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How the Internet Became a Closed Shop 206

AcidAUS sends this quote from the Sydney Morning Herald: "A little over a decade ago, just before the masses discovered the digital universe, the internet was a borderless new frontier: a terra nullius to be populated by individuals, groups and programmers as they saw fit. There were few rules and no boundaries. Freedom and open standards, sharing information for the greater good was the ethos. Today, the open internet we once knew is fracturing into a series of gated communities or fiefdoms controlled by giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and to a lesser extent Microsoft. A billion-dollar battle conducted in walled cities where companies try to lock our consumption into their vision of the internet. It has left some lamenting the 'web we lost.'"
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How the Internet Became a Closed Shop

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  • LOL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @07:45PM (#42365611)

    Freedom and open standards, sharing information for the greater good was the ethos.

    No it wasn't. This is someone inventing a nostalgic version of the Internet that didn't exist. Prior to Facebook, etc. there was AOL and Compuserve which had their own "walled gardens" and gated versions of the Internet. Throughout the 90s it was a fight of both Netscape and Microsoft pushing proprietary HTML elements and the "Best viewed in Netscape" or "Best viewed in IE" nonsense.

  • yeah yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @07:47PM (#42365631)
    Times change. You can never go home. Things were always better in the past. I can remember when all of this was farmland. Now get off my lawn.
  • I was there (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2012 @07:50PM (#42365657)

    I lived through the open web, even before that, in the days of dial-up BBS services. And you know what? It sucked compared to the web we have today. Aside from speed issues, which our irrelevant in this conversation, the quality, variety, and value of available content was crap compared today. These walled gardens have motivated and allowed all sorts of great content, inventions, and application.

    Furthermore, the open web hasn't gone away. Its still there and there are several other 'communities' that are essentially open webs unto themselves. We just don't think about them or use them much (for some) because there are better things to do online (e.g. cat photos and stumbleupon).

    Drop the nostalgic nonsense.

  • Bollocks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @07:59PM (#42365719)

    Ok, can we just stop paying attention to traditional media until it all dies? I don't think I've read an article in the last year that wasn't trying to provoke outrage, fear or hatred through selective reporting, manipulation of data, and gross simplification.

    Today, the open internet we once knew is fracturing into a series of gated communities or fiefdoms controlled by giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and to a lesser extent Microsoft.

    What, so now it's impossible to start your own website? To run your own services? That's news to me. Just because there are now large, popular sites doesn't mean small, unpopular sites are now non-existent. The internet that we had 30 years ago is still there, it's just nobody uses it. But it's not like, say, the presence of Facebook means IIRC has suddenly been uninvented.

  • by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @08:01PM (#42365751) Homepage Journal

    The only thing that's changed is that hot internet startups tend to get bought up pretty quickly and rolled into whichever walled garden their new Mega-Sized Overlord happens to own.

    If it were a walled grden, you'd have to "pay to play" just to have the opportunity to launch your online startup -- e.g: the iTunes App Store.
    Today we see Instagram making a Billion off a couple weeks of effort for an app that would have netted hardly enough to pay the developers rent back in 2000.

    Times are actually pretty good and in fact easier for small startups to realize a handsome profit.

  • Re: LOL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eladts ( 1712916 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @08:01PM (#42365755)
    Everything was better in the past, especially the nostalgia.
  • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @08:13PM (#42365823) Homepage
    The "web we lost" is all still there, more or less, in that nothing about the underlying technology of the web has changed. But no-one is interested in the old ways of doing things, and 'modern' services like Facebook are what people obviously want. In other words, like government, we get the web we deserve.
  • Re:Yep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2012 @08:30PM (#42365957)

    It's the same argument as the FSF's indictment of software as a service []. And frankly, they're right.

    Software delivered "as a service" is much, much more closed than even closed source software. Closed source software can be pirated, reverse engineered, decompiled, run on machines sufficiently isolated that they can't call home, ... you have none of those options with software as a service. You cannot prevent those companies spying on you by any means at all.

    So yes, the facebook/dropbox/office 360/google world is worse than the closed-source microsoft monopoly.

  • by Johann Lau ( 1040920 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @08:30PM (#42365961) Homepage Journal

    'modern' services like Facebook are what people obviously want

    You mistake being inert and having no opinion either way with wanting something. People want the functionality, and people like fast servers. But they don't want the whole facebook ickyness at all. Unless by "people" you mean peeps like Zuckerberg haha, then you'd be right... just like Microsoft wants a Windows PC in every home, Facebook wants to be the thing you check first and last thing in the day. But people just wanna have fun and share photos or whatever. They do not *want* to ride the dicks of these goofballs, they simply don't know better.

