Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Turkey's Search Engine And The Backlash Against The Internet's 'Wal-Marts'

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 29, 2009

I was fascinated by this Reuters article from the WorldBulletin:

Turkish engineers are working on developing an internet search engine and aiming to launch it in 2010, the head of the country's telecommunications watchdog said on Saturday...

Existing search engines can not meet Turkey's needs and are sometimes deaf to country's sensitivities...

He also said that another project, "the Anaposta", was initiated under the search engine project.

"Under this project, all of our 70 million citizens will be given an e-mail address with a quota of 10 gigabytes. Every child will have an e-mail address written on his/her identity card since birth. So, will have a mobile network that can be used thanks to id number match and foreign networks, such as Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail, will not be used anymore," he stated.

Software infrastructure of the project has been completed and it is now being tested...

This is a sign of things to come from other countries. and even regional communities.

Back in April, 2006 I wrote about Google, Yahoo, Ebay, Amazon becoming the digital Wal-Marts of the Internet 2.0 era. As they fought for the next big battle: local advertisers, they would run into problems.

Just as Wal-Mart has had trouble moving into, and staying in some communities, the big US Internet players will face similar challenges.

Why should local communities pay say, GOOG to run ads in their local communities? Why not keep the money in that community rather than send it away to please shareholders of a company 10,000 or even 100 miles away?

That's essentially what Turkey is doing, and using security concerns as the main pretext. The other benefit will come from owning its own piece of the Internet and vital applications such as search and e-mail, on which you can build a regional digital economy.

I can see many countries adopting a similar approach. And it's not that expensive. Search technologies are better understood these days and can be bought off-the-shelf. And while a government led initiative might lack some of the operational efficiencies of a Google or Yahoo, the gain from running your own Internet infrastructure and applications will be worth it.

This approach can also apply to smaller communities, even say Northern California. In January 2007, as San Francisco was considering a Google-built metro Wi-Fi, I saw a potential for a People's or Public Internet (PI).

The power of PI: The rise of community owned Internets

There is no need for a middleman, there is no need for a GOOG or YHOO tax on people engaged in their daily interactions with their neighbors. As offline and online worlds become better integrated through a plethora of Web 2.0 social network applications, it will enable a People's Internet (PI).

Communities will succeed in owning their regional Internets because they can-- the technologies are inexpensive and incredibly powerful. And there is a lot of value in the community.

What's the value of San Francisco's community of 800,000 residents as an online community? It's huge.

YouTube for example, wasn't acquired by Google because of its technology, it was acquired because it was a large community of users. The value doesn't reside in technology but in community.

Communities can acquire the technologies they need, most technologies are commodities, available to all at the same price. San Francisco already has a high-speed fiber-optic network built by the city. It wouldn't cost that much to expand it into full blown PI. The same is true at many other cities.

Commercial companies will still have a place within a People's Internet, providing services such as managing infrastructure operations, and keeping out the malware.

But it is the ownership and governance of a PI that is important; that determines who gets what slice. Who gets the largest piece of the PI becomes important within every community and it ensures fair and ethical use of a vital communal resource.

And instead of relying on private companies and trusting they will observe rules of privacy and free speech, a PI would automatically install its community's rights, which would be the same online as they are off-line -- a seamless transition.


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