Welcome to the Google Net

Don’t worry, mom. I’m just playin’ with the Internet!
When I first jumped onto the Internet in the early 1990’s, I used Yahoo as my search engine.  If you had asked me then where Yahoo would be in 20 years, I would have said, “the top of the world”.  But the Internet is complex and therefore prone to expected twists and turns.  Yahoo barely exists.  They are best known for demanding that their lazy staff show up to work on site, indicating a complete loss of control over how things get done there. Meanwhile, a cock-sure late-comer with a funny name — “Google” — is indeed at the top of the world.  I would have bet against that, considering the competition.  Google’s rise describes the Internet’s own transition from an innocent, friendly puppy to a cynical, conniving boa-constrictor that squeezes us a little tighter each day.

Is There Some Reason That We Have To Search for Everything?

Dave, you’re not searching enough! You don’t want to jeopardize the mission, do you? Daisy. Daisy, give me your answer do…

The Internet began by allowing us to look for things.  But it’s never grown up.  Sure, it was cool to dig around for a few hours and find some unusual content on the “net”.  But that’s only because we had no other choices. Imagine getting up in the morning and searching for your clothes.  Wouldn’t that get irritating?  You would expect to have them organized in some way that made them easy to find just base on the type of occasion (business, casual), and perhaps even by color and/or style.  That can be done inside one physical dressing room.  So searching for your clothes is not a service to you; it’s an insult and a waste of your time.  The same rule should now apply for the 20-year-old Internet.  This kid’s grown up, but still behaves like a messy adolescent. The information stored on the Internet is so confusing that everything must be searched for as if it were lost.  This is supposed to be taken as the natural state of data.  It’s not.  So how did it get so “lost”?  And why?

Why can’t we ignore search results that we’ve already visited?

Why can’t we ignore search results that we’ve already visited?
Let’s say you go onto Google and search for turtles.  You just love the little crawlers.  You open dozens of links and read all about them. A few days later, you want to continue your research.  But surprise, surprise: the same basic results appear.  The links you visited are marked in a purple color, but they’re still  listed as a result.  You look through the Help system to find some way to search without getting results that you’ve already read.  But no filter is available to remove visited links.  Why would they omit something so obvious?

Let’s defer to an episode of Rod Serling’s ground-breaking sci-fi show, The Twilight Zone, called “To Serve Man”.  Aliens come from outer space, claiming that they just want to “serve man”.  At first they are greeted with fear and skepticism, but the slogan wins mankind over.

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

 We agree to visit their planet.  The space-ship is loaded with eager earthlings.  The passengers wave to their families, smiling, looking forward to their new lives with the aliens.  Then suddenly a reporter bursts into the airport.  He has translated the alien document entitled “To Serve Man”.  It’s a cook-book.  Everyone shrieks.  But the space-ship cannot be stopped.  It takes off, fully stocked with fresh meals for the flight back.

This may sound grim, but so is capitalism.  Google and their pals are not here to serve you.  They’re here to eat you.  But first they must ask your permission.  That way, it doesn’t seem so rude.  Every experience you have on the Google Net is tarnished by this amoral philosophy. The answers to the questions posed here are:

The reason that everything is lost on the Internet is that this causes human beings to search endlessly for things that could easily be organized and found without much effort.  Each time a user searches, Google sticks them like a mosquito and sucks a little blood (in the form of irritating advertising).

The reason that searches do not exclude visited links is that this causes you to mistakenly repeat yourself, which means more time on web pages.  More mosquito bites.

So Why Blame Success?

It’s a completely fair game. Except I own everything, and I’ve got this pitch-fork…
Success is great! As long as individuals and corporations play fair.  That means honoring the spirit and intention of our capitalist system: No company shall create a monopoly within an industry.  This always results in poor service, inferior products, and higher prices.

When was the last time anyone said that Microsoft makes “great” operating systems?  Or that they really love the eBay site — which hasn’t improved in at least ten years?  These monopolies don’t exist because of excellence. They achieved their dominance through shrewd trickery, and now maintain it because their would-be competitors are long-buried.  Back in the 1990’s, Microsoft bribed PC manufacturers to install Windows as the only operating system on their new machines.  Sure, Microsoft got sued, and they paid a nominal fine.  But the damage was done.   That’s why the practice is illegal.  It destroys capitalism and harms consumers.

The Robber Barons Are Dead!

Remember to watch your manners. Always ask: “Do you want to give us your money, or get shot in the face?”
Remember to watch your manners. Always ask: “Do you want to give us your money, or get shot in the face?”

