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Spanish Wikipedia also shuts down in protest at proposed EU copyright law (wikipedia.org)
272 points by sanbor 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 96 comments

The web is becoming more and more fragmented. I wonder where this will lead to. Europe seems to fall behind the US at an accelerating pace. During the last two decades, Europe already failed to take part in building the internet. Now Europeans all use US services. Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Dropbox, AirBnB, Uber...

This was due to the culture of Europes entrepreneurs which is often "bureaucracy first, product later".

Now lawmakers seem busy putting another burden on top of that. Laws that put Europe behind the rest of the world in how easy it is to build online services.

Where will Europe be in 20 years? Will it become a developing continent of the digital area? Or will German Engineers somehow make up for innovation via assiduous execution? I find it hard to see how that could work.

Politicians might think 'Now that we have the web, lets regulate it'. But I wonder: Now that we lost the web, how will we avoid the same with AI? AI will have orders of magnitude more impact on our lives then the web. How will we avoid losing crypto? In the age of crypto, people might freely chose what currency to use. Do we want the worlds currency to be owned by a US company? How will we avoid losing biotech? Will the same happen to our bodies that happened to our data? Will they be owned by a handful of US companies?

It's easy to blame European lawmakers. However, Europe is a much harder market to operate in with our without laws that add bureaucratic overhead. Europe is really several much smaller markets. If you want to launch your startup in Europe you are likely only going to initially launch in let's say the French or German market. To get to the other markets you have not only to translate your product, but redo marketing, adjust to additional laws, maybe even sightly adjust the look and feel of your product to the new country you are expanding to. In the US you generally have access to a humongous market in one swoop. Americans tend to pad themselves on the shoulder a lot and think it's because of better rhetoric l entrepreneurial spirit and better regulation, but the inherently fractured market is by far the biggest disadvantage for European startups.

Don’t overestimate the effect of mentality, and the fact that startups in the EU pay less, much less and offer basically no equity even to single digit employees.

It may not be only that, but it sure as hell plays an important role.

I am EU-based developer, the majority of my customers are in EU, and I pay a US company 8.9% of revenue to avoid the crippling VATMOSS bureaucracy - because it’s cheaper that way. Not avoiding VAT, mind you, I still collect the enormous 20+% tax on sales, just avoiding the associated hassle.

And that’s just one example.

How can you explain that most Europeans use US services: Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Dropbox, AirBnB, Uber?

These are not just US services. They are isolated to one specific location, where the capital of talent and finance met. There are reasons why these companies didn't emerge in Idaho or Arkansas. Europe had its own issue at the era when the current VCs emerged: the Soviets were still there, Britain had way more people beneath the poverty line, Norway hasn't found its oil yet, etc. But we are catching up.

Every single company you named targets for European markets, thus Europeans use them.

I got that, but the previous comment argues that the heterogeneity of the European market is the main reason for the difficulty of launching successful companies rather than European lawmakers. This argument doesn't explain the success of American companies in Europe.

I suppose the argument would be that those companies launched in the USA first, were successful there, and then had enough capital and resources to launch in the tougher more fragmented European markets.

That argument is probably correct.

Here in Israel, which is often considered one of the closest "startup capitals" to Silicon Valley, what almost any new company will do is just lunch in the US, since it's an easy market. Most wouldn't launch in Israel, since it's such a small market (8 million people).

A few will launch in Europe, but because of all the issues mentioned above (different laws, languages, cultures, etc), the US is a much more attractive first target.

Once they get big, they might then move to Europe.

This is a very good strategy. I guess it should be hard to execute but once you perfect it basically the small market problems are gone. Any idea whats the general way startups go about doing that ? Also how do you immigrate to Israel (:D) ?

It's usual to start a company here in Israel, then have one office (or one person, or a salesperson) in the States. So development will continue in Israel, but product/sales/management will be in the States.

That's by no means the only way, but it's a common one.

There are a few accelerators/etc who specialize in helping Israeli companies approach the US market and get exposed to Silicon Valley.

