The worldwide web as we know it may be ending
Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT) February 24, 2021
(CNN Business)Over the last year, the worldwide web has started to look less worldwide.
Europe is floating regulation that could impose temporary bans on US tech companies that violate its laws. The United States was on the verge of banning TikTok and WeChat, though the new Biden administration is rethinking that move. India, which did ban those two apps as well of dozens of others, is now at loggerheads with Twitter.
And this month, Facebook (FB) clashed with the Australian government over a proposed law that would require it to pay publishers. The company briefly decided to prevent users from sharing news links in the country in response to the law, with the potential to drastically change how its platform functions from one country to the next. Then on Tuesday, it reached a deal with the government and agreed to restore news pages. The deal partially relaxed arbitration requirements that Facebook took issue with.
In its announcement of the deal, however, Facebook hinted at the possibility of similar clashes in the future. "We'll continue to invest in news globally and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook," Campbell Brown, VP of global news partnerships at Facebook, said in a statement Tuesday.
But if such territorial agreements become more common, the globally-connected internet we know will become more like what some have dubbed the "splinternet," or a collection of different internets whose limits are determined by national or regional borders.
A combination of rising nationalism, trade disputes and concerns about the market dominance of certain global tech companies has prompted threats of regulatory crackdowns all over the world. In the process, these forces are not just upending the tech companies that built massive businesses on the promise of a global internet, but also the very idea of building platforms that can be accessed and used the same way by anyone anywhere in the world.
And the cracks only appear to be getting deeper.