Wide-Open Internet Gets Fenced-In Feeling

No one provider can give me everything. I wish they wouldn't try.

Rate the following statements on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is "piffle" and 5 is, "How could it be otherwise?"

1. Proponents of new media channels need to drive demand for content by subsidizing hardware sales.

Example: Microsoft Xbox. Counterexample: CD players.

2. Consumer electronics makers need to drive demand for hardware by investing in content creation.

Example: Sony (Sony Pictures). Counterexample: Apple Computer.

3. Ill buy hardware that wins on price/performance; Ill choose or create content that suits my interests; whoever tries to tie one to the other will find my footprints on his face.

Example: See photo at top of page. Counterexamples: Well, thats the question, isnt it?

It was bad enough when "browser wars" meant platform developers competing to add features and attract the loyalty of independent content creators. Content creators held all the cards. They could offer parallel streams, each optimized for a different channel, or they could offer common-subset formats that were equally accessible—albeit short on sizzle—to many different user communities. Or they could be platform-specific—and you could decide if that was all right.

Whats on the horizon now is a tightening of the ties that bind content to platform, as if color TV had gone down a road to where NBC programs could be viewed only on RCA TV sets. America Online and Microsoft are trying, more than ever, to become full-package providers whose client software and distinctive content combine to create a bounded view of what used to be a truly borderless network.

All I can say to both of them is, "Get your hands off my connection." All I want from an ISP is reliable, convenient, high-performance connections, combined with basic services such as e-mail and with excellent technical support. I spend my own money on EarthLink. All I want from Internet client software is reliable, secure, easily managed and acceptably speedy access to whatever is out there today. I use a paid-up copy of Opera. And all I want from content providers is ... well, everything. No one provider can give me that. I wish they wouldnt try.

Tell me what your Internet looks like at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.