Posted by: Justine | June 19, 2010

A Decade of the Internet: The Good, The Bad, and the Fugly

10 years ago in the relatively distant past, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, wrote on his views about the future of the Internet in an essay. In the year 2000 AD, the Internet was still in a nascent stage. Geocities was still popular, AOL was king, Yahoo was THE search engine, and people can’t call using the telephone and surf the Internet at the same time. It was during this time that Gates was advocating the spread of internet connections around the globe (in a cynical view: More computers = more OS and other software = more money for Microsoft). Gates said that there will be beneficial and detrimental things that the Internet will bring in the future. How did the Internet progress through the decade? We’ll look into that now. Hop into the DeLorean as I muse about the Good, the Bad, and the Fugly of the Internet through the decade!

Let's go back to the... well, present.

First, let’s check out what I think is the Good that the Internet brought in a span of a decade. The streaming of media is a good example. Sites like Youtube and Last.fm. Youtube fostered the creativity of many people and popularized user-generated content. I’m happy that Youtube was invented because where else can we put the epic videos that we made in Sir Chong’s class for all the world to see? (Don’t go too literal on me, Vimeo.)  Wikipedia is another site that flourished because of user-generated content. It helped in the aggregation of knowledge easier, which in turn helped students like me in research work. Social networking sites are also good examples of the use of the Internet as a means of communicating with people. With the use of Facebook, I was able to turn acquaintances into friends and keep in touch with my old friends who I have not seen in a very long time. I use Facebook as some sort of digital journal because I get to get my thoughts across many people and it also acts as a digital backup of things that I record on my personal journal. Another good thing that flourished in the Internet within the decade is the blog. I use my blog to express my views that cannot be read in a single glance and expound on my thoughts that I think are worthy for discussion. I also like to read the blogs of my classmates because in those blogs, I can read what insight they have about a certain issue that they cannot obviously bring up in a casual conversation for brevity’s sake. These are the good things that the Internet brought within the decade that I use personally and if I would think of a word that best embodies the Good in one word, it would be communication. The Internet made communication easier. Physical barriers are bypassed. We can keep in touch with other people instantaneously without being in the same room. This planet of ours has become a lot less lonely. Good job, Internet.

Bravo Internet, bravo.

Second, let’s check out the Bad. I think that online piracy is one the bad things that the Internet brought with it. With the ever-increasing speed of internet connections available, piracy has become more rampant than ever. This resulted in the entertainment industry losing a ton of money and them taking less risks when it comes to entertainment products. Every successful product gets a sequel or a spin-off; almost nothing new. Of course I can’t cast the first stone when it comes to piracy; I had my fair share of illegal downloads. Almost everyone had. But I have not illegally downloaded anything within a month. I think that that’s a good start. Baby steps, just baby steps.

Shiver me timbers! I miss my blankey!

Another is the proliferation of internet pornography. Every fetish you can think of can be found on the internet; from the common on t.v. foot fetish, to the I-never-thought-there-was-such-a-thing nape fetish. Yes, there are site blocking applications used by concerned people or by parents but the majority of students here in the Philippines rely on internet cafes for internet access and about all of those shops don’t have site-blocking applications. I believe that children can never be 100% safe from internet pornography. As long as their curiosity about the matter is not quelled through proper education, we can never tell how grave access to pornography can affect them. Save them from the horrors of Bicurious George.

This is far safer than the things you would encounter on the internet.

And another is spam. Tell me anyone who enjoys receiving spam. None right?! Sometimes when I get spam in my inbox instead of an important message that I’m waiting for, I feel like whacking the sender on the head with the canned good.

Simply annoying, isn't it?

And last, the Fugly. These are for me the worst things that the Internet brought to the world. One is Internet fraud. Evil people scamming other people of  their hard-earned money through various schemes. I value hard work and honesty so I think that these scammers are pests that need to be culled immediately so that they cannot victimize the many naive people who don’t have a clue about internet security. I have an experience with scamming but only a minor one. The incident happened in Ragnarok Online (I know you played it, yes you do!) where I was scammed in a trade for an item. I got literally nothing in the trade while the scammer got away with my precious item. Totally uncool! From then on, I became more careful with my online accounts so that what I worked hard on will not go to waste again just because of some scammer or hacker.

