Progress of the Internet

This is just a short, personal reflection on how the internet has moved from being the province of technically-minded ‘geeks’ to become a major social phenomenon, indeed one in which a lot of our social interactions either extend to, or with some relationships, mostly exist on. I realised, coming back from my Kyoto trip that I have a lot of content I wish to share and easier ways than ever before to do so. We have come so far since since not so many years ago , when I waited for a single, low-resolution photo to download over a modem, I drank my coffee. Who knows where we’ll be in another 10 years?

I – Accessing the Internet

It’s interesting to reflect that the internet has grown and changed so much over the past few years, to the point at which many people couldn’t live without it if they wanted to. When I started this blog, there was a ‘fashion’ for blogging, but it was definitely in the minority, in my age group at least. Whilst I had fantasies of thousands of daily hits to see my original and exciting content, it didn’t quite work out that way and it was a job even to get friends and family to take note of the site. It wasn’t just lack of interest in the content, but the whole hassle of typing in the address or loading up the book-mark. A lot of people didn’t really know what a blog was, even and even if they did there was no central way to see it from. I have to admit, I was the same with other’s productions. Yet one thing came about that changed all that- Facebook.

Others had tried it, but here was the first place where people could share messages, photos, videos, comments- all collected together online in one spot. Probably, it is a My Space for the over-teens, yet it has become a ‘must have’ for so many in the way that glitzy-looking place couldn’t be, for me at least. People of all kinds of ages and backgrounds are on Facebook and I have reconnected with many there after umpteen years, which I didn’t expect to ever do. It is to an extent a realisation of the dream of a ‘Global Village’.

Yet I’d argue that another revolution is underway, in which this kind of social-networking migrates from static computers to mobile devices. The iPhone is a good example of this, as it has opened up the internet to so many people who former found it just too much trouble. Other phones had internet access, but without capacitive touch or fast 3G it was near-useless, whereas with today’s smart-phones, we can be online almost anywhere. This is especially the case with digital photos, which can so easily be taken shared online that way (whether the fixed-focus camera in the first two iPhones constitutes a crime against photography or not is another question!) Perhaps the iPad, especially in the later and more fully-developed models, will speed this process up, along with other touch-screen ‘slate’ devices. Whilst they won’t (without a keyboard) be much good for writing on, they will be much more natural to interact with and to do so wherever you happen to be, perhaps even having solar charging.

For a while I have seen this as a key point and one that will finalise the ‘not just for Geeks’ evolution of this ‘Web 2’ generation of the internet, on the train, walking in the park, sitting in a rock garden, lounging in you living room- everywhere you will be able to connect with friends in a more immediate way. This doesn’t mean that the computer access with a nice big monitor and comfortable chair will die out- far from it. It does mean that more of one’s friends, even people who don’t like computers much, will be online and more ready to communicate. The aura of the technical, design or business uses that computers have so long been associated with (‘productivity’) will give way to sleeker devices that can be used anywhere, with decent enough battery to keep going, something laptops rarely had, whilst ‘power users’ have desktops and laptops to do more on.

IISocial Networking

Sharing content has generally become easier, more immediate; though it still needs to evolve to the point at which it is near-instant. Whilst I spent far too long fiddling around to get my blogs and galleries looking right in the past (and I mean hours, days, even), the tools are much easier to use now and give a much more pleasing appearance than I could get then. Kudos to Microsoft to have Spaces so well-featured even many years ago, but points off for the time it takes to load up; now slide-shows and what-not are available on Blogger and others as well. There is still the problem of clutter- which Facebook cleared up very nicely recently and YouTube is working on. It’s a problem- how to have everything easily accessed without cluttering up the screen? I think that Facebook made the right choice in moving to tabs, something which Firefox pioneered, which cuts down on our clicking time to see what we want, when we want it.

The clutter in the internet is nothing new; clean, simple interfaces can capture millions the way the timeless home page of Google search did. Twitter seems tot have attracted people tired of the complexities of conventional blogging- at least when it comes to short messages. I have just tried out Tumblr and it seems to me to be the best
micro-blogging site yet; if anything brings blogging well and truly into mainstream, it may well be that. Abilities to publish on one site and have it appear in Facebook, on blogs, in various places are a godsend for people like me who were otherwise repeating the same thing in various places manually. One great tool for this is friendfeed, which publishes everything you do (or also that your friends do) on the internet in one ‘feed’, which can then be fed to Facebook. Why have many different sites? I don’t know; perhaps it’s greed, they just seem to have different good features, attract different audiences. The more integrated they get with one another, the better for me.

All in all people should work to keep making a sleeker, more direct internet experience, in which the various sites connect seamlessly to one another, so people can freely communicate and establish good social networks. The dream, it would seem, is coming true.

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