back to article Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE

It's possible to have a certain sympathy for Sir Tim Berners-Lee as he looks at what people have done to his glorious world wide web. Instead of it remaining the glorious bottom-up egalitarian creation it once was, it's become infested with people like Facebitch using it to scramble for filthy lucre. Diddums to that, really: …

  1. R Soles

    "teenagers hogging the phone line "

    That's so twentieth century

    1. AdamT

      Re: "teenagers hogging the phone line "

      I think you mean "That's so TwenCen" ...

      Saying or writing it in full, like, just, like, takes too long, dontcha know?

      1. Paul_Murphy

        Re: "teenagers hogging the phone line "

        C20 for the lazy, CXX for the latin-trained


        1. Charles Manning

          Re: "teenagers hogging the phone line "


        2. Bleu

          Re: "teenagers hogging the phone line "

          Way to display ignorance, as the Americans say.

          CXX means 120, not twentieth century.

      2. fran 2

        Re: "teenagers hogging the phone line "


  2. Khaptain Silver badge

    Human Nature

    The web is simply a reflection of contemporary society.

    The downside that we see is a mirror of what man desires most, Wealth, Estate and Power.

    The updside is that we have a marvellous communication tool that can help us to advance as a race ( the human race)

    Unfortunately the upside often leads to an abuse by which someone can achieve the downside.

    Inversely, the downside is a motivation for invention pushing the barrieres increasingly, thereby improving the tools.....

    Catch 22 - One needs the other, it's Yan and Yang of contemporary life.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Human Nature

      "The web is simply a reflection of contemporary society."

      Maybe, but it's not a true reflection. It contains more than a fair share of the views of people who are extreme in one form or another, because they're motivated enough to spend the time putting their views out there.

      Easy communication favours the nutter, whether of the cold fusion type or the Nazi type. The danger is that communication is the carrier for culture and if we continue to leave these views unopposed - and I mean strongly unopposed, not just a bit of tutting and saying "well, it's the modern world" - then they will get to shape the future. Mostly in the form of the mediaeval past.

      So, the question is: should tolerant society tolerate intolerance? The answer is, I think, not if it wishes to continue.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Human Nature

        >Maybe, but it's not a true reflection. It contains more than a fair share of the views of people who are extreme in one form or another, because they're motivated enough to spend the time putting their views out there.

        But isnt that exactly how our society/government function today.. The extremist views are put intot the limelight and everything else ignored. When we look at the other forms of media, television, Radio, Newspapers,Cinema etc this is exactly the picture we are presented with.

        >Easy communication favours the nutter, whether of the cold fusion type or the Nazi type. The danger is that communication is the carrier for culture and if we continue to leave these views unopposed - and I mean strongly unopposed, not just a bit of tutting and saying "well, it's the modern world" - then they will get to shape the future. Mostly in the form of the mediaeval past.

        Agreed, it gives the nutters a vector by which they can vent their spleen but they require an audience first and that audience must be receptive... Today there appears to be a lot of receptive a multitude of sectors adn this I find is reflectd in the Web.

        As an example : Even El Reg uses some of the same techniques as the mainstream media in order to obtain clicks.... they have a recepive audience, so it works.

        >So, the question is: should tolerant society tolerate intolerance? The answer is, I think, not if it wishes to continue.

        Question : define "tolerance" and/or "intolerance".

        Society's definition of what is tolerable is a cyclic variable not a constant. The fine line between the two is used by both the Extremists and the Moderates in order to gain ground.

        If the web is showing signs of going to hell then I think that that is very reflective of where we are heading ourselves.

        1. roselan

          Re: Human Nature

          >Easy communication favours the nutter, whether of the cold fusion type or the Nazi type.

          Fun you say that, as just now a new article on NYT tends to say the exact contrary. Internet, or at least social media, seem to promote conformity.

          Let's admit for a minute that army is a refuge for fascists. Do the army favor fascism? If we want to get rid of it, shall we get rid of the army? Then, what will become of the fascists? Won't they be more dangerous if "let out"?

          For each nutter able to feel happy to shoot his opinion, how many abused people able to find support?

          I have no mean to answer these questions, so my opinion is just noise.

          1. Rol Silver badge

            Re: Human Nature

            Wikipedia will one day become the de facto source of all knowledge on this planet, not unlike the Encyclopaedia Galactica. However to reach this revered place it must be accepted by everyone to be true and factual, something which today seems unattainable. It is so because some entries are biased and have been written with alternative agendas in mind by individuals and organisations that seek to distort the truth. These contentious articles do not overtly advertise they are such and that is where Wikipedia and the rest of the internet fails.

            As a user it is difficult to see what is generally agreed as right, honest, correct, etc, from the rest of the guff. Everything is busy promoting itself as the truth, while it is only the users diligence and tenacity that might eventually cut through the crap and see it for what it is.

            If web-pages could be rated by users and those users votes weighted by their historic use / abuse of the system then we might get a little nearer to an acceptable marketplace for knowledge.

            The internet is one of the best foundations to build a democracy on, but underpinning that has to be a comprehensive educational system that transforms children into rational thinking adults.

            The war shouldn't just be against terrorism, but also ignorance and disinformation, the breeding ground for all the worlds troubles.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Human Nature

              "If web-pages could be rated by users and those users votes weighted by their historic use / abuse of the system then we might get a little nearer to an acceptable marketplace for knowledge".

              Back in the 1980s, when the likelihood of a global internet was increasing, I gave these matters some thought. Apparently the big issues, regardless of technology, are security, reliability, and trust. I mean "trust" in the sense of the reader trusting the content she reads, nothing to do with security.

              One way of calibrating trust would be to have a hierarchy of evaluators, working rather like S&P, Moody's, and Fitch for credit rating. Their job would be to look at the content available on the whole Web in various categories, and assess it according to some kind of star-rating or percentage system. What refines this idea is that those evaluators, in turn, would be evaluated by a set of meta-evaluators. Rather recursive, but the idea is that market forces would work on the evaluation system so that the best evaluators become more successful.

