Collaboration

10 threats to The Golden Age of the Internet

Have we been taking the Internet for granted? See why we might soon find ourselves reminiscing about the days of unfettered use and free access.

I have always been fascinated with the phrase "The Golden Age of Science Fiction," primarily because my favorite science fiction author, Isaac Asimov, was a central figure during that period. It is generally believed that the golden age of science fiction occurred between 1930 and 1950, when authors like Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov were pioneering the way. What fascinates me most was whether the authors and readers of science fiction at that time knew they were living in the prime of the genre.

And that brings me to the topic at hand: the Internet. We are living in the best of times, when an Internet connection can be found almost everywhere, when the majority of the population participates, and when the governments of the world have, for the most part, maintained a hands-off policy. For many reasons, WWW could more appropriately stand for the Wild Wild West and not the World Wide Web. However, threats seem to lurk around every corner. I will list 10 of the biggest here.

1: Government regulations

Once again, Internet regulation is in the news, with the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) legislation proposed in the U.S. Congress. Of all the changes to the Internet that could be detrimental, I fear red tape and government regulations the most. SOPA and PIPA appear to be dead for now, but it's only a matter of time before the next threat rears its ugly head. There are plenty of existing laws to address the lawless amongst us, but legislators seem bent on enacting Internet-specific laws. Never underestimate the power of governments to destroy what they try to protect as they attempt to bring law and order to the Internet.

2: Censorship

You would think that most people would consider censorship of the Internet a bad thing. However, a BBC World Service poll showed that only 53% of the respondents felt "the Internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere." And those are scary statistics if you want your Internet to remain free of censorship. All you have to do is look at countries like China to realize how government intervention can screw up a good thing.

The fact is that censorship currently exists in many countries, including the United States, where some school and public library computers are filtered. And it's not just governments that can and do censor the Internet. Take a close look at your ISP's terms of use and you may find that it too censors what it deems to be "objectionable."

Fortunately, the chances are good that your home Internet connection is still free from the heavy hand of the censor. But "as good as it gets" means that Internet censorship can only get worse, as freedom of speech on the Internet is slowly chipped away over time.

3: Taxes

Legislators solve the dilemma of allowing the use of "sinful" products like tobacco and alcohol by taxing them -- a lot. How long can it be before a "sin tax" is placed on the viewing of pornography, online betting, and other "sinful" activities? Currently, few U.S. residents realize that most must pay a use tax for items purchased over the Internet from another state. Fewer still actually pay those taxes. States are quite cognizant of this loss of revenue and have begun to seek ways to collect their monies owed.

New York and other states' laws require vendors with an affiliate nexus relationship in their state to collect taxes on business done in their state. As I discuss in another article, "The New York legislation essentially ties all employees, salespersons, independent contractors, agents, or other representatives and affiliates to the vendor. The nexus of any of these entities in the state of New York forces the vendor to collect taxes on all transactions from New York residents even if that vendor has no direct physical presence there." Similar Internet tax legislation may be proposed in more states in 2012. One thing seems certain: The tax man cometh and he's loaded for bear.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or CPA. The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is not meant as legal advice. Tax laws are complex and you should contact your lawyer and/or tax adviser for specific advice.

4: Bandwidth limitations

I must admit that before doing the research for this article, I thought that the majority of ISPs were not limiting bandwidth usage. But as Table A shows, the broadband police have already arrived for most in the U.S., although unlimited bandwidth can be found in other countries. As you might expect, the limits are even more restrictive in the mobile Internet space -- except for Virgin Mobile, which offers an affordable unlimited plan.

Table A: Broadband bandwidth caps for major U.S. ISPs

*Except for CenturyLink, bandwidth limits combine upload and download bandwidth.

Please note that terms are subject to change. If your ISP is not listed and you are unsure if there is a bandwidth limitation, it is a good idea to check.

Additional information:

5: Access charges

Internet access is broader than ever for Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Free Wi-Fi can be found at large chain stores like Starbucks and McDonald's, though you might be surprised to learn that these are recent developments -- January 2010 for McDonald's and July 2010 for Starbucks. Even your local café is getting in on the act. I recently took a trip and found free Wi-Fi heaven at the Tucson International Airport. There were Internet stations "with a view" overlooking the tarmac, where you could plug in and recharge your mobile device. It was a different story at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. I could get Internet access for a "mere" $4.95 per hour or $7.95 per day via Boingo and plug in at a not-nearly-as-nice free Samsung recharging station. And it is the latter example that has me worried that the free days of Wi-Fi access may be a short experiment.

