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The Once and Future Internet

The Once and Future Internet

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3 Phases

Those who have been around for the last 3 decades of internet have seen 3 phases. First, in the 90s, when people spoke about the internet with hope, optimism, and pride, as a great tool that would connect all people, improve everyone's lives, access to information, and allow us to reach any person or the world so simply.

In the 2010s, social media made a ton of headlines for the role it was seemingly playing. Who remembers how well Facebook and Twitter were spoken of as ways the oppressed masses of the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and other places could communicate, spread information and organize despite government oppression?

In 2017 the voice of the people seems to be largely a voice of protest against those who have power to decide how the internet functions. Part of this is largescale corporate, both for reasons of their relationships to governments (local and foreign) and part is business. Besides large corporations, part of the greivances being aired by thousands every day is aimed at governments, as they make decisions on how free the internet will be, seemingly irregardless of the will of citizens.

Although the outcry ubiquitous on discussion platforms is increasingly pessimistic, outraged, and general, it remains that one of the lessons of history (that often disregarded field of study) is that people will only be outraged or oppresed up to a point, after which they will enact and support a change. As Disraeli is quoted, "Dispair is the conclusion of fools."

The Value Has not Changed

What people wanted from the internet in 1993, they still want. That they will have it seems fairly certain, as we are still a ways from a technological stage where the will of the masses can be easily overcome by technology. It is a matter then of where is the point of resistance - at which point will people decide to act in ways that bring about change? That point might not be for a while now, as, for example, the FCC has not removed internet protections, and so people are not actually suffering yet, despite the huge outrage.

A Chain of Technology

While it is possible that the free internet desired by people could be obtained through protective laws, this may be the weaker of paths, because technology that allows people to protect themselves has traditionally been found to be more effective than relying on government.

Based on what I have read on tech posts, the future internet will probably look like this:

Hardware - OS - Monitoring and Treating - IP - Signature - Browser - Accounts - Cookies, Apps, Trackers

Hardware - over the past year or two, we have repeatedly been shown news stories about how our software is not safe at any level. We are all familiar with the viral photos of the heads of giant social media companies with pieces of tape over the camera and mic of their machines. We read the story where rebooting does not actually always reboot, but only appears to. Software can always be reprogrammed. People will improve hardware: Physical switches that connect and disconnect wires will be added to machines (probably at least 3 switches in addition to the power switch - modem, camera, and mic). Perhaps there will also be a secondary unit in addition to the computer connected by outbound and inbound data cables, so that one or both can be disconnected, so that data can be quaranteened and accessed before moving it to the user's actual PC.

OS - Every year, more and more people are pushed past their limmits with the regular OS and switch to Linux, which is an open source OS - there is no secrets with this software. What is in it, how it works, what it does, is all viewable for anyone and everyone can look at, modify, and discuss publicly.

Monitoring and treating at a PC-level - We have seen a ton of stories about hacking in the past few years, and reports now say it will be an even bigger issue next year. One of the reasons hacking can happen is that we can't see what is happening inside our computers. Probalby, software will be created where we can see realtime, as this is what some people are already using and talking about. I would guess it will be a split screen wallpaper, where half the screen shows processes running (furnished with explainers and links to what the process is supposed to do, associated files and processes, and how to check it is working properly. Also access to log of when the program was run and what it did over history), and the other half of the screen shows internet traffic to and from the PC, along with similar notes that can be understood by the common person.

As for treating, there are already people who offer services of working on computers that have issues, either by visiting your house or you going to their house or shop, or they will fix your computer by shared desktop (TeamViewer). This will probably become increasingly a service, where when people have any issue with thier OS, they will simply contact their computer guy to take a look, paying them increasingly in cryptocurrency.

IP - Every time any story comes up about anything internet, there are at least a couple of people talking about using proxy IPs to prevent abuse of the data they create through using the internet. Proxy IPs will definitely become standard if net neutrality passes, unless the government restricts them as did China's, although this will create a lot more pressure for a broader set of people to act against this schema of internet use.

Signature - In addition to IP, people talk about the "signature" of internet users, which is the collection of common things they do / distinct from others, which when analyzied, works similar to an IP. People currently say more and more people are using TOR for this reason, as it passes each instance of activity through multiple ports, thus disconnecting each instance from the others.

Browsers - Another place where information can be stored and compiled. A lot of people talk about this information being stolen, sold, or otherwise abused. Open source browsers, that allow users to clearly and easily decide what they want their data to be used for, if used at all, seem a certainty because there is large and increasing demand for them.

*note: Currently, both browsers and OSs record use and generate suggestions tailored to the user. This seems to be a very popular feature, and many people are willing to have at least some of their activity used this way: to suggest movies, possible products and services they can use, new music, deals, which they otherwise wouldn't benefit from. However, currently the user has no choice about which of their data is used and how it is used, as well as no sufficient protections against misuse, which is something they want changed, according to a huge amount of comments on online discussions.

Accounts - Occasionally, email and other accounts are hacked. I'm not sure if there is any solution people are talking about for this other than the ones already being used by email and other account providers: better passwords, 2-step authentication, etc.

