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Leonard Kleinrock on what went wrong with the internet (latimes.com)
322 points by jonbaer 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 312 comments

I find this post quite disappointing. I don't mean to come off harsh but it is quite naive and utopian and I cannot take the call to arms seriously. Saying the internet went wrong is like saying the invention of cars went wrong cause we still have car accidents. For every powerful force in the world, it will be a source of good and bad things. The internet has changed the world, increased communication, allowed people in New York to learn and communicate with people in Egypt. Share stories, cultures, solve problems. A person in Nigeria can teach themselves Hindu, just from pure curiosity and no budget. No publisher needs to approve a book to be published or where it will be sold. We can make phone calls for free at any point in the day. We have Wikipedia, which for free provides more information than any human can process in their lifetime. For everyone who has access to the internet, the bulk of the world knowledge has been democratized and made accessible and something went wrong? Do terrorists use the internet? sure! Has consumerism hijacked parts of the internet? Sure! but these things are only symptoms of how powerful this tool is. Should we try to control and fix these problems of course! But for someone who created something so powerful, I am a bit disappointed at the negative tone of this post on the 50th anniversary of the first message.

It’s a particular point of view that obviously won’t find resonance in this HN audience. Were the author’s view to prevail, you would be out of a job. Vast majority of people here owe their livelihood either directly or indirectly to the democratization of the internet. But that doesn’t mean the author the author is naive. There are certainly (unvoiced) masses largely sympathetic to his point of view.

Take the example you mentioned- cars. The Magnificent Ambersons garnered 4 Oscar nominations debating that very topic - should the automobile have replaced horses, and is it a net positive? Even at that time when the benefits of cars were clear, the audience found the film very compelling.

Similarly, Robert Redford starred as a barnstormer in Great Waldo Pepper, which made a strong case against the Air Commerce Act, the sole reason we even have airplanes carrying passengers & goods in the air. Redford’s character is like Linus, feels airplanes are a hobby for having fun doing stunts. But the government spots the potential for a quick buck, shuts him down for good & soon airplane “industry” becomes a real thing, with mail carriers & passenger planes. Redford has a line in that film where the commerce regulator asks him to stop the stunts & just take a job as a airplane mailman - I’m not a fucking courier, I’m a pilot! William Goldman, who studied that period & wrote the film, felt it was his best work & should have gotten the Oscar.

I am sure a decade down the line you will see a film about scientists harking back to the days when the internet was a curious lab experiment, not the giant teats of FAANGs from which the majority of this audience sucks it’s daily fill of milk while blissfully hawking knickknacks for the masses they would rather do without. Nigerian teaching himself Hindi, indeed.

Those who teach history, as they say, are doomed to teach history. GP and parent's message will be hugely controversial for any whos online peers can reject its message (for various reasons), but hopefully everyone can acknowledge that it requires quite more wealth and access to be able to interview at a FAANG i the first place, than is ideal for humanity. (I was born with, and enjoy, that same privilege, mind you.)

The Internet has done wonders to democratize the world (as elsewhere on this thread). It's brought people together that would never have found each other. That gay and sad teenager in Somalia who would have killed themselves decades earlier now has online peers. I am not sure that gay Somalia teen is not castigated among their peers for being gay, and even if they aren't, I'm not sure it's not due to the US's cultural export. What I'm sure we will see, a decade out, is the kind of unrestrained communication GP expressed without any sort of disclaimer. GP's comment is seen much more favorably when analyzed as coming from someone whos first and native language isn't English, and doesn't live under some of the demagogory that plagues some other Western Nations. Hopefully we can cleanup the mess we've made in the interim.

> Vast majority of people here owe their livelihood either directly or indirectly to the democratization of the internet.

Is it the democratization of the internet, or the commercialization? I think it's more the latter you're benefiting from.

Small nitpick : Hindi not Hindu. The former is language which one can learn. The latter is, depending on how you ask, is a (group of) religion(s)/way of life.

On the other hand, let’s compare internet to nuclear fission. Clearly lot benefits can be drawn from the technology (assuming safety practices etc) but in our current world order it is primarily used as a deterrent.

So I don’t think OP is complaining unnecessarily. We must strive to ensure technology is used for beneficial purposes. And in that sense, the call to arms is justified.

I have been a science and technology enthusiast all of my life. I started running my own BBS over 30 years ago on a Commodore64. To say that I am passionate would be an understatement.

Alas, lately I am becoming a Luddite. Feature creep is the enemy. I don't want or need an 'info-tainment' screen in my vehicle. I refuse to join the Apple or Google walled gardens. The warnings from Science Fiction have been ignored, and we are wage-slaves to corporation-governments.

There is a better way to live. We must take back our power.

When does a tool become a weapon?

When it inflicts harm.

The internet has been weaponized.

>The internet has been weaponized.

Ugh... I can't believe that I'm saying this but... I agree with you, wholeheartedly.

I am about as nerdy as you can get and a huge tech enthusiast and I'm just starting to hate the internet outside of a few sites that I visit to stay "in the know". I feel like every day I'm learning less and less valuable information and more and more pop culture, meme-ified information just because it makes money. It feels like the entire scope of the internet shifted away from individuals creating cool things to huge companies advertising for whatever their latest money-maker is. Some of it is still enjoyable (e.g., Hot Ones, musicians, programmers) but it's all just slowly getting swallowed up.

Where do you visit? From the darknet to using translation software to read what is going on around the world the internet... to checking out random pastebins. There is a lot of interesting stuff...just not on facebook/twitter.

I didn't say that it wasn't interesting. There's plenty of "interesting" things on the internet but the overall experience for the average person is pretty bad. Take, for instance, the proliferation of sites that once embedded YouTube videos. Those sites are now all broken because DMCA requests have taken down those videos without replacing or redirecting them.

It seems like the only care being put into the internet is into monetizing and commercializing it.

I would like to agree with you, but I am not sure I understand how internet has been weaponized. Can you please elaborate on how the internet is/can harm?

-Election manipulation.

-SWATTING of competitive Gamers.

-Cyber bullying (not just limitied to those instances that end in suicide)

-The stalking and death-threats to Black Lives Matter organizers.

-China's "social credit score"

-The need for Hong Kong protestors to hide their identity.

I don't have time to post specific URL's to substantiate my claims, but I feel I've given broad enough categorizes to convey my meaning.

I've always liked to think of it this way:

The internet is a creation of the mind. Its impact is felt by the mind, and is capable of creating mental health problems in people. See the old Facebook story about how they manipulated people's feeds to provoke an emotion from them for an example.

The internet also enables mass communication. So you can massively communicate in such a way as to impact the mental health of a massive number of people. Most people who use the internet regularly are bombarded with this type of communication, mostly in the form of ads and sponsored content.

There are undoubtedly many parties who've realized they can use this to their own ends. By using the internet to actively impact the minds of other people using the internet, people have weaponized the internet.

I too have been in tech for well over 30 years. And I too have lost my enthusiasm. Why keep aiding and abetting corporations and creeping fascism? Working in tech now feels like I'm doing that.

How about the internet being used as a mass surveillance machine and the obliteration of producers in favor of consumers? That facet isn’t a drop in the bucket of internet usage. M

I think focusing what it could be used for and what it has been used for isn’t the right way to approach thinking about it. The internet is by and large used for consuming content from a handful of corporations (disclaimer: I have no source to back up this claim), and a lot of negative consequences follow from that.

Aggregating some 30 000 rss and atom feeds it became obvious to me what an echo chamber it is. It also becomes obvious how big media dictates the topics. The negative consequences are also obvious since big media has no intend to inform or educate you. For them it is all about the bottom line readership and revenue. shocking > informative. My endless thought experiment is: What is news? What should it be? Can we exclude some of the audience to involve some expertise in it? Should we provide real study material so that the reader may understand the context? Something constructive would be nice? Whatever the answer is, it isn't to just endlessly repeat and repost what newscorp wants us to talk about. It isn't our friend, it has no great plan for us to prosper.

>the obliteration of producers in favor of consumers

More consumers begets more producers. I would assert you have better odds of producing in a wide variety of areas.

No, it does not.

everyone is just following the most popular producers and the rest are basically irrelevant.

Just look at the follower counts and how it drops off on any of the popular sites such as YouTube, twitch, patreon etc

We got more consumers than ever, but they're all following the same people, centralizing it even more

Direct-to-consumer businesses have taken off due to the internet. It’s never been easier to start a sock company or glasses company etc. Historically you had to get in to the big box retailers to sell anything non-local but the internet has flipped that on its head. Even big platforms like eBay and Shopify (and even Amazon) are offering small businesses and individuals way more opportunities to sell than they would have had pre-internet.

Furthermore in a direct to consumer world, incumbency matters way less. People had fewer options pre-internet (whatever was at their local store) and now brands largely compete on quality (reviews/ratings) rather than pure placement and marketing.

And yet all your local retailers are closing down while Amazon gets bigger every year. It applies basically everywhere. while you're correct that its easy to get started on Amazon, it's just as easy to get marginalized there. There a tons of reports from sellers which got ruined by Amazon undercutting them after they've pioneered the market for example.

The internet enables centralization like never before as everyone all over the world uses the same services just like they're following the same people for entertainment.

Shopify is pretty big too these days outside of the amazon world.

The newer people who joined the internet late are on a handful of sites they see as safe. They came from the mobile phone era and they include grandma and your ex-school teacher. The people who were here before joined them because that's where the action was happening.

Google decided to go with the masses and dumb down the results to only a handful.

Offtopic: The only day I tried a specific search with quotes in duckduckgo and google. Only duckduckgo had it. Makes me wonder what I've been missing using google.

That's not a problem with the Internet though, that's a problem with humanity!

I think he is afraid of the directionthe internet is taking. All the most important benefits we have gained from the internet will be undone if every nation and every isp censors and filters too much content. China is becoming a model for the rest of the world, and we are in danger of losing it all, or even worse; being manipulated into thinking we did not.

