We had amazing purely Internet-based innovations like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit that changed the game for all of us who knew what they were, But we also had several other sites that we could still go to to hear new major and independent music for free as well... You could pretty much type in any ".com" address and find a site there with a unique idea, and not get a barrage of ads, log-in screens, and pop-ups on your bulky (tube screened) desktop computer or highly overpriced (yet reasonably-slow) laptop. Man... those were good times...
These days, it's hard to recall many sites outside of those backed by major companies that I can use more than once a day. Though I have a ton of bookmarks from the old days, they seem way too outdated to try for me, and frankly I'm too afraid to try any of them. When I use Google for searches now, most often, my search picks involve sites that are laced with terrible ads for products I don't want, and many other sketchy links, and I rarely if ever click past the fourth link in Google search results, chances are that it's completely unrelated to my desired query, and so much of what Is presented to me in useful content on sites these days is geared towards pulling me off my original path. Remember how on point AltaVista used to be? I guess perhaps that's because there were so many less "fluff" and result cheating sites online to be indexed.
I regularly ask myself now why in the heck I need a long/unique/complex password involving special characters just to secure my music streaming account or to install a video game? Do they really need to hide the fact that they're also secretly tracking my actions and conversations and where I go and stop while I use apps? Why does every ounce of my Internet use need to be attributed to my real identity with a unique, secured user account in absolutely every service I use these days?
So where did we go wrong? What happened to all of the promise the Internet had in the early 2000s? Did we screw it all up by only supporting large sites and services like Google's YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook to get the majority of our information? Possibly... Probably... Yeah.
There are still small and independent sites, art, and music all around the Internet, but trustworthiness of these sites are defeated by advertising tactics, by lack of design, by poor choices in web domain names, and many other factors, but not only is that a factor, now large corporations are taking active steps in pushing smaller sites off the Internet entirely. We're in 2018, and it's really hard to hear a full song by a music artist without first creating a log-in, and you're lucky if you can buy anything at all online now without creating a user account, and linking your personal email address to it. Many things are going wrong in the pursuit of security, and with pressure from companies on us as consumers and even by changes in legislation.
Here's a few key things that happened recently that are gravely impacting the future of the Internet -
The repeal of net neutrality - In a push by lobbyists, legislation intended on granting equal access for all Internet sites was struck down by the FCC. This means that smaller sites may load slower than those backed by big business. All sorts of anti-competitive measures may result as a consequence of this repeal to squash small content providers on the Internet. Operating a site may become too expensive for individuals that don't make big profits as well, and independent musicians and artists may never be heard due to the rising costs of a (previously free) web presence.
Google flagging http sites as "not secure" - In February 2018, google deployed a new version of their dominant Chrome browser, which can flag many sites using "http" in their URLs as "not secure". Though security is always a big concern in being online, numerous content providers will be required to register certificates on the sites they provide, which raises their operational costs. Many sites, like this one , do not collect money or require log-ins for engagement, which are the major reasons for requiring encryption.
Changes in algorithms on search and social media sites and and trolling - The rules used to guide search results, and what can be seen on social media are constantly changed by the organizations that control and fund them. These days we rely heavily on services like Google to provide us with accurate results when we enter a term for a search, yet the search engines we use are often secretly providing us with links to chosen business partners for their owners rather than the most relevant results. Some of the news and social media services have been found to be infected by fake human or "bot" accounts, which have been creating fake and misleading content that skews perception and accuracy of information provided on these services. Finding what matters most now is a constant game of evaluating what you see for it's authenticity as well as it's sources.
Revenue generation tactics - Many sites large and small are created to generate money. In their pursuit of financial gain, they manipulate users to click on ads, or to share personal information that can be later sold. Many sites these days require user accounts simply to interact with them even though they don't really require any individually pertinent information beyond tracking what you click on, or how you interact with their site or application. Ad revenue, upgrade fees, and paid user subscriptions are still the most used methods of funding web sites, apps, and content.
So now that we've got all that out, why are we not innovating on the Internet any more? The answer is that we have, but innovation is centered around real-world services more so than services that are provided purely on the Internet... In the past few years, we've seen companies like Uber, Redfin, Amazon, LinkedIn, Netflix, and Airbnb surge, all examples of businesses built around highly-useful Internet sites which manage real-world services and products...
As IOT (Internet connected) devices fly off shelves, we also realize that the nature and use of the Internet is changing rapidly. In the early 2000s, we had huge ideas that were purely based on the Internet for their utility. It seems the tide of major innovation for purely Internet-based tools has slowed a bit since then.
- So now that we're making robot dogs that can open doors, is the Internet now evolving (use-wise) to only interact with the real world?
- Are we only going to use purely Internet services on an individual basis for entertainment (i.e. video games, cable television, booking vacations, and social media)?
- Will the push by big business lobbies to segment the Internet lead to the end of free, no-login, and low-cost sites and tools on the Internet?
- Will new revenue generation methods evolve to end "pop-up" culture, and to generate even more profit for independent publishers?
- Will social media sites ever pay the primary source of their content generation (you) for all of their hard work?
- Will large companies allow independent publishers to continue to share content on the Internet? Or will these publishers be required to fall in line on social media platforms and policies dictated by large companies?