Making The Internet Great Again
Since I am old enough to remember the world without the internet, I am aware that that makes me an increasing rarity. I am here defining the internet as “Not DARPA” which existed long before the 1990’s. I am talking about the AOL Compuserve dial-up modem internet of yore. So, my generation sits at precisely the cutoff between world without internet, and world with more internet than we really know how to utilize. I have come to a conclusion having studied technology and even having earned a degree within the field of it. The conclusion is this: the internet really will never progress until a certain select group of people are gone and greed is removed as an incentive.
The Internet That Was Not
I could go through the history of the internet and show you a thousand technologies that could have made it and probably would have been as good if not better solutions that what we have now. In each instance of the internet’s history, there are always a handful of people that are working on something usually rather idealistically. Eventually, whatever this project is comes across the radar of some “people with serious money” and usually those people with “serious money” have a specific agenda in mind. Most often, this agenda is not some ideal like “Freedom of Information” or the “betterment of humanity”. Instead, it is usually something like “I would like to trade stocks slightly faster than everyone else, so I can keep my gazillions of dollars”. This, I call the “hidden pressure” of the internet or what before the internet was called “The Market”.
A “Market” does not work on any basis of logic. Rather, it is driven by supply and demand and a myriad of hidden pieces of logic that work counter to something like “freedom of information”. It might be expedient in such a market to have one thing free so you can sell another thing that becomes demanded by the first being free. Of course, that only works so long as the second thing does not also become free. I might, for instance, give you a free small box of nails for your purchase of a hammer. Why will I do this? Because I make more on the hammer, and nails costs me fractions of pennies. I therefore can “afford” to give you something in exchange for your purchase.
Internet Databases And Data
Back in the later 90’s and early 2000’s, there was a big push to get data and presentation separate from one another for the purpose of data mutability. This meant you could write something once and then turn it into a variety of formats. It might be a webpage, or a pdf. This format was called XML and it was made in no small way by the people who made the internet to start with at DARPA.
Microsoft and Office
Microsoft though, was busy making a small fortune off of document processing. Their office solution was hard to use with anything else other than Microsoft products. This is a trend that continues to this day. While the windows interface is arguably easier to use than something like a Unix or Linux system, the tradeoff for the “ease of use” was to have all of your data completely tied up in the commercial solutions that Microsoft offered. As time moved forward sometimes these formats worked backwards and sometimes they did not. If you spent a long time adapting your business to say an Excel spreadsheet, then of course you had better have a working version of the spreadsheet in question, or else would would need to start all over again. All of these data entry requirements take time, and if there is one thing business understands well, it is that time is money.
Circles and Circles
So all this starts a basic adoption cycle. The businesses are going to buy the products that seem the easiest to use. The easiest to use products are going to be developed by who gets funding. The people who get funding are either going to work for the people making the seemingly easiest solution, or else make the easiest solution and then get bought up by one of the big players. The net result is that the small fish who love to work on the internet for ideals are either gradually depleted of funding, or that the large sharks are so large that it is only a matter of time before you either become a large shark member yourself, or your school gets eaten.
So where is XML today? You do not really hear all that much about it. Its school was eaten by other things, like XHTML and pandoc and a thousand other ways to wrangle data like buying more copies of Microsoft Office. We keep re-inventing the wheel.
Fixing The Problem
I was always taught that you should not complain about something without a solution, and I think I have it. This small group of people who, usually through financial pressure, control what gets developed and what does not need to simply get out of the way. I do not especially care how they get out of the way, but those people who I am talking about even if they make software that say, compromises an entire election, can usually afford very good marketing even if their solutions suck. They rub elbows with big business, and big business rubs elbows with them, and so they crowd out the small folks who simply would like an internet that does not force your data to travel over toll roads at every turn.
How Do They Get Out Of The Way?
Well, the best way is they put it down, or donate some funding to charities who are interested in specific humanitarian internet problems. I do not believe someone like say, Bill Gates, can turn around after basically raping the data of humanity and suddenly decide he has motives that are “for the best of humanity”. No, what he can do if he has those deep abiding feelings is donate a portion of his vast cash reserves to a charity he does not control and then simply walk away and let that charity do what it does. Some place like EPIC might be a good start. If, on the other hand, Mr. Gates does not want to do that, then I submit to you the fact that he has the vast sums he has to start with is mostly by holding the data of common people hostage. In other words, we have a situation where data has been kidnapped somewhat like a child and has been held hostage all the while being sanctioned by courts. This, I suggest, is what most people like Gates can do. My suggestion is that do it now while they can still look like they have the facade of being decent human beings. Pretty soon, what I am suggesting will be more mandatory–just as mandatory as they are trying to make a COVID shot except that in the case I am describing, the enforcement and authority to do as I am here describing will be absolute and without question. If that sounds scary to any billionaire who reads my blog–that you might have to face the reality where you are not a multi-billionaire but a mere millionaire, then I do not have anything by way of solace to offer you. Ill gotten gains sooner or later always return back where they belong, and of course, in technology as in many other facets of life, there are plenty of examples of people having “just done business”. I guess you can consider my words as a professional courtesy that I am not charging you 5,000 an hour to do. So, while I am done appealing to the “you should want to do the right thing” argument, I am stating, quite flatly “you definitely want to do it now if at all,” since the next leg of this journey when what I have said comes to pass occurs, you will have no recourse and will do well to escape with your lives.
So There You Have It
To make the internet basically great again, the solution is to get rid of some very serious scarlet-red sin in the form of greed and other agendas. At that point, people who actually love both humanity and technology can do what they do best, without having to provide a handjob to some executive who thinks he deserves a second boat in his garage.