1. A Good Day for the Internet

    brian on 2008.11.05
    at 12:03 pm

    Tuesday, November 4th, Americans participated in a historic election. Record number of voters turned out to vote. When the returns were in, people in cities across the nation took to the streets in celebration, as if their town had just won the World Series.

    But a few other things happened that went almost unnoticed yesterday, that are relevant to our discussion on this blog.

    First, the election of this historic figure, Barack Obama, may not have been possible without today’s Internet. The Internet has played a significant role in at least the last two elections, but this campaign was different. The level of sophistication has reached a threshold level. In technological terms, household and business bandwidth and penetration have increased significantly since 2004. This allowed more people to use the Internet to learn about the candidates, discuss their opinions, like previous years, but more so.

    But this year we had much improved social tools to motivate and organize voters and volunteers. The official campaign website listed no less than 16 social networks they were active on. We had wide-spread text messaging and services like Twitter distributing precisely timed messaging directly to people’s phones. This was the first truly mobile-enabled election in the United States.

    One thing the Obama campaigned used their Twitter account for was notification of live streaming web broadcasts of their candidate’s many speeches. I think this was a key breakthrough for campaigns. Prior to this, it was difficult to see a candidate deliver an uninterrupted, unfiltered, un-sound-bitten speech. In a world of 24-hour new networks, this is the next step.

    Not only did they stream their live speeches, but then they archived them for any-time watching on their site, and they also made excellent use of YouTube as a distribution service. I’m on record for saying I hate the term “Web 2.0” but the things that people lump under that title… almost all of them contributed to the victory of the Obama campaign.

    But the most interesting part is yet to come.

    Mr Obama is a savvy fellow. He knew he had to build upon the groundbreaking technological grassroots (the so-called “netroots”) movement of the 2004 Howard Dean campaign. Luckily, Governor Dean is the current chair of the DNC. The people who backed Governor Dean never stopped developing and helped build Mr. Obama the most effective campaign in American history.

    After this amazing integration of technology and human get-out-the-vote machinery, will an Obama campaign move forward with making the White House more open to citizen involvement? Don’t forget, Sen. Obama was behind the legislation that created a public website that allows citizen to see how the budget is being used.

    Mr. Obama supports net neutrality. Also, Mr. Obama will be the first President with an iPhone.

    Lastly, one other thing remarkable happened yesterday. Broadband in the United States got a huge shot in the arm when the FCC OK’d the Unlicensed Use of Television White Spaces.

    If that means nothing to you now, it will. WiFi makes use of unlicensed radio spectrum to provide wireless, fast Internet in small spaces. The so-called “White Spaces” may have the same effect, except it will cover the same territory of broadcast television signals. That’s huge.

    In all, yesterday was a good day for America, democracy and technology.

    Posted in: Politics · Recent Events · Technology · Web


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