The State of the Internet

The Internet is far from dead but some people are doing their best

Singer Prince made the news headlines earlier this month due to his comments that the Internet is over. A tsunami of reactions followed where people rejected this ridiculous claim coming from a singer who distributed his new album on a plastic disk with a printed newspaper. While people made fun of the singer, at least he got some exposure. But there is actually some truth in what Prince is saying. The Internet might be too important to die and disappear, but there are strong forces that are slowing killing the way we use the Internet.

Predictions that the Internet is over are not new. In the 1994 Nov/Dec issue of Internet World magazine (see Internet in a Box) Joel Snyder talks about how the Internet is choking. In his article titled Internet: Going South,  he claims that too many people are using it. Discussions are difficult to follow since too many people are posting useless comments, directory listings are getting too large and that it is difficult to find anything anymore. Mr. Snyder was right. The Internet of that time was going away. By going mainstream in 1994-5, the crowd was killing the way we used the Internet prior to 1994. Later we would get sites like Yahoo! and Google help us use the web and the Internet just continued to grow.

The Internet is always changing. Today it is not the result of too many people crowding up the network. Today there are two professions that are mainly killing the Internet as we know it: politicians and lawyers. The problem has to do with law and the lawmakers cannot keep up with the rate of change introduced by the Internet. This is causing all sorts of disruptions. Even worse, it is not clear if the politicians really understand the Internet and the way people are using it. The net-generation has adopted a totally new way to use content, yet this generation has no representatives making laws.

Unfortunately the results are that laws are passed that try to control the network instead of allowing people to use it. Content owners like big music labels have for years used the law to control their music with only limited success. Governments in countries like Germany and the US have banned all Internet betting and yet, people still bet on illegal sites that happily take all the profit and pay no taxes to the country of the punter. Many countries have or are considering adopting a three strikes rules where content owners can complain to an IPS about illegal downloads – and the offender’s Internet access is revoked.

The Internet is a living thing, constantly changing. As with many new technologies it proposes new business models and new opportunities. The problem is when the incumbent businesses and governments do not want to understand the technology and try to take laws that worked prior to the technology and try to apply them in totally different environment. Just like Mr Snyder’s Internet from 1994 is gone, chances are that today’s Internet will also die to be replaced by new uses and new rules.