6: Internet money

What if everyone had an Internet account containing Internet "chits" that could be used to pay for Internet products and services? Web sites could begin requiring some of those chits to watch a video, read an article, or download a file. Requiring .005 chits here and .100 chits there doesn't sound like much, but multiplied by hundreds of page views, it would add up quickly. Fortunately for the browsing public, such a way to get into your pockets hasn't yet been implemented. But I am sure that services like Google Wallet and PayPal would like to become the model that rules the Web. This one is a double-edged sword. It can solve some problems and create new ones.

7: Subscription-based income model

Some of you might remember years ago after the dot-com bust when the advertising-based model of income generation for Web sites was threatened with a fee-based subscription model. Pundits opined that this would become the wave of the future. It never happened. Fortunately for those of us enamored with free, this concept has morphed into both free and premium content. The advertising-based income model is alive and well. And it will probably stay like this for most Web sites as long as free market competition and a multitude of alternatives exist. But the threat is still lurking in the background. The pundits are still saying that the subscription-based model is coming. Don't be too surprised if you see content providers try this model in the upcoming years -- especially those streaming digital content.

8: The end of free services like Skype

If you had told someone in the '70s that you would one day be able to talk to anyone in the world for free, they would think you were destined for the proverbial padded room. Assuming you have a device that connects to the Internet, a fast Internet connection, and a webcam, you can not only talk to someone living on another continent in real time, you can also see a live video feed of them and instant message them. Anybody remember the AT&T Picturephone that was going to be the next greatest thing in telecommunications? That went nowhere. But the concept lives today as Skype and other similar services. Although basic services are free when you contact other members online today, some are worried that Microsoft's purchase of Skype can only mean that those days are numbered.

9: Copyrighted material

You might not like it, but piracy of copyrighted materials on the Internet is a problem that needs to be addressed. Artists should be paid for their work. It may take years for this issue to be worked out, but free access to copyrighted material won't be reality forever. A simple way needs to be developed for ethical users to pay for copyrighted content. Call me naive, but I can't see how another law will solve this problem. It could be resolved if content providers like YouTube charged for content like full-length HD movies with part of the proceeds going to the copyright holder. The threat here is that a bad solution like SOPA/PIPA will one day be implemented.

10: Privacy abuse

Your privacy is under assault. Governments publish your "public information," search engines collect your search terms and IP address, cookies track your browsing activity, hackers steal your personal information, and keystroke loggers track your every keystroke. Privacy policies, ironically, explain the ways that your privacy will not be protected. You may not be aware of another privacy offender, Local Shared Objects, aka flash cookies. Flash cookies are used by the Adobe Flash Player and are not removed by the normal methods of cookie removal.

It is the information age. So it's not too surprising that the people who use information technology, and those who abuse it, want to collect as much information about you as possible. It's how they put food on their table and toys in their garage.

In the name of security, some legislators are asking for the Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. intelligence agencies to increase the monitoring of social site data. EINSTEIN is a system originally designed to monitor Internet traffic moving to and from U.S. federal government networks. Einstein 3 may be deployed to critical private networks. These trends point to a further assault on privacy in the future.

Count your blessings

Without a doubt, the Internet as it exists in 2012 is a good thing. It would be sad if we didn't realize how good we have it. Fortunately, important players like Wikipedia do "get it," as evidenced by their response to the SOPA/PIPA acts. And that is heartening, since the single greatest threat to the Internet is apathy.

The Golden Age of the Internet: 1995 --?

How long the Internet remains golden is anybody's guess. It wouldn't be too surprising to find ourselves just a few short years from now reminiscing about the good old days of the Internet, longing for the free days of Skype, and the many freedoms that now exist. "Too good to be true" can't last forever, can it? It is possible that most of it will last if we fight to keep it that way. But if that doesn't work out, enjoy the Golden Age while it lasts.

Author's note

The data in Table A is taken from:

About

Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a wri...

99 comments
serendipiti27
serendipiti27

Some points are not a threat by itself, the threat comes from an abuse or lack of balance: censorship vs "uninformation" (hoax and the like: publishing ex-girlfriend nude photos...child-porn...). Free services will continue to exist based on advertising. Skype could go into pay model, but there are still open source tools that will work with skype (Europe granted this by forcing M$ to share some code). About the privacy concern remember the mobile phone "ping" affair in Germany... this is probably one real threat nowadays not for internet, for us. But with the proper balance, is something good to have. Virus should be on this list, not only as a threat by itself, as they become tools for the actual threat... anyway this is human nature: none of the threats that is facing internet is new to us...