  • Speaking of the "lost web", we no longer see as many offbeat websites

    I dunno, we haven't lost Zombo.Com [], there's even a HTML5 []

    Goatsects is still around in various forms. What's primarily happened is that hosting your persona stuff has been subsidized by advertising and data aggregation instead of being a bit more private (if you use a proxy registrar contact) and hosting your own servers. That's still possible, but there's less demand for it now.

    I think it's a shame really, because we do need our own publicly/privately accessible servers to stream "our" stuff (music, video, pics, ramblings, etc) to us. With the rise of consumption centric devices I think we might see a rise in both online hosting services for more of your stuff at the cost of more privacy (social graph sites), and home-server and paid hosting solutions for the more privacy conscious. It's kind of silly that Facebook, G+, etc. don't have an API for adding a remote friend -- Where the social site would scrape my private server that implements a public API (RSS anyone?) so that users of their services can get updates from folks outside the service. You can sort of cobble together something with G+ & Google Reader, but it's not nearly as integrated with the social stuff, and RSS has no "bueno" button.

    "The web we lost" Bah, Humbug. What about the Internet we lost? Everything's caught up in the "web", which would be fine if it wasn't an overly complicated inefficient document rendering markup and stateless protocol, that people try to cobble into stateful online applications with a horribly inefficient scripting langauge... It's so bad that we're still waiting for HTML5 to be formalized, it's been over 12 years since HTML4.01 -- About half the age of the damn web. If we were serious about this thing, We'd be making a lower level glyph & vector graphics display system with a more efficient general purpose VM language (for great sandboxing justice) as the primary target. Every damn site is an application now, which means a kludge ridden mess. Simple Primitives, then work your way up, HTML + CSS + Active Code could compile down to lower level primitives such that we could innovate in the higher level stuff, or even scrap it while remaining compatible with old sites. Take a page from the CPU architectures. How many coding languages are there? They don't require a new platform each time. Starting off at the markup level and building such a platform there is kind of silly if you ask me. Java tried to save us, but they became too bloated and interested in Enterprise instead of a lean mean client side system -- Sun dropped the ball w/ Applets instead of splitting them out like they did J2ME stuff. Here we are, same damn web, hacking together features we want that it was never designed to support, then crying like babby who can't frigth back when it's more full of exploits than an AOL Punt tool.

  • by Kwyj1b0 ( 2757125 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @08:37PM (#42366017)

    ... is the animated gif pornography and scanned images from magazines ;) Now with their copyright-laws-this and paywall-that... sheesh. Is there nothing big companies won't ruin???
    (Hold on, I want to watch this hot video on Youtube)

    Seriously - there is a lot more content now. Create a dummy account if you don't want to share your information. Don't let yourself get tagged on photos. Give a false name and location. It isn't too hard to access 99% of the content with just a few keystrokes with little risk to privacy.

    Complaining about sharing? What was the equivalent of Wikipedia or Sourceforge? Search algorithms weren't as good then. Even forgetting the social networking stuff - a lot more open and free pages exist today to provide you with information.

  • The good old days (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @09:06PM (#42366191)

    ... of the internet were wonderful if you were a ham radio operator, scientist, programmer, network engineer, fan of roguelike RPGs or Star Trek.

    Other than that there wasn't a huge amount of content out there.

  • Re:I was there (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @09:30PM (#42366335) Homepage Journal
    About 15 years ago what most consider 'The Internet' was on it way to being closed because MS was on it's way to control it, not to mention Flash. Because of Google and Apple and others, 'The Internet' has grown up with open standards. I can share a host for not much money, buy a domain for a fraction of what it costs 15 years ago, and run sophisticated content without paying license fees to anyone. This to me is pretty incredible, open, and allows a great deal of freedom. Yes, a few devices that are hooked to a few pieces of 'The Internet' are restrictive in what they can do, and a few services are charging fees, but just look at what it was like when all we had was dailup and services like Dialog.

    Sure, I can pine for the days when my computer ran as a open case and I could solder custom interfaces or fix my floppy disk drive. But I couldn't run up a site that did real work in less than a month.