              Of course, different types of reader would need different evaluators. Someone who reads "The Sun", for example, and wants similar Web content, would have to patronize an evaluator specializing in that kind of thing. Whereas those who want informed, articulate, and objective political commentary would need an entirely different service.

              Market forces can work efficiently, even on the scale of the Web. But they need the right institutions through which to work.

              1. asiaseen

                Re: Human Nature

                "working rather like S&P, Moody's, and Fitch for credit rating"

                Not necessarily a good example given the revelations about how they actually work.

              2. Bleu

                Re: Human Nature

                Back in the eighties, there were already at least three global 'nets: what has now become the Internet, mainframe-based Compuserve, and Fidonet.

                Personally, my strongest feelings are for the last, truly an independent development.

                You might try not to comment when you don't know what you are talking about.

                1. Bleu

                  Re: Human Nature

                  ... not to mention the global telephone, telex, and telegraph networks, telex deceased afaik, telegraphy still going in a few places.

          2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: roselan Re: Human Nature

            ".....Let's admit for a minute that army is a refuge for fascists....." Let's not. Instead, I suggest you go do some actual reading, such as Mike Curtis's book "CQB: Close Quarter Battle", for an insight into how a quite Leftie, non-Fascist from the 'Little Moscow' of the Rhonda Valley ended up in the SAS and then the private security sector.

            1. Bleu

              Re: roselan Human Nature

              Always interesting posts from Matt, so you get an 'up' from me, will look at whether the book is worth reading.

              OP's 'fascist' is pretty silly.

              Still, in my experience, people in maritime and air services dread the thought of armed conflict, army people in a country at peace or in our case, a constitutional ban, frequently bemoan a lack of action.

              Doesn't make them fascist, though I have my doubts on that in our case.

              ... but it does make them warmongers.

        2. WalterAlter

          Re: Human Nature

          People really need to firm up their understanding of PHASES. All comment on this thread assumes that what we see as the Internet is the forever and final shape. This is absolutist noun-based descriptivism of the sort semanticist Alfred Korzybski tried to stamp out. Put this thought in your head: the Internet is in its FETAL phase, period. All its present odious attributes will be shaken out with the hangover and its true efficiencies vis a vis human cognition will find expression, much to the surprise of tyrants large, small and inner. We all have an autistic savant inside waiting to get out. The Internet will take the tyke across the Golden Gate Bridge of the mind within a generation.

          As for nutters...let me slap your forehead for you. There hasn't been a new idea, invention, adventure, poet or genius that has not been labeled "nutter" at one point or another. Calling novelty "nutter" is the mother sport of all necktie wearing congregationalists.

        3. Vanir

          Re: Human Nature

          Extremists, who by definition are extremely intolerant of others, love living in a tolerant society.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Cipher

        Re: Human Nature

        >Easy communication favours the nutter, whether of the cold fusion type or the Nazi type.

        >So, the question is: should tolerant society tolerate intolerance? The answer is, I think, not if it wishes to continue.

        The real question here, to follow this line of thought to completion, is: Who gets to decide what is right thinking and what is wrong thinking? Which ideology is allowed and promoted to the exclusion of all others? Does a free and tolerant society ban certain viewpoints in the name of the common good? Is said society then really free and tolerant, or is it just as repressive as the evil it claims to be saving us from?

        Are some animals destined to be more equal than other animals?

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: Human Nature

          >Who gets to decide what is right thinking and what is wrong thinking?

          The answer has always been the same : Those with the most power and the desire to retain it... ( Driving force = Greed = a very powerfull motivator).

          >Which ideology is allowed and promoted to the exclusion of all others?

          The ideology that will be allowed is related to the above response as the idealogies are "controlled" by the same people. ( Churches and Government work hand in hand when necessary but will work single handedly when they have enough turf, most often it is they who nurture the ideologies, until such times as a Ghandi, MalcomX, Mao, Hitler arrives which usually results in the changing, be it temporary or constant, of idealogies.).

          >Does a free and tolerant society ban certain viewpoints in the name of the common good?

          A "free society",it is an oxymoron. Free can only ever been taken into consideration on an individual basis. Societies require "laws" and law in general *control/restrict" freedom . Freedom is potentialy a huge risk for Society. We can only live in a society when we limit our freedom. ( Otherwise I would use my freedom to kill my neighbour for drinking too much, firing his gun after watching the world cup and seeing his team win, having a potentially dangerous dog, rude children and a car that insults good taste. )

          >Is said society then really free and tolerant, or is it just as repressive as the evil it claims to be saving us from?

          Definately, hence the catch 22 situation of the serpent biting it's own tail.

          >Are some animals destined to be more equal than other animals?

          Yes, this resolves down to the basic law of nature "Kill or be Killled".

          The result of all this - BAU....

          1. antimatter

            Re: Human Nature

            Freedom is playing by the rules and obeying the Law

            1. Turtle

              Re: Human Nature

              "Freedom is playing by the rules and obeying the Law"

              What was it that Hegel said? "The Orientals knew that one is free; the Ancients knew that some are free, but today we know that all are free." See Popper's The Open Society And Its Enemies for a detailed explication of what Hegel meant, and why he (Popper) said, thank god that beyond the world of Prussian philosophers there was the world of Prussian militarists.

              The "Orientals" were right, though. One is free.

          2. P. Lee

            Re: Human Nature

            >Is said society then really free and tolerant, or is it just as repressive as the evil it claims to be saving us from?

            The problem is that soundbite combative "never let it happen again" politics has conflated "toleration" with "acceptance." To be tolerant is to live along side those we *disagree* with without seeking their destruction. We might seek to convert them to our way, but we don't try to destroy them or to silence them.

            I find modern society increasingly intolerant. Dissent is either made illegal or shouted down without coherent arguments being put forward. It is very difficult indeed to openly say, "I think you are wrong because..." Where there is wrong, people want to bring the law to bear, often where it can't or shouldn't. The law is trying to replace moral values and the law is a very blunt instrument which is becoming very intrusive. We are trying to safeguard freedom by building a barbed-wire fence and gun towers around it and every time we mark off one freedom as protected, we cut ourselves off from others.

