The Demise of the Internet?

by Robert Harrison

I was recently involved in a discussion about Net Neutrality, in which people were voicing their concerns about the Internet being ruined by corporations controlling bandwidth and limiting our access. Sorry, but I beg to differ. I work on the Internet every day, and while Net Neutrality is an issue, it's just one of many. These days, my primary concerns have little to do with bandwidth, access or pirates. I'm most concerned about the "watering-down" of the Internet, which occurs as a result of the "noise" being created by blogs and unfettered public access. Should we all have access? Absolutely. But what are we doing with it?

The Internet is polluted with blogs that are unchecked, unedited and loaded with opinion and conjecture presented as fact. It's full of scams, ads, SPAM, intentionally -misleading information and useless social postings. Twitter is a madhouse of pitch-men, narcissists and advertisers screaming for attention with sound-bites. And Google is no help either. Their algorithm prefers newly posted information and weighs heavily towards blogs (users, add "-blog" to your Google search to eliminate blogs from your search results). They flood us with what's new and what has the right buzz words with no controls for quality of content or relevance. Google is as likely to return the latest random posting at the top of its results as it is to return actual relevant and vetted information that's tried and tested and has been posted for some time.

The Internet is becoming quantitative rather than qualitative. If the Internet gets ruined, it won't be bandwidth or pirates, or SPAM, or Net Neutrality that brings it down. It will be destroyed by the very thing that makes it valuable in the first place: unfettered access. The Internet may get so loaded with junk that it will one day more closely resemble a junk-yard than a resource center.

So if you blog or post to the Internet, be responsible. Fact-check your information. Cross reference your materials with relevant links and consider what you are posting. Are you adding quality to the internet or are you just adding more noise? The Internet is like your home. Do you really want to S@#T in your own back yard? (Pardon my language.)

And yes, this blog post is opinion and maybe it's just more noise, but at least that's clearly stated here! Admittedly I am pro-blogging, but feel strongly about blog content quality.

What's your take on Internet pollution? Do you think blogs are making the web better or worse? Let us know.

Robert HarrisonRobert Harrison is the Director of Interactive Services at Long Island advertising agency Austin & Williams. He has been a leader in software application development for more than 25 years, nearly 15 of which have been spent developing internet-based solutions for business. To read more about Robert, visit his bio section on the A&W web site.

Comments – 4 responses to “The Demise of the Internet?”

  1. Nathan Says:
    Unfortunately, I don't ever see an end to internet pollution. The beautiful thing about the internet is your ability to create filters and make it what you want it to be. Like you said in your post, you can remove words from your search queries. As a fan of Twitter, I hear many people complaining about seeing too many promotional tweets. In the same way, these users can easily be blocked to make your experience much better. Have a Twitter friend who posts too many pointless updates? You can hide their updates from your view. Pollution is there if you choose to see it.
  2. Peter Shelly Says:
    It's more about the quality of the content than it is the quantity. The fact that anybody can be a publisher leads to more choices, yes, but you can usually distinguish the good stuff from the pollution pretty quickly.

    Think about newspapers; The National Enquirer didn't kill the industry. It goes on newsstands with the New York Times and the WSJ, but people understand there's a difference.

    It's the same thing with websites. Post quality content, you'll create a recognizable brand that people consider an authority. Post garbage and people won't respond.

    Like Nathan said, we'll learn to filter what we're looking at. We'll develop better habits and someone will develop better technology to get to the good sites. And even then, there will still be bad sites out there. But it won't kill the Internet.
  3. Robert Harrison Says:
    Thanks for the comments. I fully agree that those who know how to filter will, and will find quality. Still, I have many well educated and intelligent friends who send me absurd links as though they are the gospel truth. It is 'caveat emptor' and users do have a responsibility to validate. Yet, in the free market, bad product will eventually be cleared from the shelves. On the internet nothing, the shelves just keep growing. The #&@P is still there and you still have to wade through it. Content providers do also have a responsibility to provide quality.
  4. Peter Shelly Says:
    Here's a thought, Robert: is recognizing legitimate vs. phony content perhaps a generational trend?

    For instance, younger users understand how links and multimedia and the "flow" of a webpage almost instinctively, which is different from older generations who haven't grown up with Google and Facebook and YouTube. I can navigate a site much quicker (and get more out of it) than my father, or certainly someone in his father's generation. And I'm sure some of my younger cousins are even more savvy than I am when it comes to newer sites and technologies. Is it possible that the way we view the content on webpages is also different? It's harder to tell these days the difference between a website that's run by an authoritative source versus one run by one that's not quite so, especially if you're not tuned in to the newest trends (i.e., you're not online 24/7...).

    I'm thinking that maybe the way we recognize and interact with content decides how well our filters work. If we train ourselves properly, we can tell the difference between the good and the bad, the same way we can tell the difference between a discount grocery store and a Whole Foods — *if* we know what to look for (though, we'd have to hide the price tags, as they would be a dead giveaway!). And once we can do that, it won't matter that the shelves keep growing; we won't see them anyways.

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