It's tough, the internet is so open that there are people out there that are having trouble separating hoaxes/fake news with the real news. The spread of these fake news are even way faster than the "old media".

You need to be a little bit tech literate in order to navigate the internet.

The epistemological crisis is really the worst thing the internet has brought us. When you have large segments of the population who believe in a completely different "truth" the future doesn't look bright at all.

It is a bit of the opposite. This guy is closer to arguing in favor of censorship, as opposed to against it.

He thinks freedom is too dangerous, because I'd all the bad things that people do with their freedom.

The Internet is not as bad as cars. That's harsh!

Cars kill more than 1 million people a year, and are actively cooking our planet. On balance, cars -- at least our ability to use them -- has been a huge negative.

The Internet is a lot more balanced, but both show how a lack of foresight and system design can lead to a lot of negative consequences. We could drastically cut down on the number of road deaths if we took it more seriously and made some big system design changes, but we haven't. We can also make the Internet a better place, but there will always be issue with all massive systems.

> On balance, cars -- at least our ability to use them -- has been a huge negative.

Honestly there's no way this is true. How many people would die if they couldn't use an ambulance? How many people are surviving on goods shipped to them via trucks?

Of course things can be improved, but there's no way the automobile was a net negative on humanity.

You could have ambulances without personal cars. But a huge amount of ambulance rides are due to car accidents.

Also, our shipping system is backboned by freight rail and ocean shipping, not trucks. In particular, the US has a really robust freight rail system for moving massive amounts of goods across the country.

What if the larger story of the industrialization enabled by that trucking warms the planet to the point that humanity goes extinct? Something to at least consider; unintended consequences are still consequences.

Humanity is not at risk of going extinct from global warming.

"There's no way". What a compelling argument.

There's "no way" that 60 million people would have died in the 20th century if there was no such thing as an ambulance. I'm positive we would have invented a workable replacement.

"I'm positive we would have invented a workable replacement." is also not a compelling argument :)

It's actually rather absurd to suggest automobiles were a net negative. They are one of the greatest inventions in the history of humanity. It's like saying electricity is a net negative.

Shipment of food / water / medicine might.

Might be more accurate to say "contribute to cooking our planet" because if there were 0 cars, we'd still be cooking this planet, since all of transportation including planes, boats and cars is only 29% of total carbon emissions (US 2017 data)

Even in transportation, only 60% is due to light duty vehicle, the other 40% being trucks and planes mostly.



> On balance, cars [...] has been a huge negative.

That's a ridiculous hyperbole. Cars have had a huge impact on mobility and availability of goods.

It's easy to just see the downsides since all those benefits can be taken for granted nowadays, especially when living in a city where cars are less important for personal use.

At the turn of the last century most people rode bikes - a healthier activity than riding in cars. Around the same time, most cities developed extensive electric trolley systems which were largely destroyed after the automobile took over. People were mobile prior to the automobile. Cities were developed by necessity to be human-scale in the pre-automobile era. After the automobile they were developed (in the US especially) for the automobile which meant that it was very difficult to get around without a car.

So your argument is that because cars have upsides, the downsides can't be greater? The downsides of making cars central are huge, and because of that large progressive cities are removing them. That doesn't sound like hyperbole, that sounds like the pendulum swinging the other way because on balance, they are negative.

The Internet effect cannot be measured.

Those hoaxes, those political ideas, those agendas, arab springs. You can't measure the fallout of that.

Arab springs that mostly went nowhere - or worse. There was a lot of hope for the middle east a mere 7 or 8 years ago. And now? It worked out for Tunisia, but it didn't turn out well for most other countries in the region.

Small nit - a person can learn Hindi (the language) or Hinduism (the religion) but not Hindu.

And there’s our smudgeness.

It's not clear to me how the correction of a cultural nature is being smug. The poster in question even admitted it was a "small nit", but it's still useful information for both the poster, and other readers.

This is a quote from the Office, which leads me to believe it's at least a little tongue in cheek.

ah ok, I misunderstood then.

Is it smug? I didn’t know that. I have spent enough time in Hindu places that I think that’s good to know.

agree. the inventor does not get to decide or choose how his invention is used

I would also agree the internet has been a huge net positive.

> I would also agree the internet has been a huge net positive.

I thought that not terribly long ago. I have to admit, though, that with every passing day I become less sure that it's really a net positive.

Agreed, I think there was a point, when we could still benefit from the pre-existing social trust network, that it was a net positive. Now that the pre-internet trust network has deteriorated, and with no trust mechanism built into the internet, it is rapidly devolving toward a net negative for social stability.

I think relying on the internet to have a trust mechanism built in is a bit like relying on our road-builders to ensure our vehicles are safe.

While the average internet user will just trust the sites and apps they use, there's nothing stopping those who are able from designing/building/using/sharing technology which they can reasonably trust. The building blocks are there (crypto / networking libraries etc.).

When open source software gets outlawed, I'll be worried.

> a bit like relying on our road-builders to ensure our vehicles are safe

And yet there are lots of ways road-builders can design roads so that they're safer.

It's very natural for people to take good things for granted and focus on the negatives. Regardless of objective measurements.

Of course, sometime things areactually bad, so that's to to say you're wrong. Just a good bias to keep in mind.

Of course, it is. Put it this way, there is absolutely zero evidence that it’s not net positive.

those who downvoted me, I am curious what evidence you have that it's not net positive. I've never seen any such evidence, only a list of problems, which of course exist with any human endevour.

I didn't downvote you, but I don't know what you mean by "evidence it's not a net positive".

You determine whether something is a net positive or net negative by listing all of the negatives and positives and seeing how they balance out. With the internet, there are clearly both negatives and positives. The "evidence" either way is the full list of these factors.

Do they balance out in the positive or negative direction? The answer to that depends on how you weight the various factors, and I rather suspect that different people will weight the various factors differently. In other words, this is more a judgement call than some sort of hard objective truth regardless of whether you consider the net effect to be good or bad.

"net" positive!

You mentioned cars, which is good comparison.

Obviously, cars are essential. But here is short a list of completely unnecessary issues brought on by greed and industry:

* The health and societal cost of leaded gasoline and the industry resistance to transitioning to unleaded.

* The Automobile industry purchase and subsequent removal of train and light rail tracks in the United States.

* The Automobile industry resistance to requiring airbags.

* The oil industry and it's war against global warming science.

There are many more, these are just the ones off the top of my head.

Point is, it isn't the technology but the industry around the technology that is the issue. Cars are useful and essential just like the internet. But right now, we have a situation akin to the early automobile industry.

I hope that, with this technology, we can get some privacy laws/worker rights/better standards before we have another half-century before anything gets done about the Big Bad Corporate takeover of the Internet.

He mentioned car, which is an awful comparison. Cars should never have been invented and they are the worst thing that happened to humanity. Just imagine how much money has been wasted into cars, and roads, when any other mean of transportation would have been more efficient.

Just imagine how much personal freedom cars have brought, especially to disenfranchised groups.

There's two sides to every coin and some sides have a lot deeper grooves than what can be seen at first glance.

Disenfranchised groups who nevertheless could afford to buy and maintain cars? I wouldn't say cars have no positive aspects, but they have been heavily marketed on the idea that they give you freedom (few car ads will show a traffic jam, it's always a gloriously open road...), but their cost, in terms of pollution, urban sprawl, and injuries is quite high.

I wouldn't know, I don't own a car because I don't need one. If it's possible to live without a car in a society where cars are everywhere, it's highly probable that if cars were never a thing, the infrastructure would allow you to have the same amount of personal freedom, without the downsides of cars.

But what do we do with all this horseshit?


It is just one persons take. I would take it with a grain of salt. Arpa wanted a mobile network that would be operational in all countries prior to invasion. At it's inception, the internet was everything SRI ever meant it to be. Everything the internet has become is just a side effect of what was created. It follows the principal of "a person will do what a person can do".

It is the same as the DoD making interstate highways to allow troops to move across the country quickly. Everything else that sprung up along those routes was just a byproduct of the interstate highways. The good, the bad and everything in between.

And yet, can you blame him for the negative tone? I'm sure he and his collaborators back then had much higher hopes. And indeed, until the mid-late 90s it seemed like we were getting that open internet. The internet has fostered an epistemological crisis that has recently led to the rise of tyrants in the US and elsewhere. I'd be disappointed too.

The US has a narcissistic jerk for a president, but he's not a tyrant.

Wanting to be something does not automatically make you that thing.

My impression is that the original author's views were crafted to celebrate prior work, and provide a platform for the new work to come. with a healthy dollop of self promotion.

I think you’re right. If it didn’t “go wrong” it would have stagnated and not been very useful.

Kinda like the minitel. It didn’t “go wrong” but it also went nowhere.

>Saying the internet went wrong is like saying the invention of cars went wrong cause we still have car accidents

I don't think that's a fair or apt analogy at all since, in most places around the world, there's still several barriers to entry for using a car - you have to be licensed, you have to be financially able, and you have to live somewhere where it's a benefit to have access to one.

I think the central complaint is not that the internet has been democratized but, conversely, that, much like the United States and several other nations, it's become commercialized rather than democratized which is exactly the opposite of what was the hope for the internet.

I think a more apt summary of the article is that, at the beginning, there was a barrier of entry to the internet that meant that the content was mostly educational, technical, informed, and a bit altruistic. The goal was to propagate knowledge. Now, literally anyone can put their thoughts online, no matter how banal, without any technical skill, education, or barriers and commercial entities have far more capability than the average person to control the flow of information. DMCA requests on YouTube can be abused by huge corporations to protect their profits but individual users have no such ability. This leads to a platform that, unlike its initial intent, is full of low-quality, low-effort information with the exception of content that is meant for sale and consumption.

Unchecked capitalism may have ruined the internet but, hopefully, not past the point of return.

It’s more like inventing the bicycle and then having it evolve into a car, where your initial idea was for a safe, economical, sustainable way to get from on point to another. Instead we paved over all the sidewalks with freeways to make room insanely large vehicles that crash into each other and kill everyone involved. Sure, they get from one point to another faster and help you transport things larger than you imagined and further than you imagined... but that’s not why you designed the bicycle.

