[ExI] Is the old internet dying?

Giulio Prisco giulio at gmail.com
Sun Jul 19 06:13:38 UTC 2015

I am very nostalgic of the Internet of old. As Anders says, my first
experiences with FTP in the 80s, Usenet, Gopher, the first great
websites in the 90s, and this very mailing list, were AHA moments
nothing short of a revelation. I wish I could have all that back.

But then I remember that the Internet population numbered a few
thousands in 1985 and billions today. Surely the unexpected and
unpleasant (for us) evolution of the Internet is the price that had to
be paid for massive popularity. In a real ecosystem, there will be
predators and viruses.

Facebook became so popular by giving billions of users exactly what
they want to see online. Too bad that isn't the same that we would
like to see.

But "we" are still here - only we aren't a majority and don't matter much.

However, if we write intelligent things, perhaps somebody will pick
them up and offer them to the wider world. Taking an obscure and
over-intellectualized essay and converting it to a Facebook trend is
an art form for which there are no known recipes, but some people
excel at it.

A related problem is that today's Internet is dominated by a few big
players. We have a technical solution - it's called BitTorrent. Now
they have an awesome Project Maelstrom to remake the Web with
distributed, decentralized BitTorrent tech, but the project is
advancing very slowly, probably because there aren't evident financial

When it comes to the type of content that most people like to see
online, I am afraid there isn't much that we can do.

On Sat, Jul 18, 2015 at 2:41 PM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
> In a sense the old internet has always been dying: we have changed the way
> we interact with it for 40 years. How many of the younger members of the
> list remember the excitement of manual FTP ("Wow, I am inside a computer in
> *Australia*!") or Gopher? How many truly miss those things?
> Mailing lists are in many ways a somewhat obsolete and old-fashioned
> technology, but they are also robust and have affordances that are hard to
> beat. Same things for blogs. My prediction is that many of these protocols
> will remain essentially forever, even if the bulk exchange in society
> happens through the latest stream through somebody's cloud.
> But the concern in the essay is of course that it matters where a society
> does its mainstream discourse. If it happens in a forum that can easily be
> censored or biased, it becomes very different from if it is a hard-to-censor
> diverse environment. And if important digital identities are tied to your
> participation, then people become extra loath to speak up (if Google decided
> to delete my googlemail account for some arbitrary crime against usage
> policies, I would lose access to my calendar and numerous important
> services). The problem here is not technology, but simply that most people
> do not care deeply about these things (as well as privacy, accountability
> and other important but abstract things).
> Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford
> University
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