Does ‘Hacker’ Still Mean What It Did?

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Security and Prevention - Thursday, June 14th, 2007

One of the flame-wars that breaks out across the web is the usage of the word ‘hacker’. To some, ‘hacker’ is what MIT programmers are: smart, competent, revolutionary, and professional. To others, ‘hacker’ is that silly Hollywood image of an electronic locksmith, or the ridiculous crackers of copy-protection software. But maybe this is changing.

The bottom line is: All proprietary media is in trouble. Music, movies, literature, images, software, you name it. If it can be sent somewhere else electronically, it will be cracked, ripped, copied, and end up on PirateBay, BitTorrent, or eMule. Regardless of past differences, those who break protected content to copy illegally and those who create content that’s legally free in the first place are finding themselves more closely aligned every day.

The time is coming when we will just have to say “free everything”. All the code, all the data, all the media. It’s impossible to make money at it anymore, so do it for hire or do it for fun, but once it’s published, it’s owned by the world. Yes, that would mean saying goodbye to the corporate empires and all the works they produced, but there was a time before the printing press when producing media wasn’t profitable, and there will come that time again.

The encyclopedia Britannica has a blog, whose sole purpose seems to be to whine about how people are using free community databases on the Internet to replace encyclopedias. Give it up, old man! It’s dead! $150+ for an encyclopedia set, vs. taking two seconds to search Wiki for free when all I wanted to know is what order bats belong to? Even if encyclopedias were printed and handed out free, most people would still use the web; the web is faster to search and nobody ever dropped the Internet on their foot when they were trying to re-shelve it.

Back to software, the outlook does not look good for software as a commodity. You would need draconian laws beyond any on the books now, and you would need to turn every country on the planet into a Fascist dictatorship to enforce them. The return on investment just isn’t good anymore.

The hacker showed the world the way. Whether it’s the pirate-hacker or the coder-hacker, one does depend on the other to some degree – however minor – for their success. Perhaps in the future, we’ll see the hacker mythologized like the cowboy and the knight. Whoops, happened already.

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One Response to “Does ‘Hacker’ Still Mean What It Did?”

  1. John Says:

    I think the media has forever changed the definition to mean a cracker.

    The value for the future is surely in services, not software.

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