Another example of the Fugly that the Internet brought with it is cyber bullying. It is a serious problem in other countries where children and teenagers are so affected by these cyber bullyings that they commit suicide. I think that suicide is frankly the most stupid thing that a human being can do. Just because somebody is telling you things that you are not or you think that your problems are to heavy to handle or you believe that your reason for living is gone doesn’t mean that your death is the answer. Living well is the best revenge. Remember: All bullies are compensating for something; most about their southern regions. Remind them about that everyday with a wink, you’ll surely feel better. Although I never personally experienced cyber bullying, I’ve seen people writing inflammatory remarks on other people’s walls on Facebook and people status messaging about their hate for someone (even explicitly stating their names)  for all the world to see. Maybe those are carry-overs from the low brow arguments on Friendster, I really don’t know but I think it’s a form of cyber bullying, especially if the posts are all lies. I hope that Filipinos are more resilient to cyber bullying and that our statistics won’t be the same as America’s.

A cyber(netic) bully... of bad guys!

The last Fugly that the internet brought with it is the prevalent invasion of privacy. Although setting up an account in a social networking site means that you’re giving up somehow some privacy, it doesn’t mean that the sites should use your private information for monetary gain. I think that the recent controversy on Facebook wherein the CEO of Facebook was on record when he stated that the users are dumb for trusting him with their personal information is a good example. Even if he said that before Facebook became big, I think that that lack of concern for privacy can be pretty scary. I have a lot of personal information on Facebook and I don’t like that my information to be sold to advertisers. A related experience: I attended a leadership seminar in UST last year. There was a spokesman for Yahoo Philippines in attendance. He revealed to us that by using the personal information found in our Yahoo accounts and our surfing trends, they can tailor-make
ad spots for advertisers. I think this is a gross disregard for the privacy of their subscribers. I for one found it to be off-putting. They just practically sold my personal information! I hope that this practice is not widespread amongst all the big names on the Internet because where can I put personal information without the fear of it being used? I firmly believe that the trust that I give them should be taken care of with great respect.

"We can see you."

And so we’ve seen the things that I think represent the Good, the Bad, and the Fugly of the Internet. Bill Gates was right, just like the innovations like the radio and the television that came before it, the Internet has has changed our lives. Communication became easier, doing business became faster, education became easier to disseminate. It provided me with a means of escape from reality and also a way to connect effectively with the world. What an oxymoron. Although the Internet brought problems along with it, they are still outweighed by the benefits. After being so accustomed to the Internet, I can’t imagine a life without it. My life was changed by the Internet. For better or worse.

The Great Escape. "Onwards!"

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Responses

  1. i don’t remember hearing the Yahoo! spokesperson say that they use our info to create ads (maybe I just wasn’t listening haha) but in any case, i do think it’s an awful practice for them to use our personal info that we entrusted to them.

    Brands shouldn’t have to buy information to advertise to the consumers because the Internet has changed the relationship between consumers and brands. Brands should shift their efforts and budget from advertising (which is pretty unidirectional) to consumer engagement. Plain promotion is passé.

    Here’s an interesting read: http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/07/12/get-ready-as-corporate-sites-and-social-networks-start-to-connect/

  2. hello justine! this is my first comment of the 3 required.im thinking of commenting on yours, earl’s and lem’s :))
    anyway, i think the fugly things about the internet were well explained with the reasons you provided. I can (of course) connect it well with my own blog. i agree that lives are changed by the internet yet i believe that we should always be vigilant as to how these changes affect our way of living and our principles in life. The internet indeed makes things a lot easier for us, and that is one thing we should be very much thankful for. Still, we should set a limit on how much we should let this technology meddle in different aspects concerning privacy, information sharing and the like.

    Great blog!

  3. Having substantiated the reasons behind the use of the labels–Good, Bad, and Fugly–gave this read a comprehensive structure. Candidly speaking, I think most of us enjoy piracy via the internet. Having said so, I may consider this act of “stealing” (which I prefer to call downloading) as something that works for us well. I must say that most of internet users–regardless of the detriments piracy can render–share the same mindset. After all if online sites do sell our private information, I might as well “steal” (or download) something from them.