You know we truly live in amazing times when our society can support a large class of people so far removed from the need to produce and transport physical goods that they can imagine a scenario in which the ability to do so using machines rather than armies of peasants, slaves, and pack animals is some kind of perversion.

Huh I didn't realize freight trains were armies of peasants, slaves, and pack animals.

That's still not a valid argument.

You're minimizing the amazing benefits created by near instantaneous transportation (or communication, in the case of the internet). How many lives were saved because ambulances exist?

It's easy to cherry pick the pros and cons of any invention, but at the end of the day any attempt to do so is inherently biased.

Society continues to evolve with nearly every economic and welfare indicator scoring better than 10, 50, 100 years ago. On average, inventions like automobiles and global communications must be contributing to this net positive societal gain. There's nothing glaringly bad about the internet or automobiles. Even if the internet is used for bad things at times, it's also created a shitload of good. Regardless, it is but a means to an end. People would do go on to do good or bad things even if the internet didn't exist, so we can't blame this one invention for the actions of humans.

It’s not an argument, and it is valid. It’s just not the argument you’re trying to make.

Bicycles didn’t evolve into cars, horses and stagecoaches did.

Proving what I’ve always said, that bicycles are the chimpanzees of the transportation world.

But yea, the overall idea here that this guy had the ANY IDEA of what the internet would/could become when he worked on it is ridiculous. It doesn’t make his opinion worth too much other than for a clickbait headline.

>A person in Nigeria can teach themselves Hindu, just from pure curiosity and no budget

Again, these are poor examples. It's not terribly easy to learn a language for free using just the internet. Everything is freemium and it's only getting worse. It's arguably easier to go to your local library and use their resources.

Many people have this idea that some things would be impossible if not for the internet, but that definitely isn't the case.

I've been using the internet to learn a language for a month now, and have had far more success then I had in multiple years of high school language classes.

Between tools that provide Spaced Repetition learning, to websites that are basically textbooks, to youtube videos both meant to teach and others that are native media, and finally people who curate all these materials, this is way better.

Most of which are funded by showing you ads for things you don't need or selling your personal information.

And regular people would consider that a net gain.

Not one of the inventors of the internet. Whether it's money now or money down the road though perverse buying habits, you're still paying for it. It's not free.

Personally, I think the internet has changed millions if not billions of lives for the better. Yes, it has introduced quite a few bad things like spam, malware, surveillance etc. but with most good things, comes a few bad things. Overall though, Internet has been tremendous in lifting so many people out of poverty AND creating jobs that otherwise people could not dream of before the internet. I can work for anyone over the internet and make money for myself and my family. I can communicate with family members and friends across continents. With all the hate social media gets for example, imagine a life without them again. I say this as someone who hardly uses it but knows that it is there if I want to communicate with someone I care about. Do you really want to send physical letters again ? Yes they have their charm and nostalgia but I am not willing to trade the convenience of internet for something worse or outdated.

So Thank you for creating the internet all you tremendous people. I personally wouldn't trade it. Can we fix a few things ? Sure we can. But it has not gone wrong. It has changed lives, mine included for the better.

I don't understand your theory of how the internet has "lifted so many people out of poverty".

I'm not saying I disagree with it necessarily, I don't even understand what you're suggesting enough to disagree or agree with it. It's definitely not _obvious_ to me that the internet has somehow lifted so many people out of poverty, I just don't understand what you mean.

I am one of those people. I was a poor boy in a remote village in a third world country. The Internet brought me opportunities to know and connect to people far far away. The Internet has shaped my thought process, education, job opportunities. Just about everything I have today was due to the advance of computers and the Internet.

I agree. On a tech forum the bias is to consider the internet a panacea.

Look at the US. We went from ~0% internet penetration in 1990 to 75% in 2017. How much have real wages changed since then?

We fantasize about an impoverished person learning a new skill, but it's not the reality.

Created jobs, increased global trade, allowed for people to teach themselves, new types of products available, higher awareness about what is going on around you, technology share, open source, free products etc.

OK. Except for possibly "created jobs", it's not obvious to me most of those things lead to "lifting so many people out of poverty." (For instance, I suspect very strongly that "new types of products available" has nothing to do with lifting people out of poverty).

I am gonna want some analysis based on actual numbers of some kind that shows the internet did those things, and it lifted so many people out of poverty.

(For starters, I don't even know if fewer people are "in poverty" now than pre-internet or not!)

> I suspect very strongly that "new types of products available" has nothing to do with lifting people out of poverty

Your suspicion is wrong. GDP per capita has increased significantly in emerging markets where cheap labor creates these "new types of products", with China being the prominent example

> I don't even know if fewer people are "in poverty" now than pre-internet or not!

That is a well known fact, you'll just have to google it.

> I am gonna want some analysis based on actual numbers of some kind that shows the internet did those things

There are countless analyses on the benefits of globalization which was enabled in part by the advance of near-instantaneous telecommunication

Increasing global trade leads to better outcomes for those producing those goods. The greatest alleviation of poverty and creation of the largest middle class in the history of humanity happened in China starting the early 90s and that was fuelled by increased global trade made possible partly by the Internet.

The invention of how to create fire or the wheel also created a bunch of jobs but also allow warmongers and thieves and murdering pyros to do their evil deeds.

Every innovation has consequences short and long term.

These jobs are shrinking as low level apps get dumbed down... The process of creating a simple web site has gotten much much more complex as scripting languages have changed. I still can't believe we're compiling code for simple phone and web sites and apps.

Corporations have lobbied to take away Net Neutrality, and to institute throttling and make running a personal web site much more expensive. Social media sites de-prioritize regular users under corporate (paid) marketing posts...

These days you have to pay to be seen, the Internet was originally based on having everyone on an equal playing field, and now everything is being based around the new rules to prevent us from going back.

The Internet is becoming less effective because it's no longer an equal playing field. Its becoming much more expensive and complex over time to run an independent web presence, when in the past it was simple and inexpensive, I think that's the major issue.

The Internet is changing because people who use it are changing it. This is what happens with tools. The Internet’s current state is a reflection of our societal values, which I think is what you’re really decrying.

> The Internet’s current state is a reflection of our societal values, which I think is what you’re really decrying.

I wish that were true. It feels more like the internet is a reflection of a very small number of greedy, amoral people from the bay area.

> The process of creating a simple web site has gotten much much more complex as scripting languages have changed.

If your site requires any scripting at all, it's not a "simple web site".

It's actually very easy to make websites and apps now IMO, never worrying about hosting and network intrusion and things like that, but you sell out to the centralized, pervasively monitored model of the web in doing so.

I meant in terms of being able to totally own and control your design, presentation, and content...

If you want to use a platform like WIX, sure it's easy, but the minute they run broke and need to shut down you're screwed. Also having your own (independent) domain pointing to a web site that you made is very costly to a layman without an enterprise account...

Corporations have lobbied to take away Net Neutrality, and to institute throttling and make running a personal web site much more expensive.

There is literally no impact on personal web sites. You neither pay more, nor are you throttled.

I would wager these unflintchingly ethical telcos are bideing their time on this one. The beancounters are probably salivating about ideas such as this one from a few years ago:

"In Portugal, with no net neutrality, internet providers are starting to split the net into packages," he wrote. "A huge advantage for entrenched companies, but it totally ices out startups trying to get in front of people which stifles innovation. This is what's at stake, and that's why we have to save net neutrality."[1]


Why do we need to look at Portugal? Net Neutrality was only in effect from 2015-2017. We have decades of experience in the US without net neutrality, and it has been fine for small publishers. Do you really think the beancounters care about Mommy Bloggers, or Bob's Keto Korner? If anything, they are looking at big dogs with lots of cash that use lots of bandwidth like Netflix and upstart startups like Disney.

Well, you're right that the internet has not yet turned into Cable TV style bundling, and you're double-right that they could hardly care less about Kombucha Korner.com.

The crappy swings at CaTV-style service bundling that the telcos have whiffed so far such as Uverse failed to grab enough momentum to jack any of the internet streaming video limelight from youtube, netflix, or really anything from anything else at all. Who really uses Comcast's, or even Verizon FIOS' bundled voice service? A gas station before they get fed up?

Also, please consider Verizon's NXDOMAIN[0]: Purposefully hijacking RFC behavior in order to slurp in a few extra ad clicks off of granny. And if that doesn't just scream "Corporate Governance", I've heard they know which porn I visit. I mean, no surprise here, but my point is that while I really like my car insurance and recommend it to my friends, boy howdy, I have never enjoyed interacting with any telco for any reason, ever.

But, I wonder--if the FCC had never bothered with regulating away the gale-force of swarming telcos voraciously borging away at the PCS spectrum in the 1990s, would MVNE services even be available today? And if they weren't, or were just really shabby, How would The Bell Collective choose to market its services to the low end of the cube market? I mean would they program customers to remit extra currency units for a special Verizon speed-charge port for your alcove or something? Their service couldn't possibly be that bad. Everybody here would be out of the job.

Nowadays, AT&T Uverse keeps putting on for some reason, meanwhile at Comcast and Verizon, their top lobbyists have miraculously cured their chronic internet content aversion syndrome, commence with bundling Netflix. On the other side of the cubefarm, just past that one weird closet nobody ever goes into, Verizon Wireless is slowing some of its MVNO customers.[1] This is fair play too, since two years ago I'd say. Who is to blame them for propping up their own quality of service at their competitors expense if there is no regulatory recourse?

I realize that Verizon Wireless and Verizon Verizon are not the same Verizon, for some Verizon, even though they're both owned by Verizon. Regarding Verizon, I have met many former and current Verizon customers. I assure you, we are very certain that neither Verizon nor Verizon Verizon would deign to charge you any less out of the goodness of its heart.

Helpfully, they seem quite eager to itemize regulatory fees and taxes.

So I'd say you're triple-right about looking at Verizon-er, uh, I mean Portugal.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNS_hijacking#Manipulation_by_...

