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The India Wide Web – The World’s Fourth Internet

Global Equities

BNP Paribas Asset Management

The World Wide Web spread like wildfire in the early 1990s. It was originally decentralised, and no central regulators or monopolies had control of the online activity. The naive vision back then was for the Web to be a commons based community-run, bottom-up space that would serve as a tool to democratise the world. Today, it is clear that that did not happen. Instead, we are seeing mounting regulation, control and fragmentation.

One example is the “Chinese Firewall” which was established in 1998 to give the Communist Party control of online activity in China while also blocking foreign Internet providers from entering China. Through censorship and control, the Chinese government has managed both to protect its monopoly on control and to shield its domestic companies from international competition. That led to the creation of behemoths like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. Today, they are the only players large enough to match the US Internet providers in terms of business volume and technological prowess.

According to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the Chinese Firewall has created two separate Internets: one for Western economies dominated by the United States, and one run by China that will come to dominate Asia. While this observation might have been correct a few years ago, it does not reflect the current situation. Several models have emergedthat could see the Internet fragment even further than was the case just a few years ago.

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