Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Wastelands of the Internet

I was recently pondering the vast, infinite(?) waste that exists in cyberspace. Sure enough, I was able to find a very broken down version of a home page (all personal web sites were called home pages back then. I built using one of those freebie hosting companies--remember Tripod and Angelfire? (Believe it or not they still live on with Lycos' help. Although, I wonder in what condition.)

There are so many broken and dead links that I wish some cybernet cleaning crew would come in and erase all of that defunct data. I mean sure, if you search mustaches on Google you get 700,000 plus results... but who cares? If searchers rarely go past the second page of results... really, who's ever gone looking on the 285th page of results for real information and not just amusement? Why keep that extra non sense around?

However, this easily dances around the idea of censorship. I mean if things are going to get cleaned up (i.e. deleted, removed, ex communicado) who gets to decide what? I propose it being time based. I propose, if a site hasn't had activity (either maintenance or a visitor) in over a decade you have to wonder if it is still relevant in our demanding, instant gratification, hyper time-sensitive, time is the new money, era.

Now some people might counter with the notion that maybe you want information about what mustaches were like back in the 1990s and visiting one of those sites is the best way to get authentic (I use that term loosely) information. Quite true. However, even if you were able to discern information with the broken imgs with no alt tags and the repeating, eye sore of a background with yellow text... you don't think you could find that same authentic information in a fancy, updated site?

That's the beautiful thing about the internet. Not its waste, but its regurgitation--okay, that's actually quite annoying if you're like me and are checking for new things every few hours--but really, that regurgitation of information occurs both linearly and vertically in the time continuum. You'll still be able to find your info on mustaches in the 1990s and this time, chances are the images will have been updated and the design much more user friendly.

Thus, no need for those forgotten sites. Except pure nostalgia... and I certainly wouldn't want to deny anybody their right to open up their space of internet to pull out chain letters and fanfiction and muse about how wonderful the good old days were. Because I guess it's true, our memories are no longer physical movie stubs and passed notes folded up like cootie catchers. Instead, in 15 years, we'll find long forgotten tweets about waiting for your luggage at BWI and archived e-mails, casual notes sent to ex-flames professing how you can't wait to see them or how such and such was funny.

I suppose I'm torn on the issue. These online wastelands are back alleys of tiled, but not seamless backgrounds, full of shady animated gifs lurking from the shadows if not lying decrepit on the concrete like a bum in his own soiled waste, the smell of decayed information wafting in the wet air... but to me or you, to someone that waste is the drive past an old home, looking in to see if the wallpaper has changed but glad to be driving past.

Okay, enough with the poetic analogies. Check out this article from the NY Times which is somewhat relevant: Do We Need A New Internet? They consider whether the need for better Internet security will cause a gated community mentality in a sense to protect users and businesses and governments. (I understand the need for this for all governments and/or financial institutions... but beyond that?) People working on this endeavor believe that new software and hardware will come out that will, sort of reroute you into a safer internet--no doubt only if you're willing to pay for it. We've all seen the urban decay as rich, wholesome folk moved from the cities into the suburbs. I wonder what damage will be inflicted upon the many who will be left out in the ghettos of cyberspace. How come we only come up with ways to make it easier for the people who already have it easy?


Sam said...

Whoa. That was a great post!

h. van de mark said...

Thanks Sam. :)