The most powerful force for change in the world today, the most powerful tool for building or destroying economies, for conducting business or making one extinct, for delivering education, for waging war or for promoting terror, for toppling governments - as well as mounting unprecedented surveillance on individuals - is the internet.
It is a neutral force with the kind of universal reach no human concept has had before. It surpasses by a considerable margin the empowering impact printing had on our world when it was invented many centuries ago. It would be witless to assume that we can even imagine how it will constantly change our world.
This ever-strengthening reality makes the weekend warning from the inventor of the of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee that the escalating battle to keep control the internet out of the hands of a tiny group of extremely powerful people all the more pressing. Berners-Lee, who spoke at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the internet's creation, is not by any means alone.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission's newly-elected president has said that controlling how internet impacts on individuals, societies and economies is his priority, one he sees as even more pressing than energy security. In the context of climate change and the obligations that reality forces on us this is a pretty sobering declaration. He has said he will continue the work of the EC's outgoing competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia who, in one of his last decisions as commissioner, decided to reopen a five-year investigation into Google's business practices.
Google, Facebook, Amazon, the great insatiable beasts of the internet, have become so powerful that they are the root of growing unease in Europe among those concerned about how utterly dominant they are in their field. This concern has spawned the phrase "data colony" to describe societies, businesses, institutions or individuals unable to function without the support of one of these mega forces - or as they have become known in Germany datenkraken - data octopuses. The phrase is intended to frighten just as the kraken of Norse myth, a murderous sea monster, did.
Personal privacy or even the idea of a right to privacy are at stake. Incomes are threatened by the inability of the old world order to uphold copyright entitlements or the marginalisation of local retailers. Amazon has become such a power that it has, like so many powerful outlets, become a price setter. It defines with an almost unquestionable force the worth of those who supply it with the goods it sells.
Governments, as the intensifying and extremely important debate around international taxation shows, struggle to manage multi-billion conglomerates whose business is almost virtual. This reality plays a part in the widening and unsustainable gap between rich and poor. It may not be an exaggeration to say that how governments come together to control