JUNE 6, 2012 1:08PM

We are all webmakers now.

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“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,” wrote A.J. Liebling.

So it was pretty lucky that just as the concentration of media ownership was peaking, social media arrived – with easily-accessible tools that allow any of us to reach an audience of, theoretically, millions.

(I try not to get too starry-eyed about this. The social web is revolutionary, but you’d have to be kidding yourself to think affluence and privilege don’t play a role in who gets attention and who doesn’t. Still, the explosion of content and self-expression has been remarkable, and anyone who thinks that’s all cat videos and why-did-I-eat-that-third-burrito tweets should have a word or two with Hosni Mubarak.)

But the social web – the truly social web, where we’re able to shape our own relationships for our own purposes – faces serious threats. They come from old industries that feel their dominance challenged for the first time in generations, new industries that see the ideal Internet user as a walking Visa card with an amusing overdisclosure habit, and governments that were never really comfortable with this whole border-transcending self-organizing hierarchy-flattening thing in the first place.

And many of the platforms and services that drive a huge chunk of the social web are playing both sides. That amazing free platform with so many features and such extensive reach is great – until they drop a function that was absolutely critical to you, or change their rules, or lose your stuff…

…or tell you you’ve violated their terms of service and you’re locked out, and no, you can’t retrieve your content or your list of friends and contacts, and no, they don’t have to explain any further or offer you a chance to defend yourself.

Freedom of the 21st-century press is guaranteed only to those who can make one.

Which is why I’m head-over-heels in love with what the Mozilla Foundation has done, launching a broad initiative around webmakers:

The goal: help millions of people move from using the web to making the web. With new tools to use, projects to create, and events to join, we want to help the world increase their understanding of the web and take greater control of their online lives.


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Mozilla Webmaker includes a wide range of projects, including software, apps challenges, tools, education and more:

If you love the open web like I do, you’ll probably be pretty psyched by what these folks are up to. And if you enjoy the breathtaking capabilities for self-expression, creativity, connection and collaboration that the social web is offering to all of us, you’ll want to get involved.

Noise to Signal - a cartoon by Rob Cottingham

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