to keep the Internet open, free and neutral, many more are complicit in seeing the World Wide Web go the other way. (Like many other things, the web runs on the top of the Internet. They are not the same thing.)
The web is increasingly dominated by a small number of proprietary sites and services requiring no more governance, openness or interoperability than demanded of their owners under corporate law. This is why you can no longer find your Twitter friends on Tumblr, and why Facebook won't let your (your!) Instagram photos show up on Twitter for example. (See 'The web we lost'.)
Despite the availability of 'Do Not Track' on all modern browsers (Google's Chrome is the last to get the facility), many web users still don't express this desire not to be tracked, happy instead to have every detail of their digital lives catalogued and indexed by private companies in a way they'd abhor if it was their own accountable government doing it.
The Internet remains open, free and neutral, for now. Your web behaviours and choices of websites and web services will ultimately determine whether an open World Wide Web will thrive too.
Marketing and PR professionals can do one important thing that's good for the brand and good for the Web – put your own website at the heart of your strategy. I've come close to throwing up over the years on hearing CMOs say Facebook need be the only brand presence. OK, that's a little melodramatic. But don't take my word for it, here's how Forrester has come to think of "an interactive brand ecosystem" in recent times.