If the internet walls spoke, they would do so with the voice of Mitchell Baker (Oakland, 1957). The president of the Mozilla Foundation has seen everything. When the network was born and the first browsers started to appear, she was there, in Netscape. When there was no concept that the software or the services associated with the internet could be granted without upon payment of a license, she was in what is now Mozilla, paddling against the torrential current of Microsoft. "We have surpassed anything that I could have imagined twenty years ago," he confesses.
With Firefox, your free browser, they opened the door to software free to non-developers, and the Internet to the rest of the mortals. "We showed that the internet was more than Microsoft." Then the mobile phones arrived and they closed the door in their faces. "Mozilla has not yet managed to solve the mobile ecosystem puzzle to give consumers the freedom and flexibility to choose, as we did on the web. monopolies in tremendously vertical silos, "laments Baker on the morning of his speech at the Technology and Society event, organized by EL PAÍS RETINA.
Are we repeating the story? Have we not learned anything?
Well, we go through cycles. I do not know if we have learned from the past. I think that for most consumers all this is a bit abstract. What we have in front of us most of the time is 'how do I do what I need to do, quickly and easily' and 'what helps me in my life'. And many times those choices that now seem instant and easy make sense to you as an individual, but no. In the system there are not many choices and no decision helps improve things. With the phone system, I would say that we are definitely back to what we had before the Internet and when it appeared.
The world Wide Web He just celebrated his 30th anniversary. Before we had Microsoft and Apple, although Microsoft had 90% of the market and Apple 9%. Now they are Apple and Google, with Amazon behind, and, of course, Facebook. So we have returned to a harmful system.
Have we improved anything in the last decade?
No. In fact, I think that what we understand as the web has been in remission during the era of telephones. There are many things for which you do not need a telephone or a app. The information exists, but many people do not know it. Or, even for those who know it, a app it is more convenient. All financial incentives have been on the phone for the last decade. What we call the network or the open internet is in danger. It is unquestionable.
What consequences does this have?
I fear for the generation and the parts of the world that have reached the network through a telephone and have never experienced anything different. It's not that the phone itself is the problem. Is that we are again in a closed ecosystem, with two companies controlling the operating systems of the phone. That's the problem.
However, he has once claimed that Mozilla's position is now more understood and respected ...
Yes. There was a period when there was a general feeling that the growth of the internet and the companies associated with it was simply good. For example, during the Arab Spring it seemed that a new kind of freedom was possible, and that technology companies represented everything that was good. In this context, it is very difficult for someone like Mozilla to say: 'Well, wait, let's review some things'.
But in recent years it has become very clear that what is good for big technology is not necessarily good for the rest of the world and we have seen how much they invest in the policies that favor them.
How do you take advantage of this change?
We try to talk about what technology is and what is happening. We understand technology, we build it and we really know what it means to manage a global technology platform. We try to give examples and options. For example, in Firefox you can block the trackers that are used to show ads.
If you could correct the behavior of Facebook, Google and Amazon, what would you change?
It is difficult to change something and protect the current business model. We know the effect of competition in the market, we have used it in other industries to promote better behavior, to give consumers a range of options. On the internet we have nothing similar. So a possible answer would be to allow the flowering of competition.
Another part is the ubiquitous surveillance: we have to find a way to change that or we have to develop some kind of social response that preserves democracy and freedom in countries with different political systems, that protects the individual's freedom to act.
Does the concept of the economy of addiction that you have mentioned on other occasions fit in here?
I think that in society there are different points of view on how much addiction should be regulated. In some cases we decide that certain types of addiction are fine. Tobacco is legal, alcohol also, from a certain age, other drugs do not ... But there are not many cases in which one can look at addiction and say 'oh, this is a good scenario'. I think that the economy of addiction is a problem, especially because we still do not understand the power of data mining directed at us.
With ubiquitous surveillance, monitoring and gathering of data about us and the ability to store and process information quickly, it is very possible to create an answer based on you individually and to which citizens are not prepared to defend ourselves.
They exploit what they know about us to satisfy their demand, more than ours ...
What do you expect a commercial organization to do? What is expected of them is that they generate financial return for their shareholders. You can see examples of this across the board. Why do so many rural areas have low connectivity? The same goes for electricity. When things are not profitable it is much harder to see the benefit.
There is a lot of talk about the minorities that are left out of the technology that advances with pure market logic, does this affect the digital natives?
The generation before the digital natives is precisely the one that saw the first days of the web, when it was easier to create. In regards to how to do something if there is not one app For that, those who lived through that previous experience have a better understanding of how to create something new. In some way, we are losing some certain creatives.
Does the same thing happen in the technology sector?
Throughout the twentieth century, education became highly specialized. In recent years, great attention has been placed on interdisciplinary thinking, with teams with more than one perspective. with demographic diversity and in the knowledge base. And the same in technology.
Sometimes people say you can not have a STEM degree if you do not have a liberal arts or humanities degree. I do not mean that. I think that the curriculum has to be revised for this education to include a constant debate about the impact for humanity.
I'm a bit cynical. I think that even for people who are widely educated, changing a system that only understands how much money you earn is a lot to ask for. But this form of education will allow us to build something bigger and think better about what companies do and what the correct nature of regulation is.