Zolar
Zolar

According to Time Warner Cable, 10% of the users consume 90% of the bandwidth. I pay for a set amount of bandwidth and I am not getting it. Bandwidth hogs are those who use excessive amounts of bandwidth like watching streaming movies/shows, downloading huge files, etc. Unless something better is done about it, metering will be the result. Make those who hog it all pay for their use. Just like gasoline or utilities - the more you use the higher the cost, which is entirely fair. If they would put throttles on the bandwidth hogs to slow their connections down after the first 150gb or so then the price can remain stable. Or offer reduced prices during off peak hours. That would be a great idea. Sort of like a demand meter on a business electric meter.

Crashin Chris
Crashin Chris

I see you forgot all "Via Satellite" internet access. I wouldn't think there are THAT many players in this arena... cheers!

WashingHands
WashingHands

Government meddling is the biggest possible threat to the internet. Between protecting unnecessary IP rights, taxing commerce, meddling with free speech, claiming to fight terrorism or child pornography, etc....there's all sorts ways that the government could try and meddle with the internet that will lead to a bad result.

yooper
yooper

As much as modern technology is ingrained in our lives, are we that domesticated that we as a species would curl up and dies if we one day had to rough it? Believe me, I don't want to walk 2 miles down to the river to get water then and to boil it hoping It would still be safe to drink, amongst also having to hunt or foriage for food, etc. But at least I have an idea how to do those things, most people totally freak out the second the power goes on, really?! There's such a power struggle going on in the world right now among several different groups including the RIAA and those in power and it's slowly coming to a boil. Like the song goes, and it's true "Everyone wants to rule the world"

mhagin
mhagin

John W. Campbell as editor of Astounding Science Fiction was a huge influence upon Science Fiction's Golden Age. In fact, Asimov had said of Mr. Campbell: "the most powerful force in science fiction ever, and for the first ten years of his editorship he dominated the field completely.". Find out more about Mr. Campbell at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_W._Campbell Seek out Mr. Campbell's Anthologies in second-hand bookstores - you will be astounded at the foresight of the authors. These stories of the Golden Age of Science Fiction have so many great ideas for films. It is hoped screenwriters would tap into that treasure trove for ideas. Cheers!

Kaliolio
Kaliolio

I believe the internet will be replaced bya new entity that cannot be regulated. Just as the Internet can always find a way to route a packet through massive redundancy, this new system will always find a way to bypass regulation as part of its core phylosophy. I am tempted to start working on it now! Long live the Undernet!

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

All this stuff is computer virus.Get rid of virus and it disappears.

yooper
yooper

I for one agree, artists should be compensated for their work for sure. But when I think of "pivacy" I think of the person who video tapes the latest movie in the theater or selling large quanity's of CD,DVD's in a gas station parking lot, etc. If I record a low quality song from an obsure artist in the 60's I don't feel it's the same thing, being that the copyright long ago expired or is covered under fair use, or I can't find it anywhere being that it's been discontiuned and I have no intention of selling the recording or sharing it. See the difference? I think the RIAA and MPAA have really been embolden the last several years and have been given very broad powers that could be a real threat to all of us. I also feel a lot of "the greed" people in entertainment and elsewhere stems from, is the fact the in many cases profits aren't what they used to be and the money's drying up so a lot of them are panicking and trying to scramble to the last dollar.

count_zero_interuptus
count_zero_interuptus

Look around-- you are being nickle-dimed to death by the subscription model--- a great way to create reliable revenue streams instead of selling on merit and innovation and (ohh, no!) product improvement and merit. It is a sheme to keep you hooked and paying even if the product sucks next year. It is really getting bad...more and more software is being offered in annual rental instead of purchase...aka The Cloud. This is costing you and me a fortune. What are people paying for data-plan phones? You could feed a family of four on it. Bad news. I hate it and have told some providors sorry, no deal.

suncatTR
suncatTR

Internet 3.0. It can be networks that are free of the restrictions, high prices, censorship. It's fine to make a profit from an online business or network. It's not fine to sue competitors to keep them from providing a better product for less. That's happening all over the country. We need real competition--not the local monopolies that steal from us. We need protection from networks and distributors. When they claim they need protection from US, it's a smokescreen.

