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.