Bruce Sterling’s magazine article “A Short History of the Internet” speaks about the internet from its early days and culminates with his predictions and assumptions as to where the internet is headed. As a group we found the predictions to be accurate. For instance he states the internet will become a “multimedia global circus” with tools such as “high definition television” and “voice” capabilities. We see these predictions realized in the internet today with respect to the popularity of websites like YouTube, Netflix and Skype.
Aside from those assertions he speaks to the effect of commercializing the internet and how it was/is a “very hot topic.” Judging from the widespread popularity of websites like Amazon and internet shopping in general, these predictions have certainly come true.
While this article for the most part accurately reflects today’s Internet, some of Sterling’s topics showed the age of the article – namely the domains and his lack of prediction of social media. He breaks down the six types of domains (gov, mil, edu, com, org, and net) but those are not as prevalent today in that unless the creator of a site has a specific purpose for it and is well-versed in website creating, they are probably not going to put a lot of thought in the choice of domain. For example, in our Davidson Domains we have the option to pick our domain type, but most students use .com even though .edu might be more accurate.
Additionally, Bruce Sterling probably did not anticipate the prevalence of social media on the internet today. Although Sterling mentioned that messaging and news groups were an emerging phenomenon on the internet in its early stages, his predictions were modest compared to the incredible network of social media and social networking sites that dominate the internet today.
To conclude, we would like to pose a couple of closing questions. Looking back to Bruce Sterling’s “4 four purposes of the Internet”, how does this compare or contrast to the ways we use the Internet today? Are there significant innovations since 1993 that have created new purposes for the Internet or does Bruce’s concept still hold true today?
1. Jeremiah Evans, Class of 2018, Political Science
2. Although I’m a prospective law school applicant, I enrolled in the course because I believe a programming/web design skill set will prove increasingly valuable as our society moves toward more and more online-based content. Additionally, the cross between politics/law and internet technology is revolutionizing the way people vote and interact with the government, as evidenced by President Trump’s success with micro-targeting during the election and his current social media presence. I would love to push that intersection even further and create/experiment with e-democracy type projects or even establish a beautiful website for the average person to instantly become informed (in lay-mans terms) on the legal system, court cases and laws important to them.
3. As an elementary/middle school student, I tinkered with animating software and created quite a few of my own ‘stick-figure animations’ that I would post to various online forums and YouTube. I also created a couple of my own animation forums (using PHP I believe) providing me with the opportunity to experiment with some minimal coding. Furthermore, I used to record my own music in high school and upload it to YouTube and Facebook, so I’m quite familiar with audio recording software such as Adobe Audition.
SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/) is remarkable in that it has profoundly altered the way in which musical artists (and Hip-Hop artists in particular) are able to reach a mass audience. Before SoundCloud, in order to attract the attention of a wider audience, an artist would almost be required to sign to a label in order to gain access to their mass marketing repertoire. Nowadays, even grammy-nominated artists, such as Chance the Rapper, are completely independent of labels and this is thanks to websites like SoundCloud wherein artists themselves can post their music to the platform, allowing millions of listeners to instantly have access for no cost at all. Accordingly, artists no longer need music labels with big money distribution deals or mass advertising techniques in order to develop a solid fan base. With SoundCloud, artists can literally launch themselves into stardom from a laptop in the comfort of their home without sacrificing a percentage of their profits to a label.
iCloud (https://www.icloud.com/) is a beautiful website that stores and synchronizes much of the content from your phone or laptop, onto a website that is secure and easily accessible on any device with an internet connection. Accordingly, from iCloud people have a central place wherein they may check their emails, store their photos and documents and even find their phone if it goes missing. The concept and design are equally stunning yet highly functional.
Leafly (https://www.leafly.com/) is another gorgeously designed website that is arguably ahead of its time in terms of creating and wiki-esque space for recreational cannabis users around the world to post about different strains and their effects. The website is innovative in that it treats each strain like an element on the periodic table, providing the website with a charming pseudo-scientific look that is easy and interesting to browse. Additionally, the website provides up-to-date information on legalization and decriminalization efforts across the globe, providing those who may be unfamiliar with the legal landscape surrounding cannabis, or marijuana in general, with a valuable source for educating themselves.