- The Internet as we know it is doomed.
The forum where alternative, unorthodox and potentially dangerous ideas
can be freely discussed is unlikely to be around for much longer.
- One of the huge advantages of the Internet
is its anarchic nature: anyone with something to say can say it to anyone
with a computer and a phone line. Ideas that previously were held only
by isolated pockets of individuals can now be consolidated - the old 'divide
and rule' method of killing off unapproved ideas is beginning to crumble.
Alternative ideas about medicine, physics, extraterrestals and even more
bizarre attitudes can be freely discussed. Big business and governments
are fighting back, however. Their vehicle is the new Internet - Internet
II and the way they will get it accepted is to use techniques that have
worked since the time of the Roman Emperors.
- Video and live sport on demand, on-line
shopping, download the latest CDs, play virtual reality games against opponents
anywhere in the world. Is this what you want from the internet? Well, within
a few years you may get it courtesy of cable and Internet II. However,
if you want to visit the alt.conspiracy newsgroup or read about alternative
cancer treatments on www.livelinks/sumeria you may be disappointed.
- At present, the internet is owned by
no individual person or corporation. It is a simply a series of wires connected
together such that anyone with the correct resources can attach to it.
Most people access the internet by modems connected through ISPs (Internet
Service Providers). These ISPs vary from small one-man-and-a-computer operations,
to multi-million dollar corporations such as America On Line (AOL) and
Compuserve. However, even the big players are subject to the same rules
as the small concerns. Any ISP can host web sites and news groups which
are then available to all. If your ISP doesn't provide access to a particular
newsgroup, you can change your ISP.
- The Internet, in its current form, will
be unable to satisfy the demand for the next generation of applications.
A new, more efficient protocol is required - one specifically designed
with cable in mind. Thus Internet II is being planned. When you hook up
to Ted Turner's Time Warner video, Rupert Murdoch's Foxtel or any of the
independent cable providers - who take their feed off the main suppliers
- you will be offered video on demand and other enticers via Internet II.
Internet II, however, will be owned and operated by a few large corporations.
There is no room for the independent ISP here - the cable companies put
the system in and they will be unwilling to let other people muscle in
on their act.
- Time Warner, for example, is developing
a system called the Pegasus Program. This is to be developed in two phases:
- Phase 1.0: Broadcast Applications, in
which the architecture shall support the delivery of broadcast analog and
broadcast digital programs and, in conjunction with real-time, two-way
data communications, support the broadcast downloading of interactive applications
to the set-top terminal; and
- Phase 2.0: On-Demand Applications, in
which the architecture shall support all capabilities of Phase 1, plus
on-demand applications and services requiring a high-bandwidth, dedicated,
- The specifications for Pegasus, and other
similar systems, allow for the seamless interface to the Internet. However,
if cable is being supplied by a handful of providers, what happens to the
numerous ISPs? And if there are no independent ISPs, who will host the
newsgroups and web pages? Well, no doubt the new providers will have provision
to host newsgroups and for individuals and companies to create their own
web sites, although no major corporation will be willing to host newsgroups
or web sites that could contain contentious material. Users will be able
to access sites hosted by the small number of ISPs left in areas where
cable is not available, and no doubt companies will set up specifically
to host web pages and news groups that are not allowed on the major systems.
But then how long before protocols are introduced that will not allow access
outside the main cable system? There are a number of reasons that could
be given for justifying this: it will allow faster access, it will allow
propriety protocols to be used and it will prevent children accidentally
coming across pornographic or other 'undesirable' material. Of course,
it will also prevent adults from accessing 'undesirable' material.
- We have seen numerous instances of technology
that is diverse in its early stages but then narrows down to a single option,
eventually controlled by a few major corporations. Examples of this are
the automobile, which in its early stages had a range of different motive
powers (steam, battery, internal combustion) , 3 or 4 wheels, tiller or
wheel steering etc, but then only one type survived ("You can have
any colour you want as long as it's black"). The early stages of the
computer industry reflect this as well: for example the Amiga was a better
designed system then the IBM PC which is now prevalent. What survives is
not necessarily the best. In the case of the Internet, governments and
many organisations view the Internet as a thorn in the side, and although
the advantages of the Internet are obvious to them, they would like nothing
better than to see the whole network controlled by bodies who would toe
a line amenable to the government.
- If you think there will be public outcry
against the taking over of the internet by a few corporations, than history
tends to show otherwise. With a choice between the anarchic Internet I
and an Internet II offering live sports, videos and, no doubt, live sex,
the public will be spurred into new heights of apathy.