in life, tech

The Two Internets

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Theories in Physics tell about the possibilities of infinite dimensions and infinite Universes. Compared to that, the fact that there are Infinite Internets within the same Internet is a reality we all face every time we login to our devices. Of these, I’d like to address two Internets – The Anonymous Internet and the Identifiable Internet.

The Anonymous Internet

When the Internet was created, it was figured out by a bunch of hackers that maybe, these electrical lines that carry voice signals can also carry digits. They thought it would be a good way to send text around. It was. Pretty soon, anyone with a phone line and an opinion (who doesn’t have one of those?!) was sending text around. No one really thought, “hey, let’s find out who’s on the other end of the line!”, because either they already knew who they were talking to or didn’t really care. It was a bunch of people who were either too honorable or not at all. This model was like the ham radio model. The power of transmission has been given to commoners and no one can swear that the other person on the line is saying the truth or not. Even with call signs and chat room names, it was always too ambiguous. This model was pretty successful, simply because there was so little to talk about that you would generally know who’s posting. Ah, posting. That little devil, Tim, the Father of the www… He really made it simple, anyone with some space on their computer could host a webpage and say anything claiming to be anyone.

The anonymous model is really nice, until someone hits you with spam. Then it’s all hell break loose on the comment moderation system. How do you know that this trackback link or this bad english is really a person and not a bot with a Markov chain algorithm designed around it? There’s no way of knowing for sure. That the beauty and bane of this side of the Internet. You can say whatever you want to whoever you want. But so can the bot next door. That just means that 99.999% of all comments on all of the Internet are pure and simple irrelevant.

The Identifiable Internet

Welcome to the world of Identities. If you didn’t notice, the blog post you’re reading is written by a person who calls himself nitin and is probably a friend or a contact to most of you. When you try to comment on one of these blog posts, you’ll be asked to login to a comment management system called Disqus using Facebook, Gmail or Twitter. That’s us knowing who you are. So, of course, you watch what you say and you don’t login where you’re not comfortable. But you’re safe when you’re logged out, right? No. Websites find out what website you’re coming from using URL trackers. Google, Apple, Twitter and Facebook know who you are using cookies, where you live using IP addresses and if nothing else, what kind of person you are using your search and website visiting habits. GMail and Dropbox don’t keep your emails and documents private and easily give them to your governments at the first sign of a subpoena. But that’s all right because this is the legal yet free part of the Internet. Where they know who you are, where you live, what you like and who you talk to and the best part, they sell this to advertisers. Legal spam.

Imagine a scenario where you login to my blog and post a comment. A person likes it, opens your profile, finds out your email ID and offers you a job or at the very least, has some meaningful email exchanges with you about the topic. But that doesn’t happen that often does it? You post that comment, but someone either spams you or writes crap back to you, because the Internet allows them to. They won’t harass you for more than once, because it’s all futile. This is the beauty and bane of the identity based Internet. This model is the newspaper, TV and Radio model. A lot is said, but very little discussed with the listeners because the listeners either don’t want or have anything to say.

Hidden in the shadows, behind a million spam filters, there’s the third, surprise Internet –

The isolated Internet

This is the Internet of spam filters, blocked users and ignored comments. I live in this beautiful grey zone. I have a blog that no one comments on, I have a twitter account that I use a lot but only comment on other people’s posts once in a while, painstakingly blocking every one of the tens of spammers that hit my not-so-popular account everyday. I have a Facebook account that I routinely ignore. This is the isolated Internet, where things happen but no one cares. It’s all about consumption, getting ideas into your head but not enough projection outwards.

In all of these Internets, a recurring theme is that of privacy. People want to be able to say a lot but want that they should decide if the whole world should see it or just their best friends. They find it really upsetting if someone else gets to see what they’ve posted. People of the connected world, your tweets do not belong to you, your GMail is used for making ads that best suit your needs and the government sees everything you post on Facebook. Where is your privacy? Why is it essential?

End Note: I do not intend to stop using the Disqus platform for comments, I do not intend to make the process anonymous. Partly because I don’t want that just to check if you’re humans, you should write captchas all the time. Secondly, I was going to create a very nice diagram with a list of social networks to show how much privacy focused they are. The list looks like this, in decreasing order of privacy –

Everyme  > Path > Facebook > Twitter

But then, I realized one thing. The business model of Twitter is to use the tweets you post to find the pulse of the community and then sell that data. The business model of Everyme is also probably pretty much the same. So none of that order is true, they’re all the same. They all give their service for free, because for them, you’re the product they’re selling. Enjoy the rest of the day 🙂

  • Manya

    The thing is with billions of users of internet..for now this cycle of them selling ‘us’ to ‘us’ is working like an infinite algorithm whatsay?

    • Yes, that’s exactly what they’re all doing. If you ever buy something from Amazon.com, suddenly the Internet will be full of advertisements of that same object!