Chalk talk

I looked over Jim’s collection of chalkboard shots, and thought a little about each one.

In the 70s, we see conditions developing – protocols (like FTP), applications (email, games), and personal computers (Apple II). These things are setting the stage for the Internet as we know it. Viruses are in there too, another part of the Internet as we know it. As Jim mentioned, personal computing and the internet were on separate paths. I suppose they needed to be at that point. The computer needed to develop as a household device so that there would be a broad user base to connect to the net.

The 80s saw a number of networks pop up – USENET, NSFNET, bulletin boards – and further infrastructure development with TCP/IP and DNS. Early in the 80s author William Gibson coined the term cyberspace. Some people in the science fiction community, like Gibson, imagined things to come. This was the Cyberpunk movement. One of Gibson’s famous quotes is “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” I see that idea manifested over and over again in this course. Everything was there long before most people knew about it. Everything has roots that go back much farther than we might expect.

The Web was born in the 90s. By that time, personal computers were commonplace in the workplace, and were becoming more common in the home. The net was becoming commercialized and ISPs like AOL were making home connections more affordable. Services like AOL and Geocities created communities where people could interact online. This led to explosive growth in computer sales. Amazon showed how businesses could exploit online communities, although I don’t think they were actually profitable at any point in that decade. The dot-com boom-bust came from that combination of explosive growth and elusive profitability. P2P and Craigslist, showing up late in the decade, had considerable impact on the offline businesses of music and newspapers respectively going into the next decade.

The 00s seem to be the decade of social media, with blogging, Myspace & Facebook, photo and video sharing, and other sites of that ilk. What’s notable about these, it seems to me, is not so much what people do with them as much as how many people are on them. And the information they have on all those people, which bleeds into the Big Data idea that takes hold more in the next decade.   We also see legal mechanisms to deal with P2P, like DCMA and DRM, and extra-legal ways to deal with that, like Bittorrent and Tor. A major technological event was the introduction of the Iphone, spurring the mobile web.

And that takes us up to the current decade, with even more ubiquitous computing, like wearable tech and the internet of things. Since things are on the internet as well as people, all the possible IP addresses are getting used up, which necessitiates the move to IPv6.

And there’s the international internet – even though the internet always had international input – Davies and Berners-Lee, for example – it started out very US-centric, and a lot of what we’ve talked about in class has been US based even if it is a world-wide web. But if we look at the top sites as ranked by Alexa, only half of them are American. Some countries, like China and Iran, want more regulated communications more than the web was built for. And due to NSA activity, US based sites and servers are no longer considered as secure as they once were. Could this lead to a fracturing of the web? I don’t know, but the character of the internet, its ethos of openness, is changing.

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