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The State of the Internet Past and Present

A whole lot of Web Hosting going on and on

Kudos to JESS3 - a creative agency that specializes in web design, branding and data visualization - for this excellent ‘State of the Internet’ presentation. When you take a step back and consider the mind boggling numbers presented throughout this vid, you realise just how far we’ve come since Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Labs said back in ‘97 that “the internet was the most overhyped, underestimated phenomenon in history.”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but how must the guys at Newsweek feel when they look back through their archives and read this piece from Clifford Stoll, published in the magazine on February 27th 1995.

“After two decades online, I’m perplexed. It’s not that I haven’t had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I’ve met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I’m uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.” - Good opening, but one feels that Clifford should have wrapped at this point.

“Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.” Oh dear Clifford, its not looking good. BTW remind me what is a CD-ROM?

“Consider today’s online world. The Usenet, a worldwide bulletin board, allows anyone to post messages across the nation. Your word gets out, leapfrogging editors and publishers. Every voice can be heard cheaply and instantly. The result? Every voice is heard. The cacophany more closely resembles citizens band radio, complete with handles, harrasment, and anonymous threats. When most everyone shouts, few listen. How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.”  Might have been advisable to have been a little less dismissive of Mr Negroponte’s predictions.

” Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping–just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obselete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet–which there isn’t–the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.” A world without Salespeople? What a preposterous idea. No one would welcome that.

Well there we have it. Clifford ‘Ex-Stolling’ the future of the internet. Phenomenon it most certainly has proved to be and long may it continue.

Footnote to this. Clifford Stoll was reminded of this article last week as it became something of a cult on the web (some 15 years later)  and he gamely came back with this reply:

“Of my many mistakes, flubs, and howlers, few have been as public as my 1995 howler.

Wrong? Yep. At the time, I was trying to speak against the tide of futuristic commentary on how The Internet Will Solve Our Problems.

Gives me pause. Most of my screwups have had limited publicity: Forgetting my lines in my 4th grade play. Misidentifying a Gilbert and Sullivan song while suddenly drafted to fill in as announcer on a classical radio station. Wasting a week hunting for planets interior to Mercury’s orbit using an infrared system with a noise level so high that it couldn’t possibly detect ‘em. Heck—trying to dry my sneakers in a microwave oven (a quarter century later, there’s still a smudge on the kitchen ceiling)

And, as I’ve laughed at others’ foibles, I think back to some of my own cringeworthy contributions. Now, whenever I think I know what’s happening, I temper my thoughts: Might be wrong, Cliff …

Warm cheers to all,

Cliff Stoll on a rainy Friday afternoon in Oakland”

A true internet Legend! (be interested to read Cliff’s take on Cloud Computing! - coming to a shopping mall the size of India soon)

So sit back and enjoy the fruits of JESS3’s labours as you see just how wrong one journalist can be…

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Phil is a 30 year IT industry veteran with a passion for education and has personally led many school and higher education initiatives designed to engage young people and showcase the broad range of exciting and fulfilling roles in IT.

A full and varied career has seen Phil move through various senior product/project and marketing positions with companies as diverse as Centrica plc, One.Tel, VarTec Telecom and iomart Group plc. Phil is working on a project to create an intergenerational social hub that will celebrate creativity and achievement in Helensburgh, birthplace of television pioneer John Logie Baird.The Heroes Centre will provide people of all ages with the new media and content creation skills required to engage fully in the digital world. Follow his progress on Twitter and on Facebook