    Isn’t that evil? *laughs*

  4. I was looking for your Bill Gates’ post for days. Come on, when did you post this?

    Anyways, here are my thought-pennies. Or thought-pesos. They are a messy collection though.

    First and foremost, let me say this – that essay is rather (read: ridiculously) long. I have enough of that rhapsodizing over XML and HTML and whatever tag language we have in the Internet. With that said, I also think that Gates is a tad too optimistic. Well, I’m saying this with the benefit of hindsight, but I’m pretty confident that I would’ve raised an eyebrow if I read the essay way back 2001. Mr. Gates, not every nation in the world is like the US. For starters, many areas in the world are in dire need of electricity and light bulbs, which surely take precedence over Internet connection.

    It’s rather interesting to note that Facebook figures both in your ‘Good’ and ‘Fugly’. I think it shows that what is ‘good’ can also be used for ‘bad’. In general, the Internet is neither ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because it’s simply a tool for us human beings who have the intent. But then again, intent doesn’t matter. Nothing can stop a person from using the net for, say, porn. Or cyber-bullying, igniting flame wars, defamation, hacking – the Net is a world of freedom that is growing so fast, real-world order could hardly keep up with it.

    Piracy – the world’s guilty pleasure. I don’t have the right to condemn it, but I do recognize the damage it does to businesses. Still, WHY do we support piracy, directly or indirectly? I’ve come up with a still-vague, kinda-warped idea. We’re bombarded with all sorts of products from businesses who want profits. These businesses stir up the desire to want their products. The thing is, we can’t have them all because of some reason or another. But we could have some of them – for free, to boot! Just look it up online (which is also, ironically, a place where they promote their products) ! Okay, I know that borders on conspiracy theory, but still.

    That invasion of privacy thing is disturbing. It’s like there’s an invisible pair of eyes spying on you. I find it strange that the Internet, a free-for-all, anything-goes place filled with anonymous personae, facilitates trade of personal information for money.

    PS: Spam can be good if heated well.

  5. Hi Justine! I certainly agree with your point that “the lack of concern for privacy can be pretty scary” and how infuriating it can be when companies are “practically selling your personal information” online. Security of privacy is a priceless right all individuals deserve and are entitled to. Unfortunately, this very right is often sacrificed for cyber interconnectivity.

    And yes, you’re right about social networking sites especially Facebook tolerating this unethical “selling of information”. I have come across an article about the proliferation of “user-contributed metadata” online. Metadata—data about data (and for that matter, our personal data). These include all the information Facebook collects from its users—from sex, birth date, address, political views, religion, interests to education and work history. And here’s the thing: Metadata collated by Facebook are the most expensive item being sold to ad agencies striving for a personalized advertising strategy. Just imagine how much Facebook earns from our sold metadata. Awful, isn’t it?

    This brings us back to our responsibility as Web users. Given the threat to our privacy, we must always be critical and careful regarding what information we made available online. If I may restate my point in my first comm blog—“Disclosing personal information online equates to a certain level of transparency. And transparency equates to vulnerability.” At the end of the day, there can be no better protector of our privacy than ourselves.

  6. hi awesome. i agree with diane that the manner you structured your point was comprehensive, and a killer. i should have checked out your blogs long ago. issues like piracy and fraud are overwhelmingly alarming, if only we can regulate it. in the country, despite the numerous crimes being committed via the net, very little effort has there been to actually take effect. i finally like your thoughts. haha. suit up!

  7. Your longest post. Just saying. 🙂

    What else is there to say? Basically, I think you’ve covered everything good, bad , and ugly about the existence of the Internet. If this were a debate, you’d win, hands down. 😛 Just continue on with your critical and cynical mind, and maybe the quest to help clean up the Internet and all its fugliness might be yours to complete.

    Good one, well-read person. 🙂

  8. “The Good, The Bad, and the Fugly”

    Could have said it better myself.

    The internet has indeed provided an new avenue for news, entertainment, sports, music among others. But when we open the door to new technology, remember that not everything that comes through is good. True that there are many negative things that can be found on the internet. But it is our personal responsibility to minimize, if not avoid, contact with these.


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