tom.pasley
tom.pasley

Perhaps that's the next step with something like NFC chips. Before you watch a movie using your media player, you need to have a NFC chip enabled device, (in your phone, whatever), so payment can be made? This authorised payment goes through to a Content Service Provider, (an aggregator that takes payments for copyright holders), so you pay to watch/playback copyrighted material - no matter where it's downloaded from. This is probably the next step in DRM - ensuring that payment is made before playback.

dave
dave

"You would think that most people would consider censorship of the Internet a bad thing. However, a BBC World Service poll showed that only 53% of the respondents felt ???the Internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere.??? And those are scary statistics if you want your Internet to remain free of censorship." Please don't conflate censorship with regulation. They are not the same. I think some regulation is probably necessary just as cable TV is regulated and the public airwaves are regulated. Censorship is a different story. Prior restraint would, indeed, be dangerous territory but I don't see that happening in the U.S. so far.

skf
skf

Don't forget that the internet was invented by the U.S. Department of Defense. Paying a tax to use it would not be out of line. We are in more danger of losing our freedom to corporations, we do it every day at work when we check our rights at the door. GPS's are another wonderful invention that are free thanks to our government developing the functionality for our military and making it available to us. Our wonderful network of roads, public schools, subsidized healthcare, subsidized cheap food (far, far cheaper than anywhere else in the world as a percentage of income). I trust out government far more than I trust our corporations.

evansrd
evansrd

While the point of data caps is clear enough, the usage of the term "bandwidth caps" is not correct. Bandwidth is a date rate expressed in volume per time as in megabit per second. Data caps are measured by the volume as in 5 gigabytes. Data caps are actually measured as a volume over time but that time is the cylce of usage and billing, usually a month. Data caps may or may not be incremental with bandwidth. A customer paying for 1.5 Mb/s bandwidth may have a data cap of 50 GB while his neighbor is paying for 6 Mb/s bandwidth and would likely have a much higher data cap.

luke
luke

Sissy Sue hit the nail on the head. If you've ever played any of the countless of 1st person shooters out there, you know where we are headed. A police state, run by a corporation that has been given the task of policing our own populace - the world of Half Life 2, coming to fruition. Think it that far off? There are more "guns for hire" or PMCs or Private Military Contractors in Miiddle East wars right now than actual combat troops, protecting the interests of corporations doing "business" there. In 2008, it was a 100 Billion dollar business. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_military_company As Donald Rumsfeld himself pointed out, PMCs are not subject to "Uniform Code of Military Justice." They carry guns. And as he said, "any idea that we shouldn't have them I think would be unwise." Of course he does. These are people "outside the normal avenues of justice." Just what forms of justice ARE they subject to? SS's (too funny) view on how our own rights are being slowly eroded, need look no further, than road side checkpoints looking for drunk drivers. Here in Canada, it USED to be only on long weekends. The argument was, it was going to make the roads safer. And the story was, that it was ONLY going to be on weekends. Then suddenly, the story changed. It was now on RANDOM weekends. Now, its whenever. We all know the ultimate goal here - a permanent checkpoint asking for your "papers" everyday. Here's the ultimate irony of all of this. Our own city, Winnipeg, is erecting a Human Rights Museum, the likes of which the world has never seen. It is to show the world, examples of past Human Rights violations and most likely, how we can keep this from happening in the future. Yet, while they spend close to Half a Billion dollars on this project, our own Human Rights are slowly being eroded, right under our own noses. Those in power, will always continue to hunger for more power. It is up to the rest of us, to keep that power in check. As the article's author said, the worst thing we can do, is nothing.

sboverie
sboverie

The internet has been disruptive to some traditional sale points, like books and music. It is the "clicks vs bricks" problem, internet sales tend to have a world wide store front that makes having a physical store less competitive. Another danger for the internet is the wild west attitudes that encourage people to use fraud to make money. These are the spammers and malware attacks that prey on everything. I count unwanted ads and pop ups on websites as spam. This is a problem that everyone complains about but there doesn't seem be any fix for this.

amazingsammy
amazingsammy

Piracy is not the issue. The issue is that the entertainment industry is upset that they no longer drive popular culture, and that you're getting your entertainment from other sources, that aren't related to them. The whole piracy thing is a loose ruse to cover this up because Washington wouldn't take them seriously, if that's what they were saying.

