the power of broadcast
[a revolution in mass-scale content distribution]
a brief history of content distribution
for as far back as our collective human memory goes, we have been trying to distribute content to as many people as possible. People want the latest information, but getting it to them in a timely fashion has been an enormous challenge.
first, people copied content by hand. This was labor-intensive and prone to error. To widely distribute a piece of content this way (for example, illuminated manuscripts of the Bible), many hands were needed for both copying and delivery. The necessary physical resources, such as paper and ink, were also hard to come by. Only powerful organizations (for example, the Catholic Church) could spare the time and resources necessary to widely distribute content in this way. Even for such organizations, distributing content through manual copying was difficult: to reach twice as many people, twice as much work and resource consumption was needed.
next, people invented mechanical devices, like printing presses, to do the copying for them. Compared to manual copying, printing was less labor-intensive and not prone to error. However, building a printing press in the first place required many resources, and the resources needed for the copying, such as paper and ink, were still hard to come by. Printing, like large-scale manual copying, was only feasible for powerful organizations. Resource consumption still scaled with the size of the distribution, and delivering the finished product was still labor-intensive.
next, people invented electronic broadcast mechanisms like radio and television. Resource consumption stopped scaling with the size of the target population: broadcast antennas used a constant amount of energy, no matter how many people had their receivers on. However, resource consumption now scaled with the size of the distribution area, since more powerful antennas were needed to broadcast farther away. In addition, obtaining the broadcasting equipment and licenses in the first place required a great expense. Thus, only powerful organizations were able to afford broadcasting to large areas, and most people could not afford to broadcast at all.
next, people invented the Internet, which enabled point-to-point communication with very little resource consumption and no licenses. However, using the Internet required access to a computer, and very few people initially had this access.
next, people invented the Web, and computer prices fell so that many people could afford them. The Web was heralded as a communication revolution, and indeed it was: anyone could publish content that could be read by virtually anybody. All of the obstacles to mass-scale distribution for the individual were gone---or were they? Certainly, any one person could publish content that any other person could access. But could a single person really publish content that *everyone* could access? As people crowded onto the Internet and Web, bandwidth became precious and expensive, and limits were imposed. Free web space was still available, but it could only be viewed by so many people per day, and it only had room for small files. Less limited web spaces were available, but they cost money, and the prices seemed to increased exponentially as various limits were softened. An individual with limited resources could not establish a web page that would be viewed by millions of people each day. Also, publishing on the web was, for most people, a dauntingly technical task: many people who used the web on a daily basis could not figure out how to create their own web page, let alone update it frequently. Powerful organizations, on the other hand, could afford the bandwidth for mass-scale distribution using the web, and they could hire technology experts to build powerful, interactive, and frequently-updated websites for them.
next, people invented peer-to-peer file sharing, which removed many technical barriers and bandwidth limitations to mass distribution. But p2p systems focused on search and the act of downloading, which made them difficult to use for intentional content distribution. In fact, powerful organizations were not interested in p2p at all, except in court, where they tried to squash the technology all together. Systems like Freenet shifted the focus of p2p away from downloading and toward publishing, but they were extremely complicated and difficult to use. The individual publisher, looking to reach a massive audience with large pieces of content, was still left out in the cold.
next, people invented weblogs, or "blogs", which removed the technical barriers to web publishing for many people. Now almost anyone could maintain a web page that was frequently updated, but the bandwidth limitations were still there. Only powerful organizations could afford to distribute large pieces of content, like multi-media files, on a massive scale.
this brings us up to the present. When it comes to mass-scale content distribution, powerful organizations still rule the world. Most individuals cannot afford a website that reaches as many people with as much multi-media content as CNN. Most individuals still cannot afford their own television or radio show, let alone their own national station. Most individuals still cannot afford their own printing press, and even if they could afford one, they could not distribute printed copies widely. Most individuals still do not have the time or energy for manually copying content.
after hundreds of years, we are still where we started: most individuals cannot widely distribute content to the population at large.
one more chapter
next, people invented konspire2b. For the first time in human history, an individual could distribute high-quality content to a massive audience without expending large amounts of time, money, or other resources. With konspire2b, powerful organizations lost the advantage that they had been holding onto for hundreds of years.
You say you want a revolution?