Why Contextly is Fighting for An Open Internet

Open 24 Hours Sign
Back before the iPhone app store and then Google’s Android app store, building software to run on mobile phones was a loser’s game. You had to get the permission from Verizon or AT&T, and then you might have to sign an exclusivity deal and share profits and be at their whim.

But, the Web has never required online services to get permission to launch or reach everyone. There are no trolls under bridges in the web kingdom.

All you need to launch something that could reach millions or billions of people is, to paraphrase a poker saying, a silicon chip and a chair.

That’s thanks to an open internet governed by principles known as Net Neutrality.

It’s a simple enough concept: the companies that Americans pay to in order to get online — Comcast, TimeWarner Cable, Verizon, AT&T — should deliver the content that a user requests and not block sites or degrade service or play favorites.

That open platform allowed me to start Contextly, back when I was a writer at Wired, using just my savings to pursue a vision for how online publishing could be made better for readers, writers and publishers. We show millions of content recommendations daily and there’s no way we could have afforded to pay AT&T and Verizon and Comcast for the fast lane to get our images loading quickly.

The FCC has proposed rules to protect the internet. But they actually do the opposite; they open the way for ISPs to make fast and slow lanes and to act as trolls undermining and preventing innovation.

That’s why Contextly has filed detailed comments with the FCC. The open internet and the innovation it allows was necessary for Contextly’s birth and the new rules threaten our future — and the future of thousands of other startups.

Time is the most precious thing any startup has. While I wish it hadn’t been necessary to spend a Sunday explaining to the FCC how dangerous their proposed rules are, I did so because the internet is the most amazing communications system ever invented and it deserves defending from the corporate greed of Verizon, AT&T and Comcast aka Cable Company Fuckery.

This is a snippet of what we filed Tuesday and the full filing is embedded below:

Contextly was incorporated two years ago, while I was a writer and editor at Wired. After being on the frontlines of the digital publishing revolution for ten years, I was frustrated at the tools publications had to guide readers to previous coverage of a topic. I founded Contextly, relying on my own savings, and built out a barebones version of the product.

After getting some early customers, I left my job as an editor at Wired in November 2012 to pursue the vision – without any funding. Over the next year after leaving Wired, Contextly grew in customers, revenue, and employees.

I found an amazing co-founder and we were accepted into an accelerator called Matter.VC, which is dedicated to helping companies trying to change media for good. We’ve since gotten funding from Turner/Warner Brothers and created awesome technology that’s superior to that of our two largest competitors who have raised over $100 million collectively.

We give free service to help high-school and college newspapers, non-profits, and public broadcasting news organizations like PBS and KQED. We’re in talks with some of the nation’s biggest news brands and we will be hiring and growing rapidly in the next 12 months.

None of this would have happened under the rules proposed by the FCC. I would have never left my job or tried to start a company when everyone around me thought I was just a journalist with a crazy idea that high quality recommendations can help good journalism and storytelling thrive.

Direct Link to the PDF.

And if you want to file your own comments, the easiest way is through Dear FCC.

And if you run a publication, from a personal blog to a big news site, you should check out Contextly’s awesome tools to build a loyal audience in the age of drive-by readers.

Photo: CC-licensed photo by Tom Magliery

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