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The beginning of the end of the pioneer period

In my post the other day I was postulating  a new normal where every internet user was at least known to the service provider that they used so that they could be held accountable for the things that they said and did online. Reading the opinion piece in today’s age makes me think that my predictions/expectations may be closer to fruition than I thought:

A LITTLE over a decade ago, just before the masses discovered the digital universe, the internet was a borderless new frontier: a terra nullius to be populated by individuals, groups and programmers as they saw fit. There were few rules and no boundaries. Freedom and open standards, sharing information for the greater good was the ethos.

Today, the open internet we once knew is fracturing into a series of gated communities or fiefdoms controlled by giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and to a lesser extent Microsoft. A billion-dollar battle conducted in walled cities where companies try to lock our consumption into their vision of the internet. It has left some lamenting the ”web we lost”.

The same firm in some cases now provides not just the content we consume but the devices we consume it on and a plethora of other services to help manage our digital lives, be it email, online storage or e-commerce.

Increasingly, the web kings are expanding into each other’s turf and butting heads with smaller pretenders to the throne, such as Twitter, locking competitors out of their ecosystems but, more importantly, locking us, the consumers, in.

”There’s no question that we are witnessing a clash of the titans over ‘our’ data”, says Jennifer Zanich, serial Australian entrepreneur and now co-founder of start-up Paloma Mobile.

Data is the oil of the digital age, handed over willingly by consumers seduced by the latest flashy new web service. Big data is where the big money is made on the web today, and famous US venture capitalist Mary Meeker describes it as the ”Wild West” of the internet.

So much of the belief in the ungovernable nature of cyberspace is predicated upon the “wild west” view of the internet  but as it becomes a more organised and more commercial rather than Geek space the frontier town mentality will, like the old west fade away to be replaced by a more urbane and dare I say it “civil” environment quite simply because it is bad for business for it to be anything else. So if Asher Moses is correct the commercial imperative will drive a decline in the anonymity of users on the various conduits like twitter and blogs  to the owners of those platforms. Readers can obviously see that that this will be a boon for accountability as governments will pressured into ensuring that their online citizens are protected from both both commercial exploitation and online  abuse.
The online space is changing fast and not all of that change will be entirely beneficial or benign. Personally I find the idea of storing my data in “the cloud” rather unsettling and somewhat insecure (does anyone remember the collapse of “Haloscan” and the subsequent evaporation of millions of blog comments?). I find it hard to believe that everything online will be in anyway “eternal” or permanent as users create more and more content it seems inconceivable to me that we won’t  eventually find the older stuff disappearing  just as the graves in an ancient necropolis melt into the landscape with disuse.  It costs money to maintain an exponentially expanding online archive and the ones paying the bills for that storage won’t shell out forever to maintain those graves when the servers can return a profit by being re-purposed.
Of course like the decline of the old west there are people who just loved the anarchy and lawlessness who will truly morn the coming of civilisation to our online world but they will be very much in the minority as the Mums, Dads and their children outnumber the Geeks and scum-bags who first settled this new electric country and the Mums, Dads and their children  will neither celebrate nor mourn the passing of a period of utter lawlessness that the online  pioneers have had to endure.
Cheers Comrades
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6 Comments

  1. Brian says:

    This article is about how corporations are developing business models that are ‘compartmentalising’ the internet. It is not really about enforcing regulation of identities, though one may be a side-effect of the other.

    Personally I find the idea of storing my data in “the cloud” rather unsettling and somewhat insecure (does anyone remember the collapse of “Haloscan” and the subsequent evaporation of millions of blog comments?).

    Yet I expect that more personal data will be stored in the cloud each year, as PCs with hard drives are replaced by PCs without them, and as the consumption of smartphones, tablets and netbooks increases. It’s now less necessary to carry around your data with you. As to the security of data in the cloud, yes, I think that is of some concern. There have already been cases where this data has been misused.

    Of course like the decline of the old west there are people who just loved the anarchy and lawlessness who will truly morn the coming of civilisation to our online world but they will be very much in the minority as the Mums, Dads and their children outnumber the Geeks and scum-bags who first settled this new electric country

    Iain, that sounds very much like “the internet was first populated by bad people, now it is populated by good people”. While I agree that the internet is becoming less anarchic, I think those kind of value judgements are naive and probably wrong. There were trolls and bullies in the 1830s and the 1930s, and I expect we will still have them in the 2030s. Technology can change the way people communicate but I doubt it can change human nature.

  2. Iain Hall says:

    This article is about how corporations are developing business models that are ‘compartmentalising’ the internet. It is not really about enforcing regulation of identities, though one may be a side-effect of the other.

    Yes I do agree that enforcing regulation of identities will be a side effect and one that may well be most efficacious in the long run, no matter how good or bad he compartmentalising turn out to be

    Yet I expect that more personal data will be stored in the cloud each year, as PCs with hard drives are replaced by PCs without them, and as the consumption of smartphones, tablets and netbooks increases. It’s now less necessary to carry around your data with you. As to the security of data in the cloud, yes, I think that is of some concern. There have already been cases where this data has been misused.

    I have my doubts that the trend will ever be so Brian because we can already get 32 gig micro sd cards and you can fit an awful lot of data on those and I bet before too long there will be even bigger flash storages available at cheaper prices.Why trust your data to the cloud when you can have it in your pocket?

    Iain, that sounds very much like “the internet was first populated by bad people, now it is populated by good people”. While I agree that the internet is becoming less anarchic, I think those kind of value judgements are naive and probably wrong. There were trolls and bullies in the 1830s and the 1930s, and I expect we will still have them in the 2030s. Technology can change the way people communicate but I doubt it can change human nature.

    I’m not making value judgements about the online citizenry as much as I’m noting the simple fact that a changing demographic of its users changes the expectations of the medium and the level of governance that is considered eficatious.While I agree with you about the way that haters will still hate no matter what just like bullying in schools if you change the culture you make it harder for them to thrive and prosper.

  3. Craig says:

    Nanny state liberals will lose this one big time, fact is many kids at the age of 10 learn code as a second language, I was 11 years. Not that I use it on blogs nor have I ever bullied.

    Put it this way the authorities would be looking for a sniper who fired a shot, the time lapse is 4 to 6 weeks before the authorities even gain a location, and that’s all they’ll get.

    Hell the master hackers are being taught code as a second language from the age of 7 years old nowadays.

  4. Iain Hall says:

    I don’t think the anarchy will be sustained Craig any more than it was in the old west

  5. [...] As I have been recently suggesting the nature of the online environment is changing and one of those big changes is the decline in the acceptability of one having a truly anonymous presence online. With this in mind I was quite pleased to find another example of this trend with the social media app “4square” moving to require real names: [...]

  6. [...] The beginning of the end of the pioneer period (iainhall.wordpress.com) [...]

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