back to article The internet is going to hell and its creators want your help fixing it

If ever there was doubt that 2018 is the year of fear, it was confirmed by a panel discussion involving the two men that are credited with inventing the internet and the world wide web. Co-inventor of the internet protocols TCP/IP Vint Cerf and inventor of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee have spent the past 20 years talking in …

  1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    Fewer of those guys,

    more of Ingelbert Humperdink Doug Engelbart. Any text should attract dissenting markup, with the best-thought-out revisions anchovying immortality.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Fewer of those guys,

      Sounds fishy to me.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Fewer of those guys,

      I'm on it.

      I spoke at the London version of: https://doug-50.info

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      russia again, maybe china - weaponising data

      and interfering in over two hundred elections worldwide

      actually, wasnt that an enterprising british startup - (OK, with a Russian maths whizz)

      https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/data-and-dirty-tricks-channel-4-s-expose-on-cambridge-analytica-20180320-p4z56t.html

      Russian?, similar to this charidee

      https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/politics/scottish-politics/782399/fife-charity-investigated-by-foreign-office-over-alleged-attacks-on-jeremy-corbyn/

      https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/foreign-office-funds-2m-infowars-13707574

      https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/10/foreign-office-investigates-report-state-funded-body-targeted-corbyn

      and other recent psyop nudges, bloody russians causing brexit chaos!

      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/10/government-spent-100000-facebook-adverts-promote-brexit-deal/

      I'm sure that Russia is 'nudging', but they are actually a bit more subtle over it, seemingly?

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: politics again - weaponising data

        I'm sure that Russia is 'nudging', but they are actually a bit more subtle over it, seemingly?

        Waaay back, I had an interesting chat with Bill Schrader, creator of PSINet about the Internet and politics. On the plus side, we have access to a lot of information. On the minus, we have access to a lot of misinformation. Whether that's state sponsored, individuals, corporates or just wiki-warring, it can be hard to figure out the truth. Google's Sundar Pichai has been lightly grilled in the US about political bias, people have been banned from Twitter & Facebook for having controversial views.

        Challenge I think is that gatekeeper function. In the old days, we had newspapers who wrote the truth, or sometimes retractions. We know the Guardian's 'extreme' left, the Daily Mail 'extreme' right.. But online, it's not so clear if big publishers or faciliators have their own bias. I want Google to find me the best results, not skew searches. Politicians are getting concerned about political bias, and may start regulating for content neutrality, or press-style regulation. There's also an issue of disclosure, so being able to identify the source of 'facts' to check. Astroturfing's easy on the 'net and there are plenty of lobbying groups actively creating grass roots campaigns.

        I also think a lot of it is about user education, ie don't blindy trust wiki or pretty much anything on the 'net.. As Reagan said, 'Trust, but verify'. Technically though, I think the 'net is holding up pretty well, other than the challenges of cash flows between content giants, and ISPs.

  2. Teiwaz Silver badge

    The US, Europe and China.

    What?

    The UK wasn't one?

    Not a world leader after all, or merely content to follow (China)?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The US, Europe and China.

      psssst. the UK is still part of the EU, and will always be in Europe

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: The US, Europe and China.

        psssst. the UK is still part of the EU, and will always be in Europe

        pssssst? You'd need to be if you think it ends there, remain, renegotiation, re-ferendum or re-election.

        Leave EU suddenly got expanded to leave ECHR also after all....and certain factions won't be content with EEA should that end up being a compromise.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: The US, Europe and China.

          Leave EU suddenly got expanded to leave ECHR also after all

          I start thinking that this is the plan all along. Whatever level of stiffness the BrExit, if it has any form of formal agreement with the Eu ECHR has to stay. The only way to remove May's Pet Hate (tm), the jurisdiction of the ECHR is the complete lack of agreement. Call me a cynic, but it looks like she has been running down the clock to cause exactly that.

          1. Teiwaz Silver badge

            Re: The US, Europe and China.

            I start thinking that this is the plan all along.

            It seemed fairly clear that the ECHR was the target all along, at least by some individuals or group with an agenda within government.

            May herself observed while on the remain campaign trail she'd prefer to stay in the EU, but leave the EHCR - I remember at the time how swept on by it was, news reported it, but didn't dwell on it.