            1. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: Human Nature

              I suspect you're closer to the truth than you think you are. The freedom to swing my arm, stops at your nose. And vice versa. But some in society think it doesn't apply to them. Thus, more restrictions. A deeper concern is those whose society have not evolved yet or are evolving and still live under the pressure of "do it my way or die". The middle east is filled with these groups, some more brutal than others. So the last sentence of your post is very true, indeed. Maybe in another 100 years it'll be different and those societies will have finished evolving.. Or they'll have torn down the ones that already have and everything will be at their level.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Human Nature

          "Are some animals destined to be more equal than other animals?"

          Yes. Pigs. With funny hats.

          Only pigs can give us bacon.

      3. scrubber
        Big Brother

        Re: Human Nature

        Well, I for one, am particularly grateful that we have someone as benevolent and wise as Robert Long 1 to tell us what can, and should, be tolerated in a tolerant society. There was me worrying that we might overstep the mark and stifle debate and curtail the presentation of ideas, new and old, but that was silly - we have ROBERT LONG 1 to tell us what we can and can't think, say, do and tolerate.

      4. Squander Two

        Network effects

        > [The Web] contains more than a fair share of the views of people who are extreme in one form or another, because they're motivated enough to spend the time putting their views out there.

        Yes, it does, but motivation is not the main reason. It's an interesting network effect to do with the size of minorities.

        If you have a minority interest that is generally rejected by society at large -- the classic example being paedophilia -- until recently it was quite difficult for you to meet other people with the same interest: you wouldn't tend to come into contact with them via coincidence and you couldn't advertise. Your sphere of existence was your town or city, in which very very few people agreed with you and you couldn't find the ones who did. What the Net -- and more so the Web -- has enabled is for people with interests which are unpopular in any given region but which are widespread across a large number of regions to find each other and to organise.

        It may also be the case that the very fact of being able to form communities online makes it easier for people with such views to convert new adherents: there's a world of difference between joining the village weirdo and joining a group of two hundred weirdos spread across three continents.

        I still think the pros outweigh the cons, though.

      5. Charles Manning

        Tolerating Intolerance

        If you don't tolerate intolerance, you're just back to where you started:effectively going back to the past where the church or the BBC or whatever were the gatekeepers of society.

        Those who have the mindset of thinking they should be in a position to tell others what to do seldom seem contented with a backseat approach. Instead they slowly get more and more intrusive into other people's lives.

        It is why government intrusion is always increasing, never decreasing. It is why we have crap like home owners' associations.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Human Nature

        "So, the question is: should tolerant society tolerate intolerance? The answer is, I think, not if it wishes to continue".

        Have you overlooked the fact that if society doesn't tolerate intolerance, it is no longer tolerant?

        Incidentally, this was one of the moral foundations of Ian Fleming's James Bond books (not to be confused with the virtually unrelated movies). Fleming was uncomfortably aware that a tolerant liberal society fell into the aforementioned bind when (or, as it actually turned out, if) confronted by ruthless enemies who did not play by its rules. His answer was that a handful of people like Bond should take it upon themselves to fight secretly in support of our values. In doing so, Bond knew very well that he was deliberately sacrificing his own moral character - a sacrifice that was all the more inspiring because it was so great.

        1. Squander Two


          > Have you overlooked the fact that if society doesn't tolerate intolerance, it is no longer tolerant?

          No, tolerance isn't just a binary on/off switch; there are degrees. For instance, saying "We'll tolerate any type of sexual behaviour, as long as the participants are all over eighteen" is not intolerant: it's simply setting a boundary within which tolerance will happen.

          Also, there are two different classes of thing here: the opinions and behaviours that members of society exhibit, and the bounds within which society allows them to exhibit them. There is no logical inconsistency in allowing the airing of any views whatsoever as long as they are aired without violence, for instance.

          Thatcher's policy towards the IRA is a good example: there was no censorship of Irish Republican views -- which were routinely openly espoused by the SDLP and the Labour Party -- but there was censorship of anyone who was trying to achieve their aims via terrorism and/or war crimes, on the grounds that you either join the debate in civil society or you kill people outside civil society, but you can't have the advantages of both. I know a lot of people disagreed with the policy, but my point here is not whether it was right or wrong, merely that it was not logically inconsistent and that it was clearly not intolerant of any political belief. It quashed a particular strategy, not an opinion.

      7. unitron

        Re: Human Nature

        So you're saying we should be intolerant of intolerance?

        How would that work, exactly?

    2. Bleu

      Re: Human Nature

      More than anything, it seems to have become a major factor in de-evolution.

      Only way it could have gone, given current cultural, political and social trends.

  3. MrT


    ...reminds me of Baron Munchausen. Or Dr Evil's dad, inventing the question mark. Two answerphone messages/three missed calls aside, he's a fascinating character.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Cimrman...

      Indeed he is fascinating. I'd never heard of him until I started working in Bohemia a year or so ago. Quite the cultural icon. When they had one of those contests where people vote for "Greatest Czech Ever" he was winning handily until they insisted that it had to be a real person.

      Not quite an invention of Vaclav Havel and the Plastic People of the Universe crowd but contemporary with and part of roughly the same movement.

    2. Deebster

      Re: Cimrman...

      The Cimrman Wikipedia article reads more like a HHGTTG entry.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Cimrman...

        Cimrman, as well as being the commanding officer of the good soldier Svejk, also contributed a number of articles to the Hitchhikers Guide. Or he will have done shortly.

        Any similarities between the Guide and Wikipedia are entirely intentional.

  4. Salts


    More links in this than I could be bothered to follow:-)

    It's a bit late here, but really technology diverted and used differently to what the inventor envisioned, shocking, stop press :-)

    It could, or could not be true that the first human to discover fire, really did mean for all to use it too cook food and keep warm, but the fact it is also a good means of torture, destruction…

    Many disruptive technologies, were never intended to be used the way the inventor envisioned them, they are just the genie out of the bottle.

