Is 2018 the Year the Internet Finally Died?

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New Year 2018

It's a question I've been pondering a lot lately. With all the changes we've seen in the Internet in the last 10 years, have we reached a point where the original internet of the 1990s is essentially dead?

Of course, systems like the internet don't die suddenly like we mere mortals, rather they slowly change from one state to another just like the light from the setting sun. The change may be gradual but sooner or later the original state is no longer evident. The light may fade slowly at sunset but sooner or later it is dark.

I think we've reached that point with the original internet and its spirit of collective enterprise, its insistence on the freedom of information and its aspiration of being a good for the benefit of all. Today, this is essentially dead. Yes, there still remains faint glimmers of that original light, but these beacons shine weakly and are fading.

Now some may feel nostalgic about this loss, I certainly do, but others would say it was always an idealistic dream and we need to embrace the realities of a commercial world.

But it's not commercialisation of the new internet that worries me, I can easily live with that. What worries me most about today's internet is the massive invasion of our privacy, an invasion of such scope and scale that it is breathtaking.

Today every aspect of your internet usage is being recorded, collated, studied and far too often, sold. You know that, we all know that. The extraordinary thing is that everybody knows and nobody seems to care. And because we don't seem to care, the level of privacy intrusion is ever being raised. The perpetrators must think "nobody is concerned so we can do whatever we want." And they do.

If any western government sought to intrude on the privacy of its citizens to anything like what is happening on the internet today, there would be riots in the streets. No democratic government would dare to intrude into privacy to the extent that Facebook, Google and others do; they know they would be thrown out of office. So why do we allow this?

We allow it because we have unthinkingly bought into some strange ways of thinking. You hear people parroting lines like "Privacy is not a concern to me as I have nothing to hide," a truly ridiculous proposition if ever there was one. It invites the immediate repost "OK if you feel like that, then you are clearly happy to give me full details of your voting preferences, your religious beliefs, your past life mistakes and all your financial details. And seeing you have 'nothing to hide' you won't mind if you give me full details of your sex life."

Another lie that you hear is the idea that "if something is free then you must be the product." That trips easily off the tongue but if it was honest, this slogan should be properly expressed as "If somebody gives you something for free then that entitles them to steal your personal information and use it or resell it as they see fit."

It's not only a lie but a blatant one as there are many free products you can acquire that don't steal your personal data or intrude into your privacy. Many of the software products we recommend here at Gizmo's Freeware fall directly into this category.

Do you see the trickiness here? The slogan "if something is free then you must be the product" is being used as a moral justification for theft. Even worse, it is being used to imply a sense of entitlement to that theft.

So why do we buy into these falsehoods? Be warned, you may not like the answer.

We do it because we want to justify the uncomfortable and embarrassing fact that we have voluntarily engaged in a terrible Faustian Bargain. We have knowingly given up our right to privacy in exchange for the services offered by Facebook, Google and others. And we cover our embarrassment and shame by trotting out these threadbare slogans. As Pogo famously said "We have met the enemy and he is us."

But let's face it, the services offered by Facebook, Google etc. are remarkably good, indispensable almost.

"Almost" indeed but there are other alternatives to these services. Not quite as powerful perhaps or as convenient but they do exist. Yet most of us choose not to use these options. It is as if we are collectively resigned to our fate.

I must be honest and say that I am totally uncomfortable with this situation. I pine for the old internet where privacy theft was not a corporate objective. Alas this is gone forever but it does make me hope and wonder if one day we will see a third incarnation of the internet where commerce and respect for individual privacy can co-exist. Unlikely I know but do allow me the right to dream.

And that's my hope for 2018. May the first glimmers of Web 3 emerge from the gloom.

Nothing I have said here is new. Indeed, it has been far better expressed by my favorite singer/songwriter Lennie Cohen who sadly passed away this year:

"Everybody knows that the dice are loaded

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Everybody knows the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That's how it goes

Everybody knows

.

.

Everybody knows the scene is dead But there's gonna be a meter on your bed

That will disclose What everybody knows"

As the year draws to an end I'd like to thank all our regular users for their loyalty and contribution through their thousands of posts and comments. I'd particularly like to thank our volunteer editors and tireless moderators without whose efforts this site could not exist.

