Heffernan Laments the Death of the Open Web; the Times Props Up its Paywall

The New York Times' media columnist Virginia takes something of an elegiac tone in her recent piece about "The Death of the Open Web":

"But a kind of virtual redlining is now under way. The Webtropolis is being stratified. Even if, like most people, you still surf the Web on a desktop or laptop, you will have noticed pay walls, invitation-only clubs, subscription programs, privacy settings and other ways of creating tiers of access. All these things make spaces feel “safe” — not only from viruses, instability, unwanted light and sound, unrequested porn, sponsored links and pop-up ads, but also from crude design, wayward and unregistered commenters and the eccentric ­voices and images that make the Web constantly surprising, challenging and enlightening."

Ok, cute. But the paper that you work for is going to charge its readers to read online in about 6 months. I wonder what the dialogue about the open web is like inside the NYT offices.

Heffernan's argument is confused, I think. Perhaps, not as honest as she could have been writing the piece for anyone else. Despite it's flimsy thesis, the essay has this gem of an analogy:

“The App Store must rank among the most carefully policed software platforms in history,” the technology writer Steven Johnson recently noted in The Times. Policed why? To maintain the App Store’s separateness from the open Web, of course, and to drive up the perceived value of the store’s offerings. Perception, after all, is everything: many apps are to the Web as bottled water is to tap — an inventive and proprietary new way of decanting, packaging and pricing something that could once be had free.

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