You\'ve Been Aggregated!

Speaking of linking lawsuits and the like, I\'ve been focusing on the general phenomenon of content aggregators this week. My take is that history smiles on the aggregator even if courts don\'t in the short term.

I\'ve cobbled together some recent news links with some of my own commentary in this week\'s Traffick Weekly.

Here is some of the commentary from the newsletter:

Some of the most compelling trends on the Internet are related to the notion of \"going meta\" - aggregating content and information in a new way that is more digestible for the end user. Such trends have created a series of never-ending tremors in the once-comfortable worlds of
information retrieval and knowledge dissemination. Living on the fault line is bound to be a rattling experience, but we wouldn\'t miss it for anything.

The common feature of Napster, Aimster, metasearch, metabrowsers, and personalized portal pages is that they offer the end user a way of circumventing the old rules, a means of escaping the command-and-control strategies of broadcasters and other large companies. IP (Internet
Protocol) radically changes the rules for the dissemination, presentation, and sharing of IP (Intellectual Property).

We\'ve seen metasearch engines like Metacrawler making significant advances on the old way of searching; we\'ve seen portal pages like My Yahoo! make it easier to watch your stocks, weather, news, sports scores, and movie times from one handy interface; and we\'ve watched as new tools called \"Metabrowsers\" seek to cobble together valuable
information in entirely new ways.

For every end user that may react with awe or gratitude for new ways of obtaining and sharing valuable info, there is a corporation, content originator, or legal expert who may react very differently. The owners of information too often take a narrowly legalistic (some might say hubristic) view of what they own and create. While they may be in the
right, strictly speaking, they may still want to consider whether they\'re fighting a losing battle against a much bigger trend.

Practitioners of apartheid, for example, were on firm legal ground while that system was in place, but that couldn\'t last forever, especially when it was so out of step with the human rights standards of the rest of the world. Likewise, history, if not always the courts, tends to side with a content aggregator.

Yet we continue to hear debates over silly questions such as the legality of metasearch, and downright ludicrous questions like the legality of hyperlinks. Trust me, if the existing legal establishment and the accumulated body of business law decides that hyperlinks are illegal, the current forces at work in the world, both moral and
economic, will simply replace the existing legal establishment and the accumulated body of law relating to hyperlinks.

Yes, ownership and creation still need to be recognized and rewarded. Intellectual property theft isn\'t cool - with the possible proviso that it can be cool if you figure out a cool way to do it, and eventually make enough money off that to compensate the folks you\'re stealing from.

It seems to be the attitude that counts. Adopt a too-proprietary attitude to \"your information,\" and faster than you can say \"Napster,\" you\'ll wake up to find out that you\'ve been aggregated!

Need I mention that some of the wealthiest families in the world got their start as bootleggers? :)

My editorial on this matter has just been posted. I will admit that it goes off track a bit to also talk about the perils of corporate arrogance in general, and the need to focus on the simple things users need and want:

The Internet Loves a Content Aggregator