To all of you scattered across the world in 173 different countries, I wish you a healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Gizmo

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Comments

For the average user internet services have to be convenient and user-friendly. Given that those of us who remember and value the internet as it has been before greed and power lust got such traction, there's a lot of responsibility now carried on the shoulders of that even smaller group of us not aging out of existence and who have the skills to develop net services that will win back users. And if there's any way to reverse destructive legislation, it has to be found immediately.
As many have known for years, this is a matter now of social activism for public safety.
It's ironic that in the internet age various groups have not apparently found ways to coalesce and gather force to bring about change.
It's ignorance that is the biggest problem, and this is nurtured by the convenience hawkers who offer the Faustian bargain. We have to beat them at their own game by offering at least equal usability and attractiveness.
I've noticed articles about pirate sites using users' machines to mine crypto-lucre. Since the general populace are so complacent, can that ignorance be leveraged to thwart the privacy invaders?
Skilled developers, it's on you now. Could every machine be made active in thwarting control? What can be offered the typical ignorant user with payload of obfuscation for the greater good? Duckduckgo and others are doing good in that area. But notice how Google, for example, expands and then consolidates. They have the search engine, then they get YouTube, maps, social... The user is in a convenience corral. How to offer comprehensive consolidated services that oppose control?

So much this. Would seriously like to see this happen. We need to take the internet back. Nobody is going to give it back.

My concerns about the internet are not the same as yours although your points are valid . I am most saddened by the fact young girls can be bullied into suicide by unkind comments or children can be lured on line. A normally intelligent adult, can self brainwash himself in committing acts that defy any sense of logic or humanity and he can even learn how on line. As a former repair hobbyist this use of computers today has really taken the edge of my respect for technology as anything more then another money maker for the few . And I say this as a person politically on the left ( surprise surprise) because your most fundamental right, is the right to say alive and the internet is not making this happen anymore.

Whether or not you approve of Edward Snowden, I think he summed up what Gizmo says about privacy in one quote:
""Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say,"

A big thanks and shout out my fellow Gizmo's crew members.......thanks for all you do and for being the awesome people you are. It's an honor and a pleasure to be here.

Thanks Ian..... a good read !
Like the vast majority of comments here, you and the Tech Support Alert mob are truly respected.
I liken "techsupportalert" to Robin Hood and his Merry Men... and Women of course.
Taking from the rich and giving to the poor.....in the form of free technical advice, free and unbiased opinions on software and best of all, the best freeware !
Most of my computer skills and tech savviness (is that a word) ?... can be attributed to this site. Not only from Robin Hood & Co. but the many readers, regulars and contributors that add to the mix.
So.... to you Gizmo and your team as well as your readers, I say Happy New Year to all.
Cheers from Bundanoon, Australia.

I've been subscribed for almost 10 years and followed you (Gizmo) since the '90s. People like you are becoming few and far between. I'd like to recommend to your subscribers to start using Tor browser if you haven't already. It will provide you with a degree of anonymity. And I'd like to encourage your readers to start supporting people like Gizmo, the Tor network, and others of like mind, like never before to help gain and maintain as much of what the Internet was meant to be as possible. Knowledge is a powerful thing, especially when it is directed toward a common goal.

Live long and prosper Giz

First things first: thank you. I've been learning from and following you for years.
Thanks Gizmo for your work, for the analysis in the article I totally agree with.
And I can still remember a world where you had to be withing reach of the phone cord. I think that we all have a right not to be connected 24/7. George Orwell's 1984 was wrong only in that it portrayed a gloomy, dull and grey Big Brother, what actually happened is that it came with colorful, joyful, and entertaining looks, thus tricking more people into blindly accepting everything else: after all, something so useful and lively couldn't be all that bad, or could it?
My deepest concerns are about new generations. One generation span is sufficient to change their perception. We have examples from the recent past.

THANK YOU AGAIN

Happy New Year Gizmo, rhiannon and all the good folks who continue to make this place one of the remaining bastions of sanity in the cesspool once known as the web,
A daily visit here is a reminder of all the good a rockin' community of real human beings can do.

Thanks all ! :)

Thank you Gizmo for all you do. It is truly valuable.

Faustian bargain it is. We want the stuff & the services more than we value our personal information. In some cases we are tricked into giving it up (our personal info). In some cases we give it up knowingly, or at least semi-knowingly.

Gullible people have gotten fleeced throughout history. There have been dishonest people throughout history. What has changed is the technology that allows for much more thorough and much faster exploitation.

