4G Internet

The Internet, far from being the new-fangled thing that so many of us have come to rely on for our incomes or entertainment, is in fact quite old. Older than most readers, in fact.

Our analysis of the Internet puts the current version we use today into a Fourth Phase (or 4G if you will). On this page we will have a brief recap of the first four phases of the Internet and look at what the future holds.

Phase 1: 1970 – 1990
We start around 1970 when the Internet first came out of development. The military, who had comissioned the development, had by this time taken their own version and started developing a seperate Internet of their own (known as SIP in the famous Bradley Manning leaks). Although this SIP was, and remains, inaccessible to the public, there was an open version used by academics.

Many universites in the West had their computers connected via the Internet, which they largely financed themselves through the purchase of leased-lines. To get access required a status of at least post-graduate.

This phase, where the public Internet was largely for academic researchers, lasted about twenty years. It was supported by an enthusiast-run bulletin-board system (BBS) that allowed limited transfers of email and files.

Phase 2: 1990-2000
By the turn of the 1990s it was common for people to have a PC on their desk capable of running multiple threads and with a GUI. At the same time digital telephone lines were rapidly replacing analog cables. These advances ensured that when the webserver/browser combination was invented it would be an instant success.

This was a phase of truly free speech, but only for those who took the time to master the small technical skills required to get one’s self online. This learning curve, although not steep, did ensure there was a certain minimum requirement involved and all those participating in Usenet discussions and email lists – the dominant applications of the day – could be presumed to be sentient at least.

It was an Internet still mainly of text, into which one wrote as much as read. Limited graphic capabilities emerged, but the days of streaming video still lay far into the future.

This phase lasted until the end of the decade and was characterised by skilled enthusiasts and an air of anarchy. Free speech and anonymity were fundemental, and most of the material available to download had been written by people who at least appeared to know something about the subjects they discussed.

The first great leaking of secrets occured during this phase, during a rather tawdry affair surrounding the Church of Scientology. Without going into the details it resulted in all of the “Church’s” corporate secrets being made publically available online by court order, and the banning of the first truly anonymous remailer. It inspired much independent work into cryptography, the poster-child being PGP.

The corporate world was slow to catch up with all this, and governments, as ever, were only dimly aware that something was afoot. Indeed during this period many corporate advertisers regarded the Internet as a threat (history was to prove them spectacularly wrong). An image of nerdiness was created, largely by advertising and backed up somewhat by the entertainment industry.

We recall the famous 1996 beer commercial in the UK which dissed those who had “got wired” claiming that “having a life” was something reserved solely for drunkards in pubs to enjoy.

Towards the end of the decade the corporations started to realise that they had no choice, and, inspired largely by the huge financial success of online pornography, there was a literal stampede to get business online.

Leading inevitably to the dotcom crash, and phase 3.

Phase 3: 2000-2008
After the dotcom crash the corporates took a more professional approach to what the Internet could offer, after having first of course claimed provenance over it as if by divine right.

This phase, coupled with the advances in mobile technology, is characterised mainly by the spread of Internet applications, many of which proved to be very useful and/or popular.

Everything however was not to the corporate liking and phase 3 is redolent with corporate histrionics over copyright and other perceived deprivations.

A more dangerous aspect, to certain sectors, manifested itself when Wikileaks started blowing whistles left, right, and centre through the courageous actions of many concerned citizens.

The power of Internet-connected banking applications and their ability to aggregate debt into assets also proved something of a double-edged sword when their purposeful mis-management almost bought the entire world’s financial system down in 2007, generating trillions in debt that still remains to be paid back and which has largely been transferred to the tax-payers.

Phase 4: 2008-
Thus we find ourselves in Phase 4 looking at an Internet that is almost unrecognisable to those who lived and worked through phases 1 and 2.

An Internet of surveillance, censorship, and advertising has been forged where every user is to be tracked and where the most viewed content, apart from pornography, is beheadings and other murders more suited to a slasher-flick than real-life.

There are moves afoot in the legislatures of the world to abolish anonymity entirely and make it mandatory for all users to positively identify themselves to the authorities before they go online, blissfully, if not willfully, ignorant, as legislators are wont to be, of the myriad technical workarounds to any “realid” scheme they could imagine.

The Internet is designed to survive a major nuclear exchange, and is unlikely to be tamed by legislation.

Nevertheless everything you do and say is already being recorded, analysed, archived, and may be used against you in a court of law. You do not have to go online, but it may harm your defence, not to mention your career options and ability to participate in mainstream life, if you refuse to do so.

It would seem that everything the Internet touches, from taxi-cabs to banking products, from the bill of rights to news reporting, from advertising to privacy, from recruitment to recreation, has seen a marked drop in quality and standards.

The loose jurisdiction inherent in the Internet has rendered the laws of many nations obsolete, and put millions of skilled people out of work. Their jobs handed over to amateurs who you can hook-up with online and receive a service that no matter how cut-price still isn’t worth the money you paid for it.

Far from the promise of free speech and self-actualisation, the Internet has become George Orwell’s nightmare tool of universal surveillance, propaganda, and social control.

And it’s getting worse.