grouchomarx#2
grouchomarx#2

I only jumped on board this technology a few years ago.I personal can go back to telephone and paper and a good atlas map. God has allowed this technology for His purpose to tell people about His Son coming to earth to die for us so we don't have to. If you are still reading this YOU really ought to take a look at your life and ask..."if I died tonight where would I go?" The Bible has the answer,it is Jesus Christ.

blhelm
blhelm

This missing component is the greed within some of the major ISP's and communications providers at the executive management level. The desire for higher profits "now", "this quarter" for the primary purpose of maintaining stock values (which is how they are compensated on in the form of stock options and bonuses) drives the decisions to keep re-investment and operating costs down and profits up. The re-investment into higher band width infrastructure would be a better model to follow for a true market based, opportunity driven service offerings. How many of us dream of the day when we are able to tap into that fiber optic pipe that is being tunneled through our neighborhoods? In most rural communities, the only reasonable alternative to the ???dial-up??? dinosaur is a cellular 3G approach. Even that is in limited areas. However, some remote counties in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin are investing in the fiber-optic technology to provide connectivity for their businesses and home users. According to BusinessNorth, companies in northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin alone have received more than $150 million in federal grants and low-interest loans to build fiber optic networks in rural areas. In our major urban and suburban communities, the communications monopolies (Centrylink, Comcast, TimeWarner, AT&T, etc.) cannot justify the same level of investment. And why should they? As long as they can milk the cash cow for as long as they can they will do so. At least until an innovative startup provides a more reasonably priced alternative that cuts into their market share.

gbohrn
gbohrn

1: Government regulations - agreed. Government should mind their own business 2: Censorship - this should happen in placed like libraries and schools. Don't need perverts surfing the Dark Web with TOR browsers hitting Hardy Candy. enough said there 3: Taxes - I think the US is taxed plenty. Use taxes are ridiculous. I understand an attempt to reclaim sales taxes that are lost via web-based transactions. I don't necessarily agree, but I can see that trend ramping up as states continue to scramble to find revenue sources 4: Bandwidth limitations - This makes sense. why??? Well, bandwidth is supplied by hardware. Hardware costs money. Who should be paying for that??? Telecoms are not a charity organization. I would prefer to see tiered ratings, so little Jimmy who is running torrents day and night is paying a higher premium that grandma who checks here email once a day. As said, bandwidth costs money, its not free. 5: Access charges - This relates to bandwidth. WIFI costs a whole lot more than wired. Companies like McDonalds and Starbucks are eating the cost in hopes you will buy more of their stuff. Makes sense (kind of why the under powered Kindle Fire is so cheap). By the way, your Tuscon nirvana was probably being paid for by the taxpayers (unbeknownst to them). 6: Internet money - Internet money already exists. Hang out in the Dark Web a bit and you'll see transactions on a regular basis. Should we pay per view. No. But on a certain level we already are with all the side bar advertisements 7: Subscription-based income model - not sure why this is here as it hasn't happened and probably never will (unless you including your monthly broadband bill) 8: The end of free services like Skype - Like broadband, thing like Skype costs money. I'm amazed out how many things are free right now. Obviously, someone has found a way to monetize these free services. At a point where it is not profitable, these will go away and they should. As the saying goes, if you think things are expensive, wait until they are free. Some one always has to pay somewhere. 9: Copyrighted material - piracy is theft. I'm a software architect who works in security systems (including anti-currency counterfeiting and DRM systems). Do I think DRM can fix things, no. As long as there is hard media (CD, DVDs etc) there will be piracy. Had a technical solution on the shelf 15 years ago that would have curbed piracy significantly that the RIAA and MPAA were to cheap to purchase (as both groups are full of lawyers and not technical people). Oh well, their problem, morons. As said piracy is theft, though many of those who pirate product were never a real customer as many would probably not have bought the product to begin with if they couldn't steal it. They also are not calling on customer service lines either if there is a problem. Piracy is a technical problem, not a legal problem. Things like SOPA and PIPA do not fix the problem. Like most government interference they generally hurt legitimate users while illegitimate users continue breaking the law and stealing stuff. Want better solutions, look at things the gaming industry has been doing. I have no sympathy for the RIAA and MPAA who have screwed content providers for decades, but it is still theft. 10: Privacy abuse - This will continue (aka Facebook as a great example, but as I always tell people, get what you pay for). This is profitable (reference costs earlier). Companies like Facebook have been taking your "private" data (there is no privacy on the web so get use to it. Don't want people to easily get access to your personal data, don't post it). Stealing (identity theft) your personal data is also big business as well as corporate extortion by hacker groups, etc (remember I work in software security so I see the cyberwar every day were most people have no clue). Will this end, no, not as long as there is a profit motive attached to it.