America was built by greedy capitalists. They were known for their ruthlessness. Each managed to dominate an industry in a way that violated U.S. anti-monopoly laws, but could be achieved through bribery and coercion. They were criminally cheap as well; their workers were underpaid and mistreated, and child labor was common-place.

 Name Wealth in USD Monopolized Industries  Era
 John D. Rockefeller  $336 billion  Oil  Late 1800’s
 Andrew Carnegie  $309 billion  Railroads; Steel  Late 1800’s
 Cornelius Vanderbilt  $185 billion  Railroads  Mid 1800’s
 John Jacob Astor  $110 billion  Real Estate; Fur  Early 1800’s
 Jay Gould  $71 billion  Railroads; Gold  Mid 1800’s

These “robber barons” took huge risks, which paid off in the short-term. But their manipulations often caused crises for the economy in general. The Panic of 1873 was caused by the failure of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which had been funded through fraudulent (and worthless) bonds. Ironically, that panic bankrupted many of the robber baron “brat pack”. They could not see how their actions could turn into disaster. Some say that the robber barons’ meddling actually caused the Great Depression.

The public got fed up with the top 1% of the population owning much of the country’s wealth. There was indeed an income tax law dating back fifty years. But it didn’t have much bite for the rich.  In the early 1900’s, Congress finally approved changes that were intended to redistribute America’s wealth to all of its citizens. That was a bit grandiose, considering that the super-wealthy were a lot smarter — and much more aggressive — than the average person. All they needed was a way to keep their wealth while appearing personally to have only normal assets.

Long Live The Robber Corporations!

What — is it the tie? The coffee cup — ?
Obscene personal wealth had become embarrassing — and highly taxed. But corporate taxes were low, and corporations could hold infinite wealth.  So began a movement that has forever changed the landscape of American wealth. Here are some of America’s “new” robber barons — err, corporations:

Corporate Name Value of All Stock Monopolized Industries
 Google  $400 billion 90% of search engine traffic.
 Microsoft  $355 billion 85% of personal computer operating systems worldwide.
 Facebook  $188 billion More than half of all personal social networking.
 Amazon  $144 billion Completely dominant in online retail sales. Three times the size of its next online competitor, Apple.
 eBay  $65 billion Virtual lock on online auctions.

These companies have done the same basic thing: they have formed illegal monopolies by — according to them — becoming too good at what they do.  Miraculously, their competitors have uniformly failed at this!

But the members of this list have something else in common: they’re not really worth anything.  Sure, they have patents that their attorneys declare to be worth billions of dollars.  But what else is there, really? A bunch of desks in offices? People who work there, but could easily go elsewhere? They sell a lot, sure, but any of these firms could be replaced within a decade without so much as a whimper. Impossible, you say?  Does anyone remember MySpace? It was founded in 2003!

Google epitomizes the birth of the Virtual Corporation:

  • It has ideas, but those change so often that it is impossible to determine their value. Importantly, the ideas can easily be replaced by new ideas from an unexpected competitor.  This is called a “Black Swan” event (per Nick Taleb).
  • It doesn’t really perform a service, and doesn’t genuinely offer a product. Everything it sells is “virtual” in that it appeared instantly and can disappear just as fast. Microsoft is the only exception here, with some hardware in its portfolio. But its recent operating systems, Windows 8x, have failed to impress consumers. Its so-called market share is largely made up of users in third-world countries who are still sucking the vapors out of Windows XP, probably without even paying for it.
  • The “market cap” (total stock value) is ridiculously high in comparison to normal companies. Amazon is the worst offender, often showing corporate losses. Strangely, this confuses the issue of what the market cap vs. net profit calculations looks like, since that would be a negative number! Again, innumeracy wins the day. Just remember: a bubble is always followed by a burst. So these companies are doomed to failure by their own excesses.
  • It can launch, rise to stardom, and fail completely within ten years.