[1] How MVNOs compare to Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint: https://www.tutela.com/blog/best-mvno-us-2018-consumer-cellu...

Creating jobs isn't good by itself if the work being done is to a bad end. Despite how much promise the internet has for free information, lots of people have been paid to pollute it with garbage that is the opposite of helpful. Or to spy on people so that knowledge can be used against them. The internet is a great thing technology wise, but it has enabled bad actors as much as enabling humble and well intentioned people.

>Creating jobs isn't good by itself if the work being done is to a bad end. Lots of people have been paid to pollute it with garbage that is the opposite of helpful. Or to spy on people so that knowledge can be used against them.

I wish more people internalised this fact.

I answered a specific question which was about pulling people out of poverty.

Everything has consequences. I am pretty sure you would prefer the life you live now than what even kings live 300 years ago.

The number of people in extreme poverty globally have dropped roughly 650m since 1990. Some part of that is probably due to the internet though I'm not sure you could say how much exactly. (Our World in Data graph https://ourworldindata.org/uploads/2019/04/Extreme-Poverty-p...)


Almost none of the desperately poor had internet between 1990-2000, yet poverty fell steeply.

Yeah there are a number of factors in play. I doubt though that China say would be turning out tech in the way they are for example without being able to look stuff up and order stuff on the web. And I think it will kick in in Africa too.

The often-repeated trope, touted as an achievement of capitalism, relies on defining "not poor" as earning 2$ PPP per day, or 60 bucks a month, or 700$ = 0.7k per year.

Not to mention, ignoring any other measures of quality of life or progress besides raw dollars. It's judging capitalism via a metric internal to capitalism. Pure circular reasoning. E.g. subsistence farmers in rural areas made 0$ and were "poor" by that metric, now they work 14h a day at factories for 2$ a day and are "not in poverty" anymore. Congratulatory handshakes all around!

There's plenty of ignorance to go around on HN, but this is shockingly so. Global poverty statistics don't count subsistence farming as zero income, which would render the entire exercise meaningless. Two dollars a day isn't an objectively high number, but the point is that passing that bar is a threshold that means you're not _below_ $2/day. The kind of poor we're talking about deal with starvation, easily-preventable diseases, dying from indoor wood burning for lack of better heating systems,etc. Projecting your privileged, first-world notion that none of that matters because they aren't self-actualized and the resource level that helps you avoid that "isn't that much" is just sheer idiocy.

The international poverty line does take into account of subsidence farmers [1]. Dollars is just used as a standard, so that there can be a tangible value.

1. https://ourworldindata.org/poverty-home-production-and-consu...

That's not how subsistence farming is counted in GDP and poverty statistics. The value of home production is still counted. If you are eating only $2 worth of rice per day, you are counted as poor whether you buy it or grow it.

Even though the facts appear wrong, I think this comment does raise the interesting question of whether money is a metric that is internal to capitalism, or if capitalism is the natural consequence of using only money as a metric.

I guess money is a capitalist metric but there are others you can look at too like life expectancy or literacy that show similar improvements.

It is a fair question. I assumed based on my own experience that this is very clear but let me clarify. I am privileged to be living in the United States (richest country in the world) but I am originally an immigrant even though that was 20+ years ago. I hire people from all over the world as freelancers from time to time. Internet allows me to hire some random person from a random part of the world and in many cases from a very poor country. I am more than sure that if they didn't have internet, they wouldn't be able to get those freelance jobs and make a living since their home country does not provide a whole lot of options.

So I don't have exact data and technically I am guessing the impact but considering how many people live in countries like India, China, African countries, I would assume internet has helped millions out of poverty because without internet, they would not be able to do things to make a living that they do today. Go to upwork.com for example and see ppl from all over the world making a decent living for themselves even if it is low wages for rich countries.

Seems like you only look at one side. I thought by now we have mostly understood that unlimited globalization also has dark sides, especially for the broader local population in richer countries.

To me the sentiment of GPs post felt like "internet makes it better on average for all of us". You're "now I very easy can find even cheaper workers" doesn't support that, even though it certainly is an improvement to a select few at the very bottom.

I focussed mostly on the jobs thing. But Internet has brought many other great things to the world so I think it is a bit myopic to just focus on the "hire cheaper workers" thing. Just the fact that you can communicate your opinions to me while we both are sitting somewhere totally different is the power of internet. It brings plenty of good. Some bad, sure. If not for internet, I would probably never talk to you and not exchange our different perspectives.

> even though it certainly is an improvement to a select few at the very bottom

1. "a select few" is disingenuous. A lot of people have benefited from it.

2. One could say that morally, the people "at the very bottom" deserve more help than "the broader local population in richer countries".

1. I admit "select few" being hyperbole. The intended sentiment was it helping fewer people than it is screwing over.

2. Its nice you want to help the people who have it the worst. But you better be ready for the consequences, like a fascist getting 23% of votes a few days ago in a local german election. What people feel is important. Yes, the policy might be raising living standards of everyone. But if it predominantly helps those at the top of the capitalist system and some "few" people far away, then people will feel screwed over and demand change. Though by now we seem to get closer to "revolution". I'd prefer not to live through a revolution.

Well, a homeless person with a smartphone has a hell of a lot better chance of getting a job than they did pre-smartphone, right?

Maybe this can count as more of a smartphone thing an internet thing.. but it's still largely an internet thing that would allow someone in a rough spot to still be able to connect with people online and look/apply for jobs.

> Well, a homeless person with a smartphone has a hell of a lot better chance of getting a job than they did pre-smartphone, right?

Do they? How?

Are you suggesting that online jobs website make it easier to find a job? A homeless person with a smartphone isn't the only one with access to the jobs website. Nor does the existence of such a website intrinsically create the jobs behind the ads on it.

A sibling commenter talks about the existence of the internet facilitating job creation through other means, but I don't think homeless people having smartphones has much bearing on this.

It's worth noting that income inequality has steadily increased in the last ~40 years at leastm (in the US), so talk of the internet lifting people out of poverty has to be considered in that context.

A homeless person desiring to gain some employable skills has an easier time doing such with the Internet and an access device, such as a phone - even if the phone has no cell service but can use free WiFi- than prior to the existence of the Internet and those devices.

There is a silent class of homeless people whom I am not clear you are including when you state "homeless", and that is people living on cars and/or "couch-surfing". On the occasion I've seen it mentioned in articles, it seems that it is nearly impossible to come up with reliable numbers on the actual population of homeless people living under such conditions due to their transitory nature.

It is likely true that the genuinely destitute homeless people, which is comprised in large part of people who suffer severe psychological and mental disorders, are only minimally aided by cell phones. I suspect the way they actually benefit is they carry on their persons a means for those trying aid them to find them as well as a life line they can tug, should they so choose.

"Inequality" is a divisive term with no genuine academic definition. Another correlation is that as "inequality" has risen, so has the greatest reduction in people living in subsistence farming and abject poverty in history of mankind, a conclusion that would suggest that "inequality" positively correlates with greater human flourishing, but the real purpose of my mentioning this is to demonstrate that "inequality" is a largely meaningless metric, by itself, used for manipulating people not familiar with broader understanding of what has occurred for so many billions of people on the planet.

> Well, a homeless person with a smartphone has a hell of a lot better chance of getting a job than they did pre-smartphone, right?

Not that I know the answer, but I would have to see a source on this. Why would a device that may increase access to job postings, but a non-homeless job candidate is much more likely to have than a homeless person, increase the chances of said homeless person in getting a job? I'm not even sure that the ability to access job postings is the main problem there.

I’ve worked with and volunteered with an org who among other things got smart phones to our local homeless.

Yes, it does help quite a bit. It’s a $50-100 setup and even without data they can go to any million places with free WiFi and get emails, call job listings, keep in touch with family members. It’s a pretty big deal to them.

I think you're comparing different things here.

1. Comparing the chances of a homeless person in the modern world with a smartphone, to a homeless person in the modern world without a smartphone.

2. Comparing the chances of a homeless person in the modern world with a smartphone, to a homeless person in a hypothetical internetless world (where noone can have a smartphone).

The org you volunteered with dealt with comparison #1 above. We're discussing comparison #2.

>>>> Well, a homeless person with a smartphone has a hell of a lot better chance of getting a job than they did pre-smartphone, right?

>>>Not that I know the answer, but I would have to see a source on this. Why would a device that may increase access to job postings, but a non-homeless job candidate is much more likely to have than a homeless person, increase the chances of said homeless person in getting a job? I'm not even sure that the ability to access job postings is the main problem there.

>> [My reply about first hand seeing it]

>We're discussing comparison #2.

I think whatever meaning you had in another thread hasn't been in the one I replied to.

I think both you and @lucideer are right at a certain level. I did mean in the absence of cellphones altogether, since I'm referring to the fact that the non-homeless population almost all have cell-phones now, so that's really just "table-stakes" in the job hunt market.

That said, your experience provides an important data point too. I would be curious to know whether it's the phone access or the "among other things" that you refer to, which I assume means other kinds of aid, training, and support, that provides most of the value in them finding a job.

The among other things is haircut, shave, cloths, boots, shower, shelter, sleeping bags, getting touch with family, basic medical, training, mental health evals, etc. stuff that actually helps today as opposed to the feel good “just build more housing and give it to people for “free”” ideas.

Is the phone worth more than the sleeping bag? Depends on the temperature. But, yes for the most part the phone is helpful. I would guess a lot get sold, but in those cases they are typically going to someone that does actually want it. Let’s be honest, a Samsung whatever 5 isn’t going to be traded for a 5th of whiskey and sold eventually to some highschooler, they wouldn’t be caught dead with that phone.

People have this impression that homeless are all 60-80 year old bums harassing you for change, there are a lot that have jobs, live in their cars, and could really use a phone, even with their families, or live in other people’s houses. The invisible homeless.

Not really?

Yes they could contact an employer, but

Can they show up reliably on-time? Public transit costs money -> Homeless -> no address, so can't use a bank, cashing of checks can be done, but only if there is credit offered by an employer, or through charity of others. So from the get go, there's a geographic limitation w.r.t body-here types of work.

