I want to report on something from the perspective of being here on the ground in Cairo. The revolution was definitely enabled by social networking sites. I find it difficult to understand the positions of those in the blogosphere who fail to see this point.
Starting in the mid 1990's, the end-to-end ubiquity of the Internet, combined with its cheapness; spontaneously combusted to give us Napster -- a site that revolutionized the music industry overnight. We got P2P file swapping in the film and TV industry as well.
Now Hollywood, a monopoly run by the studios for decades, is crumbling as Netflix and Amazon's streaming video services revolutionize the movie business. Open-source software, another network enabled phenomenon, revolutionized the software industry with free software that now runs much of the Internet backbone and powers most of the web traffic around the globe. So why should it be a surprise that the business of political revolutions has also been revolutionized by the Internet?
Here in Cairo, I'm being told time and again that social networking sites gave us freedom.
I always ask the people I meet in the street, 'Who is the leader of the revolution?' It's a loaded question, and everybody I ask smiles knowingly: 'Nobody' is the answer. This revolution, unlike any other revolution in world history has no discernible center. And the government that is being toppled can't stop it without shutting down the Internet and therefore shutting down the entire country's economy.
When I'm here I feel like the story going forward -- when looking at the revolution now in progress -- is a story of two ships passing in the night. America is slipping toward tyranny and loss of freedom; passage of the continuation of the Patriot Act comes to mind. In Cairo, they are heading in the opposite direction. Freedom.
Some photos from today (4 March 2011) in Tahrir Square: