Archive for July, 2010

The Internet, 1995-2025

July 8, 2010

Recently, Hacker News linked to a 1995 article on the future of the Internet, while Metafilter linked to one giving Internet access instructions for the year 2025.  What can we learn from these views from 15 years ago and of 15 years hence?

The ’95 article basically says that this new-fangled Internet will never amount to anything – you can’t find anything on it, you can’t send money over it, and you can’t get dinner reservations, buy books, or order airline tickets.  It’s tempting to make fun of this, and we should succumb to the temptation – there are so few pleasures in 2010, and it’s not as if the people of 1995 will be (will have been?) upset.

The ’25 post paints a dystopian future of a nightmarish Internet controlled by a few large companies that restrict political commentary, stifle artistic expression, and stop you from seeing boobies online.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that 1995 missed a fundamental rule of the world – if there’s enough money to be made in something, it will happen, be it slavery, drug trafficking or reality TV.  Sorting through the Internet seems like an impossible task, but Google and Yahoo made their fortunes on it.  Billions of dollars were riding on secure online payment becoming available, so it appeared.

Applying this to 2025, yes, there will be megacorps that automatically scour their part of the Internet for lewdness, profanity, or controversial opinions – people want that, and, more importantly, advertisers really want that.  But equally, there will be vast stretches of the net that is the unregulated mess we know and love – enough people want that. Will there be age restrictions and a loss of privacy in the walled garden part of the Internet?  Sure, but the age restrictions will work about as well as those on buying alcohol, and nobody will worry about the loss of privacy, just like they don’t worry about it for credit cards.

Of course, I could be completely wrong, in which case, I give you, the people of 2025, carte blanche to make fun of this post.  Given the way things are going here in 2010, I figure you could use a laugh.