Other than that, most of the problems are kind of the same as with any startup - trying to build something people want. The biggest issue is if "things people want" is different in Israel and the States, and that's why exposure to the US market right from the start is so important.

As for immigrating to Israel - I don't really know much about the topic. If you're Jewish, it's incredibly easy, but if you're not, then I have no idea how the process looks like. Sorry.

The lack of equaly competitive European offerings is to blame. Tax, regulatory and bureaucratic overhead is to blame for the former. Most of the interesting European tech is done in universities and dies there. Americans also have a much more pragmatic attitude towards business.

I thought this comment sounded familiar, you posted the exact same comment yesterday on the "Italian Wikipedia" article: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17450827.

I can't wait for the French, German, and Greek wikipedia to also shut down so that I can read this again!

I don't see a problem with repeating a comment on a nearly identical post. I've done it before.

>During the last two decades, Europe already failed to take part in building the internet. Now Europeans all use US services. Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Dropbox, AirBnB, Uber...

Not all services popular in Europe are US-based. Asos, Zalando, Flixbus, Klarna, Xing, Spotify, Auto1, Takeaway.com are just some of the big names, that lots of people in Europe are using on daily basis. Here in Berlin there are lots of startups with quite interesting and fresh ideas. Very few of them will be impacted by the (terrible) new law: the web of information we might have already lost, but the web of services will prosper and grow much bigger than it is now.

As a single European datapoint: I know Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Dropbox, AirBnB and used all of them except AirBnB. I never used any of Asos, Zalando, Flixbus, Klarna, Xing, Spotify, Auto1. I know Flixbus and Spotify. I probably heard about Zalando. Asos, Xing, Klarna, Auto1 are totally new to me. I googled them and actually I knew Xing and forgot it, it's hard to compete with LinkedIn. Klarna moved to Columbus, Ohio.

I'm not surprised people on HN don't know popular fashion brands or German used-car matketplaces, but if you are not sure they are big, check their revenues. Zalando is bigger than AirBnB or Instagram, Auto1 and Asos earn more than Dropbox. Brand recognition is not the only sign of success.

ASOS is my Amazon for cheap fashion. I've heard of Zalando (and have used them once) but they sort of compete for the same audience, and I just gravitate to what I'm used to.

I don't think Google could've been built in Europe, but as a European I certainly would love more European products in tech: one advantage is that Europeans think in localisation by default, and some American products start our being very USA centric.

Yandex is quite successful despite not being American, so a local search engine business in Western Europe would not be impossible (www and mp3 are European inventions, so could be the PageRank algorithm). Europe is more open to competition and American rivals usually have much more money for a blitzkrieg. It's more like competition of financial markets, than technology or business model.

Klarna Inc. is a subsidiary. The parent company is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden.

Asos, Zalando, Flixbus, Klarna, Xing, Spotify, Auto1, Takeaway.com

I'm not from Europe or America and the only one I've heard of is 'spotify'.

Are you really denying that the EU is well behind the US in terms of software though? I mean that's immediately obvious to any casual observer. Not sure why people are so defensive about it.

European IT industry is certainly behind in terms of scale and penetration of global markets (the reasons are explained here in other comments, including fragmentation of the EU market and harder access to VC money), but I don't think it is behind in software engineering (especially considering numerous offices of American giants and EU aquisitions like Skype) and European companies can easily dominate on the local markets. All mentioned companies are quite successful and visible in EU (e.g. check the revenue of Zalando). And of course there are many other, classic software companies like SAP, TomTom, HERE etc.

I suppose the counter to these moronic laws that make Brexit look like a great decision would be some new form of copyright like CC. We could in theory slap these on all community created content. My guess would be that this sort of information would be of much higher volume (and quality) than much of the commercial nonsense.

The only way to counter these laws is to repeal them - there's no workaround. Basically, some big corp like A.S. will use this law to require filtering of their "protected" news publications, and since the only way to filter the content is to match it against the latest publications, and it's quite unlikely that a 3rd party provider will be ever able to implement such filter, everyone will be forced to buy the filter from A.S. And from other publishers, of course. This new source of revenue (or, better say, rent) could be one of the reasons for lobbying this law.