If only loss-of-privacy was the worst thing we should fear.

Happy New Year everyone.

Gizmo is truly an inspiration.
This website has to be the most useful website on the planet for computer users who value freeware
Techsupportalert is also almost entirely noncommercial - an absolute oasis in the desert, unlike 99% of websites of the same size and scale

But I think it is an error to overlook that the problem with privacy theft is only related to the internet
Our entire lives are now being invaded by privacy thieves

We are exposed to privacy theft from
1)The internet
2)Microsoft operating systems, particularly Windows 10, which has telemetry snooping of all your computer activity
(the majority of computers internationally still use Microsoft despite advice to the contrary)
3)Cloud based services for storage of our files (Apple icloud for example was hacked, with disastrous results for many people)
Be aware that 'cloud' just means someone elses computer server (ie it is just storage on a company's computer system)
4)Apple or Android phones
(permission to download an app often involves giving permission for the app to access your phones address book and other data)
5)Well known email services (there was a major breach of Yahoo emails in 2017, for example)
6)Computer/laptop webcams or potentially the camera on your phone (some spyware activates your webcam and can spy on you)
7)Internet of things / home applicances. Recently the Google home appliance was found to be taking audio recordings of peoples living rooms

My remedies:
: Learn to use computer and phone hardware and software to their limits, and avoid all the above threats as much as you can
: Avoid opening a social media account with your personal phone number
: Use Windows 7 as long as possible
: Use the cloud if you must, but also backup your most private files to external hard drives (keeping one drive off site)
: Keep emails for legitimate work related uses only, and assume that someone can read all of your emails
: Avoid internet of things - often it is a way of overcomplicating a basic appliance, such as a fridge, and increasing the need for technical services

Security updates for Win 7 will be ending. Maybe a coalition of developers could take this on? I've missed the Win 10 transition deadline out of a vague dread of loss of agency. Now that that die is cast, as it is for many, how can work with this situation?

I agree, but instead of "Use windows 7 as long as possible" I say Use Windows 7 as long as necessary" ... which is up until about 3 years ago for me, when I noticed I hadn't needed Windows for ANYthing, having used only cross-platform apps and dual-booting for years. .

As Bob Dylan's lyrics go: "And when will we ever learn"

Many THANKS to Gizmo, the web site and those who keep it running!
Happy, healthy NEW YEAR y'all!

Many thanks to all of you, for one more year... long life to the Gizmo's community!

HEALTH and PEACE for each of you and for all those who are close to you! :-D

Very good but unfortunate assessment.
Any suggestions as what to do in this new climate to maintain privacy, limit personal data acquisition use by 3rd parties, etc. ?
Any alternatives to the above aforementioned mentioned sites frequently used that gather our info that we can use instead?
Is there a way we can limit this corporate "free-rein" belief in attaining our info?

I believe that we should be notified of any 3rd party etc. given use to our info as well as how the info is used. Unfortunately, many businesses, public agencies etc. feel "free" to "SELL" our info to get needed revenue. It does not seem to matter whether you pay for a service or not, unfortunately they'll still sell your info anyway.

For browsers, Ad blockers are good, in general, as well as the ones that block Facebook and other social media from tracking you across the internet. This article at Engadget is well worth a read and has some good information, though it's a little.......frightening. https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/24/big-stores-that-track-your-online-move/ Or you can just search for Session replay scripts. It appears that for now, most ad blockers block session replay scripts.

For Chrome, uMatrix. Block everything possible while still permitting basic page functionality as per needs.
For Firefox, Noscript.
Just the start. Of course that's coal to Newcastle. What's needed are attractive products with built-in, seamless protection to grab market share.

Thank you, Gizmo, for your eloquent posting, especially with regard to the ever-tightening noose around personal privacy. Even a cursory study of human history clearly shows that individual liberty, freedom of expression, and personal privacy are extremely rare and precious flowers that can only bloom where those values are deeply valued and jealously guarded. Sadly, that is not the trend in our current age.

You say that "there are other alternatives to these services. Not quite as powerful perhaps or as convenient but they do exist. Yet most of us choose not to use these options." That is a shame, but it reflects a civilization that is so entranced by the glamour and excitement of its new technological toys that it fails to see the grimly smiling face of totalitarian control which ever lurks in the technology behind them.