The current trend of social media companies taking steps to combat "fake news" and other less-than-valuable uses of their platforms seems to be garnering negative results, according to many people online. Since all information shared on these platforms is already attributable to a source (shared links show the website, which users can familiarize themselves with as trustworty or less so, as they personally judge), and for shared photo messages, they can base their judgement on the profile doing the sharing. I'm not sure why there is such an outcry against the platforms to try to pick and chose which content can be shared or not, but it doesn't seem there is any way for platforms to do this effectively, as the solutions are rife with other, perhaps more serious, problems, besides which users themselves can easily just adapt to "fake news" by becomming a bit savier. The negative effects of "fake news" are already largely countered anyway by awareness of the phenomenon - people might have been fooled by these things during the 2016 election, but the effects of those trying to spread fake news will be greatly reduced henceforward by the expansive media coverage of how fake news works. Platforms also have to consider user fatigue: for each post that gets deleted, account that has to send personal information to be reactivated, or outright account deletions, users have to chose whether to continue use the platform and how much they want to invest in creating posts and joining communities. Platforms might be best to focus on actually-harmful activity, rather than accounts and "complaints" (another thing easily misused for political reasons), particularly since many women (and others) use alternate accounts to avoid stalking, work related negative effects of social media, and other valid reasons, in which cases removing the accounts will counterproductively produce either a)a new similar account, but a bunch of work to re-find friends, along with resentment for the shared pictures and things lost; b)leaving the platform.

Internets - There may be enough pressure to create alternate internets if the mainstream ones continue to displease users, especially since alternate internets are brought up as a solution by many people every time the discussion happens on tech-savy boards. People online have become increasingly concerned about censorship online. As Glen Greenwald said, "Beyond all the other reasons not to do it, free speech assaults always backfire: they transform bigots into martyrs," as we saw with people analyzing the recent controversy over the Daily Stormer website, a minority opinion site that almost no one cared about or would be influenced by, but was cencored by almost all the important internet entities. The solution commonly proposed by many, many people is a distributed internet, which hasn't really been finetuned yet to a point it could work. The way this system works is similar to torrents, where the data of all the websites on this internet is stored on people's machines, so it can't really be removed. So far, there are several problems with this: one is the costs and storage requirements for each person participating in hosting content; another is that there are in most countries a few laws which would penalize people if anything illegal (varies by country) was stored in this way; another problem still is there isn't adequate protection for people who want to host content privately.

Probably the solution will be a Shared Content Server, where either a)all or some content is hosted in a country that protects all information period, or b)new internet content is uploaded as a request for hosting on a torrent library (and any changes similarly uploaded), which monitors could mark as safe or risky depending on country, and which people everywhere could then host either in approved packets or individually. Individuals could also check any data using their own program or their own eyes before hosting any file as well.

Because different things are protected in different countries, most content will be available from some seeder somewhere. Uploading requests could be done either anonymously, through encrypted anonimity, or by accounts, which could become established and "trusted." Also, because most information people are worried about being censored is text-based (not images or videos), the files are very small and easy to scan. Even if the SCServer (lets call it) was very small, it could host a lot of this type of information. Another benefit of SCServers is that it means content is hosting in many places, so it is backed up and can be reuploaded to the internet immediately if there is a disruption or after any amount of time. Hosting content (for example, your favorite websites) also means you would have access to it without having to connect to the internet, so hosting could be updated when you are near a good connection or overnight.

Hosts could also be renumerated for hosting content, probably with cryptocurrency wallets on an ongoing basis, to create incentive or at least balance out cost. People wanting to upload could donate to the project as a whole or as a package of funds attached to the data they wanted someone to host. The amount of crypto received by people hosting should at least cover the costs of the diskspace and internet (very inexpensive for text-based sites) used to host. This is also a very scalable system that works with a few sites or a few billion, as well as reproducible to many copies.

Since most people would still use the regular internet and regular browsers, an extention/app could be created to "check if hosted on SCServer" for any site that fails.

Search engines - The beef people have with search engines has to do with the lack of security and sufficient protection involved in using them. Most people, I think, want to be able to use a search engine that will analyze what they search for and provide them with useful suggestions, but most people also want at least options that are secure for them personally. In recent months, many people have also been saying they are less than satisfied with the search results (both the qualtiy of top results as well as what is not produced as a result at all) on the top search engines, although Google is pretty savvy and will probably respond by adjusting this at some point. Because of the appetite for different browsers and search engines, new ones that provide the things the market is asking for would probably find a ready audience at this time.

There also seems to be strong appetite for more curation on search engines, perhaps toward something like the old Yahoo search engine that indexed sites under subjects and interests (picture)

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At some point, this chain of technology will be packaged into an easy-to-use item that is extremely simple for the average person to buy, since this is what most people really want in a computer that accesses the internet.

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Quick note on net neutrality - Judging from the response to this on reddit and elsewhere yesterday, if this bill does pass, its fairly certain it will activate and embolden people who are outraged and offended (as well as violated, some say) by this. (picture) (later that day picture 1) (2) (3)

Responses to the FCC and other forces creating a negative impact on people's internet based on improvements in technology (as described above) are probably best viewed as a peaceful outlet, because I doubt people will let something as important as the internet be taken away from them, and activism in less peaceful ways (hopefully not affecting any actual people) would be the other option, as is shown throughout history.

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These things are based on the majority of answers/suggestions I have read on reddit, HN, and other discussion platforms, and are therefore the future I would expect these same people to bring about. It can be further discussed on r/TTTThis.

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  pageloads since August 19 2017