With the exception of Spotify, none of those services you name are "big" in Europe. And we use those services on a US or South Korean device. :-)

> Laws that put Europe behind the rest of the world in how easy it is to build online services

It is, indeed, inconvenient to consider the rights of the users when building a service, especially when they aren't the ones who pay you for it. Still, I'm not sure it's such a bad idea.

As a user, these laws bring me nothing but annoyance. Not only do I get a cookie warning on many sites but now also a GDPR interstitial to click through.

And dozens of emails about updated terms. Not to mention that some sites now require a non-EU proxy.

All to solve a problem that was 100% solved a decade ago with a simple adblock. I can't imagine a more effective anti-EU campaign than these Internet laws.

You get a GDPR interstitial allowing you to opt out of tracking. I'm not sure how you could adblock your way out of Foursquare selling your location to advertisers.

I already opted out of tracking by blocking the vast majority of trackers. All that without clicking through a single warning or receiving a single email.

I have also opted out of Foursquare (and Facebook, and many other services of very dubious value) by not using it. The main obstacle that stops Foursquare from selling my location history is not having anything to sell.

If, on the other hand, that opting out requires clicking through a slew of warnings every time I visit a website, I'd rather see my browsing history sold to advertisers. Frankly, I'd like an EU_CITIZEN_WHO_DOES_NOT_CARE browser header to opt out of all these protections.

It’s great that you can give informed consent, but the average person has no idea what tech can or cannot do. I regularly amaze people by showing them Google Translate’s AR mode, and that tech was demonstrated 7.5 years ago, their knowledge of surveillance technology is so poor that describing standard business practices makes me sound like a conspiracy nut to many of them.

Governments are just as out of touch, judging by a UK cyber-security report that the BBC reported on a few months ago, or by the way Zuckerberg and the US Congress interacted.

You can't not use Facebook unless you block also access to their servers; they have content on the majority of websites.

Then you have no problem, you can simply stop using all these services that give you the annoying GDPR popups, like you did with Foursquare. Problem solved.

No, I can't because the EU mandated all these random sites I visit from Google to show these warnings.

This law is only about copyright. I'm all for supporting user privacy with the GDPR but I don't want to support outdated copyright holders with stupid taxes.

Sure, but it's hardly a trend. This is the first (pair of) bad laws I'm aware of recently.

Have you considered that users can think for themselves, that we might not have to spoon-feed them? :-)

Playing devil's advocate here (and I think like you) but you're in a minority group just by virtue of being on this site, the average end user that isn't you is really stupid about tech issues and wants "protection" (or some other self serving issue).

Thus, we get dumb laws by politicians so they can point to what they have done for the average user that has no understanding of how any of the internet works. The web of today for me has really just turned into a problem of critical mass. For example, Google Eternal September[1], early adopters (nerds) have been going through this problem on the internet for awhile, and I honestly feel like it's never going to get better for us.

C'est la vie.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

Some users have time and inclination. But, by analogy, I don’t have time or inclination to become an expert in pharmacology in order to decide for myself which medicine I should take — I just go to a doctor and assume the law requires them to be completent, private, and not-corrupted-by-gifts-from-drug-companies.

(Flawed analogy, because the website malicious JavaScript analogy would be, what, also having to assume their nerves haven’t been spliced with wires leading to a remote control?)

This comment is mixing up too many topics.

I will just say that doing what US companies do should not be what Europe should aim for to get ahead. It would be no step forward.

Looking at a 30 year trend in, say, the S&P 500 vs the European stock index, suggests Europe would do much better if they started emulating US business.

Would that emulation be prioritizing shareholder returns over everything else (those profits have come at the expense of the environment and US worker pay and benefits)? As an American, I implore Europe to not make the same mistakes we have in the name of unbridled capitalism. Defend the quality of life you have that we foolishly relinquished.

Agreed. If all worker protection laws (minimum wage, holiday, overtime, safety regulations, etc.) are repealed tomorrow, there would be a huge jump in S&P500. If America does this, should Europe follow suit lest it falls behind? It is best to maximize quality of life for citizens, not total stock market index.

