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"The Mercenaries", an Essay
I have only been on the Internet for two years, and only using things like the Web for one year. However, this is long enough that I have observed the development of the Internet and the opinions of it. As more and more people turn sour towards the 'Net, I feel I need to comment on it.
Back when I first started using the Internet, the only people who used it seemed to have a passion for it. Those who created the 'Net had the vision and ardor to pursue their task. I never remembered hearing bad things about the 'Net -- instead, problems and incompatibilities were thought of as comforting reminders that we were using such a new (from society's viewpoint) medium of communication. Everyone buzzed about the Internet and little trash-talking was done, at least from my experience.
Now people are logging into the Internet at a mindboggling pace. These are people who may not be completely interested, and who may not see the tremendous potential of the Web. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not xenophobic and I'm not sharing the elitist "we were here first" viewpoints. But there are people who are only here because they're victims of hype.
So I read pages and articles and news threads about how much some folks hate how slow, mind-numbing, and empty the Internet is. They just don't get it. I recommend to all these nay-sayers that they read William Gibson's (he coined the word 'cyberspace' and wrote perhaps the most influential work of cyberpunk literature, Neuromancer) article in this Sunday's New York Times. William Gibson says that even though the Internet has been around awhile, it is only in its "larval" stage. He compares the Internet right now to when he had one of the first televisions that hardly did anything. He gives the 'Net enough credit to compare it to TV, which has statistically been shown to be one of the major influences in our world today.
Do folks understand how important the Internet has become to the modernized world? Countless numbers of people have jobs exclusively working towards the Internet, the media talks about the Web daily, and universities are pushing (blindly) onto the electronic medium which has changed society significantly already. Companies have the power to keep in touch with their customers, even if they don't do so. The world is getting smaller, as we can communicate with all types of other people. Yet we have also begun to understand with the culture of the 'Net that the real world is still important.
The revolution which has taken place is the reemergence of the individual. I can't explain it, but people tend to feel more equal on the Internet than in real life. Formalities aren't as necessary online as they are in the real world ("real world": does this really exclude metaverses anymore?). Ideas and opinions are being passed more widely and freely on the Internet, even if most of them are still shallow and stupid.
The Internet has come too far to just fizzle out in a year from now. It will continue to evolve and will become a permanent part of our everyday lives. How important will it be in our lives, though? Don't ask me -- that's a question someone like Steve Jobs should answer.
While people have taken up on the fad of Internet-bashing (something that occurs with everything, like alternative music, Microsoft, and celebrities -- too bad bandwagon hate is no longer fashionable, you twits), the major companies are just getting started on the Web. Just like the people who have praised the 'Net and then turned their backs on it, companies who had ignored the Web are now swearing by it. Look at Microsoft -- it didn't even care about the Internet until millions and millions of people had already logged in. All the sudden they worked full-time to create Internet products and then proclaimed the 'Net was the greatest thing since Windows85. Seen Microsoft's new 'Net mag, Slate? The HTML purists are having a field day dissecting the site, point out how Microsoft is just another company hopping onto the 'Net bandwagon. Shows and magazines which thought the Internet was a nerdy toy now advertise their websites without abandon. Oooh, now they're interested, huh!
And it's all so hollow. Almost no one cares anymore. Bitching about how slow the Internet is: yeah, think about it a little...with such explosive growth, how could the Internet keep up? Saying the Internet has no information: perhaps not of the hard data variety, but I've learned so much online that I'm years ahead of my fellow high school graduates. And opinions changing with the wind direction: if the Internet collapsed, do you think AOL and Microsoft would pull through and save it? No frigging way. AOL and Microsoft don't care about the Internet any more than Princess Diana lusts for Prince Charles's body. AOL saw an opportunity to get money from computer illiterate users who had been convinced by the media hype to get on the Internet. Microsoft sees its platform campaign being strengthened with its Internet products.
Thank God we still have the visionaries who are actually doing something with the Web, like Milo Medin, who is helping to build a new Internet backbone. This backbone would also allow for cable modems! And let us not forget the people whose homepages are full of writings from their souls. The content they contribute to the webpage is tenfold more beneficial to the 'Net than cheesy homepages are detrimental. Let the people who care keep the Internet from becoming the new wasteland, a wasteland created by the opportunistic companies who are behind the times and the 'Net users who support them.
"The revolution will not be televised."
I'm not saying that I think the Internet is crumbling, even though it may sound that way. I have graduated from my pessimistic stage long ago and have learned to find the really good sites, those personal homepages whose authors thrive on publishing works of textual art on the Web. I have seen which technologies will succeed in the future and which ones won't. I have met dozens of people whom I can maintain an interesting conversation with. Yes, the group of people I identify with is harder to find than, say, a Doom fanatic's group would be, but that's better for me. I had to refine my own interests and feelings, then actively find that group of people. And I did it! Leaves me thinking...perhaps if you don't find anything interesting on the 'Net, you didn't look hard enough.
And in closing, I resort to being blatantly blunt: if you don't like the Internet, get off it and shut up. We people who still enjoy the Internet are getting tired of your whiny homepages, spammy Usenet posts, and apocalyptic predictions, the exact same things you claim to hate.
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