The World of Ends: Thinking Like It's 1999

Well, I just read the World of Ends - it's short, you can get through it in 10 minutes - and all I can say is that even though I think Doc is cool, I don't actually agree with many of his points.

Hell, let's just go by them one by one.

1. The Internet isn't complicated
Um, sure. It's not complicated like my car isn't complicated. I get in and turn the key, right? Yeah, well, it takes a lot of time, effort and to get things to work that simply. There's a reason Cisco spends so much time and money on new routing equipment. There's a reason that Spam exists and virus' spread - because it's not EASY to fix these problems. If the Internet wasn't complicated, it would Just Work. But it doesn't - not without a LOT of effort.

2. The Internet isn't a thing. It's an agreement.
Yeah, well so is language. But language is a "thing" as well as E=MC2. Once you agree on something, you use that agreement as a platform from which to build. Language allows humans to communicate like TCP/IP allows computers to communicate. Same thing. The Internet now is as real as a rock.

3. The Internet is stupid.
No it isn't. The reason it works is because of all the intelligence inherent in the Internet. I send out a packet with an address and all these routers do these massive calculations to get it to it's destination in the fastest way possible. What part of that is stupid?

4. Adding value to the Internet lowers its value.
Huh? So the internet needs to be generic in order to be useful? The least common denominator? Again, I disagree. If I set up a bunch of servers that can route video faster and I can have intelligent applications that understand how to use these servers (which sit out there in the same internet as everybody else) then that DECREASES the load on the rest of the 'normal' internet, improving it's value for everyone.

5. All the Internet's value grows on its edges.
Yes. I agree wholeheartedly.

6. Money moves to the suburbs.
That might be true if BANDWIDTH was moving to the suburbs, but with telecom monopolies contolling both the availability and bandwidth to homes, connectivity is not going to be a commodity. My mom lives in a DSL/Cable-free zone. She's stuck at 56.6kbps and I'll tell you right now, added services to her (setup, email, tech support) count big.

7. The end of the world? Nah, the world of ends.
I kinda get this, but the fact is that SOME ends are bigger than other ends. When my PC connects at one end, I'm providing ZERO additional value to the network except as a communication tool for my brain. However, when Google attaches it's 10,000 Linux boxes to the network, now THERE'S an end that counts. Now I'm technical enough to understand that we are both on the ends - there is no center of the Internet with Google perched on top. The "cloud" analogy on whiteboards always pissed me off. I'm not connected to a cloud, I go directly from one PC to another, bouncing through some routers along the way. However, in all PRACTICAL purposes, the Power Law means that more people will try to get to a small number of ends making them in effect the center. The Internet as it exists today is Client-Server.

8. The Internet�s three virtues:
a. No one owns it
No one owns the Internet protocol, I agree. However: 1) Companies do own the physical lines and the bandwidth. 2) Companies own OTHER protocols like AIMs TOC which make the internet DO something and 3) Companies own the DNS, which allows us to function without remembering numbers.

b. Everyone can use it
Sure, but how well and how fast? I have DSL, so the Internet is pretty zippy to me. The people who are reading this on T1 lines are thinking "You have no idea" and the people who are on dial up are thinking "man, I wish!" Bandwidth affects quality of service. Also, hey, you can just blow off socio-economic issues as just "one of those things", but the fact is that "everyone" can't use the internet.

c. Anyone can improve it
Yeah, right. IM isn't part of the Internet? Come on. Stop thinking like it's 1999. I mean, I get the point - look at the increasing use of RSS. It's a new service and a new way of thinking that didn't exist a few years ago. It's new, it's useful and it's part of the internet. Oh, yeah. It's separated into 5 different versions... but that doesn't mean I'm not using the Internet when I'm using RSS.

9. If the Internet is so simple, why have so many been so boneheaded about it?
I think we're all still learning what it's like to be so interconnected. And it's not just the Internet - it's information itself. By 2010, I'll be able to have enough disk space in my home to hold the entire library of congress. That takes a lot of getting used to. Utopian views of all this, however, are not helping. Governments have been developed over hundreds of years. So have free markets. Both function like they do because of human nature and scarcity of resources. Trying to say that the Internet - access to it, ownership of it, and what it's made of - is not scarce is thinking too far out into the future. Yes, we can all see a day when we're all interconnected and information is free. But it's not going to be like that for a LONG time. Until that time, we still gotta make a buck.

10. Some mistakes we can stop making already
The Record Industry has a right to be scared - they were the first to get nailed. It's the movies and book authors next, then you'll really see some screaming. And yes the telecoms need to move out of their role as gatekeeper and into a role of gardener - maintaining the groves of services for us to enjoy.

Final thought: Mesh networks are coming. So is true Peer to Peer communications. This will make some of the things said in the World of Ends more true, but until that point thinking that the Internet is this wild west open and free wholy new place is a dream. It's thinking like the past. Look at RIAA going after those music file sharers - there's no anonymity on the web. Look at China - blocking, controlling and filtering the Internet only takes effort, it's hardly impossible.

Anyways, the essay was about mistakes. I think the main mistake is not in misunderstanding the Internet, it's misunderstanding our fellow humans. ;-)


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