When I first heard that Verizon was opening its network up, I was encouraged, but disappointed when I read exactly what they were opening and the terms of it. They are opening up their network to “any application and device” by the end of the year. Verizon states “the company will publish the technical standards the development community will need to design products to interface with the Verizon Wireless network,” and that “devices will be tested and approved in a $20 million state-of-the-art testing lab.”
This is not “open.” It’s just a little less closed. A true open platform like the Internet doesn’t have certification of trusted devices or applications. Developers get to do anything they want, with the marketplace as their only judge and jury.
Both the personal computer and the Internet flourished in an environment of free-market competition. Tim Berners-Lee did not have to submit his idea for the World Wide Web in 1991 to a “state-of-the-art testing lab.” All that he needed to unleash a revolution was a single other user willing to install his new Web server software. And the Web spread organically from there.
There’s a lesson here for Verizon and other cellphone companies. Like the open architecture of the personal computer, the open architecture of the Internet didn’t mean the end of competitive advantage.