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Responsible Interoperability: expanding the network effect of the Web to better serve all people and organizations

By Joshua Koran

I am honored to join the NAI Board and apply my industry experience to work with other members to continue to ensure openness, interoperability, fairness, and competition in the digital advertising world. Through accident of birth, I grew up in Silicon Valley. As a result, I was fortunate to experience the internet when it was still the Arpanet. Despite the Internet’s decentralized architecture, it was ironic to witness in the 1980s how a small number of very large Internet Service Providers, like Compuserve, Prodigy and AOL, centralized control over the content people could access.

I still remember my excitement when I saw the potential of the World Wide Web. The graphical navigation of information popularized by Netscape Navigator enabled everyone, not just technologists, to access and contribute to enhancing the open web. More importantly, the 1990s saw a return to the decentralized internet enabling anyone to launch their own website and share their passion and information with others around the globe.

In the 90s, I began to help brands build their digital presence in this new cyberspace. Early on, I had concerns about how this new frontier of communication could also be abused. Given my technical, business, and legal experience, I volunteered with multiple self-regulatory organizations like the IAB, DAA, MMA and NAI to codify responsible collection and processing of personal data needed to conduct business. The goal was to balance people’s important privacy rights with the needs of businesses to grow and create jobs. Like broadcast TV, the open web relied on paid advertising as an economic engine. Those discussions about governance best practices in the early 2000’s produced codes of conduct, standard contractual terms and conditions, new data primers and guidelines. The open standards allowed consumers to express preferences and safeguard their data in balance with economic engines that sustained exchanges of information. Those regulatory frameworks created the modern open web, democratized access to information and transformed the world.

During the 2000s, we saw this same technology fit into our pockets, drastically increasing access to the internet for all. New native functions were embedded within the local device. Within a few years, centralized app stores began restricting how content creators could collect payments and limiting how they could sustain themselves via advertising-funded models.

Since small businesses and startups have a greater reliance on solution providers than larger rivals, “third parties” act as the glue holding together a healthy ecosystem, protecting interoperability and safeguarding the robust competition and innovation the open web promotes.   

In the 2020s, international regulators have begun to legislate protections for responsible interoperability – the business-initiated exchange of information. The EU’s Digital Markets Act explicitly protects this functionality. Similarly, the UK’s 2023 Data Protection and Digital Information Act recognizes that privacy regulations must weigh the impacts on small businesses, innovation and competition. Just last month, the White House released its Economic Report of the President, which contained an entire chapter on how to promote competition in the digital economy. As the report notes, the United States recognizes the importance of interoperability in expanding “the benefits of network effects from the firm level to the market level.”

This is an exciting time to be working in the digital economy. I am honored to join the Board to ensure we continue to advance the principles of the Network Advertising Initiative. Namely creating regulations and best practices to ensure individuals have choice in privacy and to ensure openness, interoperability, and fairness while working to protect business choice and competition as well.

I am confident that learning from the history of the open web and clarity in our ecosystem will unlock even greater value and choice for consumers and businesses alike. Improving interoperability across our ecosystem will drive even greater value for media owners and brands, the consumers they engage, and the digital properties supported by this advertising spend.

Joshua Koran is an NAI Board Member and the Chief Product Officer for InMarket, a leading provider of award winning real-time marketing and measurement solutions.  

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