johnbryson
johnbryson

One answer to the freedom threat is peer to peer networking. If every smart phone, laptop, and desktop out there could send small msgs to each other, using bluetooth and wifi, then you can not shut that down or censor it until it hits a server - and that may never happen. Combine that with the ability of each phone to get to what we now think of as the 'internet' and you get a peer-to-peer + server network architecture that would be hard to censor or take down. In fact, it would be hard or impossible to 'turn off' the internet. And recall that the hardware for this is already in the hands of millions - just not the software.

gaetgodi
gaetgodi

With services like Fongo just about to launch I am not too worried about the immediate future. We continue to be able to do more and more at less cost. Let's not be too alarmist and continue to try to make internet access a right for everyone, free as the air we breathe.

SID S-1-1
SID S-1-1

[q]"The fact is that censorship currently exists... where some school and public library computers are filtered."[/q] Bringing this up trivializes the problem of [i]real[/i] censorship. School and public library computers are usually being filter by [i]their owners[/i]. This is not the kind of classical censorship of which we should be concerned. The owner of a computer who is allowing someone else to use it has every right to place restrictions on its use. (Unless, of course, the owner has a monopoly.) If a public pool restricts the use of pool toys, that is not a sign of fascism. The problem comes when someone passes a law prohibiting you from using pool toys in your own pool. [i]Real[/i] censorship, against which we should be concentrating our efforts, comes when governments start restricting Internet access via privately owned equipment. (Unless, of course, they prohibit private ownership.)

meetyoulater
meetyoulater

I remember when I first found google; I told everyone they should use it; bah

Ternarybit
Ternarybit

Whereas I agree artists deserve to be paid for their work, I dislike the approach people are taking. We're effectively giving the MPAA and the RIAA the ability to run a secret police and damage the internet in the process. I agree piracy is an issue, but so is the length of copyright, and even the length of some ridiculous patents (17 years). As far as I'm concerned, artists shouldn't be allowed to bank on something for 75 years after their death. If you can't contribute something to the world once a generation or so, it should suck to be you.

meetyoulater
meetyoulater

This article is missing the big picture. The more you erode these freedoms; including allowing poor people to watch stupid tv and listen to music, the more other important unseen parts of the internet start to erode. Private ownership of personal data gets scooped up in these raids and then systematically copied to a government database and then deleted; some of which is bread and butter data; not unlike billions of dollars of untracked data that seem to disappear with the click of a button (poof gone), in the so called world of hedging stock market bets; you want to leave them in charge? Sony wanted to charge taxes on CDs for lost revenue (this was way before their rootkits) and they even hotly contested VCR players. The point is that there is something worth fighting for here. I myself and most of my friends spend hundreds of dollars a year on dvds, blue rays and music cds. They don't want justice, they want control.

Marc Jellinek
Marc Jellinek

Microsoft didn't start charging me for free email. Although Hotmail and Yahoo both have paid email plans, I've never seen a reason to use them. If charges become manditory, I'll defect over to Gmail (or any of the hundreds of other places I can get a free email account). Microsoft hasn't started charging for Bing search. If they did, I'll defect over to Google or Yahoo. Google hasn't started charging for access to Android Market. If they did, I'd defect over to Amazon AppStore. I've never actually seen a reason for Skype to exist. If I want to voice chat with someone over the Internet, the major IM vendors (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo) all provide that ability in their free clients. Video chat too. It's nice that Skype can bridge between PC and landline, but there's a cost associated with that... so I never use it. If I want to speak with someone, I call them on my cell (unlimited minutes) or from Google Voice (free within the United States). If I want to speak with multiple people at the same time for free, I use FreeConferenceCall.com. If I want to share screens, I'll use GoToMyPC or FreeScreenSharing.com. Competition and a variety of vendors providing similar services nearly guarantees that these services will remain free. If a service is popular, someone will provide it for free and be content with advertising revenue. Now that Facebook is going public and we finally know they make about $4 per year per subscriber; they've more or less saturated their major markets (North America and Europe) and there's little opportunity for their to grow their subscriber base (and thus grow their revenue in any meaningful way); should we worry about Facebook charging membership fees? I doubt it... it would be the best thing that could happy to MySpace of whomever else enters the social space in the future.

