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Hello world

-日付 2021 Jan 31- English Español


You’d have to try really hard to convince me that the 80’s are not the true golden decade of cinema.

I don’t really know how to describe in words what it was about those movies (the slow pace? the excessively loud music? the gloomy atmosphere?) but it was then when, among many others, “Alien” (well, this one is from 1979, but almost), “Predator”, “Labyrinth”, “Platoon”, “Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark”, “Terminator”, “Die Hard”, … were filmed.

It was also the time when the role of computers in movies began to grow: who does not recognize the iconic infinite zoom of “Blade Runner” or has not dreamed of changing some exam’s grades from home as in “War Games”?

The fact is that at that time almost nobody had a computer at home and Hollywood took advantage of our ignorance to give free rein to their imagination and create all kinds of “cybertronic” fantasies that shaped our expectations. The funny thing is that soon after, when the first computers started arriving in teenagers’ homes, the experience turned out to be surprisingly similar to what we had been sold.

welcome to 90s' Internet
welcome to 90s' Internet

The Internet was basically a network of communities called “webrings” (more information here), and “surfing the Internet” consisted of going to one of the websites of the ring you were interested in (either because a friend recommended it or because you found it in the Yahoo! directory) and following the links to the rest of the pages that were part of it.

webring dedicated to science fiction
webring dedicated to science fiction

Each web was hosted on the personal computer of another person like you or me, at home or in a university department. They used basic HTML and no (or very little) Javascript. Plus they all had a “counter”, a “guestbook”, lots of blinking effects and zero ads.

yahoo.com directory in 2000
yahoo.com directory in 2000

When you connected from home you blocked the phone line, so you couldn’t stay long or your parents would get mad, and the speed was 56KBps: that’s less than 0.1 megabytes “of today”.

All these factors gave a certain air of mysticism to the “cyberspace” that turned out to be a copy of what the movies had been describing to us during the past decade.

Today there is none of that left :_(

Before: decentralization

Why was it better before? No, no… I didn’t say that. Before you couldn’t buy fruit online, play an online game with 64 other people or watch a conference taking place in Germany live from your home.

What was better is how it was structured.

Back then (and this is the key to everything), there were more or less the same number of “producers” as “consumers”: we all had our website and we all visited each other’s websites. Now that balance has been completely broken and it is rare to find personal websites. The normal thing is to watch videos (that a few) upload to Youtube or read the newspaper (from a few publishers) of the day. The content of the “regular user” has been reduced to comments on Facebook threads or sequences of photos on Instagram (both of a fickle nature and controlled by private companies).

The Internet “back in the day” was a more democratic and wild place. More “hackery.” Browsing history was a treasure chest to be shared with friends. Now (give it a try) it’s rare to have more than 5 or 6 different pages visited in the last month (and I’m sure, without telling you, you know which ones I mean).

the usual suspects...
the usual suspects...

Now: mega corporations

When I talk to friends and family now about their “ties” to the Internet, I get the impression that the vast majority of people fall into one of two groups:

Group 1 (the Google crowd):

Group 2 (the Apple crowd):

I “dislike” (with affection) both groups equally, but in different ways:

We should do everything we can to go back to the decentralized Internet where:

  1. There is more privacy: the Internet user is not tracked (what pages he visits and when he visits them) to send him personalized ads (present) or condemn him to jail for a crime that, according to an Artificial Intelligence, he would commit within a week (in a not so distant future if we continue on the same path!).
  2. Information cannot be manipulated, filtered and/or censored. This is undoubtedly the most serious aspect. We have been seeing it for years and the bad thing is that it is getting worse: every week we hear of cases of people being kicked off Twitter, videos being deleted from Youtube, or apps being blocked in the Google/Play store because they have breached some clause of the user agreement, which are becoming more and more draconian.

There is still hope

What can we do on a personal basis to get the original Internet back? Two things:

1. Avoid mega-corporations

2. Create content to level the producer/consumer balance.

We should be encouraged to have our own websites of dubious design (wink, wink) hosted on our own servers to put whatever we want.

We all have something to contribute to the world: What books do you recommend me to read? Have you been hiking somewhere worthwhile lately? Do you have the best cookies in the northern hemisphere for breakfast? Would you share with me those t-shirt designs you’ve made?…

The content, oddly enough, is the least of it! Surely there is someone who has the same tastes as you and finds it fascinating. Write about topics that interest you, add videos talking about things that you find worthwhile and post links to similar websites (¡let’s make webrings popular once again!).

I’m starting this blog in the hope of doing my bit for this noble purpose :). I still don’t know what I’m going to talk about… maybe I’ll start by explaining how I started this website so that others will be encouraged to do the same, or maybe I’ll talk about the trick I have for folding socks… who knows!

Let’s see what comes out of this…

Comments? Drop me a line! blog@u92.eu