While Wu warned us that it's companies like Apple that would eventually become a more closed system, and that the internet industry would follow the historical cycle of the rise of information empires, it didn't seem possible at the time. The iPhone brought so many possibilities, and coupled with social media, enabled social movements across the world. The future of the longtail was based on disruptive technologies meant to bring equality. In 2006, You was Time's Person of the Year.
But how times have changed. The current dispute over TikTok reminds us that it's a microcosm of just how complicated the internet has become. The vision of “open web” as a means to build a just and thriving society not only looks like a hazy reality, but the information empires formed from the geopolitical web of business has far from ensured us technological neutrality for human rights, privacy or even free expression. How times have changed.