Xpareto
Xpareto

For many people, in this period of crisis, the free entertainement offered by internet (aka piracy :) ) is the only entertainement (not counting TV) . The loss of this source will agravate the social stress and tensions. Such actions are not wise.

doctordawg
doctordawg

The biggest threat to the golden age of the internet is "the stupid." It's already permeating every corner of the web, and I'm afraid it can't be stopped. You used to need a solid background in at very least HTML programming to post anything on the web. The majority of information retrieved in a young Google search was uploaded and hosted by a college grad-level user. Search for information on changing brake shoes on a 1996 Mazda Protege, and you'd get expert advice from a professional who was excited about this brave new world, and shared his expertise concisely and thoroughly. Now try it. You get page after page, site after site, of morons all bemoaning how hard it is to change brakes on their Mustang. Nobody asked that, but they feel compelled to commiserate, and although they've never owned a Mazda, why, here's a great slide show for some irrelevant model year radiator job. Anyone with a hotheaded opinion can push it into the Google with a smart phone while choking down a McRib. It's a tsunami, and it can't be stopped. The geniuses who used to be the bell curve are now the fringe. The hoards of stupid have crashed the gate, and are hungry for bile-infused diatribes. Well-intended bad information is driving our everyday lives, and the coming generation will have infinite knowledge at their fingertips with only a gorilla-glass-thick depth of understanding with which to respond. God have mercy on us all.

Zolar
Zolar

First, I agree that copyright holders need to be paid for their work. HOWEVER, they shouldn't be allowed to make me pay for the same work forever or over and over and over. The fix: Set ALL copyrights to expire 3 years after inception or creation. That would seriously reduce any piracy problems. And eliminate the ability to make all software patents. About taping a tv show - according tot he US government, taping a tv show or recording off of live radio stations does not constitute copyright infringement. It is classified as Fair Use. But this does not mean you can sell it or convey it to others. Under the US Constitution, the USA is specifically barred from censorship due to the 1st amendment. However, that right has been eroded away. The ONLY way to fix this problem is to overthrow the government and elect new officials that will follow the US Constitution as it is written, barring the courts from 'interpreting' anything. The Judicial branch has far too much power for their own good. All it takes is a back room deal or one of them PMSing and we all get screwed.. A total revamp of existing laws and form of government is about the only way to fix these and other problems. Speaking of artists getting paid - would it be right for someone who painted your house to charge everyone that looked at it a fee of however much they wanted or it would be copyright infringement? Or charge YOU if they didn't pay? Or wouldn't let ANYONE that didn't pay be blocked from your house? The Artists do need their money but it is the CEO's of the distribution companies that the greed comes from. Artists actually make very little as a percentage than the companies. Ok, now for the nitty gritty. I claim full copyright for everything I ever post online or send via any electronic or material means, regardless of any illegal and unconscionable agreement that any site wishes to impose. Ok, that being said, can I sue Google for reposting my statements online when you do a google search for my online name? I don't ever recall giving any search engine the right to repost anything nor the right to track me no matter where I go. Want to see? Then google your email address, online name(s), and real personal name. It can blow you away the stuff they repost.

rjfandre
rjfandre

The use of 'bandwidth' to describe data transfer limits illustrates the lack of precision in a scare mongering diatribe. Outside the US the widespread absence of capping is being accelerated by convergence. The world trend towards indirect payment, whether that be advertising, subscription or merely user data mining, is also accelerating. Hard times are promoting alternative business approaches. Censorship is not necessarily a bad thing - unless taken to extremes. The issue on censorship is who has the power to decide. In the film industry censorship has worked very well for many years, for the home and education users local censorship is an important tool. The concern that MS will move Skype to a pay per call service is allayed by the facts that Skype already has a pay mechanism for calls outside the Skype network and the extensive competition in the field. The internet has barely reached its zenith and the 'Golden Age' will outlast me.

simonschilder
simonschilder

Great article, right on the spot. I just hope we will be able to keep the Internet free. Right now it seems that counties that scearm the loudest about censorship of the internet in China and Irak are the same coutries that propose to do it themselves (e.g. US, GB) Flash cookies can be romved too btw, via Firefox and the addon betterprivacy :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's not costing me anything, at least not for a data plan since I don't have one. If you are so upset, why don't you stop paying for the service when your subscription is up?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

