So this guy in 1995 wrote about why the internet will suck. This article was reprinted and reblogged and is going around the web right now and a lot of assholes are feeling pretty smug about "how wrong this guy was" and how the internet is actually quite awesome now. Hold the fuck on for a second, and read the article, and think about it. This guy definitely was not wrong on most of his ideas, and no one should feel good about that. The internet does still suck in pretty much all the ways he describes.
The author immediately refers to the internet (the 1995 internet, mind you) as "trendy and oversold". It still fucking is. Trendy? See: Twitter. Oversold? See: Google. A lot of what he says the futurists predicted have not happened presently, and what small steps we made (like internet video conferencing and Second Life) are relegated only to either academics (whose careers rely on them) or the most cutting-edge corporations (who don't mind dumping money on trendy things to appeal to their employees).
Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.
He's right. They do lack common sense. I would argue that nothing so far has replaced the newspaper; rather, the internet has allowed the explosive devolution of news from centralized to niche-oriented, and it's not a good thing. With customized personalized news comes a narrowing of individual knowledge and interest, instead of a more broad and enlightening understanding of our world. The electronic classroom has become extremely popular in affuent communities and colleges, but it has only made children and parents dumber and more complacent. (See my review of The Dumbest Generation, I don't want to retype that rant again here.) And so far, the computer network has only allowed government to be even more shady, and surpringly has allowed corporations to become more shady than even the government. Nobody is worrying about what the NSA is tracking, we're too worried about what Google is tracking.
The internet at the time of the article's writing was very primitive, and contemporary users would probably find it unusable. He complains about the messy nature of it, but with such few people and websites, it wasn't really that bad compared to today. The internet was a small, withdrawn place. You had to make an effort to be a part of it, and people rarely took that for granted. Today, the internet is truly an incomprehensible ubiquitous wasteland of nonsense. There are way too many people on the internet. Some responded that Google Search has allowed the internet to become easy to understand and "de-cluttered" it, but really this doesn't solve the problem of having the mess to begin with. If you don't want to learn how to tie your shoes, you can get shoes with velcro, but it doesn't fix the problem of not knowing how to tie your shoes. We still have the problem of not having an organized internet, but I can concede that it's not really a big problem since we've found ways around it.
The computer screen still cannot replace the book. They're trying, but it's a rocky start, and it's hard to sell to most people. The one major thing the author was wrong about was online sales, but he was right about one piece of it: there are no salespeople on the internet. Rather, so many people flooded the internet and so many businesses started selling things on it that it did not need salespeople, only storefronts. What solved the problem of online business was a huge influx of stupid people willing to put their credit cards at risk and pump the internet economy with the funds to make it more secure. The chicken came before the egg, and we all paid for it.
Unedited and unfiltered data, while messy and awful, is what makes the internet great. He's totally right that it's a step in the wrong direction overall, but it's a necessary phenomenon and perhaps will be an important lesson to humanity if any further significant intellectual development occurs. As more shit piles up, perhaps one day as a collective we'll realize how much shit there actually is, and think of ways to fix that. Right now we have this problem with energy: too much carbon dioxide, and the only way we really finally noticed it collectively was when it piled up too much and threatened our survival on this goddamn planet. (The problem is not the planet's, mind you, the problem is ours.) The same will happen with information. We'll be generating so much garbage information, someday we'll have to account for it.
We've infested the internet with too much humanity. There was too short of a time between there not being enough and then too much habituation. I remember maybe a two-year window (2003-2005) when the internet was a decently-sized, managable place. After that, we were suddenly enabled (by sites like MySpace and YouTube) to feel self-important enough to fill the internet with garbage, and it's only getting worse.
A poor substitute it is, this virtual reality where frustration is legion and where--in the holy names of Education and Progress--important aspects of human interactions are relentlessly devalued.
This was true in 1995, and it's still true today. The internet sucks, but it's here to stay.