(I apologize in advance, this is disjointed. I have been writing it in stages throughout the evening. I think it has morphed away from what it was originally intended to convey and has turned into a bit of a rant. If I missed anything, c’est la vie.)
My first foray onto the internet was not through the World Wide Web (WWW), which was once known as the Information Super Highway. No, I started my internet life on Telnet in my early to mid twenties. That is right, I started on the internet in a text only form as an adult. The only pictures I saw on the internet at that time were ASCII art. Images on the internet today still boggle the mind. I chatted with my new internet friends on Bulletin Board Services (BBS) with names like ISCA, Brinta, and Monolith.
My first email address is the one that I still use even though original internet service provider (ISP) was bought out by another who used to be my ISP until I had no choice by to go to high speed internet to keep my sanity. My simple website is still on that intermediary ISP though it is now a web server to me.
I have watched the WWW go from technical sites and simple fan pages written with just hyper text markup language (HTML) to commercially laden monstrosities that require half a dozen plug-ins. The first advertisements (ads) were simple links, now they sometimes take up half of the screen before the content. What is worse, some ads have gotten so intrusive that you have to click on them to get to the information you want.
I remember when everyone on the internet was a Star Trek and The X-Files fan. If you did not like Star Trek and The X-Files, something was very wrong with you. When I first started, Star Trek was a divided yet strong house, but now it is a very weak house. As an aside, because of The X-Files popularity, most netizens (as we were once called) knew and were fans of Adam Baldwin before he was Jayne on Firefly. So while Nathan Fillion has this huge social media footprint, Adam Baldwin was known by the geeks long before Nathan came to the scene. :)
I was around when instant messaging (IM) started. The first instant messenger, that I can remember, was America OnLine’s (AOL) IM (AIM) which was at first for AOL customers then they invited anyone to have an AIM account. After AIM, there was the stand alone ICQ. With the rise in IM popularity, it seemed like everyone wanted to have an IM associated with them, two notable companies were Yahoo and Microsoft. Each company required that you download their proprietary software to access their IM servers. Then along came Trillian which was a Godsend to those of us who used the big four above. Now Twitter has nearly killed them.
I have seen the rise and fall of web search engines such as eXcite, AltaVista, Lycos, Ask Jeeves, and the slowly dying Yahoo. I have watched Google go from a good small yet powerful web search engine to an internet superpower which is now good and evil. I watch the very commercial Bing with fear and dread. (When I enter the exact title of my website into Bing, commercial sites with only partial matches take precedence to mine.)
I remember eBay when it was small and customer friendly, though much riskier than it is today. eBay has gone from a site that were people selling Beanie Babies to a site that allows almost anything to be sold. At one time they had great customer service, now people have to jump through so many hoops just to talk to a person. They have also lost credibility since they stopped allowing sellers to give negative feedback on deadbeat buyers.
I remember when Amazon.com only sold physical books that they had in their warehouses. Now they sell so much that they have lost their charm. They now sell books and music without the quality control of publishers. I could write a book, put it in a compatible electronic format, and sell it without having to work with a publisher. I have not yet done so because I do not want to publish without someone with experience telling me it is good enough for public consumption.
At one time there was a web site I visited where someone kindly uploaded thousands of songs from all over the spectrum. All I had to do was right click the link and download what I wanted to save and hear. These days the owner of a site like that would be hunted down and sued for all he or she was worth. The internet was a looser place when I first got here. I blame Steve Jobs and his damned iTunes for ruining the freedom we had on the internet. No one dares do anything without risking a lawsuit and in some cases jail time. Gone are the days of sharing what we have with the less fortunate who can not afford it.
We are getting to a point where babies in developed nations are being born with an iPod, BlackBerry, etc. in their hands. With the internet spreading beyond the technological elite to the everyday person, people are becoming more and more impatient. Where once you had to go to a store to buy a book or a record, you can now have it instantly on your hand held device. Where once it took days to get a in expensive message from your dearest friends, you can now talk to them across the world without having to wait for nearly free.
We have become more impersonal as the internet becomes a bigger part of our lives. There are people who have these fancy mobile devices where they have the ability to actually hear the voices of the people they normally talk to, but they don’t because of they may have forgotten how to cope with real laughter and even more serious real tears. All they want to see is “LOL” at what they say or just to send *hugs* when their friends are feeling down in the dumps. It is hard to ignore a voice but easy to ignore words on their screens.
I fear one day the superpowers of the internet will all become one. If Apple, Google, Amazon, and eBay join forces; I think I will just have to go offline. I am hopeful that open source will gain more ground while the giants battle it out.
People are not writing personal websites these days. Gone are the days of the fan pages. Those creating web sites these days are selling something. Those who are selling something want to sell more things which turns them into monstrosities like Amazon and eBay.
Most people go to Facebook, create a profile, and call that their personal web page. That is sad on many levels. Do they not know that Facebook is gleaning everything they can on their users to sell their sponsors’ products? If those people are not using Facebook, they use blog services such as Tumblr and call that blog their web page. A personal website in one where you choose everything that is on your web pages. The moment a web server tells you that you have to put their ads on your web site, it is no longer yours. You should move immediately to a web server without such conditions. It does not matter how pretty they allow you make it, they still place their ads on your pages. (If I did not have AdBlocker, I would go insane.) This blog is not my website, my website is called Fantasy’s Realm. This is just a blog service I found as a useful way to post long thoughts onto Twitter.
Back when I first started using the internet, my baud was slow. The faster the normal baud is, the faster everyone wants the information they seek. Even I have fallen into that trap, though I have come from a slower generation who can wait for some things. I can wait hours and even days for replies to my questions posted to forums even Twitter. Unfortunately, faster bauds and faster messaging services get, the lower the attention span of the internet users. On Twitter, if one does not get a response in an hour or two, a response will probably never come. That leaves people competing for their “friends’” attention instead of collaborating to make a stronger community.
The point I’m trying to make here is that everyone should just slow down when using the internet. I know that the internet is now a lot faster and bigger, but that does not mean that you should hang onto it for dear life. Put down your mobile devices while you are out with family or friends, enjoy their company. While watching television or a movie, enjoy your show and discuss it later. Do not worry about how many people are following you on this or that service. Get a small intimate circle of friends. Learn to wait for answers, instead of needing them instantly.
My muse for all of this is @docsaico on Twitter.