  5. Shannon Jacobs

    Two problems: Live and let spam and abuse of anonymity

    I think the two main problems can be tagged as the spammers and the flamers. The first are motivated by sociopathic greed, but many of the second group are apparently just plain sociopaths without rational motivations. Maybe I'm too much of an economic animal, but at least I can understand the spammers--and I actually hate them more than the flamers.

    To me, the most amazing thing about the spammers is that they can only survive on our collective sufferance and tolerance. They are criminals waving signs, but we basically ignore their activities because it is too much bother to care. From the spammers perspective, the marginal cost of email is regarded as zero, so another million annoying spam messages is quite well justified if it gets one more sucker to give them a credit card number.

    However, since I think most people are basically good folks, I actually think there is a solution for most of the commercial spam: Cut off the money. In simple terms, if any of the big email providers gave us better anti-spam tools, and if only a few of the annoyed people used those tools, we could completely overwhelm the tiny number of actual suckers who feed the spammers. The spammers would lose their money and hence their motivation. They wouldn't become decent human beings, but at least they would crawl under less visible rocks.

    The abuse of anonymity thing is actually more difficult to deal with because there actually are legitimate cases where anonymity is called for. My weird constraint is that all legitimate secrecy is justified by other secrecy, but that doesn't break the chain. At least I haven't come up with any example where anonymity is justified for its own sake. The classic example of the secret whistleblower is predicated upon a secret crime to be reported, but if the crime was already known, then there would be no need of reporting it. How about the secret ballot? Well, if any revenge-seeking measures were public, then again there is no need for secrecy. (If the vengeful politician can take public revenge and get away with it, then it wasn't an actual election in the first place, and the secret ballot would have made no difference.)

    The people who abuse anonymity to attack other people solely because they can't be caught are abusing the legitimate need for anonymity in some cases, but I don't see a solution--unless maybe it's the total collapse of all secrecy, which certainly seems to be where we are headed. Obviously if they only attack because of the secrecy, the death of secrecy will cure them. Seems to be one of those problems that will cure itself with a bit of patience, but I'm not especially comfortable with the idea of living in a goldfish bowl.

    1. Shannon Jacobs

      Re: Two problems: Live and let spam and abuse of anonymity

      Just reflecting on why I don't hate the flamers so much. I dismiss them as loonies of the essentially harmless sort.

      Probably the source of the down votes, however. They might not like to be held in contempt and they don't have the sick cleverness required to become spammers?

  6. Frankee Llonnygog

    As I always say

    Build a better mousetrap and the world will use it as a cheese grater

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: As I always say

      Pepper sir? Would sir like some grated mouse on his pasta?

      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: As I always say

        Pasta with a choice of topos

  7. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    How very "Guardian"

    To protest the "global spread of misogyny", yet to ignore that the web is also used to spread misandry or that thanks to the web, many women, in many parts of the world, now have a far greater access to useful information, and far greater control over their own lives, than ever before.

    Oh, and be careful about those ball bearings. Pack them round some semtex in a backpack and they have a whole different use. Will the Guardian be campaigning to control washing machines next?

    1. Zuagroasta

      Re: How very "Guardian"

      Indeed... the Graun complaining about how the hoi polloi won't follow its "enlightened" path... holier-than-thou leftist hogwash at its purest.

      Funny how the defenders of the people always seem to complain so much about what the people do... perhaps they don't love them as much as they profess to do? *snicker snicker*

  8. Peter Johnston 1

    Alexander Graham Bell was Scottish. American's love to take credit for all inventions, and will change people's nationalities to fit. But don't be taken in.

    1. dogged

      Nevertheless, you could be forgiven for calling the telephone an American invention. It was born there.

      1. JonP

        The classic case here is American inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who thought that the telephone would be a method of listening to concerts remotely

        Sooo, he was right then?

        1. DropBear Silver badge

          Sooo, he was right then?

          Clearly not. It's being used for looking at concerts remotely...

      2. lambda_beta

        Bell was one of many

        Charles Bourseul, Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Alexander Graham Bell, and Elisha Gray, amongst others, have all been credited with the invention of the telephone.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Some would argue that the inventor was in fact Italian (Antonio Meucci) although like Bell, he was living in the US at the time.

  9. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    "Innovation" might happen best in a "market", but it doesn't need to be a capitalist market: imagine $invention, the telephone say, had been invented in a post-scarcity world. (Magic aliens have given us replicating machines that replicate anything we create.) You could have created a bunch of them, cost free, dumped them on the world and people would have found their own use for them, different to Bell's. That has nothing to do with The Market, as conventionally understood.

    You've also cherry picked inventions, too; a hoover or a washing machine are used as intended, 99% of the time.

    I also know I've overlooked the infrastructure. And we can have arguments about whether that's best provided by the state, non-profits, or private enterprise. But having a network doesn't control what we do with the phone.

    And, of course, we are now using "the phoneline" (the internet) to listen to concerts...

    1. Fading Silver badge

      Pop down A&E sometime...

      And you'll probably find some mishaps when the "hoover" has been used to gratify the bottom layer of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      We can ignore a 'post-scarcity' economy in economics. Because we currently have no way to achieve it. So economics (and politics) is still all about how best to divide and ration scarce resources.

      It may be true that there aren't many uses for the washing machine, but itself it's a development of many different technologies. And it's still being innovated upon. It's taken other inventions, pumps, electric motors, chemicals, computers (to achieve power and water efficiencies), ball-bearings. And is still changing. They now use under half the water they did 10 years ago, thus fewer chemicals, and less energy. You can now get them with variable speed motors, cutting down on noise, vibration and power use - as well as prolonging the life of the unit. This is possible because the pump industry (and others) have pushed down the cost of inverter-driven motors.

      Or you could take a similar dead-end invention with no further uses, the dishwasher. And yet some American chap has published a book, called dishwasher cookery. Now you see the benefits of capitalism! Communism would never have given us that... Oh dear, have I just destroyed capitalism with a single argument? Ooops.

    3. Tim Worstal

      Well, quite

      Capitalism is a description of who owns the productive assets. Just as socialism is.

      Markets are a description of how we exchange things.

      Two entirely different axes of the economy.