> It is best to maximize quality of life for citizens, not total stock market index.

Feel free to relocate if you're not pleased with the quality of life where you currently live.

That's funny. Moving to a different country is a complicated and long process. It can take over a decade, require thousands of dollars in expenses and hundreds of hours of work. Investing in another country's stock market takes 5 minutes and you can do it on your phone. Shouldn't it be "feel free to buy a different index fund if you're not pleased with the growth in your country's index," instead of "feel free to relocate if you're not pleased with the quality of life where you currently live"?

That’s an incredibly dishonest put-down certain sort of people use.

For one thing, it’s not exactly easy to move to another country, not since World War I. You can’t simply pick a country and move to it - and you full well known that when you dismiss somebody with this sentence.

For another, I like my country. And I have every right to not like where it’s heading. “If you don’t like my politics, emigrate” is preposterous.

> those profits have come at the expense of the environment and US worker pay and benefits

Have they? I don't think that's clear at all.

Yes they had, the US is lagging behind on worker metrics on the developed world (just maybe not in salaries).

>It would be no step forward.

By which set of metrics? These US companies are extremely successful. I'm assuming your ideological position(s) runs afoul of them, and that's fine, but how does that help businesses in the EU?

It may feel more fragmented, but it's actually becoming more centralized.

Years ago, I said (both quip and serious observation), "China is the prototype."

Now, every political entity has the ability to lock down and survey its piece. Perhaps by purchasing a system, configuration, and support from China.

That might feel like fragmentation. But, a lot of those capabilities are working more and more in concert, particularly when it comes to IP rights and the influence, including coercive as well as incentive, of IP rights maximalists (as in, "the most for me").

As the old saw goes: "Follow the money."

That's why I keep telling people to focus on creating other, independent physical layers.

For a long time, I tried to live with the legal rules. To find that really, they only let those same powers screw me sooner, longer, and harder.

I'm all for compensating creators. Not so much, the ever more monopolistic and perpetual rent-seekers, nor their authoritarian facilitators.

Thank you for sharing your opinion!

While I agree that the „move fast and break things“ mindset seems to work for general entrepenuership and innovation in the markets, I really hope that we won‘t follow this approach in developing AGI (artifical general intelligence). As we move up in our AI capabilities it will become increasingly important to coordinate and control further expansion as opposed to fall into an arms race which may have dire consequences for humanity. I would recommend „Superintelligence“ by Nick Bostrom as a great resource and argument for the dangers that are inherent to this dynamic. So „bureaucracy first, product later“ does have place in the tech sector... especially in the future.

Having said that, the current legislation seems to be a bad thing for the web and Europe. There is obviously still the problem of enacting the right kind of bureaucracy, which we still don‘t seem to have figured out, yet...

I never understood the lamentation of Europe not having an internet giant and I mean it as a question. Does it matter whether the companies are American ? I mean their economic contribution are taxes and jobs. Companies would pay as little taxes as is possible no matter where they are and regarding jobs if these companies find sufficient talent in Europe they would setup offices here (like Google is doing in Berlin). Regarding why there arent internet giants here, who knows and who cares. In this day and age there arent many internet companies being creafed anyway. Would appreciate a counter point.

"Does it matter whether the companies are American ? "

Yes, a lot.

Taxes, industrial base, spin off jobs, etc. so many reasons.

In terms of taxes a lot of these tech giants (facebook, apple) technically European already, with Ireland used as a tax haven.

They also throw their weight around to get local tax concessions when they do open offices internationally, so I'm not sure it's that great a loss in any case.

I could also see it hurting the greater industrial base, a lot of companies need software but can't afford to compete with silicon valley style salaries.

I think Google has bigger presence in Munich - at least, they are hiring engineers there, not in Berlin. But, of course, this proves your point even better :)

The Google campus in Berlin is under construction still. So right now the presence is naturally quite small.

That's true, but the office is still relatively small. Zurich, London and Dublin are the biggest European locations.