What about mental/computer work? Assume a smartphone. Still homeless, so no address means no bank. Could send a check to a P.O. Box maybe; but if there is company hardware you need to be vested with, that may not work out well. BYOD is a thing, and can work out, this is truly a success in that regard, but again, lack of address complicates things.

I mean, you aren't totally wrong, but I'm just not convinced that the homeless jobless experience has been revolutionized to the point people in poverty have been uplifted by the billions. If anything, infrastructure automation has allowed more to be done with less in terms of previously manual jobs, and enabled more efficient fund extraction from the average consumer through economies of scale. Especially in terms of rent seeking. If you look at the number of contracts entered into over a lifetime as a metric, software/the Internet has allowed an explosion in terms of the "one-sided contract" and has led to a social tilt away from the original purpose of the construct which was to serve as a meeting of the minds between equals.

Essentially, it's allowed for the carve out of unethical contracts at massive scale, and consolidation of capital intensive workflows through automation and standardization.

Can people learn and share? Yes. Are people all uplifted equally? I'd say no, and certain populations in particular are likely worse off. I'm thinking Kenya's predatory debt crisis, China's maturing surveillance state, and even the United States and U.K. are getting uncomfortably close to that event horizon.

Marketers ruined everything. We just wanted to be able to learn stuff. They had to turn that around and take it to the unhealthy extreme in the name of targeted advertising.

I don't see a lot of homeless people with cellphones. How would they even charge them? Library Internet seems like a better solution.

Where there are public spaces that aren't actively policed, with public outlets, that's where they hang out. I used to live in a neighborhood next to a public library with a sheltered area and an outlet, and every night there'd be a couple of homeless people camping out there. They plugged their devices, had a smoke, and had shelter for the night.

Thankfully, the neighborhood itself was tolerant enough to let them be -- I never saw them being kicked out, and why should they be? They're not making trouble, and life's hard enough if you don't have an address to your name. Give them the small, quiet dignity of a place to stay dry from the rain and browse reddit.

>With all the hate social media gets for example, imagine a life without them again.

Easy, that's my life right now

>I say this as someone who hardly uses it but knows that it is there if I want to communicate with someone I care about. Do you really want to send physical letters again ? Yes they have their charm and nostalgia but I am not willing to trade the convenience of internet for something worse or outdated.

That all fits in the original, "utopian" if you want, view of the internet espoused in the article. You can do that with email, IMs like IRC, personal webpages. Facebook-style social media, with its surveillance, addictiveness, toxic feedback loops, is irrelevant to this task.

Before the internet, many people only worried, economically, from people in their immediate sorrounding. Often only in their city.

Knowledge was much harder to ackuire and more valuable, and it was harder to compare prices.

That led to an environment where many, both business owners and employees could akuire some valuable competitive advantage, and make a decent living.

Now that's much harder. Significant competitive advantage(or significant bargaining power) rarely exists, for most.

Most have little economic power. And psychologically that's probably more important than relative wealth.

I won't go too heretic on internet, but I think it kicked the old structure too hard and too early.

> With all the hate social media gets for example, imagine a life without them again.

I can imagine that easily. I know others differ, but is all social media went away tomorrow, my life would be none the poorer for it.

Its almost like most of us still remember life without the internet let alone social media.

I just personally stopped. I use reddit sometimes but otherwise I have been much happier for it.

> surveillance

Just the tip of the iceberg, the security services facilitate the criminal underworld playing its part keep GDP up, lots of experiments being done on people individually right now, most of it messing with peoples belief systems which in extreme you see with muslim terrorists carrying out acts. I know I've had similar done to me.

Jimmy Saville was a state apparatus intelligence tool, nothing more nothing less and look at how the state labels him a pedo now!

If it weren’t for the internet I’d be back home making an average $20,000/year. Instead I’m in SF on an SF salary.

Hell, without the internet I wouldn’t even have known it’s possible to get here. Both physically and in mindset.


I taught myself how to program through the internet, which is the only reason I have a job right now. The internet also let me discover cryptocurrencies which is the only reason I have a house at a young age. As far as I'm concerned it's an objective fact that the internet helps motivated people multiply their wealth in ways that were not possible prior to its creation.

What are the costs of living back home for you?

For instance, $20k/year is a very decent upper-middle class salary in Poland.

In Slovenia we have a joke:

A German and a Slovenian talk about life and work. The German says, "You know, life's pretty good. I make 5k a month, send my kids to school, put 2k in my mortgage, spend 1k on groceries, and there's plenty left over"

And the Slovenian says "Wow that's cool. What happens with the other 2k?"

"Oh we don't ask that in Germany. It's impolite"

So the SLovenian goes "Ah that's nice. We got it good in Slovenia too. I make 2k a month, send my kids to school, put 1.5k in my mortgage, 1k for groceries, and still got enough for a 500 payment on my Audi"

"Wait ... where's the extra 1k coming from?"

"We don't ask that in Slovenia. It's impolite"

Are you happy ?

I am in in the same situation and am very, very happy!

I was so depressed before I came to Silicon Valley...it took years of therapy to overcome that

Same story here but that alone doesn't mean anything. Just because it worked out well for me that doesn't mean anything. I watch as my Grandad gets told to go online to pay his bill by the gas company and he has no clue what to do, then he gets letters from debt collection agencies because it's too hard to figure out how to pay using another method. This kind of thing also happens to lower class poor people in the UK. Some level of phone or internet savvy is assumed for many services now.

Side note: I'm in a hotel room right now overlooking San Fran as the morning traffic starts to pick up. It really is a shit-hole city.

Capitalism creates jobs. The internet is just something Capitalism latched on to.

The internet never "went wrong". Nor did it go right.

If we want to talk about the internet going wrong, we can talk about running out of IPV4 addresses, the garbage that DNS/BGP can be. The insecureness of SMTP etc. Yet from a technical standpoint, it has gotten amazing. There was a time https/ssl was not a thing, when everyone shuffled data via FTP, when telnet ruled, when NFS was world rw and rlogin/rhost was the way of things. So the net as a tool has gotten better to address it's weakness in relation to privacy(crypto), spam (captcha/ML), fakes news (ML)

Spam, Fake News, Trolls, Privacy Abuse etc is all about people. We can ask, how did the world/people get so wrong? But then, when we sit back and think about it, this is the world that brought us a few world wars and tons of other wars. All that crap going on over the net is annoying but nothing.

I'll take all the spam, fake news, trolls, ad stalking and attempt to capture my data than live through a war.

Right, this is exactly what I try to explain in a long comment[1] (different thread, comparable topic).

I essentially argue that we should not confuse the medium (internet, a "network of networks"; like air or water or space) with the usage and information passing by said medium (the "high level" stuff like "speech" or "websites"; like oral speech or stores and parks in the physical world).

I'm surprised that a researcher who contributed to building the medium, the infrastructure itself, would fail to recognize we're talking at very different levels, totally different scopes when we conflate 'internet' with any private company or citizen operating over the medium. It's romantic and doesn't help solving any kind of issue, whether low-level or high-level.

I will echo user `riazrizvi` in this thread:

> Simply the internet has always reflected the segment of society that used it. Now that everyone uses it it reflects society at large. So I don’t think this is an internet problem, but rather an opportunity to see the worlds social problems being translated into a more transparent codified form. I reject the author’s two solutions as being low effort addendums. Let us acknowledge we are not seeing new problems, but rather we are seeing old problems with a new lens.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21383074


The technical issues are what went wrong, how to protect the net itself from those who would damage and abuse it. Those we seek to improve.

The people side will come with time. If anything perhaps it opens people eyes to just how many people who do not fit within the idealized society many expect or want to be part of. People will learn limits, learn about others, and eventually it will even out.

What it did right is free people from most every government out there and now those governments are fighting back. When you can now see for your self what conditions are elsewhere you are much harder to manipulate which means loss of control. It also shows that no matter how good you thought your government is/was there is room for improvement and their is a dark side. They will seek to divide us, make us fear others all with the promise that if we just let them take control of information again all will be right. Some do it at the point of a gun while others use a TV ad.

Simply put, mommy and daddy were wrong, that were no monsters, not real ones, but there are, they are us.

> All that crap going on over the net is annoying but nothing

Sorry, but no. Ask all the US banks that were DDoS'd between 2012-2013 by (presumably) Iranian nation state actors if "all that crap going over the net was annoying but nothing". Ask Sony if the property and PR damage done to their networks was nothing. Ask Saudi Aramco if the thousands of computer disks they lost were nothing. Ask the Bangladesh banks that lost $81 million to online theft if that loss was nothing. Ask all the businesses who had to pay out incident responders to fix their networks when they got hit by Wanna Cry if those costs were nothing. Large scale crimes happening over the Internet can be more than annoying, they can incur physical damage and costs.

“So the net as a tool has gotten better to address it's weakness in relation to privacy(crypto), spam (captcha/ML), fakes news (ML)”

I think that’s a debatable point. I don’t feel safer and I preferred simple tools like ftp, telnet, Usenet over Facebook, Dropbox, google cloud or whatever app is the focus of the current tech hype cycle.

“I'll take all the spam, fake news, trolls, ad stalking and attempt to capture my data than live through a war.”

That seems like an odd nonsequitur. Surely you don’t think there’s a dichotomy between war and Facebook? We have both now, and will have both in the future. Zuckerburg ain’t Jesus, apps are just widgets.

Also somewhat ironic that the author mentions the internet was created/funded by the military as part of a program to keep up with the Russians technologically during the Cold War, then goes on to complain about Stuxnet and nation states using the internet for cyber warfare like they were never even involved in the first place.

In the early/mid 90s, there was a big political fight over whether commerce should be allowed over the internet. On 'our' side (geeks, academics, netizens), we believed that commercialization of the internet would lead to its downfall. All of the technical things you mentioned would likely have happened without commercialization, and most if not all of the problems you mention are either created or exacerbated by this commercialization. I think the OP's analysis that the first 25 years were great, and the second 25 years it started to go off the rails, completely coincides with what we argued back then. Unfortunately the cat is out of the barn and there's no way to right the internet without going back in time.

