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Architects of the Modern Internet Express Regret
The Internet used to be a nicer place. But then came browser cookies, pop-up ads, trolls, algorithmic sorting, the “like” button, pull-to-refresh, and more. In a far-ranging set of interviews with people who played key roles in the development of the modern Internet, New York Magazine attempts to explain what went wrong. It’s a long article, and we’re not going to summarize it — read it and digest the arguments, criticisms, and proposed solutions, including free software activist Richard Stallman of the GNU Project calling for legislation.
Then come back here and let’s discuss it in the comments.
What we saw on November 8, 2016 wasn’t solely the result of the internet. The result may well have been different without the internet but the divisions that were leveraged existed apart from the internet. Many editorials have been written on why this happened. The Citizens United decision made an already bad problem worse—too much money buying our attention and votes. I’ll mention one more important problem that I think plays a big role—the redistribution of wealth that has been continuing for something like the last 40 years which has caused many people to fear for themselves and their children. Some of the other identified problems are just leveraging this fear.
What I thought was the most interesting in the New York Magazine article was the claim that we ended up here in part due to an early attitude that everything should be free that then ran headfirst into a need to make money.
Speaking as the guy who did the first advertising on the Internet in 1992, I apologize, although our model has always been the PBS/NPR sponsorship approach, rather than straight up advertising.
To my thinking, the subscription approach is far better at aligning interests between producers and consumers (more so than one-off sales, which force producers to chase new customers or build in planned obsolescence), but it then runs into the problem of people having too many subscriptions.
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