The Idea Dude


Friday, March 12, 2010

The slums of the Internet

I use Google a lot. I mean a whole. It saves me from keeping a notebook with stuff and reference books on my shelf. For that I am truly thankful. But of all the search results I get a day, at least 60% or more are junk. Simply spam pages with little or not information. The sites that do have information are cluttered with links, ads and images. In short, I'm bombarded by a million offers I don't need and another million things I have no interest in.

CNN is perhaps the biggest culprit. I counted 339 links on their homepage. Is it so paranoid that I won't go past page 1 that it feels it needs to offer me 339 opportunities?

Of course, the Internet is simply a mirror of society. The physical world is not much different. Switch on the TV and you're blown away by 4-5 ads every 5 minutes. Ride on the freeway and count the number of billboards and signage on buildings. Look at Niagara falls 100 years ago, look at it today. The problem is in the physical world it costs money to put up the signs and it takes people many hours and days to do that. On the Internet, it costs cents and takes seconds to do the same.

What happened to user experience? Which one is more memorable, that $20 Chinese buffer or the $100 dinner at a cozy French restaurant.

Unfettered digital democracy is the best way to describe it. We are drowning in the very pool of digital opportunities.

It is as the saying goes, "The Best of Times and the Worst of Times". We have to take the good with the bad but the bad is rapidly exceeding all that is good. We've seen democracy go bad in the real world, I'm seeing democracy going bad in the digital world.

Perhaps there is a new term we should coin, "Digital Obesity". Getting fat on the Internet diet of worms.

Can it be different? A few years ago, I took the family to Hilton Head in South Carolina. What struck me the most was the rule that all signage had to conform to the size, height and colors of the local authority. So as we drove past the sign for Walmart, it was wasn't 30 feet high or 20 feet wide. It was a tasteful and light brown, fitting it with the lush greenery alongside the road. So was the every hotel sign along the way. The buildings were hidden between trees. I didn't mind at all, I don't think anyone would.

Could the Internet be the same? With no boundaries, timezones or a governing body, I doubt it. The digital revolution is rapidly and exponentially sliding to the lowest level of free so the only way is to advertise. The irony the number of ads people must endure for the site to make money is grossly disproportionate.

Of course, that is the culture everyone has grown up in, me included. Would I pay $9.99 per month for spam free email? Would I pay Google $9.99 per month for quality search? Of course not, because I, like everyone else, has gotten use to free.

Perhaps, "FREE" is the new dirty word on the Internet.

Anyone for a "greener" Internet, a digital world without pollution?


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