Thanks. I wanted to write something similar, but you said it way better than I ever could.

It is always about how we use technology, not the technology per se. For the good, for the bad, for making money. Whatever.

It should be noted that the author of the article did not mention "Fake News" or trolls, and at least half of his point w/r/t privacy was how to prevent and deal with data breaches.

I was rather relieved to read through this article and not hear anything about the 2016 election.

It didn't go wrong. It went very well.

It didn't turn into the idealized vision that the author apparently had for it, but that's not unusual.

something definitely went wrong, imo.

when that pizzahut website link was posted a few days ago, i felt nostalgic about old web pages. most of them were about favorite topics, shows, hobbies and links! friends (the show) had thousands of fan made websites. websites linked to other websites with similar interest.

now it's all about "us" and "me". we don't even link to other websites anymore. blog rolls and guestbooks have gone extinct.

Yes, this is a common topic between my girlfriend and me. Internet as we know it (we grew up in the 2000s with MSN, forums, etc) doesnt exist anymore.

First (at least for us, for other people there would be another "first") were the basic webpages done in Frontpage or Dreamweaver (if you had enough RAM), uploaded to free webservers like Tripod, Lycos, Geocities, copying and pasting scripts found out there to remove popups and iframes, reading Photoshop tutorials to do some effects or gifs animations. Everything were more crafted, it took more time to do these kind of things (now everything is an app or a drag and drop).

Then came the second version of the internet. Everything was a bit "more pro" - even amateur fansites payed for their hosting, they had forums, online chats, etc. The open source community allowed this. From Wordpress with its themes to phpBB2 forums, vBulletin, etc. Oh, I miss those days.

Then slowly all of that was lost. Nowadays we only have social accounts for things. Fansites? Only accounts on Twitter, INstagram, YouTuber. Ask an INfluencer if they have their own website. What for? Everything is centralized.

My dad, who started using a smartphone just 2 or 3 years ago, doesn't fully understand what the internet is. For him, it's just a set of apps (Whatsapp, Facebook, and the website of his fav newspaper). Outside that he doesn't understand there is (or there was) a full world of websites with a lot of contents.

It makes me sad because "the original internet" will be never be like what we experienced. I don't know who to blame for, tho. If I were in the shoes of Facebook or Twitter's founders I would have done the same. But they definitely have eaten all the webpages around them.

People still run blogs. People still run their own forums. Nothing is "lost", there is just a whole lot of new things that apparently don't interest you as much.

Personally, I can't really say that I miss any of the sites designed like they were in the 90s, with their ever-rotating GIFs, Flash-based intro pages, "Designed for Netscape" badges.

And does an influencer need to have his/her own website? Not more than an ad needs its own website.

The "original Internet" is still there, and I dare say more people are using it than back in the 90s. It's just that a lot more people are also using the newer stuff that you don't like.

And that's fine.

I think maybe they're bemoaning the dichotomy between increased access and apparent decreased use of the internet for creation of content by ordinary users -- or at least content that's not being exploited for advertising/marketing?

I'd warrant a tiny fraction of users have their own blogs now compared to a decade ago?

But that was apparent from the get-go. Most people just want to consume. In the early years, "going online" already took some effort or knowledge - only as it became gradually easier did the large swathes of consumers join.

If you lived through Eternal September, you kind of knew this was coming.

But again, just because plenty of people consume, and plenty of companies cater mostly to the consumers, doesn't mean there isn't another world out there for those who look.

I've been thinking about this even more recently, specifically in the context of online portals for Flash content (games, movies, web comics etc). My conclusion is that there has been a loss, and it's largely related to reason for creation. Everything is now so product and marketing focused that creation for creation's sake makes the end result different.

E.g. if you were to search "pug lovers" two decades ago, you might find blogs posts about pugs, people's personal sites filled with images and stories of their own pugs, a small community pug-loving, pug-adopting as its own forum.

Now the first page of Google for "pug lovers" shows: a Facebook page, an Amazon page, a Pinterest page, two Etsy pages, two bespoke (catering towards dogs) storefronts, and one cute site (http://pugdogclub.org.uk/gallery/pug-lovers/).

There's no objective better or worse - people want the things all the new top results provide - but I know which era of results I prefer.

Try “pug lovers” with Safe Search turned off.

> there is just a whole lot of new things that apparently doesn't interest you as much.

Or these new things interest them more and they don't like it. Like a frustrating addiction.

On a related sidenote, I wish a good bookmark sharing service existed. Del.li.cious used to be amazing and useful.

What you are describing is dilution of users who are not technical at all.

The people creating content, stupid simple websites, blogs, catalogs or very niche websites are still there, it's just not that obvious that they are there.

AOL was the internet for some people (and maybe still is!).

It's just capitalism, put a fence around something, sell access, keep people ignorant of what they're missing.

It's impossible for things to stay good under unrestrained capitalism because there's always some [even very minor] deleterious action that can be exploited for profit (financial or control). Those actions tend to proliferate and cascade.

Your posting this on a website that is pretty much exclusively links to other websites, "hey I made this" stuff, and people talking about their hobbies.

I think it went /okay/.

HN is pretty niche. In some countries like the phillipines, most internet users stay on Facebook for almost their entire session. Even so their internet is filtered through Facebook Basics (and one could make the argument our internet is filtered through google).

Even when looking at reddit in the western world, most people don't click the links, they stay on reddit.

I would say we did get something wrong by not regulating enough and allowing companies to monopolize the internet and further to act as private intelligence agencies with no legal liability for the data stored.

I take issue with the author mentioning blockchain though. Im not going to derail the thread but everyone should look into datproject as the future: https://blog.datproject.org/2018/01/16/dat-privacy-models/

I would say that the people who today only consume, and stay on single sites (eg not clicking the links on reddit) would simply not have cared about the internet if it had been the way you suggest.

Whether that would be a good or a bad thing is up for discussion, of course :-)

But in the "good old days" the entire WWW was pretty niche, wasn't it?

However, we could also call this a dedicated bookmarking app with discussion threads appended to it. This is certainly a special case (and also somewhat of an endangered species.) For "normal" websites, there are only few left that consider themselves as part of a bigger web, in which they are constituting yet another node (trying to make this web as a whole worthwhile).

Sure. And you could find a name like that for pretty much every website in existence in the 90's.

I strongly disagree that it's a special case, and I strongly disagree that there are only few websites left that feel like part of a bigger something. I think you are romanticizing the past (as most people do with most things they remember from their youth - remember when kids' TV shows were actually good?).

There's definitely a difference. In what may appear here as "the good old days", authors usually showed their authority on a subject by frequently linking to other sources they would consider interesting in context, thus contributing to knitting the web. (Edit: It was this very phenomenon, which provided the base for the Page rank.) Personally, I see this rarely nowadays. Also, the entire idea of adding "something amazing" to the web, another sight to see and visit, has become a rare affair. Surfing is somewhat a thing of the past.

Out of curiosity, what period are you referring to as the "good old days"? Must be prior to, say, 1993-1994?

I also remember these days as the days where we had to be very, very nice to other people and play by their rules (universities, free hosters, ...) in order to get something published online. Domain names were expensive. $5 cloud hosting? I don't think so.

I mean, I get what you mean - but I simply cannot agree.

I'd say, "surfing" became a popular buzz-word around 1997/98?

Edit: Regarding availability of webspace, back then some for personal use usually came with an e-mail account for free (but you usually had to pay for this e-mail account, as free e-mail wasn't yet normal.) And, you could find full-fledged dedicated web-space for about $5/month. (Personally, I have been working for/with ISPs since 1996 and am hosting a personal website since 1999, before this using free webspace, which was provided either by the university or the employer.)

Edit #2: Who remembers tilde-addresses (www.domain.com/~<account>/)? – These were usually free webspace.

>This is certainly a special case (and also somewhat of an endangered species.)

I'm not so sure about that. This site isn't that different from stuff like reddit or tumblr at it's heart, even if the level of discussion/quality of posts is higher. If you distilled these types of sites even further, it's really not all that different from social media like facebook or instagram. The only difference is the type of content shared and the fact that facebook and instagram are usually used with you being "yourself" rather than just a username. Then again, enough people on hackernews link their profiles to their own personal websites/linkedins/etc. that even that distinction isn't so sharp.

There's an entire category of web-applications derived from the original forum idea. However, I'd say, while fora were once a frequent thing (and, considering Steward Brand's the WELL or FirstClass, maybe the original internet application), they've become rather rare and there are only just a few "community watering holes" left.

P.S.: Here's an exemplary link to what was once the major FirstClass node in my country, which first migrated to the web and then became obsolescenced [is this a word?] by Facebook (the tagline reads "forum for politics and society", operational 11.11.1992 - 1.12.2012): http://blackbox.at

The last two items in your list were already a thing on usenet.

Sure. Most things happening here also happened back in the days. That was not my point though ;-)

I always find it interesting that different people view the golden age of the internet as happening at a different time.

Some say the 2000s. For me it was the late 90s. For others, "eternal september" marked the end of the golden age - 1993. And I'm sure the current crop of children will say it was the 2010s.

I think the only common thread here is that the internet changes. And people don't like change. What is new is bad, what was old was good.

Maybe it was all part of the golden age and people just remember the specific year that they started using it? 20 years of a free internet for the masses was not a very long period of time.

For each person, it seems to be the first few years of using the internet for the first time in their lives.

> we don't even link to other websites anymore.

Meaning, there is no WWW anymore. (Just a bunch of isolated load-on-demand apps distributed by a network.)

Edit: Is this why Google Chrome is hiding the "www." sub-domain prefix, because it doesn't apply anymore? ;-)

Google is a driving force behind the destruction of the web. They like the content they do not like the links. The best way for the web to develop from Googles point of view is if we all consume just the content that Google forwards us to without horizontal bridges between pages. So that's why you will see Google push to reduce the importance of URLs and why Google will - shamelessly - lift content of other websites and display it as their own as the result of a query on the results page rather than to link to the site that they took the content from to begin with.