      My own continual bugbear is the way that all too many socialists (an idea for which I've much sympathy, I like John Lewis, the Co Op, Friendly and Building Societies and all those other worker and customer owned organisations) think that to have socialism you need to do away with markets.

      If we assume that (and there are many more options than this, obviously) we can have a capitalist/market economy, a capitalist/non-market one, a socialist/market one and a socialist/non-market one I'll take either of the market ones and capitalism is a very much less important part of how well we'll all live.

      1. Chris Miller

        @Tim Worstal

        Could you expand on (or point me to an example of) what a socialist/market economy would look like? I assume it's a bit more than capitalism with people being nicer to each other.

    4. Roj Blake Silver badge

      "You've also cherry picked inventions, too; a hoover or a washing machine are used as intended, 99% of the time."

      It's the other 1% that makes them worth having.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        It's the other 1% that makes them worth having.

        Roj Blake,

        It's no wonder you were sent to a prison planet for sexual deviancy...

  10. Yugguy

    What did he think was going to happen?

    What else did he think would happen? People will use whatever mechanism is available to exploit others.

  11. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    On what planet does The Guardian recruit?

    "The world wide web has increasingly facilitated the global spread of misogyny, the hate crime of revenge porn, corporate and state surveillance, bullying, racism, the life-ruining, time-wasting, Sisyphean digital servitude of deleting spam,..."

    1. The global spread of mysogyny? How about the oceanic spread of water? Mysogyny is not a lovable trait, but it sure as hell was widespread long before the web arrived.

    2. I will concede that revenge porn is new--it used to be that one had to make do with gossip. There the Goncourts record George Sand telling her son-in-law, a sculptor, that she would publish an account of his behavior. His reply was "I'll carve a sculpture of your behind--and everyone will recognize it." I'm not sure that this counts.)

    3. Corporate and state surveillance. Easier, but well developed long ago.

    4. Bullying. Where in the world did this man go to school?

    5. Racism. There is plenty of it out there, and I don't see it going away soon. But he might want to spend a rainy afternoon or two reading Kipling or Mark Twain to see just how good the good old days were.

    6. Spam. He may find it Sysiphean, I find it Augean: check the "select all" box, cast a quick glance down the column for any to be spared, click Delete.

    1. JonP

      Re: On what planet does The Guardian recruit?



      past tense: facilitated; past participle: facilitated

      make (an action or process) easy or easier.

      1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        Re: On what planet does The Guardian recruit?



        A spreader facilitates the spread[ing] of grass seed. But if the lawn is already planted, how much facilitation (noun) do I need?

    2. Cipher

      Re: On what planet does The Guardian recruit?

      Might the reason be for listing the not so new problems really be a control issue?

      Recall Hillary Clinton's line of thought when the news of Bill's dalliance was revealed on the internet? It was not defamation, as she wished it to be characterized, it was news.

      Hillary's Remarks

    3. Eugene Crosser

      Re: On what planet does The Guardian recruit?

      I will concede that revenge porn is new

      The idea is not:

      ... Not that I disagree with the rest

  12. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Tim Worstall is an idiot!

    No one uses the internet for sex! There is no sexual material on the internet at all. It's a realm of purity, scholorship, communication and enlightenment.

    As I said to my wife the other day, when she noticed that I'd been spending so much time on Some people just have dirty minds...

  13. Naughtyhorse


    Bell no more invented the phone than I did, he patented it.

    and edison was not even an inventor, he was a circus ringmaster.

    still not bad for an economist I suppose :-)

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Tim Worstal

      Re: hmmm

      As I've said here before I'm not even an economist, I just play one on the web.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: hmmm

        As I've said here before I'm not even an economist, I just play one on the web.


        Oooh, do you have a costume? I'll be really disappointed in you if you don't...

        Faster than runaway inflation, more powerful than a blast of QE, able to leap to conclusions in a single bound. It's Supereconomist!

        Quick! To the VAT-cave! There's a crisis in Gotham City. GATT-Woman is threating global trade. If her dastardly plot succeeds Mayor Ricardo will be powerless to save the economy. Commissioner Gordon Brown said he'd saved the world, but he needs your help.

        ...Hmmm. I'd better stop now. I wonder if I should have had those mushrooms for lunch...

        1. Tim Worstal

          Re: hmmm

          To disappoint: no costume. I even fail the "economists do it with models" test. Although I have mocked up one of those economists' secret decoder rings out of some left over gold foil from a choccie bar.

          1. thx1138v2

            Re: hmmm

            See, now there's a good use for the internet. You can shop for REAL decoder rings.


      2. Naughtyhorse

        Re:As I've said here before I'm not even an economist, I just play one on the web

        So all those years of practising scales on your grandads beat up old keynes overstrung eventually paid off then!

  14. Phil_Evans

    Blame Hound

    I feel really quite sorry for Tim Berners Lee. Mention anything remotely connected with the WWW and up his name pops like a willing dog.

    Personally I blame the guys n gals (whoever they are...) who developed all that XML that presented, represented and stored all the guff. Or the idea that TCP/IP would be encapsulated into GSM comms, or the idiots that gave us IRC.

    I am a Luddite of course, but unlike Zuck, Schmuck and co, Berners-Lee only created a framework. A fool with a tool is still a fool ('in petulans') and every market-maker knew this. Was it MIT who put an entire catalogue of learning online and nobody even remembers that it's there?

    Earlier posters have it bang-on, Maslow's 'needs' do apply, but I'm not exactly sure if they are needs or actually desires. The moron contemplation that 'it's me and my mates' on the internet prevails and so long as there are cretins to spout, there are cretins who want to hear it. A bit like going to the footie. Berners-Lee should be congratulated for his efforts but also take it upon himself not to step forwards when the words 'WWW' really mean 'the internet'.

  15. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    The Great Firewall

    The Chinese have strong ideas about how the hoi polloi should use the Internet.

    So do, for example Turkey, Iran, Pakistan; usually at the instigation of religious institutions that claim authority..

  16. ForthIsNotDead

    'Tis true.

    The web is indeed..... shit.

