Call it irony.
A couple of days after India swore by net neutrality, one of the men who helped build the earliest Internet browser hit out against the move, only to beat a hasty retreat under a storm of protest.
The man in question was Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape browser, and one of Silicon Valley’s foremost venture capitalists and a member of Facebook’s board of directors.
Andreessen started by tweeting, “Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong.”
Pro net-neutrality Twitter users pounced. As arguments heated up, Andreessen wrote, “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the India people for decades. Why stop now?”
Predictably, all hell broke loose.
Investor and marketer Mahesh Murthy tweeted back:
Now @facebook Board Director @pmarca suggests being colonized was good for India & we should’ve let Fb do so:)
Andreessen’s tweet has since been deleted (screen grab below) as the debate on Twitter turned vitriolic, with Murthy tweeting:
So @pmarca deletes his tweet suggesting that being colonized was good for India, and our anti-colonial, anti-Facebook move was bad. Sigh.
Noted tech writer Om Malik wrote on his blog, “Maybe I’m suspicious because my family has told me their personal story of the British Raj or maybe because I have read books that over and again detail how a commercial spearhead (The East India Company) came bearing gifts and then became a symbol of British imperialism. Regardless, I am suspicious of any for-profit company arguing its good intentions and its free gifts. Nothing — and I do mean nothing — in this life is free. You always pay a price.”
Ramesh Srivats (Founder TenTenTen) tweeted( Pro FB Basics)
Excellent that people who have access to the internet have successfully decided what's good for the people who don't have it. #NetNeutrality— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) February 8, 2016
Zaid Farooqui tweeted (Pro FB Basics)
Today, Indian people who can afford to pay for Internet decided that all who can't afford should not be able to get free limited internet.— Zaid Farooqui (@zaid) February 8, 2016
Farooqui further added in his tweet (pro FB Basics)
Nitin Pai, co-founder of think tank Takshashila called Andreessen’s response “the arrogance of ignorance.”
What shocked users was how the founder of celebrated venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz could think India would be basking in a brighter economic reality if it remained under British rule and didn’t bother with ‘anti-colonialist’ ideas like net neutrality.
He finally withdrew with this tweet:
I hereby withdraw from all discussions on Indian economics or politics. And for the record, I am opposed to colonialism, in any country.
Andreessen seemed apologetic as he tweeted out:
In response to Marc Andreessen’s tweets, a Facebook spokesperson commented saying, “We certainly don’t agree with and did not endorse Mr Andreessen’s comments, and are glad that he has apologized.”
I now withdraw from all future discussions of Indian economics and politics, and leave them to people with more knowledge and experience!— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) February 10, 2016
India is an amazing country with amazing people. Indian companies and people have had profoundly positive effect on the Internet and world!— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) February 10, 2016