1. 28
  1.  

  2. 11

    I am much more concerned about all the attempts at tight control and censorship. And most worryingly, the tendancy to assign responsibility and liability to the people or companies who operate or moderate online services. It’s a powerful way to discourage people from running their “decenteralized” systems. tedu may be comfortable with his blog with his own content and links he chooses to post. But if I wanted to run a service, the main purpose of which is to host links and opinions written by other people, I could face up to two years in prison for the hate speechy comments that other users posted [1]. That is pretty fucking terrifying. I’m pretty sure there are similar repercussions for “illegal links.”

    That might just be enough to make it impossible to run certain types of sites or services as a hobby, unless you’re also willing to take a serious risk.

    [1] https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=fi&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=fi&sp=nmt4&tl=en&u=http://finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/1889/18890039001&usg=ALkJrhhbAWfY1ubA_X3IJ1U0EUrl0buDpA#L11P10

    1. 1

      On the bright side, two years is a lot less than the ten years you get for being a nasty tycoon. :)

    2. 13

      But what does this mean? I have a website which, today, post losing the internet, is visited by more people than the total population of internet users 30 years ago. Is that not a good thing? I know it’s cool to say Facebook stole the internet, but I’m left uncertain what I would do with it if they gave it back.

      1. 7

        The same thing you’re doing now. The difference is more people could read your stuff or participate in more ways. Whether they would is another issue that I don’t think you worry about as much.

        1. 4

          Is it helpful to say that more people could participate if the practical result is that fewer participate?

          1. 1

            How is the practical result that fewer could participate if we’re adding potential users to an existing set of participating users? Or are you talking about something other than Ted’s website?

          2. 2

            Well, who are these people that can’t participate? Maybe North Koreans? Not sure I blame Google and Amazon for the situation there.

            1. 6

              There’s young people whose only experience coming into the Internet is through walled gardens such as Facebook. That’s because they were all about lock-in within their walled gardens. There’s potential for new interactions if they facilitated a discovery with old-school sites aimed at increasing contribution. Instead, they incentivize and design for pulling in more content for passive-consumption or constrained interactions within their walled garden.

              Also note that I was thinking out load in response to your comment rather than having a solid, grand design with specifics laid out. I just think you might get more interactions if parties walling off users were trying to do the opposite. More the concept of it.

              1. 7

                Ah, I’m not too worried. There’s a generation that grew up knowing only Prodigy and AOL, and I think some of us turned out ok. :)

                1. 2

                  But the ones that knew about Prodigy and turned out OK also knew about Squarepusher…

                2. 3

                  What do you mean about FB and walled garden? FB is not like AOL where they were your gateway to the Internet and they could prevent you from going to it and stay on AOL content if you wanted. Maybe that is true for this Internet Zero thing they are trying in less developed countries but for people in developed countries, you get to FB by going through the internet. I get that FB wants people to think FB is the internet but I guess I’m not sure what power they wield to actually make that happen. Maybe FB is just better than the internet for most people?

                  On another topic, I think it’s really interesting that FB and Google represent extremes in how to view the Internet. FB wants you to think FB = Internet, never leave this site. And Google wants to give you the entire (safe) Internet, just go through them. It’s very fascinating and the lack of control Google has over all the websites is probably why they want to make AMP work. FB can, at least, make sure everywhere you go on it has a consistent experience. I happen to subscribe to something closer to the Google view but I can see why less technical people just don’t want to put up with it and would rather join an FB group or something to get their information.

                  1. 4

                    Maybe FB is just better than the internet for most people?

                    “FB is not like AOL where they were your gateway to the Internet and they could prevent you from going to it and stay on AOL content if you wanted.”

                    The effects are equivalent when the people don’t know what the rest of the Internet offers and Facebook is incentivized to do everything to prevent that happening. Google description you gave, esp for Search and Email, is much more like how I’d hope for Facebook doing things where they tie in more external opportunities for learning, participation, and cooperation with their service. Not hide the Internet as much. They will continue their model, though, since they’re motivated only by their profits they want to increase by collecting more data and having more control. Bad incentives.

                    1. 2

                      We don’t want for the two biggest internet companies which are both from the same country, who already serve a large percentage of the worlds internet pages, to prefer serving pages themselves and risk uniform, boring ideas, and censorship. On open internet which is distributed around the world and where everyone is equal and fake news hopefully isn’t amplified to defeating levels is surely preferable?

            2. [Comment from banned user removed]

              1. 22

                Back then knowing how to get online would make one a social outcast.