For myself, I do what I can to preserve such personal privacy and liberty as can still be found. Unwilling to allow Microsoft and Apple access to my data, I have blocked W10 and am in the process of slowly trading W7, not for iOS, but for Linux, once I am sufficiently schooled in it. Until the smartphones operating on Linux are developed further and have the basic apps I need, I try to do all I can to block the privacy-devouring Google behemoth in every way possible, using VPNs and encrypted messaging services on my Android phone.

I fervently hope that your dream of a privacy-respecting "Web 3" becomes a reality, but if we want it to be so, we must all work tirelessly to that end, constantly reminding those who have forgotten - or who have never realized - the crucial importance and fragile nature of personal privacy. Those of us with enough grey hair to remember what the concept of personal privacy means must also speak out and educate those who have grown up, and are now growing up, in the Internet Age and have never known a time when personal privacy wasn't regularly invaded in return for what you rightly called a Faustian bargain. We must help them to understand that privacy is a choice, a choice worth making, and that to passively accept invasion of their privacy is in fact to choose to surrender it.

We who still care about it must fight to keep the light of personal privacy from being extinguished, lest our civilization descend into the darkness of tyranny. In the words of the poet Dylan Thomas:

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

I wish you and all the members of the Gizmo's community a very happy, healthy, peaceful - and private - 2018.

Hello, thanks for the sadly true article.

It's a melancholy feeling to know that the internet, like most everything else in the world, has been corrupted beyond redemption by corporations. Of course the writing was clearly on the wall when Google, one of the most powerful entities connected to the internet dropped the 'Don't Be Evil' from their motto and code of conduct. I'm pretty sure it wasn't because they wanted to be a teensy weensy ornery once in a while. Of course things will only get worse with the installation of Verizon mouthpiece and well known liar Ajit Pai as FCC chairman. The decision to end net neutrality was a foregone conclusion the moment he was appointed chairman regardless of what the vast majority of people wanted. The 'vast majority' ain't putting the big bucks into these guys coffers so it's hard to get them to listen. Then if one installs software to maintain some degree of privacy while online they will find many websites that will not work unless they disable their software and allow that site to have a look under the hood. When or if another iteration of the internet fires up it would be none to soon for me. Thanks for being one of the dwindling places I trust online.

Happy New Year!

Many thanks to all who keep this website going. I trust what I read here more than most other sites I visit. Your time and expertise is greatly appreciated!

Thank you for the very insightful and true article. Like others have said, Gizmo is one of the true beacons and I hope it's honesty will continue to burn bright. We often are quick to criticize when things aren't right, but slow to acknowledge when everything runs smoothly. Here's a big THANK YOU for all you have done to help us, especially those like myself who are a bit tech-challenged and need help understanding. This thank you goes to your wonderful members who are quick to respond when we have questions or do not understand how to do something.

Happy New Year to All of You and Kudos to Gizmo, may you lights continue to shine...

Happy New Year all you good guys.
Keep up the good work!

Have a Happy New Year to you and all that help put together this website. This was a letter I will all ways remember, was beautifully done.
As you may notice the username I"ve picked indicates somewhat of the sentiments you've expressed of gullability in the world not looking deeper. Again I would like to echo the sentiments above: I thank you for being such a reliable, trustworthy information source. Thank you!

I don't trust much on the internet these days but if it's any consolation I do still trust (and value) the contents of this Website, and the opinions of those who contribute to it.

Happy New Year to all at Gizmo's :-)

Anyone who has watched the movie Snowden has come to the realization that Big Brother is already watching!

There will always be people who spend their whole lives glued to their phone screens and to whom Facebook, Twitter etc. are a prime part of their lives. Recently a company has been offering to perform DNA tests to tell you from whence you originated. What a good idea. Now your DNA can be sold to insurance companies who can then decide if you are a good risk for life insurance or for any other purpose that might occur to them. Should we worry about those people to whom Twitter is important. Possibly, if by fair means or foul they become president on the United States but otherwise one can ignore these people as being of no consequence. Keep doing what you do so well, the thinking part of the masses appreciate you.

Nobody bats a thousand, but we do appreciate the time and effort Gizmo's puts into helping make the web a better and more productive place for us all. Happy New Year !

True, like yourself I remember when the internet was free, I ran stuff for free myself and gave my own time without reward to help others, sadly the lunatics now run the asylum.

Wish you had left your article until tomorrow as feel quite depressed now for the start of the new year. Happy New Year to all that run this site and many thanks.

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