I don't think all of your last paragraph belongs together. The Internet works better without the proposed (or recent) regulations, because they're all about securing wealthy corporations' money-making ability at the expense of society. But the rest?

> Now that we lost the web, how will we avoid the same with AI? (...) How will we avoid losing biotech? Will the same happen to our bodies that happened to our data? Will they be owned by a handful of US companies?

AI and biotech are two areas where we really need close regulatory oversight, to keep all the "move fast and break things" startup superstars at bay. Companies like Uber or AirBnB that show total disregard for society at large are somewhat fine as long as their impact is limited. But I fear the day we'll get Uber for biotech. I don't want to see people taking liberties with safety of poisonous and potentially self-replicating substances.

Similarly, general-level/self-improving AI is something we'll get one shot at doing right. Again, not something I'd like to see coming from a startup seeking quick market domination or early exit.

> How will we avoid losing crypto? In the age of crypto, people might freely chose what currency to use. Do we want the worlds currency to be owned by a US company?

I have mixed feelings about this one. More freedom is great, but I feel some level of control over currency is necessary for proper functioning of a state. Moreover, cryptocurrencies in the present form are something that should IMO be unmade. As implemented these days, they're absolutely ridiculous waste of electricity that primarily fuels scams.

> AI and biotech are two areas where we really need close regulatory oversight, to keep all the "move fast and break things" startup superstars at bay

If this is a pun, its a very good one.

> Now Europeans all use US services. Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Dropbox, AirBnB, Uber...

Mobile is very popular now. Most of the mobile hardware is China-based. Now most Europeans and Americans use Chinese hardware. Is the US and EU falling behind?

Entrepreneurs will look for business given the current laws and opportunities. The data-mining business is just not a way to go now in the EU, with all the legal overhead.

Chinese hardware with US based OS and mostly US based services.

And even US-built chips. For quite a while iPhones with final assembly in China had processors built by Samsung in Austin, Texas, using semiconductor fab equipment built in Germany and the US.

> Is the US and EU falling behind?

Yes. And also in AI deployment.

Source: Am American.

Ironically laws like the GDPR actually even the scales for European companies targeting the European market. Previously American companies got away with a blatant disregard for local privacy laws whereas European companies had to do their homework.

Now everybody is affected equally and in fact European companies may have a first mover advantage because the GDPR closely matches the privacy laws several European countries had already implemented previously (whereas US companies in some cases may need to start over from scratch if they want to ensure their compliance).

The EU says sorry for making Linux

You mean that reimplemention of US originated UNIX, managed by the guy who moved to the US? ;-)

UNIX was invented in the US and Linus came over to the states, so...

Although I'm a big fan of Linus, it is unfair to say that he created the whole platform. I would argue that there is a big percentage of US contributed code to it and don't get me started on the GNU/Linux thing

To be fair, there wouldn't be any Linux without Unix & C, but there would definitely exist many other "Linux", e.g the __superior__ FreeBSD. Not diminishing Linux's achievements in any way. :-)

One could say, to be fair, there wouldn't be any Unix & C without the mathematics of Gottfried Leibniz from Germany. This discussion is ridiculous.


And the world-wide web (Tim Berners-Lee at CERN)

Even Linus left for the US.

To be more precise the web is centralising and fracturing in all the wrong places.

> This was due to the culture of Europes entrepreneurs which is often "bureaucracy first, product later".

Are you just mindlessly repeating the usual right-wing nonsense that you read somewhere on the internet, or can you back this up with facts?

> I wonder where this will lead to.

"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

I think it should be noted that this is the entire Spanish language Wikipedia, not Spanish as in "from Spain", so this shutdown affects a lot of people (estimated 350 million native Spanish speakers worldwide).

I haven't seen the community discussion that led to this decision, but assuming that it was democratically decided across collaborators from the entire Spanish-speaking world, I think gives the protest a lot more weight than the title may suggest.

I totally agree and it was actually the reason that I submitted it. I tried to read something from Wikipedia en español and got that even though I'm not in Europe. Do you think that the title "Wikipedia in Spanish also shuts down in protest at proposed EU copyright law" is better? My English is not good enough to be certain that sentence is correct.