At least, not to the extent of the public airwaves, and not on a national basis. Unlike the PUBLIC airwaves, cable TV uses private infrastructure. That's why it can trot out unedited slasher flicks, softcore porn, and other programming that 'over the air' broadcasters can't. Another reason is that purchasing cable TV service is a conscious decision made by and paid for by the consumer, and the more objectionable content usually requires the additional purchase of a premium channel. A cable TV provider (or other utility) may sometimes surrender some degree of control in exchange for a municipal government granting it monopoly status or in exchange for municipally-provided infrastructure, but broadcasters have no options except the 'public' airwaves. I agree that regulation and censorship aren't the same thing. I even agree that the Internet should be subject to some degree of regulation, but not to the extent of public airwaves. I could get along with the same regulations as apply to public speech - no kiddie porn, no shouting 'Fire' in crowded chat rooms. But adult porn, 'hate' speech, ant-governmental discussions, religious fatwas? Have at it, boys and girls.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

You make it sound like it's reasonable to expect some level of control, even desirable. It is not reasonable, exactly because it is not desirable. You take for granted that the government is benign, but: a) the Internet is truly international, so if one government exerts "regulatory control" then that control will affect people who are not citizens of that country. b) some nations already exert "regulatory control" which amounts to censorship, and the more you let "our guys" emulate them, the more censorship of free thought will happen, period. c) a western government is prone to listen to industry interests, and while this does not often amount to the traditional censorship of past ages, it can be just as damning. They already have us eating laws that weaken us, makes us incapable of effectively combating their hare-brained policies. d) In the end, the slippery slope you suggest will end in a Lowest Common Denominator tyranny, where people are afforded only the freedoms afforded by the most draconic regulator. Don't try to pawn off your BS position as "reasonable", it is not. It's simply yellow-bellied conformity, and your standpoint is actively weakening other people, selling them out to the corporate/political overlords. Please shut up about this "reasonability" crap - you are really, truly harming people. And no, my telling you to shut up is not censorship, merely an appeal to common decency. /rant

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Hello Dave. That's why they are separate items. ;-) I do get your point. I wonder what the 47% are thinking when they hear "regulated" in that poll? Ansu says "For example, to resist Internet Control "helps pedophiles", that's what that 47% are thinking." I think "censorship" since that has, so far, been governments primary focus of regulation. Thanks for the clarification.

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

OLPC's do that. And maybe you're too young to remember the good ole days of dialup bulletin boards, where it would take days to send an email....

Zolar
Zolar

The limits are stifling innovation. Also, the copyright expired 50 years after the death of the initial copyright holder. And no derived works permitted with few exceptions. This is flat out WRONG.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's because Sony made a competing product (Betamax). They weren't opposed to the ability to play movies at home, just opposed to people doing it with a different technology (VHS) that what Sony offered.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...the free entertainement offered by internet ... is the only entertainement ..." Dude, go to a museum; many offer free admission once a week or monthly. Check out a library; in addition to books, music, and movies, many now offer free access to the Internet, although it won't be unrestricted. High school sporting events are cheap, as are college music recitals. In short, there's a world out there beyond the WWW.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

the powers that be must keep up the bread and circuses. That way people won't notice what they are doing to curb our freedoms.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

is alive and well and exists in cyberspace as well as "normal" space.

918stanley
918stanley

I agree 150%. The World Wide Web as become so polluted with peoples garbage. It is becoming more and more difficult to find accurate data that you actually searched for and not get 939,874 search results that are not relevant to your search. And what makes this even worse...... Most of them believe everything that they read or watch on the internet, are the facts instead of understanding that these Morons are posting their OPINIONS. HHmmmm..... Maybe that is why there is such a push to pollute the WWW. To make the TRUTH harder to uncover. Just a thought.

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

But the copyright should last 15 years...enough time to make a boatload of money off of it...after about 15 years, most people quit caring.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Hello Simon. Thanks for the kind words and the Firefox BetterPrivacy add-on mention.

suncatTR
suncatTR

Most of my clients are not within commuting distance. I've done almost all of my work long distance. It's easier via broadband instead of messenger. I could pass some of my costs to clients, but prefer to avoid that when I'm certain that broadband providers are gauging us. I'd like to help change that with more competition, and all-around awareness of what it could/should be.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Well, I did, but you know what I meant :D