My Backer is Bigger than Yours

That’s the message these days as startups crow about which venture capitalist they’ve taken money from. It’s New Marketing in the New Economy, I guess.

I explain more in my Sunday column. That column is part of the San Jose Mercury News’ quarterly survey of venture capital in Silicon Valley — and the numbers you’ll see there are just mind-boggling.

AOL’s Hypocrisy — Part 8,665

When Time Warner agreed recently to be bought by America Online, I questioned the deal on many grounds. One was whether AOL would remain committed to open access for data connections via cable-TV lines. In my column the day after the deal was announced I wrote of AOL and its chief executive, Steve Case:

Case’s commitment to open standards — the very basis of the Internet — is also doubtful. And that’s a charitable view.

No company has complained louder than AOL about the cable-TV companies’ refusal to open their fast data pipes to competing Internet service providers. Those complaints have been justified.

Now that AOL will own some large cable-TV systems — Time Warner is a big operator — it’ll have some of the wide-bandwidth access it hasn’t been able to secure from AT&T and other monopolistic cable operators. Again, Case said all the right things about his continuing commitment to open access. I don’t trust him to keep his word.

Watch the fine print, and remember history. AOL calls itself an Internet access provider. Yet from its earliest days, AOL’s strategy has been to support open computing standards, on which the Net is based, only when they would help the company gain customers. Once those customers were signed up, AOL’s goal was to trap them behind a wall of proprietary technology and content.

Sadly, it looks like I was right to worry. You’ll see why in this story in the Washington Post.

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