What about "Spanish language Wikipedia also shuts down in protest at proposed EU copyright law"?

No I think it's fine. English-speaking people don't go around saying "but I'm from America, not England".

I don't think Wikipedia should be used for political activism like this, especially when one does not even live in the EU. I find this a bit offensive since if Europe ends up being a media dictatorship, why on earth do other people in the world have to endure the problems of that part of the world?

Translation of the shutdown text:

Dear reader,

On July 5, 2018, the plenary of the European Parliament will vote on whether to proceed with a proposal for a directive on copyright. If approved, this would significantly damage the open Internet as we know it today.

Instead of updating copyright laws in Europe and promoting the participation of all citizens in the information society, the directive would threaten online freedom and impose new filters, barriers and restrictions on access to the Web. If the proposal was approved in its current version, actions such as sharing a news article on social networks or accessing it through a search engine would become more complicated; even Wikipedia would be at risk.

So far, dozens of relevant people in the field of IT have strongly opposed this proposal - among them the creator of the WWW, Tim Berners-Lee, and the Internet pioneer, Vinton Cerf - 169 academics, 145 human rights, press freedom, scientific research and technological development organizations, and the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that promotes this encyclopedia, among other projects for free knowledge.

For these reasons, the Spanish language Wikipedia community has decided to shut down all the pages of the encyclopedia before and during the vote, i.e. until 10 am (UTC) on July 5. We want to continue offering an open, free, collaborative and free publication with verifiable content. We call on all Members of the European Parliament to vote against the current text, to open it up for discussion and to consider the many proposals of the Wikimedia movement to protect access to knowledge, including the deletion of Articles 11 and 13, the extension of freedom of panorama throughout the EU and the preservation of the public domain.

In other countries of the Spanish-speaking world, such as Colombia and Mexico, the Wikipedia community has recently opposed similar proposals. We ask you to keep up to date with their development and support this effort.

For more information on the campaign in the European Parliament and how to act, visit https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_vote_in_.... You can follow the communication on social networks with the tags #WikipediaSeApaga, #SalvemosInternet and #SaveYourInternet.

The Spanish Wikipedia community

Same for Polish one ( pl.wikipedia.org )

This is a very important comment, as it means the initiative is "snowballing".

It's a shame it's buried behind pointless discussion on whether the EU has internet giants.

I'm European, and pro-EU. Yet, everyone I respect in my inner circle is crystal-clear about one thing: EU has lost. There's US, there's CN... and a big hole where EU should be. In technology, EU is not a contender, and will never be. Demographics and culture prevent it. I've worked extremely hard to change this for four years, but I have given up.

it may be, but it's only tangentially related to the topic at hand.

It is very much related: the legislation is a reaction to US internet giants stealing revenue from European companies, and taxes from European governments.

We seriously need a (law compatible) system to punish lawmakers, in a way that they would never even think to touch basic rights like freedom of speech. Having a constitution or a democracy is clearly not enough. That's the next step for a just world.

I remember reading years ago about prohibiting politicians from practicing if they proposed too many laws that we found to be in conflict with the constitution. I believe ancient Greece had something like this but cannot find anything about it anymore.

It is arguable whether this impacts freedom of speech, and it would be argued differently in different jurisdictions.

It absolutely does - when this same law was implemented in Germany as a national law it was struck down by the constitutional court.

Germany is not all jurisdictions, that is the point.

It's implemented as a JS redirect to:


If you have JS disabled, everything works as usual.

Ah, I was wondering why it looked fine to me. Disabling JS wins again!

I have javascript deactivated on wikipedia, it doesn't redirect me to the notice page [1]

[1] https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Comunicado_4_julio_2...

Obligatory xkcd: https://xkcd.com/2015

Upload filters would edit our posts silently and we would have no recourse.

The most likely result from these shutdowns is that people will just google for what they were looking for. And in stead of more or less correct information will get whatever shows up. (For example looking up vaccines will get some antivax stuff)

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