    My online footprint is tiny. Maybe five or six websites. The rest is just shit. What makes me sad though is what it has done to society. It really has turned people (particularly the younger generation) into attention wanting cabbages that simply cannot appear to function without their umbilical connection to the web, and the ego-boost that their online "friends" appear to give them. I swear, a friend of my wife who recently went on holiday to Spain spent hours and hours and hours posting pictures of her holiday - and I'm not talking about beautiful panoramic vistas, valleys, mesas and what not - no, I'm talking (literally) about pictures of bottles of wine, plates of food, empty plates of food, sun loungers, you name it. It's all "look at me, look at me.". I'm lucky enough to own a Porsche Cayenne. She actually took a selfie of herself leaning against my car, and posted it on Faceslap. What's wrong with people? It seems that instead of people instinctively going and doing something (what ever that something may be - visiting a library or whatever) they now go and do things with a view to impressing an imaginary "audience" that is constantly (not) following them around and constantly (not) hanging on to every word and funny ha ha post that they make. And their so called "friends" are doing it to. All trying to up oneanother, and boost their own collective egos, since they can't *really* face up to the fact that they lead a rather ordinary hum-drum life. They want to be "celebrities".

    A friend of mine posted the other day that he was "chilling with a glass of wine and his Gibson guitar". Why? Around 15 people "liked" it. Why would he do that? Before Facecunt we didn't call all our friends on their mobiles and tell them we were just about to go and get a chinese takeaway, and we didn't take a picture of the empty takeaway cartons and dirty plates and post them in the mail to them. We didn't even *email* them to our friends. Because... why would we? But - get a Facetwat account and you instantly turn into a fucking attention grabbing twat.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'Tis true.

      But your opinion, of course, is worth posting.

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: 'Tis true.

        Well worth posting, cos he's bang on.

    2. Naughtyhorse

      Re: 'Tis true.

      Top rant that man!

      In my minds eye I could see that purple vein in your temple throbbing 'blomp blomp blomp'

      your foam flecked lips forming a grim line as you mercilessly thrash the living shit out of your keyboard.

      most impressive indeed...

      in fact, I think I share it with all my friends on facecunt, they love all this sort of thing, and it will take days for one of them to find something to top it........

      oh noes :-S

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new here

    The great thing about the Web, as TBL created it, is that it can still be used in its original plain vanilla flavour for its original purpose. No matter how much crap is piled on top of the Web to help people make money by exploiting human weakness, the original efficient steel skeleton is still in there - just as the original Internet is still underneath the Web and email and...

    I yield to no one in my disdain for all the crap that has been piled on top of the Web, and the motives of those who did that. But, as Theodore Sturgeon once told a horrified audience of SF fans, "90% of science fiction is crap. <Long pause...> But that's all right. 90% of *everything* is crap".

  18. NotWorkAdmin

    Pedant alert

    Rosling said the washing machine freed his mother, not his grandmother, from an onerous task enabling her to read books to him.

    I'm only pointing it out because I've seen the talk, and heartily recommend it. Rosling has a positive voice and he's always worth a listen.

  19. WalterAlter

    It's a BROADCAST MEDIUM Stupid

    The Internet has simply followed Marshall McLuhan's law of New Technology Old Shape wherein the new technology has the shape of the old technology as a subconscious shock reducing mechanism. The first automobiles were carriages with engines in front where the horses went, the first telephone had a hand held receiver where the ear horn went, etc. The Internet was originally seen to be a continuation of top down pyramidal point to many information dissemination from "authorities" under the guise of scholarly discourse.

    Ha ha. Joke's on you Mr. Authority. The Internet has become a laterally connected peer to peer broadcast medium where Joe Sixpack can, if he knows the ropes, change the destiny of nations and reach millions of global residents far beyond the sound of his voice. The name of the game is "Going Viral"...such as this critically necessary video:

  20. ecofeco Silver badge

    Philosophical crap aside

    Yes, the Internet turned into a sewer 8 years ago and search engines have become almost useless due to the noise.

    But hey! It beats the alternative! Oh wait, there is no alternative.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Philosophical crap aside

        Well good for you! I keep getting irrelevant news stories and I feel damn lucky to get anything I'm looking for on the first page.

        Now about those pop ups, auto load videos, trackers, spyware, virus in ads payloads, dodgy 3rd party systems, shit code, etc., etc.

        Don't even get me started on soshule meedeea, infotainment and the "kloud.".

        1. Bleu

          Re: Philosophical crap aside

          Moral to the story: when searching for information, try anything that is not google (good lord, they were unable to even spell their intended company name correctly).

  21. W. Anderson

    some identified factors for WWW calamity

    It is unfortunate that World Wide Web use (WWW) has devolved for many crass and draconian purposes, but one aspect of this saga is the degree to which, especially here in USA the Internet/WWW hs been handed (almost) full control to greedy, unimaginative and devious corporations by inept political oligarchy.

    The other "elephant in the room" so to speak, of the intense and serious frailties of the WWW not being discussed seriously and with a commitment for resolve is the world wide dominant use of Microsoft technologies that have no history of expertise in these type networking technologies or good knowledge and acceptance of foundation software on which the Internet/WWW is powered.

    Richard Clark, US Federal Government CyberCzar and cabinet member under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (for first term) stated quite poignantly and dramatically that one of the most serious threats to US Cyber security and the well being of the Internet/WWW as a whole, was the pervasive but extremely poor quality, spotty reliability and (especially) horrid security of Microsoft software technologies.

    Fortunately for many other countries, particularly those in G20 nations and other (economically viable) upcoming countries, their governments are securing a certain minimum of "Net neutrality", national safeguards of fitness and reasonable costs for access by the entire population as well as for business, organizations and education systems.

    Most are also focusing on adherence to "Open" International and Internet/WWW protocols and Standards - away from the prohibitively limiting and expensive proprietary and "Patent Troll" infested technologies popular here in West - USA and UK particularly.

    These steps by intelligent and insightful societies may be the only hope for saving Internet/WWW from implosion at hands of avaricious corporate masters and their political stooges.