> They like the content they do not like the links.

I'm not disagreeing with your appraisal - in fact I probably agree with it - but I do find it deeply and painfully ironic to read, given the entire foundation of Google's being - PageRank - is based on analyses of the web of other people's links.

It seems like the parasite doesn't realise the damage it's causing the host.

This phenomenon has been discussed to some degree; here's an article about the changing web and who benefits from it and what we've lost in the process:


> we don't even link to other websites anymore. blog rolls and guestbooks have gone extinct.

I've felt this too. Example: I made a pointless little humor website that got mentioned on HN once. I got a bunch of nice replies, and a few thousand visits that day. Since that day, none. Zero other than robots, literally.

I'm not complaining that it didn't go viral, I'm saying, in the old days, a brief spurt of popularity translated into a trickle of ongoing traffic, because people shared links to sites in a way they don't really do now. Links pages don't exist anymore (unless they're SEO spam). Slashdot and boingboing are just news now. A link to a neat site your friends haven't seen yet used to be a valuable thing, and now it isn't.

Alternate explanation: the competition is better now.

In the early days of the web if you put some time into making a funny site there just weren't all that many other funny things to link to. You were one in 1k or in 10k. But now there are so many other options, many of which publish new funny things every day, that you're one in 100k or in 1M.

A link to a neat site your friends haven't seen yet it still a valuable thing (and more or less the premise of HN, Reddit, etc) but the bar is higher.

(This is a good thing!)

You've misunderstood. I'm not saying "my site is so awesome that you should be surprised no one goes to it!". The thing I'm saying is surprising is the disparity between the reaction on day 1 and on day N.

I know it sounds like I'm whining, I'm really not. All I can say is, if you weren't there, it's hard to describe how much "I found a neat site" was part of the currency of social interaction online twenty years ago. To get a dozen positive comments and emails but no shares or links was just not a thing that happened. People shared the urls to weird/funny/awesome things the way they share memes today. And I guess that change is not surprising - memes don't have ads, don't have google analytics, don't beg to put you on a mailing list, etc.

Maybe this was a more novel thing to discover 15-20 years ago? Perhaps it is people and their opinions that have changed?

Don't blame the tool, blame the user.

It's true that very often people only start things thinking about easy to dream benefits, and rarely about the systemic implications.

How did it go so wrong - the same way it did go wrong with many other tools - people used them to better themselves at the cost of others.

> We could try to push the internet back toward its ethical roots. However, it would be a complex challenge requiring a joint effort by interested parties — which means pretty much everyone.

That "everyone" also includes bad actors.

Exactly. The "ethical" roots people imagine weren't actually the roots of the Internet; they were an ideal that was hypothetically possible (but in hindsight, probably assumed too much human virtue atop an infrastructure built around assumed trustable nodes). The actual roots of the Internet would be to kick most users off and keep individual nodes behind locked doors controlled by a joint military-industrial-education confederation of separate institutions with overlapping goals. Privacy was assumed close to nil at several of those institutions.

That's a non-starter for building a system that can serve all people on the planet, so it's not the right approach. There is no way back; the only way is forward, informed by the past, but recognizing the weaknesses of its origins as well as its strengths.

> ethical roots

weren't they all working for the .mil?


There were plenty of us there who were accidental visitors, curious kids who found ourselves in this interesting world. Kleinrock mentions this briefly in the original article, but there was a high degree of trust and optimism on the early internet, and if one was technically inclined and a little outgoing and generally a good egg, it wasn't hard to get an account somewhere.

When I first logged into MIT-ITS around 1982, coming in over dialup as a teenager calling a modem bank near the Pentagon, the login-failed message said something like, "Sorry, that username does not exist. Would you like an account?" It was RMS himself who gifted me (and a lot of others) a free account for the asking.

It's a hard thing to explain to people who weren't there -- I think this is why so many people in this thread see Kleinrock as naive or worse. My girlfriend never believes me when I try to explain the early internet; it seems an impossibility to her, as if I was talking about some pre-historic hunter/gatherer culture.

Some with more degrees of separation than others, yes.

Yasha Levine's "Surveillance Valley" is a satisfactory history of that era, up to the near-present, albeit with a clear political perspective.

The problem is that ‘everyone’ also includes the general public which mostly consists of consumers that don’t care.

Sounds like what we need is a way to curb the actions of these bad actors.

"You should be able to clearly articulate your preferred privacy policy and reject websites that don’t meet your standards."

It occurs to me that this could be a rough description of ad blocking extensions, although rather like the Aldous Huxley quote about means determining ends, ad blockers are the result of an adversarial relationship rather than a consensual one.

Adversarial interoperability is all about rejecting the website's terms instead of the website itself.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/06/adversarial-interopera... https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/07/adblocking-how-about-n...

Not exactly in my opinion. My understanding of the passage is that he wants to block the entire website outright. So not, "Look at reddit, but block ads." Rather it would be, "Block reddit."

Curiously, blocking the entire website outright due to incompatible privacy policies is a solution I never really even considered? It certainly changes the dynamic game theoretically speaking. I wonder what the internet would be like in a parallel timeline where that happened?

This already sort of happens with ad-blocker-blockers, except the other way around. You signal to the website you don’t want the privacy-invasive mess that are ads, the website tells you to sod off.

And then, you install an ad-blocker-blocker-blocker

I kinda recall there being some options in old browsers (>10 years ago) where websites could send their privacy policy as a blob in the http header and the browser would enable/disable content based on pre-defined user options. However I can't recall the name of this and a quick search isn't showing me anything that rings a bell.

Well, the visibility would have to be there. If my privacy settings blocked Reddit, would it know? If I said "Okaaaaaaayyy let me view this particular site this particular time" would Reddit also know? ("There's a customer that we likely won't see again because of our privacy settings.")

This is effectively what we should be doing: Either accept what the site is offering (content monetized by ads and data collection) or don't. But what happened instead is entitlement: People decided they had the right to view that content without paying it's cost, and went for ad blockers instead.

As much as I loathe ads, I am still surprised ad blockers work: That vastly more websites haven't simply made it impossible to view them without either seeing the ads or paying money/subscribing.

Lots of people who use ad blockers aren't opposed to ads themselves. If a site shoves an "Eat at Joe's" div in beside the content, that's fine, we'll look at it, because after all ad blockers won't block such an ad. What we oppose are ad networks with all the tracking and privacy violations those entail, and those are blocked by ad blockers.

What cost? Web sites don't charge anyone for the HTTP response. They distribute their pages free of charge.

Creating content has an inherent cost.

I mean the cost to me as a user. Why don't content creators charge me for the page view?

As individuals, right? Since according to the author nation-states blocking websites that don't comply with their law is "balkanization" which is bad, but please also we need governments to be more involved in regulating the internet (but how to do that without balkanization or control?)

I don't disagree with some of what the author is attempting to propose, but it's not thought out at all well or clearly, which is a let-down.

In summary, the internet initially reflected the values of its socially conscientious creators, but as the community diversified it was used for business (making money, marketing, spam), it suffered cyber attacks, nations are balkanizing regions of it with censorship firewalls, and businesses are exploiting our privacy. Users need to spend more time reviewing privacy agreements. Scientists need to work harder on encryption.

Simply the internet has always reflected the segment of society that used it. Now that everyone uses it it reflects society at large. So I don’t think this is an internet problem, but rather an opportunity to see the worlds social problems being translated into a more transparent codified form. I reject the author’s two solutions as being low effort addendums. Let us acknowledge we are not seeing new problems, but rather we are seeing old problems with a new lens.

Conway's Law on the global scale?


> "organizations which design systems ... are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations."

The Internet as image?

- - - -

I like it, but then there's the problem of too much, too little, and differential transparency, eh?

Four popups and overlays in 15 seconds. What a trash website.

Ironic, given the subject of the article.

It further helps demonstrate the point even if unintentional.

Site appears to work perfectly with JS disabled entirely (IMO, as the web should be).

At least you could see the popups. I default open things in an incognito window, and it won't even load if you're in incognito, just shows you a big banner shaming you for using incognito mode and asking you to log in.

It'd be kinda cool if HN had reddit-like flairs for stories so you could tag them as "no-incognito" or "soft-paywall" so you knew what not to bother clicking on.

Just disable javascript. Media sites are too broken these days to take a risk on their code any way. The LA Times devs have done a good job keeping the fallback readable.

Really good hint, didn't think to try that. Toggling javascript off for that site in uBlock Origin should make future clicking on links to it a much happier experience, thanks!

Reader mode is perfect for sites such as this.

My preferred solution is just closing the tab and moving on.

He doesn't mention the Worm of 1988[1]. The only reason it spread was because sendmail(1) would allow any remote sender to spawn a shell on your system. This was by design, and left in place because these researchers were naive and utopian. Then Robert Morris Jr came along and abused it. To me, that was the inflection point of the nascent Internet: the naivete of these researchers met the harsh reality of real human behavior and lost.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_worm

I met my wife on the internet, on a chat site I created back in 1995, we have a beautiful son, I’ve made countless friends through the internet, had a fantastic 25+ year career.

I guess I’m saying that the internet has been awesome for this family.

That said, I do agree that it has been co-opted in ways that are not good by a few nefarious players.

Still, it’s not all bad.

I heard Vint Cerf say similar things at a talk at Georgia Tech many years ago. Basically it was "we made this decision because of this reason, but had we known this thing now we would have done it yet another way." Those points were largely technical in the beginning of his talk, but then he started talking about it in terms of the philosophical implications which were largely not realized at the time. It was clear that he (and assuming his team) were in it as much if not more for the technical challenge than anything else. Its utility was just as clear, but long term implications were (seemingly) not considered. It was both funny and a little disheartening.