How To Fix The Internet (And Revoke the Google-Net)

I’ve given Google the hardest time because it has more real influence over our lives than any of the other companies listed. It’s huge — and growing. If we change Google, everything else should fall into place. The steps are:

Protect Our Privacy

  • Now if I can just find 17 janitors to help me shut the danged door…
    Whenever I search for something on Google, and then go and do something else, I immediately begin noticing tiny ads for the thing I was looking at previously. I am sure Google thinks this is helpful, but what it really represents is an inexcusable arrogance and indifference about my privacy. Most of the “deals” I am offered are actually over-priced.  Somebody has to pay for the advertising that I didn’t ask for — so I guess I am elected! This has to stop.
  • Congress should pass a bill that no search engine can produce advertising or false search results without the user’s explicit permission, and that this permission shall always be denied by default. Also, it should be affordable to shut off all advertising permanently, perhaps through an annual fee not to exceed $50. That’s four bucks a month for your sanity back. How much was this month’s cable bill? The Internet is a hundred times more useful. We should pay for a clean Internet and then demand it from Google.
  • All Internet browsers (and this technology may change) should operate only in cloaked mode, in which nothing about the user is revealed. All search history should be encrypted and private and easily deleted. This should not be optional.
  • No web page should be allowed to pop up any new window without the user’s explicit permission, which should be denied by default. No exceptions!
  • Any web page that offends the user or invades their privacy should be easily marked and reported by the user. This should be investigated and cured immediately, and must be Google’s direct responsibility. They should be legally liable for damages to users if they fail to enforce the new privacy rules.

Make It Easy To Find Things

  • Doohhh… I KNEW I should have alphabetized these books!
    The big change here is that your world needs to be organized based on who you are and what others like you are doing. If it’s afternoon and you’re driving your kid back to school, and you happen to pass within a short distance of your dry cleaner, and there are clothes waiting for you, your computer should tell you so, and guide you right to the door — even if it’s hidden inside a shopping complex. The things you do tell a lot about you. As you go through your life the computer should learn about your needs and wants.
  • What if you are a thief, trying to take advantage of this sort of profiling to find victims? You must first be identified firmly and beyond doubt. There a number of solutions for this, and they are slightly inconvenient. But they should only need to be done once per person. Once completed, any personal information about you — especially your name, social security number, driver’s license, home address, etc., will be permanently erased from the Internet’s servers. The goal is to know all about you but only in ways that don’t clearly identify you or allow the system to be used against you.
  • Once identified, you will have a number issued by an independent agency that everyone, including Google, will use for you. They will never again know even the simplest things about you. But they will be invited to learn about what you do and like, and how you spend your time. You should be unafraid, as extreme measures have been taken to protect your privacy. The more you share your life with your computer, the better that device will be at helping you. Computers should build shopping lists for you, and then route you from place to place, at any time of day or night, based on the best prices for the goods you buy. You should never over-pay for anything again.
  • Once your profile matures, Google should be able to identify your peer group. This is anyone anywhere that shares certain key beliefs, attitudes, or habits with you. Their personal favorite foods, etc. should be offered to you when you are hungry. It doesn’t mean you have to obey thesis guidance. It’s just that the odds are very high that you will both enjoy the experience, but find something new as well. Your invisible, unknown peer group will help you to grow and expand your horizons. Similarly, you will affect them with your own passionate opinions and actions.
  • In ten or twenty years, the concept of searching for something should feel like a complete waste of time.

 