  22. Yes Me Silver badge

    Thank the Democrats

    "This still leaves us with plenty of room to argue about state or planned involvement in basic technology, in the funding and finding of inventions. These can be helpful, but we crucially need to have that market bit as well: we might be able to do without the state part in invention but we simply cannot do without the market part in innovation."

    The reason there's a market in this case is because the US Govt, in the shape of the Clinton Administration, notably V.P. Al Gore and Ira Magaziner, took explicit steps to open the Internet up as a competitive space in 1995. It didn't happen spontaneously or by chance. The "state part" was essential. (And if the web hadn't come along when it did, some other form of information infrastructure would have filled the same role. Technology details aren't really essential.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thank the Democrats

      "The reason there's a market in this case is because the US Govt, in the shape of the Clinton Administration, notably V.P. Al Gore and Ira Magaziner, took explicit steps to open the Internet up as a competitive space in 1995".

      As it happens, I was making a living at that time precisely by writing about the Internet, the Web, middleware and associated software technology. And this is the first I have ever heard about the US Government's role in "opening up the Internet". It was open already: no further opening was needed (or, indeed, possible).

      Would you care to explain what you meant, giving details?

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Thank the Democrats

      Damn, "yes me" I meant to upvote you.

      And for Tom, from Snopes:

      "As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship. Though easily forgotten, now, at the time this was an unproven and controversial concept. Our work on the Internet started in 1973 and was based on even earlier work that took place in the mid-late 1960s. But the Internet, as we know it today, was not deployed until 1983. When the Internet was still in the early stages of its deployment, Congressman Gore provided intellectual leadership by helping create the vision of the potential benefits of high speed computing and communication. As an example, he sponsored hearings on how advanced technologies might be put to use in areas like coordinating the response of government agencies to natural disasters and other crises.

      As a Senator in the 1980s Gore urged government agencies to consolidate what at the time were several dozen different and unconnected networks into an "Interagency Network." Working in a bi-partisan manner with officials in Ronald Reagan and George Bush's administrations, Gore secured the passage of the High Performance Computing and Communications Act in 1991. This "Gore Act" supported the National Research and Education Network (NREN) initiative that became one of the major vehicles for the spread of the Internet beyond the field of computer science.

      As Vice President Gore promoted building the Internet both up and out, as well as releasing the Internet from the control of the government agencies that spawned it. He served as the major administration proponent for continued investment in advanced computing and networking and private sector initiatives such as Net Day. He was and is a strong proponent of extending access to the network to schools and libraries. Today, approximately 95% of our nation's schools are on the Internet. Gore provided much-needed political support for the speedy privatization of the Internet when the time arrived for it to become a commercially-driven operation. "

  23. thx1138v2

    There has never been a technology invented that hasn't been abused for nefarious purposes. There has never been a technology invented that hasn't been weaponized.

    I'm fully expecting that if I got an internet connected washing machine someone would figure out how to make the damned door break my arm. Or, if not break the arm, then latch onto it and hold me immobile while some thugs cart off my goodie including my VHS tapes and the last working player in the known universe.

    Internet of things? Meh!

    Facebook? Meh!

    Twitter? Meh!

    LOHAN? Oh, YEAH!

    1. Bleu


      'They' will place the new test version of Stuxnet at the address where the reset vector points on your new washing machine, just to see if it works.

      This will happen immediately after the warrantee on your washing machine expires.

      It will then spin itself into destruction the next time you switch it on and press the button for the type of washing you want.

      On a serious note, I find switching from true numerical control circuits to emulation by PC-connected microprocessors in sensitive situations as hard to comprehend as the 'need' to connect sensitive intranets to the Internet.

      Yet both now appear to be near-universal practice.

  24. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

    Is Abandoning the Internet “The Next Big Thing”?

    The Internet Slum, by John Walker:


    Donald Knuth, who's always at least a decade ahead of everybody else, abandoned E-mail on January 1st, 1990, saying “Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things.”


    Posted 10 years ago and well worth a read as it's pertinent to the general discussion.

    He finishes up:


    I'm not ready to abandon the Internet, at least not right away. But I'm thinking about it, and I suspect I'm not alone. Those who have already abandoned it are, by that very choice, neither publishing Web pages nor posting messages about it; they are silent, visible only by their absence from the online community. Will early adopters of the Internet, who are in the best position to compare what it is today with what they connected to years ago, become early opters-out? Me, I'm keeping an eye on this trend—it could just be the next big thing.


    See also:

    How big brother and big media can put the Internet genie back in the bottle.


    Over the last two years I have become deeply and increasingly pessimistic about the future of liberty and freedom of speech, particularly in regard to the Internet. This is a complete reversal of the almost unbounded optimism I felt during the 1994–1999 period when public access to the Internet burgeoned and innovative new forms of communication appeared in rapid succession. In that epoch I was firmly convinced that universal access to the Internet would provide a countervailing force against the centralisation and concentration in government and the mass media which act to constrain freedom of expression and unrestricted access to information. Further, the Internet, properly used, could actually roll back government and corporate encroachment on individual freedom by allowing information to flow past the barriers erected by totalitarian or authoritarian governments and around the gatekeepers of the mainstream media.


    1. Bleu

      Re: Is Abandoning the Internet “The Next Big Thing”?

      Good points from Prof. Knuth.

      It also offered good prospects for independent creators, but the last time any new site was thinking on those lines was long ago.

      Instead, we have what Jared I-can't-recall-his-surname says, a situation where the top of the tree is making unprecedented piles of cash, but the middle is wiped out. True in many fields.

      Youtube is particularly bad. Massive breaches of copyright, but between the dupes and the desire of the US government to build up Google as a national champion by addicting people to digital crack, we will never hear of any action.

      P.S. I am not a freetard, but also despise the absurdities of made-by-Disneyland and Sonny Bonobo copyright law, nonsense patents, and so on.

      Our government has many bad points, but at least they are not stupid enough to sign a 'free-trade agreement' that would make nonsensical US laws applicable here. For the naive and misled, that is the purpose of 'free-trade agreements' offered by the US.

  25. chrisglasier

    One Web Two Systems

    It is possible to make a machine from HTML components - see One function of the machine is to convert plain text into a personal display so that anyone can assemble their own information and store it where they want.