                I’m not sure that I agree with this framing–it might be more accurate to say that folks that were already somewhat socially marginalized often found themselves on the internet (in the form of BBSes and IRC and Usenet) in more welcoming environments.

                I think it’s important to try to keep an objective view at history and culture, and the argument that the 90s (or before) were some sort gulag era for nerds and that they were constantly repressed is quite possibly just as much a product of popular fiction sketching out stereotypes as anything else.

                These days the losers who used to think they ruled the world have flooded the internet and are literally ruining everything.

                It’s very difficult to paint with such broad strokes and be fair to everybody! It’s not immediately clear here who they are? Do you mean the folks that started up a lot of the “–but on a computer!” businesses? Or do you mean the folks who hadn’t had access to the internet until it became cheap?

                In fact, I’d even argue that it’s a good thing that these folks are getting online, if you value democracy and equality: most of the early online communities required a computer (expensive and uncommon), a modem (expensive and uncommon), and some place to dial into (very expensive, especially if you had to do it long distance!).

                As a side effect, a lot of very cool people and demographics were really underrepresented. It’s nicer now that we can talk with everybody and see what they like! :)

                the real value of the internet is being trampled under their stupid digital feet.

                There are so many different ways that the internet is valuable though! It is valuable as a tool for communication, for reference, for content distribution, for self-expression, for commerce–I think things are a lot nicer now in all of those categories than they were back in the early days. We can talk faster, show bigger ideas, store more books and documents, meet more people, sell more things, and so forth. That’s really great!

                Let’s say, for example, you’re a fan of Sonic. The modern web has made it easier for fans to share artwork of themselves and their favorite characters, to communicate and collaborate on fan mythologies and canon, to organize and show each other in easy-to-edit documents what part of Sonic they like most, and to distribute their own versions of the Sonic games to fill a gap left by the publisher. We could hardly do that twenty years ago.

                That’s not stupid, that’s awesome!

                Just look at web design trends for an example. Website design used to be about intelligently shaping information…That can be blamed entirely on stupid people.

                Remember, for a very long time (arguably only the last ten or so years) the toolbox available for designers was very limited. Javascript support for interactivity was quite poor–and that’s not just for ads or Pikachus chasing the mouse cursor, but for intelligent display of information like sorting columns and previewing photographs and so forth. CSS was very bad and made it hard to lay-out information in anything other than basic tables.

                Also, the early web had some great resources (see: JWZ’s old blog, .plan files, etc.) but it also had a lot of content that was not “intelligent shaped” as such. A lot of really weird and bad websites existed.

                A lot of smart people spent a lot of time trying to make better tools for viewing information and finding things, and a lot of that work has resulted in projects like Wikipedia and Google Maps and so forth.

                They want to turn the internet into TV

                I’m a little fuzzy on what you mean here–maybe you mean that they (whoever they is) are more interested in unifying the information presented (as in broadcast television) and in monetizing via ads (as in all television)?

                People have always been able to host whatever they’re willing to pay for on the internet–and a lot of great content is ad-supported because most people are not quite ready to pay directly for it but will not blanche when asked to view ads that some percent of them may click on.

                As for concern about unifying and homogenizing content, I think that the internet is always better about that than television! We have powerful search mechanisms in place, and even on sites like Facebook or whatever large algorithms work very hard to give users content that is most likely to be relevant to them (at least according to the information the users have supplied). In fact, we’ve done such a good job of giving users non-unified content that there is a lot of concern that folks are falling into “filter bubbles”, and are not seeing enough common content. :)

                The internet is still built and operated by “Smart People”(tm)

                I’m a little unclear on this too. A lot of the internet is built by and operated by folks that maybe aren’t the Smart People you’re thinking of…an example being Comcast who uses a CDN to serve assets required for their bill payment site to function correctly but which is also unavailable from inside the walled-garden they put users into when they haven’t paid.

                There’ve been a lot of “Smart People” that also have done very silly things and lost a lot of data or caused site downtime or implemented ad systems and surveillance software.

                I suppose I’d just say that the “Smart People” can’t be smart or wise all the time; they’re only human after all. ;)

                …we’re basically all in agreement that all of those other people shouldn’t have any real say in the direction that it takes.

                We should make sure we don’t ignore people who we think fall into that category! If we only cared about people that did network programming and ops, who would’ve made Deviantart? If we only wanted the developers and sysadmins, how would we have gotten Wikipedia? How many devops people would’ve made Soundcloud? Or Pinterest?

                There’s a lot to be learned from folks outside the dev bubble, and I think you could make a good argument that we’re lucky to have input from them in the direction of the Internet.

                they can be safely secluded in quarantine zones while the rest of us continue building this awesome thing.

