We are nearing the end of an incredibly influential era. As technology improves and the Internet continues to grow, its days as our generation’s version of the wild west are numbered.
Many of our hard drives are littered with the tattered remnants of an era that will be forgotten in the near future, but fondly remembered forever. For a lot of people, they want the indiscretions of their digital youth to be dead and buried. Between all of the piracy, trolling, and general disregard for privacy or rules, the Internet became a place for everyone to live like an outlaw.
The computer nerds of the 80’s and 90’s will always remember BBS’s, c0deZ, warez, chat rooms, poor Web site design, and a time when the Internet and new technology presented a sublime opportunity for the entire planet.
Soon enough, their vision will come to some sort of fruition. Just as the early American colonists ideals were realized with the emergence of the US as a superpower, those early web addicts will see their dreams materialize when the Internet reaches maturity.
News will be instantaneous and reliable. Using connectivity to socialize, create, and work is becoming standard for most of the population. Digital media has become an acceptable purchase, and the mighty blogs have become corporate tools used for marketing and research.
For a short time, we all lived in our own version of the wild west. Like rebels and cowboys, we pirated songs, movies, software, and anything else we could get our hands on. We discovered new and exciting things, expanding the horizons of our minds. We developed and supported the free software movement; which gave way to the rise of Linux, Firefox, and the presence of the free alternative. We blogged relentlessly. We poked, wrote on walls, and uploaded pictures and videos like madmen.
We used the strength of our numbers to cause a real change in this realm. We trusted and supported the blogs. We read webcomics and other digital creations, often shouting the praises of the creative commons license. We got rid of DRM. We beat the corporations, the governments of the world, and all who would oppose our freedom…or did we?
The days of piracy are all but over. More and more people are being caught, and the former reasons for piracy are no longer applicable with the general removal of DRM. The webcomics and digital creations that we support have become moneymaking staples in our lives, so similar to a syndicated strip that the distinction between the two is blurring even more as I write this. Many of the blogging giants have been bought out. Facebook and other social networking giants have simply become the new marketing platforms. Big developers are now supporting free software such as Linux in order to reach a growing market, effectively working against the nature of free software itself.
With the incredible support we gave to these causes, we created the perfect storm. We gave out the most valuable thing we had-information-for free. Our feverish desire to hold onto these days meant that big money had to back our favorite institutions. Because of us, the worldwide web is progressing beyond the tubes and into adulthood. Our contribution to the future is important, but I sure hope that we don’t forget our past. In twenty years, the Internet might be nothing more than a large cybermall. If that happens, I’ll long for nothing more than the ability to post a stupid comment on Youtube as if it were my last breath of digital freedom.