Musings on Everything

I muse, therefore I write.

On the Internet

So, let’s start, as does everybody, with Google. Biggest tech company this side of, well, everything. Google, is, as we all know, something that’s going to be written down in history books forevermore. The world can’t afford to forget Google, because sooner or later, our parents will die, and there will not be a human left on this planet who knew a life entirely devoid of consumer computing technology. Think about that for a second. We are the first of countless generations of humanity that will be totally acclimated to, and indeed, dependent upon, computers everywhere we go. And one of the companies that made that spectacular achievement possible is Google. Before Google came along, “The Internet” as we know it today didn’t really exist. It was just a bunch of geocities websites, isolated and stranded, with no real method of gaining an audience. Email was something nobody really knew about except uber-nerds, IRC (chatrooms) was the only communication medium, as IM didn’t exist yet, and the webby world (and boy, was it small at the time) got on almost exclusively through AOL, dial-up, or company T1 lines (with bandwidth about the size of a standard DSL pipe split up for maybe 10-15 employees). I mean, it was sparse. And, into all of this, came Google. And they, by virtue of being the first people on the web to hit upon a Really Good Idea, brought the web together and made it possible. For the first time since the web’s invention some 30 years before, people could find other people out in this vast, mostly barren world of html and dancing baby pictures. And the Internet exploded. Ladies and gentlemen, try to wrap your brains around this:

In 1998, there were 650 million web pages (ie, html pages that could be linked to) in the World Wide Web. Right now, there are somewhere upwards of 63 billion. As in, with a b. That is a 9,692.31% increase over 10 years. And God knows how much other crap. The most conservative estimates put it at somewhere around 65 exabytes of data and files that are not html sitting available on the public and private Internet combined. So, a hell of a lot.

In other words, a hell of a lot. And what’s more, look at what we can do with it. Back in 1998, the coolest thing evar was that you could search for a webpage. Now, I can have a video conversation with my cousins in India in real time over the Internet. I can watch movies and TV over the Internet. I can… watch any video on any conceivable thing I want over the Internet. And, personally, I attribute all of that to Google. Without them, the web would just be a bunch of dancing babies still, because people wouldn’t have taken the time to make the Web any more useful.

What can we say was made possible indirectly by Google? Well, the continued usefulness of my iPod touch, for one. Specifically, the fact that I got my new earbuds for said iPod through Amazon. I mean, come on, ten years ago, people could only dream about having a site that allowed you to never have to leave your home again, because it would deliver everything straight to your door. Hell, it was sci-fi fodder, something to spin a good yarn about, it was so unrealistic. Now, it’s so commonplace your grandmother knows about it (I mean, mine doesn’t, but cut her some slack. She’s from India and was born before Partition. My cousins, however, know all about it). And why does Amazon even exist? Because Google made the web popular, and where there is popularity, there is ample opportunity to make money. Which is exactly what Amazon did. My A in Latin is also indirectly Google’s fault. Without Wikisource, I’m not sure I would have gotten through this first semester of Latin 4. And how did I find Wikisource? Google. Google is so all-pervasive, so all-encompassing, that it is officially part of the English language (ah, yes, English. One of only two or three languages in all of history to ever be a true lingua franca. But that is for another post). As a verb, no less. Not bad for a ten-year-old company headed by two thirty-year-old kids. Who have some $15.something billion in stock each. Yeah. Google makes a metric shit-ton of cash. A day. More money than you or I will probably ever see.

It makes me scared shitless.

The Internet is the modern equivalent of the free-wheeling, laissez-faire economic climate back in the 1800s that spawned the monster trusts like Standard Oil and JP Morgan and Carnegie Steel. It was shown back then that while the government was slow to act upon those organizations, they did, eventually, act, and that is the primary reason our world is where it is today. The doom and gloom of mega-corporations that run the world can never become reality, because it already was reality, and then made illegal. That is set to happen again with the Internet. There are several massive tech companies out there: Microsoft and Google, to name a couple. Already, governments are starting to look up from their work and curb their activities. Microsoft has been slapped with an antitrust order in Europe for pushing Internet Explorer on every user whether they like it or not, which the EU holds is characteristic of a trust. Now, there are special versions of Windows that are only sold in the EU that don’t come with IE installed, nor Windows Media Player. It’s only a matter of time before the US can get down to establishing some new antitrust laws that are aimed at breaking Google up. I mean, as soon as the world comes out of this recession/depression it’s in, that’s going to be priority #1. Because by the time the dust settles, there are going to be some old men in those offices with nothing to do, and they will be at that odd age that will only be present for a few years: too old to understand the Web the way it’s quickly making clear it should be understood, and too young to completely ignore it because they don’t understand it. And they will have the power to shape the Internet, and therefore, shape our world’s primary method of communication, for several hundred more years, if not forever.

That can spell doom, especially with the American government’s shaky track record of good decisions. If you split up Google, then what? One of the major draws of Google is that it’s so easy to use. Sign in somewhere, and your information is available everywhere on Google’s vast network. Until now, that network was only comprised of Google-owned services. But with services such as Google Friend Connect and Facebook’s rival Facebook Connect, you can be everywhere with one simple email/password combination. That’s appealing. But also scary for governments. Governments like having people’s information. Now, they can never be sure they have everything. Which, of course frightens them. But there’s nothing they can do about it.

And what of this whole “net neutrality” business? Its battles have already been fought, for the most part. The ISPs and telecoms are beginning to understand that charging for website access will do nothing  but lose them customers. And besides, it’s not like you can actually charge for websites. There are too many to ever split up into neat tiers, the way they do with cable television. There’s no fear there. And as people make their voices heard, the entertainment companies will eventually hit upon a mutually agreeable method to make content available online. Already, things like iTunes and Hulu have seen success beyond their wildest dreams, but it’s not entirely there yet. It will be, though.

So by the time you and I are old fogies, the World Wide Web will have become just the ‘Net, that irreplaceable backbone of communication and data that will will all have grown to use and rely on. I can easily imagine that the ‘Net will be available wherever you go in the world, except maybe the most remote of places, and it will have replaced all the other disparate methods of communication – phone lines. VoIP, cellphone towers, texting – as the method of communication. The world will truly be smaller than it has ever been before. We are at a great crossroads of humanity. I, for one, cannot wait to see where this new road takes us.

And please, click on the picture. It looks so much more awesome when it’s full size (warning: big image).


Written by Sri

February 7, 2009 at 11:14 PM

Posted in Musings

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. Yay for Google!


    February 8, 2009 at 8:02 PM

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