            However, I think we can be fairly certain May herself was not one of the conspirators, she was in the remain camp as career-wise that was safe. It wasn't until after the referendum was in and the shit hit the fan that she saw the door open, the room empty, the steps up to the big chair clear and the crown sitting unattended.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: The US, Europe and China.

          "Leave EU suddenly got expanded to leave ECHR also after all...."

          Ah those pesky europeans, making us adhere to a convention on human rights that WE wrote.

          1. Teiwaz Silver badge

            Re: The US, Europe and China.

            Ah those pesky europeans, making us adhere to a convention on human rights that WE wrote.

            Seems to happen a lot.

            There's been a significant amount of indignant huffing over the Galileo restrictions 'WE' insisted on before 'WE' decided to leave.

            We know it's not so much a u-turn or a reversal of policy, but instead an undeserved sense of exceptionism on behalf of our deluded political servants.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The US, Europe and China.

          > pssssst? You'd need to be if you think it ends there, remain, renegotiation, re-ferendum or re-election.

          I meant geographically, or is Farage planning on towing us to NY? !

      2. LDS Silver badge

        "... and will always be in Europe"

        Geographically, obviously, at least for a while as continents don't move too quickly - but under the political and economic perspective? Will it be aligned with continental Europe, or will shift towards other areas? US? China? India? Russia?

        1. jmch Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: "... and will always be in Europe"

          "Geographically, obviously, at least for a while as continents don't move too quickly - but under the political and economic perspective? Will it be aligned with continental Europe, or will shift towards other areas? US? China? India? Russia?"

          Airstrip One is part of Oceania. It has always been at war with Eurasia.

  3. jake Silver badge

    The early 90s called, they want their headline back.

    "Death of Usenet predicted! Film at 11!"

  4. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

    The fact of the matter is that if someone can find a way to use something to make money, it's already screwed and that's human nature. I remember using the internet around 1991, a very much different place. It's turned from a quaint little country village with people having a bit of harmless fun into something akin to a cross between Piccadilly Circus , Thai red light district and a warzone.

    I remember 10-15 years ago if you wanted a tutorial on a new language you wished to learn, the choices were limited but at least you could find things without trawling 17 sites to find one that has a coherent tutorial you can understand. You can't even look up the weather without first making sure your various plugins are up to date, anti-script, anti-flash, anti-malware, anti-ad, etc, the list goes on, just to make websites usable you need to strip out 60% of the crap on them, assuming you have an 8-core CPU and 64GB of memory 'cos you'll need that much beef just to run the bloated browser with all it's plugins!

    If you want a proper internet, I suggest you start a new one of your own 'cos we pissed all over the one we were given!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

      "we pissed all over the one we were given!"

      Who is "we", Kemosabe?

      1. jonathan keith

        Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

        "We" is humanity who, while capable of being really rather decent every once in a while are, on balance, a somewhat shabby bunch all told.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

      "The fact of the matter is that if someone can find a way to ABuse something to make money, it's already screwed and that's human nature"

      Fixed it for ya. Using something to make money is a GOOD thing. ABusing ANYTHING is bad. And that's the point. The fact that SOME of the ABuse is to make money [presumably in a dishonest way], it's no different than anything else in the past or present.

      Like travel technology, which has resulted in airplane hijackings, car jackings, and before that, train robberies, where opportunistic criminals and psychopaths use 'the new thing' to do the same KINDS of evil they've always done, you now have WORLDWIDE COMMUNICATION.

      There are tried and true ways of dealing with ABusers without punishing everyone ELSE. Usually it takes the form of law enforcement, honest individuals who assist with law enforcement, and some kind of judicial system with due process, etc. [otherwise it becomes totalitarian, oppressive, fascist, etc. - or worse, COMMUNIST].

      But yeah, the world's control freaks and "governing opportunists" will ALWAYS pick something that solves NOTHING, but increases THEIR power and influence over YOU.

      Personally, I'd rather have ANARCHY than a POLICE STATE on 'teh intarwebs'. We don't need a "great firewall" protecting us from "teh pr0nz" for our own good... (or more likely, keep us 'protected' from 'THE TRUTH' in place of gummint-approved 'fake news' etc.).

