Over six hundred billion pages of content. That's 100 pages for every person alive. A number comparable to all the content produced between 1895 and 1995.
One blog created every second. Paired with other updates and additions to blogs, homepages and other websites, we're talking about millions of pages of content created every day.
We live in a world where "wiki" is part of our everyday vernacular. Where people who don't know the difference between C++ and an orange soda know the principle of Open Sourced Software. A world of YouTube, Myspace and Google Video. A world of user-generated information.
Now some dates:
1980. 26 years ago. Tim Berners Lee develops the first working hypertext system for sharing information. It became the backbone for the World Wide Web.
August 9, 1995. The Netscape IPO changes the world. The 'net is made mainstream. The information age has begun.
The ten years since have done more to change the world than any other decade in history. The web makes the printing press look like the hoola-hoop in terms of impact. Nothing--nothing--has had so immediate, far-reaching, and global effect.
Nearly eleven years to the day later, that world comes crashing down. The web is on its last legs, and we will all be the less. For Roger Pearse has seen JSTOR.
Okay, so this has been a bit of a tongue in cheek poke at the hyperbolic title of Roger's post. But my disagreement with his suggested demise of the user-generated information that defines the current 'net (at least for those who share "our interests," but his reasoning carries over to pretty well any academic field) is genuine, and based entirely on the information and dates provided above.
It's easy to forget how young the Web is. It's so permeated nearly every aspect of our lives that it's difficult to imagine it not being there. We don't simply benefit from it, we rely on it. That view--not seeing the web as being in the infancy stages that it certainly is--is the fundamental flaw in Roger's pessimism.
An example of this pessimism? Roger suggests that the abundance of information on Severus Sebokht found in a search in the JSTOR proves its advantage over the 'net, where Google produces relatively few results (Google, incidentally, provides 339 results, which doesn't seem that bad for an obscure 7th century bishop. I'm not sure what the JSTOR provides--I can only access it at the university, which is a heck of a drive from here, but I'd guess it's actually less than that).
Let's stop a moment and reflect on this. Google, searching predominantly user-created pages, the huge majority of which were created in the last ten years, finds less information than over a century's worth of academic journals devoted to that subject matter. So what?
The fundamental--and wholly unexpected--premise of the 'net is that consumers create the content. As time goes on, more users will create more content. It's rate is constantly accelerating. If he was so inclined and so interested, Roger could create the content on the obscure bishop in question. And if he doesn't, sooner or later, someone else will.
Roger is right in that the user-generated web and projects like the JSTOR cannot co-exist indefinitely. But open standards always win out. And in the end it will be the web, not JSTOR, that remains. The web will do what JSTOR can never do in return: render it obsolete. While I would not match Roger's prediction of a scant ten years (though at the current rate of the net's accelerating growth, it might not be out of the question), in due course it will be the web that kills projects like JSTOR, not the other way 'round.
Roger's suggestions that the fat-cat publishers are going to endeavour to drive sites like his off the 'net is unrealistic. Even if Roger doesn't recognize the futility of such a gesture, publishing houses surely do. They don't have the RIAA (who is probably going to lose their first actual trial anyway) behind them. They cannot possibly hope to control access to such information, nor to prevent users from creating and providing it.
The web is going to become more heavily integrated into our lives, more of a creative outlet, more of a source to both dispense and gain information, not less. And the presence of JSTOR isn't going to change that.
As late as February of '95, pundits in such notable publications as Time and Newsweek were issuing the same sort of negative predictions Roger is now (the 'net will never succeed commercially, users will never create enough of their own content to make it worthwhile). Like Roger, they were all wrong.
Updated to Add
Just to add a bit above, in light of further consideration of Roger's comparison to iTunes in the comments, which is, in fact, quite useful here.
iTunes, in time, will also pass. It's simply an effort to adapt to the digital age. But it's ultimately a change in method of distribution. That's all well and good, but has nothing to do with why the web succeeds as it does.
The principle behind the distribution of content--all media content--is that consumers will not create their own. And it is this that was the unexpected discovery of the web: Given the resources and the audience, people will create content in abundance. It is not the method of distribution that is challenged, it is the entire model.
The collapse of traditional media will, of course, take time. But how fundamentally altered it has already been--again, it's only been a decade--attests to the fact that it will collapse.
A useful point is provided by Tim O'Reilly (of the O'Reilly computer books), who is probably the closest thing to a prophet of the digital age on the planet. When asked what he looks for to identify what will be a successful trend (something he's able to do with alarming frequency), he asks but one question: What are they doing to harness the intelligence of their users?
JSTOR is doing nothing. It's a useful resource, to be sure. But it's one that will facillitate the content that will ultimate destroy it. People will use resources like JSTOR to create more content for the web. This is an unequivocal and observable fact--it already happens.
What they won't do is use JSTOR to replace that content. It is simply another resource for the consumer to become the provider.