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MobileContent is one idea for how (freely modifiable) OpenContent might behave in the future. At present (2003), it is mostly a theoretical conception.

MobileContent is content that is not only copyable, but is also easily copied. In the past, we had public domain texts, but it took months to typeset them (it took 6 years for Gutenberg to typeset the Bible). Today, technology allows one to copy MobileContent from one site to another within seconds.

If InformationWantsToBeFree?, then MobileContent is information which is free, not only free in the sense of price, but free in the sense of freedom. An inanimate object cannot really have freedom, but it sure seems like it in the case of MobileContent.

MobileContent fluidly moves from place to place, almost with a mind of its own. MobileContent travels across the world like scraps of paper blowing in the wind. The same piece of text changes as it moves, differentiating into various lineages, evolving to meet the needs of its environments.

MobileContent is nearly immortal, to a greater degree even than biological organisms. It is likely than any widespread bloodline of MobileContent will have at least a few samples captured by some internet archive. By contrast, there were no archiving efforts at the time of the dinosaurs, and even if there were, living matter cannot be preserved, or backed up, cheaply; hence there will be more backup copies of old MobileContent than of old biological organisms (although, note that the genetic sequence of an organism is just information, and so the sequence may persist as MobileContent even if all actual copies of the organism are destoryed).

Incidentally, scientists will study MobileContent as a model for evolution. Evolution in MobileContent happens fast, experimental MobileContent can be cheaply generated in the lab, and the genotype and the phenotype are identical and naturally decomposable into parts.


:With MobileContent, maybe you could just put it on your webpage. If you have just a handful of readers, they can copy your gem and pass it on. Eventually, if it really is a gem, it may reach a lot of people; or be merged into something else that does.


Possible Mechanisms

I can envision that WikiEngine?s would support something like this:

Or, this could be done client-side:

It seems to me that this’ll be implemented first in a WikiClient? using WikiGateway or something like it. Even sooner than that, a command-line script for copying pages (I’m going to write one sometime for my own use; don’t know if I’ll release it, since it will be trivial for anyone else to write once WikiGateway is complete, and I don’t want to have script kiddies benefiting from it.) Using this mechanism, users could bypass any license checks (although they shouldn’t).


:Oh, to be sure. I mean, you’ve already done it.

:But I think it’s more MobileContent (made-to-be-moved, easy-to-move) if it’s built into the WikiEngine? itself, and accessible to everyone, and easy to license-check, than if we do it in scripts.

:It can be both ways. I think we agree.

:– LionKimbro

See Also


The statement that MobileContent is nearly immortal is an interesting assumption. You presume that someone will always want to copy that content. As more content becomes mobile, that means the quality of your content must similarly improve. At a certain point in time, your content will be less valuable than a replacement. Will your content survive much further in time? Does it matter so long as it maintains a positive impact on the world?

The Bible cost millions of lives to extend itself over a two thousand year history. It had to create a massive religion around itself to do this. And it almost died except for the Irish. (Some would say that it did die, considering the number of modifications that have been made to it.) Conversely, even some of Aristotle’s writings, which were widely copied and treasured, were lost.

It would be interesting to study what the impact of the singular institution, the Library of Alexandria, had on the dissemination of Aristotle’s works. Sometimes it requires only one strong person/organization to love the content enough to keep it around. But even then, the Library sank. A lot of Aristotle’s works were recovered from quotations in other works. – SunirShah?

:You presume that someone will always want to copy that content. As more content becomes mobile, that means the quality of your content must similarly improve.

You’re right. I meant that your content’s family tree will be nearly immortal. Every last word of your contribution will likely be refactored into something else. But you can take comfort that you helped to create that something else. I altered the above to say “your content’s bloodline”, can you think of anything clearer?

An interesting question, though, is whether these evolving texts will partially converge into quasi-stable, temporarily (300 yrs?) canonical texts. I bet they will; it happens in biological evolution (turtles, for example). What’s the chance that any individual’s original text will survive mostly unaltered as a canonical text? Pretty low. But if you’re good, maybe a whole paragraph of yours may survive. And, it is likely that for gifted writers, a large portion of a text will survive for a few years.

Also, I agree, there is the qualification that people will only want to copy some content.


Really you’re talking about Evolving Content here: content which is mobile but doesn’t allow modification and derivative works is a much less powerful concept.

Yeah, what I really mean is MobileEvolvingContent? (we already have EvolvingContent?), but that’s a mouthful. Maybe it is ultimately more clear, though. I was hoping people would think of MobileContent as naturally modifiable, because I don’t expect that non-modifiable content would get copied nearly as much. Do people think this page should be renamed? – BayleShanks

:See also

Note that MobileContent combined with wiki combined with WebAnnotation would provide some features sought by Ted Nelson in his Xanadu vision:

“The World Wide Web is not what we were trying to create. The links only go one way. There’s no permanent publishing. There is no way you can write a marginal note that other people can see on what’s in front of you. There is no way that you can quote freely.

To be able to collage freely is one of my objectives. So that you can just gather material in a new document, comment on it, annotate it, overlay it anyway you like and yet within a feasible copyright system…”


Define external redirect: AugmentedReality CategoryOpenContent SunirShah WikiClient WikiEngine MobileEvolvingContent InformationWantsToBeFree EvolvingContent