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(August 1993)
 

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Subject: Re: GEnie and mailing lists
From: mcb @ presto . ig . com (Michael C. Berch)
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 93 16:41:19 -0800
To: list-managers @ GreatCircle . COM

Chuq Von Rospach writes:
> [...]
> But maybe this is a question that needs to be hashed out. Why is it 'okay'
> for something like netcom to do this? While commercial services like
> CompuServe or GEnie cause people to go booga-booga and look for communists
> in the wainscotting? I really don't see the difference.

I think there *is* a definite difference.  In a nutshell, I feel that
Usenet/Internet sites are "family", that share a common culture
(regardless of whether they are commercial pay-for-time sites or not)
and the big so-called online services aren't "family".

The online services have a history of trying to control everything
their users do, control what they see and have access to, "manage" the
information flow (ranging from creative editing to outright
censorship of conferences/bulletin boards).  They also often place
restrictions on users' internal and external e-mail, and have a
history of not being good network citizens with respect to e-mail
gateways (members of this list should understand that very well).  
Their charging policies are abusive and ridiculous, and the user
agreements are one-sided contracts of adhesion.

Furthermore, they try to give their users the impression that
everything valuable in the network unverse is under (their) one roof --
they exist only to attract users to their tent, as opposed to places like
Netcom (etc.), whose entire purpose is to give people access to the
world of the Net.   That's a *big* difference.

Most important, though, is their attitude toward ownership of
information -- they are only too happy to *import* value-added
information (like the contents of various Usenet groups, Internet
mailing lists, or file archives), but jealously guard their own
value-added information against being redistributed, by slapping a
compilation copyright on it and threatening people who want to
redistribute it.  If you could arbitrarily take a GEnie round-table or
CompuServe Forum and gateway it to a Usenet group, or if GEnie or
CompuServe or AOL or Prodigy put up anonymous FTP archives of some of
their stuff, I would be happy to let them play in our sandbox.  But
this doesn't look likely.

Obviously there are exceptions to the general rule; some systems are
better than others, and sometimes even act cooperatively.  Some, like
Prodigy, don't look like they will ever be good Net citizens.  

Obviously these systems have a right to exist, and serve some basic
purposes that can't presently be done via the Net.  But as to
value-added information, I think there is a definite conflict -- call
it cultural or religious -- between their way of doing things and
ours, and I would like ours to win.  This has nothing to do with
whether users are charged or not; it's a matter of style and 
intent.

--
Michael C. Berch
mcb @
 presto .
 ig .
 com / mcb @
 net .
 bio .
 net

[Manager of jump-in-the-river, the Sinead O'Connor Mailing list,
simpsons, the Simpsons Mailing List, and Co-Moderator, rec.arts.sf.reviews]


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