Tuesday, December 28, 2010

By 2015, The Free Internet Will Be Totally Gone

The BBC has a great piece about how the US is going to regulate the Internet into being a sanitized corporate tool. Ten years ago, we didn't think porno-scanners and surrendering nail clippers would be common place at airports. I think in five years, we'll all be comfortable with a China-style Internet experience.
The speed differential that the US telecoms want is going to make two road to information: the fast toll road that they sanction and the slow road that we suffer under. Google spurred this change: their bandwidth hungry services gave the telecomms the excuse to push for an alternative. In the end, Google may benefit the most: they have long been looking for a way to omit low quality data and low quality users from their factoring. If a premium Internet comes, then those users come pre-qualified as spenders. Google / AdWords loves the spenders. There are cheap people who surf around on library connections and open wifi. They don't click. There is this other category of users-- consumers-- who are willing to spend. When they hit the Burma-Shave highway of Google Ads, they are more likely to click on the ads and drive revenue to Google. Google hates the non-clickers: they make up 99.9% of the people hitting a site. That said, Google has been an Internet success story even with a 99.9% failure rate. If they can suck through 1% of the traffic, it would be grand for them. They will complain and shakes their fists, but at the end of the day, Google is just as corporate and money hungry as Microsoft, Facebook or AT&T. As good libertarians, Google will push for net neutrality. But in fairness to their stockholders, they will go with the current and work to capitalize on what a non-anonymous Internet full of monitoring and quality consumers will do for them.
When this tiered and monitored Internet comes into full swing, there will be a tidy corporate Internet with video and flashy lights and seedy underbelly. The seedy underbelly has always been there, just one link further than you usually may go. The spiffy Internet will have virus checking and all manner of defenses; while the dark side of the Internet will be full of pop-ups and malware. Good news for Norton and the paid version of AVG: all those malicious sites and viruses need a virus checker.
When someone wants something banned, all they will soon need to do is get the attention of a handful or corporations and suddenly, the information will be as easily blotted as a Chinese democracy march. If you get Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Yahoo to block something, you will be hard pressed to see that information. Look at Wikileaks: Twitter prevented the topic from trending; Wikipedia removed links to Wikileaks data; and Time Magazine shelved Assange behind Zuckerberg's hoodie. This concentration of popularity combined with a new entitlement by the telecomms, means that the information you will be getting will be carefully monitored and controlled. If someone sics lawyers onto a string of websites, those take-down notices will banish the information from the Internet. It will be like Winston Smith upping the chocolate ration from 15 grams up to 10 grams.
You can avoid the close scrutiny of the corporate commandeered Internet; and you can fish for the real data or previous incarnations. There are technical ways to avoid most of... this, but the rank-and-file Internet users will not be able to deploy those, so most people will get a sanitized and heavily monitored experience carried out as an advertising vehicle.
With most net users using Facebook, the honesty-through-anonymity of the Internet is effectively gone. In lieu of a government run Big Brother who could be influenced through democratic processes; we have Zuckerberg. There's one difference between Big Zuckerberg and Big Brother: Big Brother made you surrender your information against your will; on Facebook, you gleefully surrender, what you're doing, who you know and where you're doing it. All of that data and those social interactions are key for dialing in who you are and what it will take to make you spend. Orwell's Big Brother is a bad choice for an antagonist. His face looked over throngs of poor and oppressed people who spent weeks using the same razor. How can the Politburo ever get rich off of those dreary masses? You need a teeming and dynamic group of children who want new toys, new feelies to watch and a string of distractions. You want those children of all ages to be good little consumers. To do that, you both want to know what they Like and you want to get that information with the littlest effort possible-- it would be best if they just volunteered that information of their own accord. It would be best, if they checked in at regular intervals with a concise status update-- ideally one of a 140 characters or less.
If I valued my friends less than I hated Facebook, I would ditch Facebook in a second. As it is, you will never see me write a FB "note" and I am unlikely to look at them when written by others. Their role used to be filled by blog posts and the real Internet.
Well, the real Internet of today. As it is, this being written on one of Google's most popular products: Blogger. I could post this on one of my personal sites, but I opted not to do that. I like that Google manages the bandwidth costs and server issues. I don't get a snarky phone call at 5AM saying that my blog is down. Google makes it easy for me to write and publish content. You couldn't ask for more out of a Big Brother.