Monthly Archives: December 2012

Is “disruptive” a dirty word all of a sudden?

One of the most revered words for internet entrepreneurs is “disruption”.

“What will you be disrupting?”, keen youngsters are asked when pitching their ideas. Being a disruptive company is a badge of honour, a sign of intelligence and innovative zeal – achieving success by “disrupting” someone else’s/

Of course, one person’s disruption is usually someone else’s destruction, and the outcome is by no means a good one in many circumstances. That’s not to say disruption can’t be a driver of value and progress, just that it doesn’t equate to it.

So it’s interesting to see an internet person having something bad to say about disruption. Tim Berners-Lee has been talking about the “disruptive threat” the ITU poses to groups that are already “doing a good job” of running the internet.

He may well be right (although any extended discussion of groups like W3C and ICANN rarely ends in a warm fuzzy feeling of contentment with a job being done well), but “doing a good job” has never traditionally been much of a defence against being disrupted into oblivion in the age of the internet.

Now, it’s quite possible that the ITU proposals under discussion are indeed ill conceived. But whinging about disruption seems a bit old-fashioned in the age of the ever-changing internet.

Webageddon – an update

The forthcoming end of the internet, in the form of the ITU’s conference, is getting underway, so I thought I would have another look at the “Take Action” page on Google’s site in more detail.

Google says: “Some governments are trying to use a closed-door meeting in December to regulate the internet’


“only governments have a voice at the ITU”.

The Guardian today reports that “Four Google representatives, including telecom policy counsel Aparna Sridhar, will attend WCIT as part of a 100-strong US delegation”

Google says “The ITU is also secretive. The treaty conference and proposals are confidential.”

The ITU says “WCIT-12 will not be convened behind closed doors. Governments are encouraged to include both private sector and civil society representatives on their national delegations.”

This would seem to be confirmed by the fact that Google are sending four representatives. The ITU also says

“…membership unanimously accepted the proposal of Dr. Touré, ITU Secretary-General, to make public the main proposals document – a fact that could have easily been verified with ITU. This document is available on ITU’s WCIT-12 website.

(it’s worth reading that whole blog post).

I’m not making any points at all about the detail of the proposals or the pros or cons of arguments on either side. But the nature of the debate doesn’t seem to be aiming at an honest or open discussion of the facts. On the face of it, Google is making bald assertions which are at odds with reality. They are using these assertions to persuade people to put their names to a petition opposing the ITU proposals.

They might well have important points to make about the issues, but they don’t seem to be making them on their “take action” page. Doesn’t that make their whole petition a little redundant? “Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct [the future of the internet]” they say. But it would seem that’s not what they’re trying to do, not least because they have Google keeping them company.