Use of telecom networks for criminal activities predates the Internet, and the use of computer networking for fraud and abuse was recognized long before the Internet was opened for commercial use. The movie War Games was released in '83 around the already popular meme of computer hacking. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was passed in '86. The Morris Worm occurred in '88.

Usenet started in '80 and soon had all sorts of sketchy activity going on. Corporate email systems in the mid-80s were being used for flame wars over internal disputes. It was clear by then that computer networking allowed all the good and bad human interactions that were possible.

The very nature of networks and the internet has resulted in the concentration of "information flow" in a few 1000 (10,000?) nodes globally. These key nodes which act as transit points in the network have become monitoring points for many agents. In essence, the internet, in an effort to liberalize and disseminate information easily, has sufficiently centralized information flow into a few nodes. Encryption can help in this scenario, and hopefully gets stronger.

Prior to this, the means of monitoring were varied and took effort, often human. This meant it had to be selectively applied since there was a burden/cost to all out monitoring; as a result you had to know the task/persons you were to observer (and get a warrant). Now, capture can be all encompassing and automated; "searching for issues" is done later. Monitor everything, ask questions later.

Now this in itself is troubling but another side effect is that these transit nodes can be disabled by agents to suppress the dissemination of information from troubled areas. In this scenario, cryptography cannot help as the wire to the outside has been cut.

As traditional dissemination methods disappear or go online, and our information consumption is primarily online, these nodes can become very effective 'information suppression' points.

Power hierarchies are part of human nature. We always create them, the super-nodes.

This is not limited to computer networks. We do it with relationships as well, how many does not know of Madonna and Justin Bieber, compared to random Joe? Our very ideas and thoughts are subject to it as well.

There already exist meshing technology that counter our human nature and does not produce power hierarchies. Decentralized hashtables for example.

Maybe if we hand over the control to the machines, we could solve this problem. Pretty much noone wants that though... It's limited to some fringes of our society. The darknets (i2p more than Tor) it, and BitTorrent swarms. It works here, because the programmers never gave the users a choice.

Just for perspective: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Xanadu

> Project Xanadu was the first hypertext project, founded in 1960 by Ted Nelson. Administrators of Project Xanadu have declared it an improvement over the World Wide Web, with the mission statement: "Today's popular software simulates paper. The World Wide Web (another imitation of paper) trivialises our original hypertext model with one-way ever-breaking links and no management of version or contents."

(Unfortunately, the Wikipedia article proceeds to reference a Wired magazine "hit piece" in the next paragraph. Ignore that, read this:)

Here's an interview with Nelson: https://www.ics.uci.edu/~ejw/csr/nelson_pg.html

What do you guys think about a kickstarter to raise enough money to buy Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/etc and shut it down for everyone's benefit?

I think I would probably be making a Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/etc competitor that night. They exist because people want them to exist, even though they have some bad parts. It's much more effective to work to make them better than to just throw them out.

I would open up their APIs instead. Allow everyone to write their own interoperable frontend or backend. That levels the playing field, allows everyone to compete on the strength of their interface instead of the size of their captive audience.

As you say, the service fills a need (perceived or otherwise). It's the size of the network, not necessarily the service itself, that causes the problem. Make the service a protocol, and move it back into the (web 1.0) fold.

Or, run it for everyone's benefit? Surely is not mass communication that's the problem but the way that is leveraged and users are productised?

Facebook would probably be a net benefit for me if it weren't for the political manipulation it has enabled.

It's a great idea, but I suggest using IndieGoGo and set up the campaign to keep the money for the unlikely event if the campaign fails. Alternatively as a stretch goal add Medium to the bucket too.

Internet only allowed us to witness another iteration of implemention of the nasty methods already employed by nations, corporations and other entities to assert their power over the general population; information hiding, secrecy, isolationism, monopolies, weaponization of information, denial of anonymity etc.

The original intent of internet was to establish a honest and open platform for information sharing, and for me (personally at least) the development so far has only convinced me that most establishments out there are utterly incompatible with those values.

If you consider the internet as a reflection of mankind, then maybe seen it as wrong and broken is only a measure of your belief system against what is society in its crudest form?

Also I disagree on the "create a new crypto system" to solve our issues trope. When talking about stolen databases I would argue it is a problem of not using state of the art to protect privacy as there is realistically no incentive to do so.

> websites should provide a privacy policy customized to you, something they should be able to do since they already customize the ads you see. Websites should also be required to take responsibility for any violations and abuses of privacy that result from their services

These sorts of policies will completely annihilate small sites. Only large corporations and institutions with their own legal teams will have websites.


Isn't it easier to not use someone's PII?

> Scientists need to create more advanced methods of encryption to protect individual privacy by preventing perpetrators from using stolen databases.

It would be wonderful if this came about, but this isn't exactly a plan either. Current technologies almost all require you to work against decrypted data. For example, if I encrypt my laptop, and I use column level encryption on my database, and use ssl to connect to that database, and use certificates and two factor authentication and so on, in the end my application can read decrypted data. All the encryption prevents access to the data through many mechanisms, but rooting any of the machines involved still gives an attacker a path to much or all of the data (eventually all the data).

What is necessary isn't more advanced methods of encryption, what we need is less painful methods of encryption. Encryption should be supported at the hardware level (ssd's can move data faster than even the most modern cpu's can comfortably decrypt it, memory is rarely encrypted), and applied everywhere all the time.

We're marking the 50th anniversary at King's College London with an evening of critical reflections by the Department of Digital Humanities, next Wednesday 6 November. Open to all!


Completed my MSc at KCL in August and my topic had to do with coming up with a solution for the issues being discussed here. I think I'll be attending this!

If anything, the presence of the "dark side" is proof that their creation is a massive success. Without it, we would not have truly free and anonymous exchange of information, which is what qualifies the internet as the greatest invention of mankind. I can carry a device around that had the ability to access the sum total of human knowledge

One of many great takeaways from this article, a great new word to add to my vocabulary:

Balkanization, or Balkanisation, is a derogatory geopolitical term for the process of fragmentation or division of a region or state into smaller regions or states that are often hostile or uncooperative with one another.

I think it can be boiled down to an even simpler statement. The internet got big enough to matter. As with all things that matter, people will try to monetize them, disrupt them, destroy them, and abuse them.

Even with all that, it still matters, we just have to really watch where we step.

> With the profit motive taking over the internet, the very nature of innovation changed. Averting risk dominated the direction of technical progress. We no longer pursued “moonshots.” Instead advancement came via baby steps — “design me a 5% faster Bluetooth connection” as opposed to “build me an internet.” An online community that had once been convivial transformed into one of competition, antagonism and extremism.

This cycle is perhaps fundamental to all __human__ inventions and core to the theory of disruption.

This played out out the same way with Bitcoin. Ethereum had to step in to disrupt that cycle and as ETH grows to that size, some thing else needs to come in and disrupt. Same holds true for IBM > Google > Facebook > ...

Ok, fine, ill go there, eventho you will hate me for it... hah....

Everyone should be able to publish and it should enjoy readership depending on its quality alone.

Platforms like HN and all the others offer guaranteed readership.

For example: If you are to write something about the current subject it would be a terrible write up if it talked about the Hindi vs Hindu typo. Horses vs cars would only be slightly less terrible.

My hand picked collection of "articles you should read" about the topic should not include such works. It just cant.

The difference is like that between getting on stage and sharing some insights or blabbering some raw thoughts over drinks with friends. We all have both qualities, which one should we use to write for the world?

I'm currently listening to "When the wizards stay up late" by Katie Hafner en Matthew Lyon.

It's about the origins of the internet, starting with the birth of arpanet and going from there.

I like it, it's interesting to know how it came to be.

I like the idea of improving the technology side, but another thing we should try to bring back is Netiquette - basically civility all users of this global network used to be expected to agree to.

I think YC is a good example of this working in practice, so why not expose more of the world to the idea again?

Endless September [0], when AOL connected to the Internet, should be waining soon since their subscriber base is finally disappearing right?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

The internet went wrong when Big Corp stepped in and Bribed the Government with the DMCA,

Killing off the community powered & hosted internet (Napster, BitTorrent).

Then further, mobile (which is great) made the Server/Client relationship polarizing & prone to spying on your location.

To fix this, we need lite P2P protocols that can run embedded or directly on any webpage inside the browser.

Then maybe, we can finally dig ourselves out of this grave.

That's what we're building, and we already have 8M monthly active users running this network! Come join the fun!

> Blockchain, the technology that underpins bitcoin and other digital currencies, also offers the promise of irrefutable, indisputable data ledgers.

I see a recurring pattern here. While we have huge potential here, there's a significant danger that the same kind of centralized control emerges out of decentralized structure just as with the Internet. I hope enough people working on and using blockchain technology in the early stages learn of past lessons.

I think it will be different based on the economics of the two systems.

On the early internet it was extremely cheap to host a webpage either on your own computer or something like geocities and thus an explosion of content was created in a decentralized manner. Then the internet grew in popularity and it began to cost a lot of money to maintain all of the servers and bandwidth needed which cut off all of the smaller groups and consolidated power to a few corporations who could fund such an enterprise.

With blockchains we are also currently in the amateur stage where anyone can build something and put it out there but the difference is that dapps cost nothing to run and anyone can publish one. The cost to the developer of Uniswap is the same for 10 people and 10 million. The cost is just the development of the initial dapp. A small group of open source developers could create the new Facebook without needing millions of dollars to pay for hardware and buildings.

This low barrier to entry and maintenance removes the centralization point that corporations rely on. This is to say nothing of DAOs like Moloch and other novel funding methods that allow non-corporate projects to compete on the same level as anyone else. It's quite possible that the blockchain space will have a much longer and possibly lifelong period of true decentralized content and network creation the likes of which we had on the early non-corporate internet.

> On the early internet it was extremely cheap to host a webpage either on your own

It still is. You can get your website hosted for $5/mo.

Not if your site is popular.

True, but $5 gets you quite a lot of traffic. If your site becomes popular, you can usually upgrade to a $20/mo plan that will be enough for most sites. If your site is a runaway hit, of course, then the economics are entirely different.

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