We Need to Remake the Internet

en in code • 3 min read
Mind the age! Most likely, its content is outdated. Especially if it’s technical.

I really like the way Jaron Lanier in his recent TED talk talks about how the Internet needs to be redesigned:

“And so I can’t call these things social networks anymore. I call them behaviour modification empires.”

“I don’t believe our species can survive unless we fix this. We cannot have a society in which, if two people wish to communicate, the only way that can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them.”

I really recommend to watch it:

Maybe you don’t understand why I think it’s such a perfect talk. Let me explain.

Facebook, which is currently the biggest target after many scandals, decides how you will see posts without options to let users choose how you want it. All changes to the functionality of the wall were intended to make more money. Do you remember games everywhere, for example? Facebook was promoting them a lot to take them on board, and when the mission was accomplished, Facebook stopped that to charge companies to make money. The same thing can be seen with business pages. I would call it manipulation, even if this is not so bad for us, users.

But Facebook lives thanks to an advertisement. Many times ads are not very well recognized from the regular post. I can create a post and pay to share it with a group of people I want to. If I do that to promote my salsa calendar with people dancing salsa in my country, it’s helpful and useful. There are many ads like that. But then there are also other businesses like Cambridge Analytica. Facebook doesn’t care about privacy much so Cambridge Analytica could download many data in the past about us to help them run political campaigns. That is manipulation without question.

You could say you have ad-block (as I do) and communicate mostly in private messages, so it doesn’t apply to you. Well, communication is not just chatting. Maybe you don’t see it, but all public posts are also communication, which shapes us. Or it forms our friends, which then shape us. Anyway, Facebook knows many people are using Messenger and not whole The Facebook platform, that’s why you already could see ads in Messenger as well.

Some people left Facebook and/or Messenger to go to another place. WhatsApp is one of the popular choices as my friends use this one if they are not using Messenger. But WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. The same is true for the Instagram. And moving to other products of the same company doesn’t make much sense.

We could all leave Facebook and move to another company; it wouldn’t be for the first time. But, other companies need to make money to keep servers running as well. With the free Internet, there is no other way than run ads. I was working on a recommendation system for Seznam.cz, and even if we had researches to try our best to have a quality recommendation, always a solution with better traffic won.

Who could blame those companies? People don’t pay; businesses do that. Social networks (and search engines and all other apps we use on the Internet) then don’t work for us, but them. That’s why I really like that quote, “We cannot have a society in which, if two people wish to communicate, the only way that can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them.”

So, are we, are YOU, ready to pay for social networks to get better experience?

Until you (and companies) will be ready, be careful out there. It’s the world of ads.

1 response

I totally agree with you. The internet should be distributed instead of centralized so that communities don't need foreign entities to share info. Also, we don't need the internet censored to serve government interests. And lastly the companies that serve the internet need to scan for viruses and such so that users don't download it by mistake.

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