                It’s not an awesome thing if we can’t share it with our friends, who might not be technical. :( :(

                1. 4

                  show each other in easy-to-edit documents what part of Sonic they like most, and to distribute their own versions of the Sonic games to fill a gap left by the publisher. We could hardly do that twenty years ago.

                  We can hardly do that now unless we like to gamble: DMCA. Your claim is an argument for the old web in legal sense built with modern capabilities.

                2. 4

                  This is a pretty hyperbolic comment. They are literally destroying everything? The total amount of content on the internet is orders of magnitudes more than it was in the 90’s. If you only take the content you’d consider high-quality that is on the internet today I would be very surprised if that was still not an order of magnitude more content than was on the internet in the 90s.

                  1. [Comment from banned user removed]

                    1. 7

                      I simply disagree, I think most of the content being published is crap. Do some web searches for “Best web hosting”, just for an example I’m familiar with

                      This isn’t responding to what I said though. I am not saying that there isn’t a lot of crap on the internet, or that even most of the internet is not crap. I am saying that even with that, the total amount of good content on the internet today is larger than the total amount of good content on the internet in the 90’s. Depending on when the 90’s means to you, wikipedia alone must be larger than the internet was then.

                      The internet today certainly has a discovery problem, but if you think finding relevant content on the internet in the 90’s did not have a discovery problem as well, you’re living in a nostalgic fantasy. Now I have to spend a few hours sorting through crap content whereas in the 90’s I had to spend a few hours just finding the content I wanted.

                      I have a very hard time seeing how the internet today is not a step up from the internet in the 90s, even with the added baggage.

                      1. 7

                        even with that, the total amount of good content on the internet today is larger than the total amount of good content on the internet in the 90’s

                        I agree and I’d go one further. The total amount of really good stuff available on the web now exceeds the total amount of stuff available on the internet in the 90s in total, even including all the stuff from the 90s that was total horse dinner remnant.

                        In the 90s it was possible to spend all day on the internet reading stuff, most of it utter crap. Now in 2017 it is possible to spend all day on the internet reading only absolutely wonderful, high quality things, if you can find them.

                        In a way this is more dangerous. :)

                        1. [Comment from banned user removed]

                          1. 5

                            It seems like, again, you missed the meaning of the comment, again, as discovery was a huge problem in the 90s as well, just a different kind of problem.

                            1. 3

                              I think it would be impossible to reason with a man who does not appreciate a few hours of his own time. Enjoy your sifting.

                              He spends hours. I spend seconds to minutes on most using search and filtering techniques I learned in the 90’s. Also, the accumulation of specialized resources for certain topics over time that keep producing good information within sub-fields. The reason these two strategies were important in the 90’s is that both discovery and filtering were difficult back then since there were (a) few sources of information easily accessible, (b) even loading the pages was slow, (c) it cost money to get to specialized resources where every search or minute might be a loss, and (d) there was a ton of noise since moderation & voting was non-existent or sucked.

                              The current situation is that I open a free service (Google) typing in search terms with a mix of quotation marks (certain it will be used) and speculative key words. I usually get what I want immediately. Otherwise, I put a minus in front of some words or try others to quickly find something decent. The results come in a fraction of a second on a high-speed line. I sometimes have text, audio, or video to choose from. That’s free and fast, too, where I don’t have to tie up my entire line for 30 minutes to see if the 2-3 minute MP3 was totally worthless.

                              I mean, there’s no comparison between the old and modern web in terms of accessing good content. The old one sucked massively compared to the new one even despite the fluff. It’s super easy to filter out for most fluff, super-easy to get good content, and you get more of it faster and cheaper. Takes work but you couldn’t guarantee access to good stuff quickly or slowly in the past plus you had to filter out bullshit. If your time is valuable, thank Google, Intel, broadband, and some FOSS folks if you’re into minimal, efficient apps.

                        2. 4

                          I think Wikipedia, Google, and StackOverflow alone have given people more actionable information with corresponding productivity boost than you could get with same effort and cost from the entire Internet in the 90’s. I had to work or spend my ass off to learn basic stuff about new topics back then. Now I’m drowning in good info. I have to work to ignore stuff since there’s so many good things. It’s a nice problem to have actually vs the opposite I experienced as a poor, intellectual boy in rural area. That was boring!

                          1. [Comment from banned user removed]

                            1. 2

                              Desire by who? I don’t think a vast majority of the Internet-viewing community has as big of a problem with the signal-to-noise ratio as you.