    If you think about it all the major advances experienced on a day to day basis - ATM's, rail ticketing, bar codes and so on - involve a machine. Even pages for online banking and purchasing are really machine control panels.

    So the Web used for both websites and web machines makes a lot of sense even if Sir Tim didn't envisage it.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Tim Berners-Lee and the glorious bottom-up egalitarian web?

    'It's possible to have a certain sympathy for Sir Tim Berners-Lee as he looks at what people have done to his glorious world wide web. Instead of it remaining the glorious bottom-up egalitarian creation it once was, it's become infested with people like Facebitch using it to scramble for filthy lucre.', Tim Worstall 27 Aug 2014

    "This proposal concerns the management of general information about accelerators and experiments at CERN. It discusses the problems of loss of information about complex evolving systems and derives a solution based on a distributed hypertext system", Tim Berners-Lee, CERN March 1989

    1. chrisglasier

      Re: Tim Berners-Lee and the glorious bottom-up egalitarian web?

      This is probably why web pages became the standard instead of machines normally associated with revolutionary advances.

    2. chrisglasier

      Re: Tim Berners-Lee and the glorious bottom-up egalitarian web?

      Further thoughts on Numb4rFive's useful aide memoire ...

      Another scientist Vannevar Bush's proposal concerned the good of mankind not just an elite scientific group. He advised: "Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library." The web is clearly a global library even he could not have envisaged but where is the private file that links together all kinds of information (extracts from books, periodicals etc., business correspondence and handwritten notes) that an individual associates with a particular interest. Many other scientists including Sir Tim and Douglas Englebart (inventor of just about everything to do with the gui) have paid homage but all have sidestepped the proposal for a machine for anyone to use - really bottom up egalitarian but perhaps not "scientific" enough.

      If you haven't read about Bush's Memex go to and start at section 6. I think you will find it quite refreshing after all the current bs surrounding the Web.

  27. simonfj

    Invent vs. Innovation

    The word innovation mean "derivative invention" – or, if you prefer, what people go off to use that new invention to do (as opposed to the more usual meaning of innovation: incremental improvements)".

    Hmmm. Must have missed the "usual" meeting. It certainly does explain why the term is used so meaninglessly. So innovation is about little improvements as opposed to big ones. Seems like it's hardly worth bothering about. And there I was looking at my old dictionaries where "innovare" is from "novus" (new) or "nova" which is defined as "a new star, which appears suddenly with a brightness which soon declines until no longer visible". ". "In", all Latinos know. means. "not".

    So I'll stick to my own definition. "Innovation is a (broad) social response to a new invention",,, or not. Bit of a pain in the proverbial for Timmy. One invents a useful tool so people with an interest in an thing can point inside their networked organisational echo chambers and say "look, we came up with!" And what happens? All the echo chambers start filling up the space between them with spam. i.e. Impose their broadcast media model on quite a useful invention. Now all we can see most of the time is lots of "me too"!s) Definite proof empty vessels make the most sound.

    Not exactly the kind of collaborative approach Timmy had in mind I'm sure. But hey, that what orgs do.

    You have to feel sorry for Maria. We have so much proof invention is down to one man (Femten) or woman. But she wants to insist "innovation depends on a(n public) org". Using the "usual meaning" of innovation, she's quite right. Using my definition she'd never get funded to write a book. I'd love to know how many copies she sold,,, or were read.

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. Bleu

    Better before; withdrew earlier version because of a typo.

    The 'net was a lot better before the trick cyclists and marketeers gained 'access', a much-beloved word of the trick-cyclist and 'fine-arts' crowds.

    One watershed moment came when a Californian real estate company used a mail account and mailing list to mass-mail advertising. Admins told them to stop, the reply was effectively 'Fuck you, we will not.' Thus was spam born.

    The next, in the early part of the mid-nineties, was when students and teachers of trick-cycling and kindergarten-level creativity started swanning about boasting about how their vaunted 'Innanet access' somehow made them into especially unique snowflakes.

    The commerce types were in on this, too, although quieter about it, so the mass-phenomenon age was clearly imminent, and indeed followed within a year or two.

    It may be shinier now, have more buttons and lurid porn, ads and tracking, the WWW as the absolutely central component, but the 'net was better in many ways when restricted to engineers and other technologists, serious scientists, and students in those fields.

    In the same lab where I did my own thesis, I was quite close friends with a doc. student who was more 'into it' than I. A very decent chap, he was the first person I met to boast of having megabytes of porn, all downloaded as uucp mail or usenet attachments. I strongly suspect the main reason was 'Just because I can.'

    He would also use recipes from the same sources to make small quantities of explosives which he would try out in the back garden of his parents' home, entirely in the manner of fireworks.

    This was just before the advent of the WWW.

    Hacking was almost entirely for curiosity.

    My own biggest thrill (except for victimless hacking) at the time was downloading and printing photos from Voyager well before any were in the mass-media.

    Apart from the rare cases of credit-card number theft (and those were from Compuserve, entirely different at the time), I cannot think of one case of people doing or being inspired to do something seriously despicable by the 'net, up to and including the earliest days of the http.

    General access has surely acted to greatly reduce freedom in ways too many to list, partly by engendering moral panics, partly by genuinely encouraging despicable acts.

    The Internet of today is also full of state and commercial actors and their dupes.

  31. chrisglasier

    2015 Update: Desktop Web Machines

    New Spin on 30 year old Spreadsheet Technology

    The approach was triggered by the idea of using animation to move data into a fixed focus line rather than move the cursor to multiple data locations. Names and values that make up headings and data in spreadsheets are simply laid down as associated lists in sliding holders in an HTML5 web page. Housed in a NWJS "all Web technology" window on the desktop the page with its moving parts transforms into an authentic GUI machine, a novel 21st Century addition to both personal computing and World Wide Web.

    More @

    1. chrisglasier

      Re: 2015 Update: Desktop Web Machines

      It seems not a good idea to have posted this here. Hopefully, though, this will make enough posts for me to be able to post a new topic in the forum.

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