The last bastion of freedom of expression is beginning to display some distinctly corporate characteristics these days.
As our collective knowledge and use of the internet has increased, so the lucrative possibilities it promises have prompted a much more ruthless approach.
The internet is big business these days. Profitability is all-important, brand identity is everything and protecting your position is vital.
The growth of so-called community websites, from YouTube to Flickr, has inevitably seen the traditional corporate giants start sniffing around. Equally, it is has seen some of the pioneers of the internet – search engines such as Google and Yahoo, for example – look to branch out and broaden their market share.
As such companies grow and as big business starts to invest in take-overs of popular sites, so those who revel in feeling part of what almost an anti-establishment movement get twitchy about the influence of the boardroom on the chat rooms and file sharing sites.
The latest to voice their disapproval of the increasingly corporate feel of the internet are some of the founding members of Flickr (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6316761.stm).
Now that new owner Yahoo has announced that from March 15 all customers need to have a Yahoo ID to log in, the criticism has intensified.
The founding fathers and mothers are revolting against such moves (http://www.flickr.com/forums/help/32687/).
What is significant is the fact that an internet veteran and pioneer such Yahoo could look to impose such rules when it could have forecast the resulting furore itself. Yahoo clearly feels sufficiently confident that even if the dissenters from the “Old Skool” up-root and take their custom elsewhere, it will hardly be sent reeling by the blow and can rely on the vast majority of users to comply and continue to use the site.
At the end of the day Yahoo has made a calculated and solid business decision. Expect more of the same from the other major players as the profit-making opportunities presented by the internet continue to grow.