  • Re:LOL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Punto ( 100573 ) <> on Friday December 21, 2012 @10:21PM (#42366549) Homepage

    Yeah but the thing is that back then, the users of AOL and Compuserve didn't really matter, they didn't drive any money or opinion or attention from anyone, nobody cared about them. Nowadays, whatever a million idiots do on Facebook or Twittwer decides how millions of dollars are spent by companies and other idiot investors. It's super annoying.

  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @11:05PM (#42366741)

    Considering Anil is part of the crowd responsible for destroying the internet

    How is creating software to enable non-technical people to create their own blogs "destroying the Internet"? IMO software to promote the Internet as an equal access utility for everyone rather than a tool for corporations to profit or elitists to rant (I assume you are the latter) is a good thing.

  • Re:The web we lost (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deimtee ( 762122 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @11:28PM (#42366833) Journal
    You may laugh about the crappy eye-hurting design, but when we lost geocities and similar amateur websites we lost a lot of information that isn't on the web anywhere else.
    Manufactures and tech websites can give you the specs on things, but Joe Blow in his garage pulling apart a blender and posting the pics would (accidently sometimes) show how to open it without breaking the internal clips.
    There was a lot of information on damn near anything if you knew how to search for it. Now everything is a bland advertisement or a repost of the same list of data over and over. SEO just about finished it off.
  • Re:yeah yeah (Score:1, Insightful)

    by arkane1234 ( 457605 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @12:06AM (#42366973) Journal

    John 3:16 god gave his only son to be killed so you if you just believed he had a son then you'd be allowed into heaven...
    You're quoting a book with that in it...

  • It is what it is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by manwargi ( 1361031 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @12:06AM (#42366977)

    In the frontier days of the internet there were fewer ads but the quality of the content was a fair bit lower. I'm not even talking about the technology here, I'm talking about eyesore websites where someone wrote a bunch of inane details about themselves and their interests, websites that were indefinitely Under Construction. Back then one could run searches on particular topics and not get back any results, or at least any results of value. Certainly UseNet is looked back upon fondly by this group, but even then there was always some troublemaker that insisted on crossposting something controversial between two conflicted groups (i.e. asking a question and crossposting between an atheist and christian group so that the replies show up on both groups), never mind the more conventional trolls. Anyone looking back on AOL ought to remember that they censored the hell out of your environment there-- you got kicked off for swearing and naughty content was carefully sanitized from their download archives. Before I got on the internet, I remember a friend telling me a number of stories of how he got kicked off different BBSes for swearing and fighting with admins.

    The present internet is a lot more crowded but with it there is a lot more content. More of it is crap, and more of it is precious, because there is a lot more content. It is more commercialized and there are a lot more ads, but it is a lot bigger and more sophisticated. Yes, more sophisticated. The hacker types that use math references for user names are still out there, and alongside them we have specialists and connoisseurs of every kind weighing in on every topic one can possibly think of. Without getting into the downsides and problems still faced, could you have ever imagined something quite as extensive as Wikipedia back then? Let alone all the smaller wikis created for greater detail into countless subjects?

    As long as the internet thrives, it will continue to get just a little more amazing. And a little more awful.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @06:43AM (#42368085)

    "Try finding a job these days without having a FB account past the level of flipping burgers."

    I have, and I do. In fact, if a prospective client of mine insisted that I participate in FB at all, I'd tell them "No, thanks" and go elsewhere.

    "Employers require people to play the social media game."

    Then -- and I'm not being snide or sarcastic here -- you are talking to the wrong employers. Seriously.

    I don't have a Myspace account. I have have had a Facebook account for years, but I used it maybe twice, then never touched it again. And I have no desire to. Same with Google+.

    I do have a Twitter account, and use it to chat with friends and associates. I also do IM, and Skype, and some other things. But Facebook? No.

    If Facebook and Google+ ever change their tunes, and start being honest and non-intrusive, I might consider them. But not until.

    I should add: I had one client who went out of his way to find me on Twitter and follow me. I blocked him. Then Twitter changed their service to show when you have been blocked. So I unblocked him. But I periodically block him (which forces his account to un-follow me) then immediately remove the block. It serves the same purpose. I just have to remember to do it once in a while.

    Twitter is a social space for me. It isn't for bosses or clients to be checking up on me. And if I had no way to prevent them, I simply would not work for them.

    And if your employer asks you for passwords, you are DEFINITELY talking to the wrong people. I'd get up and walk out right then. And tell them them why. By the way: it is illegal for them to do that now, in some states.

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.