Dump The Idiot Web Browser

What’s Wrong

  • This web browser is acting funny…
    At the computer age’s Big Bang, the web browser was provided for free so users could have a peek at the wonders of the high-tech world. New versions of the browser arose, but none was significantly different from the other. They were toys. Computer users had grown accustomed to running desktop applications, which were much faster, more customizable, safer, and more powerful. Then a funny thing happened.  Amateurs began developing web pages that relied on the browser. JavaScript was released, allowing these hacks to throw together pages with animated features. Web development became a big business, and anyone could do it. And it was fast. So the browser became the only way to work on the web. Unfortunately, the “user experience” got lost in the shuffle. As long as people could eventually stumble onto what they needed, and the tools were free, nobody cared. That was a big mistake.
  • The web browser was intended to be a cross-platform compatible for Apple, Windows, and Linux operating systems. That is disingenuous. Indeed, each of the big three OS’s now have all of the major web browsers. But the browser itself is not in any way compatible with other operating systems. Just try installing Internet Explorer for Mac on an IBM PC. The actual application is hard-coded for the operating system. So each browser company must release a specialized version for each of the Big Three OS’s. That’s a plain fact.
  • The other part of “cross-platform compatibility” is consistency of user experience. This is also a fallacy. Users are free to run any version of Mozilla Firefox they wish, including one that is five years old and that barely functions under Windows 8. Users can turn off JavaScript, which is so prevalent nowadays that removing it hoses most web pages. There are hundreds of variations of browsers based on their version and internal settings. The browser is, without exaggeration, the least compatible piece of software ever released.
  • Web browsers are also the least secure piece of software ever released. There are so many ways for hackers to trick the browser that the security suites can’t keep up. The web is a very dangerous place to be, and that is due to the browser itself. It is only going to get worse.
  • The Internet is full of junk that is not helpful to the consumer, and is generally used to manipulate search engine rankings. There is no coordination to centralize content and get rid of redundancy. There is no real clean-up system for junk in general.
  • The Back Button. Imagine throwing a huge party for your daughter’s Quinceañera (15th birthday). All of your family and friends are there. Everyone wants to toast this and toast that. You drink way too much. Some old feelings bubble up, and you begin insulting people. You and your best friend get into a fist-fight. Others join in. You end up in the parking lot, with everyone screaming, streaming in blood and urine, getting your face based into the filthy gravel. Your heart stops; you have a stroke. But miraculously, you wake up in the hospital, heavily medicated but otherwise fully alive. Your regret what happened. You want to return and make things better. So you hit The Back Button. Bonus points quiz: where do you end up? At the party or in the parking lot? You know the answer because every day, at least once, you fill out some moronic web form and accidentally click The Back Button. Whoosh! Everything is gone and cannot be recovered.
  • The Internet and its awful web browsers exist in what is called a stateless environment. That’s because the original server technology behind the web has not significantly changed in 20 years. The server just passes requests back and forth. It doesn’t have any idea of how to store what you’re doing, and doesn’t try. Software developers have struggled to find a solution, but have never challenged the nature of the server itself: a big, strong, fast work-horse with no brain. That can change, but only through public pressure. Most of the pain you feel in your web experience is due to this antiquated infrastructure of stale ideas.
  • It’s way too hard for users to actually use the Internet. How many people reading this article are comfortable with rewriting their web page whenever they want to post a few revisions? Nobody does. Maybe your teenage son can do it, but ends up playing video games instead. The pseudo-expertise required to create web pages is an example of stupid technology: it’s just hard enough so most users can’t figure it out, but it’s not made up of anything robust, reliable, scalable, or manageable. So web developers make a killing “maintaining” web sites that the user cannot manage themselves. As a result, false middle-men like Facebook have arisen to “fill the void”. But they accomplish that by forcing you to live by their rules, and sucking the life out of you with constant invasions of your privacy.

What Must Be Done About It

  • If I could speak, I would say some things that would make me want to stop speaking!
    Since all browsers are basically desktop applications, with a unique version for each OS, there is no reason the developers cannot just use a real desktop application for this purpose. It would be vastly more powerful than a browser. But they would have to give up HTML, JavaScript and other toy-boat scripting languages. That’s not much of a loss. These languages encourage bad programming practices anyway. The new browser will be completely stateful, remembering everything you do and losing nothing. It will be customizable so you can make it look and behave any way you want. It won’t have — or need — a “Back” button. It will provide powerful organization for you and your peer groups. It will interface with your car, your phone and even your home.
  • Web servers must be reinvented to provide hosting for Unified Documents rather than web pages. An open-source, world-wide standard must be created for what a Unified Document is. No major corporation will control this definition. The new type of document will support text, tweets, emails, sound, video, and even databases. Users can then publish any document to the “Internet” that they wish. The editors for creating these new documents shall be extremely easy to use. Scripting languages will be constrained so they are not essential to how the documents are fetched or presented. Documents will be publishable for any number of persons specifically or for the public in general. You should be able to get your “new” Unified Document published on the Internet with a single click of a button.
  • The Internet should be built to understand content so clearly that it knows how to prevent duplicate content — including parts of documents, which might contain parts of other documents. There should only be one copy of anything — ever — on the Internet. All other references should be “linked” so they refer back to the single source of truth for that document.
  • Users should be able to instantly notify the Internet about “bad content” with the click of a button — advertising, computer-generated nonsense, etc. Since users are certified, they can’t illegally vote. Their opinion should drive the Internet’s own clean-up system to remove any form of malicious content from the web.
  • Advertising will virtually disappear. Indeed, if a user pays a $50 annual fee, advertising will be illegal. If a user wants to buy something, they will consult their peer group to find out what real person has bought the item before, and at what price. All goods will be offered with explicit and complete details, so they can be compared for price vs. value. No person shall ever offer anything on the Internet who has not been identified per the rules of the web. So no more scams.
  • Email will be eliminated. Instead, all communication will be between known individuals and with complete permission of the recipient. The communications themselves will be Unified Documents, as described above.
  • Violators of Internet etiquette will be quickly cut out of the system and their servers banned. Fines and prison terms will be provided for chronic abusers.
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