                              1. 1

                                Your own post implies that physical content in the real world doesn’t have the same problem. The internet has just made it easier for people to publish their content and share it with the world, where previously there were gatekeepers in forms like museum curators, radio station disk jockeys, book publishers, and movie production companies. For things to get wide recognition they’d need to make it through the gatekeeper’s hoops. All the small, weird, and sometimes bad, content still existed, just in different forms.

                                If you want to go back to that, it’s not difficult, you just need to pick your gatekeepers and ignore the rest of the internet. But it doesn’t sound like you want that. It sounds like you want to be the ultimate gatekeeper, who dictates how everyone else uses a public resource.

                                The insistence that everything you don’t like is shit is incredibly misguided. For every clickbaity article about the “best foo”, there’s someone experimenting with web technologies to produce new forms of art. For every memetastic shit post there’s someone posting music they recorded and produced themselves. But it sounds like you don’t want any of that. You can’t get any of the good content without allowing the bad.

                        3. 6

                          I think the stupid people will fail. The internet is still built and operated by “Smart People”(tm) and we’re basically all in agreement that all of those other people shouldn’t have any real say in the direction that it takes.

                          That almost reads like a joke. The Internet was controlled by smart, non-technical people who run the lines powering it. Indirect effects from those holding lots of patents and copyrights on software that locked in most desktop and enterprise users. Many companies with all the technical people were peddling products this way sending tons of wealth and more control toward the non-technical, rich people. This dictated a lot of what happened regardless of whether some open standards existed. Internet still took off with its built-in decentralization and resilience resisting the total control those companies wanted. Entertainment companies over here (U.S.) got some extra control with DMCA. Broadband went up and prices went down a bit. Web apps were invented.

                          And then the smart people stepped in: Google, Amazon, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. They proceeded to dominate markets with walled gardens and vicious approach to competition. Many built empires on surveillance engines. The combo of monopolistic practices, walled gardens, and surveillance engines was the anti-thesis to what the Internet was. The advantages of centralization, technical capabilities, and social factors made vast majority of people (on Earth with net access?) start using them. Now, the control of a tiny few on desktop, web, and mobile is incredible with most moving to do things in their interests instead of consumers’. They’re constantlly pulling the smartest, technical people to work for them at high salaries to make their dreams of higher profits happen.

                          So, no, I think smart people aren’t the solution for a better, free-er Internet. They’re the ones turning it into a limited, consumer-not-creator-drive, surveillance engine for the profit of non-technical people. There’s exceptions but they’re a tiny blip on radar compared to big players. Also survive less often. Technical people are part of the solution but not all of it. Our current situation is mostly a problem of bad, economic choices by Americans (“vote with the wallet”) and political corruption (esp patent/copyright) that must be eliminated to enable strong competition instead of lock-in. It will take so much effort by Americans that I doubt they’ll do it based on what I’ve seen so far.

                          Maybe Europe or Asia can set the example here. Maybe.

                          1. 2

                            There are a lot of things being discussed here.

                            I, too, see the hypocritical-over-time stance of pop culture toward the Internet: at first labeling it a place for losers, only to later flip to a world where Internet addiction is so commonplace people sit out at restaurants and use their phones in groups, not even talking to one another. Or to see the collective populace actually care about Internet Points. It is quite something.

                            I also see that my views are predicated on lingering feelings of exclusion. Make no mistake: the people that pushed those views were in the wrong. It is on me, however, to not return the favor. I’m probably doing much better than a lot of them by worldly standards!

                            Thus I have to admit that gatekeeping in this way is probably not the way to go. I also acknowledge that the anti-gatekeeping zeal that you sometimes see fails to admit there are real problems with culture being diluted by a group of people who, for all intents and purposes, don’t really give a damn about the culture they are consuming/appropriating, and hence cause collateral damage. Furthermore, it isn’t right to let sociopathic people come in and exploit said culture.

                            It is a complicated issue, and I think cultures can and should enforce norms to prevent being homogenized and hollowed into nothingness.

                            1. [Comment from banned user removed]

                              1. 1

                                Yeah, Internet Points are slang for all the social metrics that command our attention despite being BS: likes, shares, views, etc.

                                Read an article recently about teen’s rules for Instagram. I think was 20 rules or so, one of which is that you need to watch your follower to following ratio. Such crap.

                          2. 1

                            I like how he complains about how people don’t use the internet for creating things anymore, when his internet contribution was a method of stealing other people’s work.

                            But this is very interesting https://thenextweb.com/eu/2017/06/07/estonia-expresident-wants-rest-of-world-to-become-digital-nations-too/#.tnw_8WGGCJAb