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "find a way to ABuse something to make money,"

        Unluckily, I think we are already past it - it's not not only the money making, it's the lust for power, which could be far more destructive.

        You also fail to understand that fascism and communism are two faces of the same coin, just like anarchism and a police state. None is better than the other, and all of them lead to death and destruction, because all of them unleash the worst of the human being. Unluckily, the internet coupled with smartphones looks to be one of the best tool ever devised to aim at that worst.

        Democracy has always been an attempt to find a "balance of powers", especially when rights appear to be conflicting. It has always been a very difficult attempt, because it's far too easy to quickly fall into one of the extremes. And it's based on reasoning, so it can't work when too many people renounce to reason.

      2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

        Authoritarianism start with well-meaning people seeing that something is wrong and thinking 'if only everybody acted like me, it would all be OK'.

        Anarchy is attractive, if you think the existing authorities are doing it wrong. Do it the way *you* want with no comeback. But it's just leadership by example instead of by law. It still needs good leadership.

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

        The internet doesn't scale up well. It works fine with a few harmless academic types and undergrads, but when you scale it up to half the planet you run the risk of collapsing society.

        You said you prefer anarchy to a police state on the internet, but the internet has real-world implications and you can't separate one from the other. If you have anarchy on the internet, you will more than likely have anarchy in the real world, and the same goes for police state. Russia realised this a while back and hence the Internet Research Agency.

        You can't leave it to "law enforcement", there's too much to deal with and they can't even be trusted to deal with it properly (swattng).

        The problem is how to put opinion back in its box without censorship (or as little censorship as possible). In more enlightened days opinion was not the same as fact, but now it is practically equivalent.

        The easiest suggestion is for people to lose their anonymity when posting, but that is also not an option as it just means they're going to get doxxed.

        I think Vince and Tim are glum because they've realised their inventions have turned out to be a Pandora's box and there's practically no way to close it.

        But privacy is the way forward. The article says "Europe has put privacy at the heart of its approach – but with what impact on its economy?" There is no impact on its economy, the impact of no privacy is in the US where there is something built on a castle of sand, an aberration, another bubble waiting to pop.

        Trolls and bots have no interest in privacy, real people do. People shouldn't be stalkable across the Internet, shouldn't have every post open to the world, should be able to mark replies to their posts as unwanted and unwelcome meaning something is done about it. Hopefully it'll lead to proper debate being promoted and trolling and bots being deleted.

        1. quxinot

          Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

          Anarchy is where there's no rules, so those with money/resources stomp all over everyone else's freedoms.

          We're there.

          1. MrMerrymaker

            Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

            Anarchy is not big companies stomping the little man because "no rules" . It is decentralised and highly localised rules, especially from government, especially hewing to the freedom of the individual, and most certainly above and beyond those accorded to companies, corps, etc.

            Please don't call this anarchy. It's far worse than that - it is unbridled neoliberal capitalism

            1. overunder

              Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

              This will sound CRAZY, I know, but if the online presence is going to change from what it is now (complete MegaCorp/Spy control), then governments might want to start a program that gives bandwidth allowances without cost... yeh it's a little crazy.

              Even if you have a great idea today for a web anything, bandwidth kills you to the point of reaching to MegaCorp stimulus (AdSense, Amazon, etc.l If you recieved a free allowance to startup, then maybe you might... do more.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

        "Using something to make money is a GOOD thing. ABusing ANYTHING is bad. And that's the point." - that explains why the US death rate is up so much because it works like this when all you care about is money:

        "Using fentanyl to make money is a GOOD thing. ABusing ANYTHING is bad. And that's the point." And that's why some people are very wealthy (good) and their users are dead, well, they were being bad so that's to be expected isn't it?

      5. strum Silver badge

        Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

        >Using something to make money is a GOOD thing.

        Always? Using a child? Using a police force? Using an army - to make money, a good thing?

        No. There are limits. And there are controls and constraints that society has a right and duity to impose.

      6. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

        "Using something to make money is a GOOD thing."

        It can be, but this isn't a given. Even in the absence of abuse, when the profit motive is introduced to a thing, it changes the nature of that thing, making it no longer appropriate for some of the things it used to be good for.

    3. deconstructionist

      Re: Dear fragile and wonderful academics...

      Come i used the BBS way before AOL or compuserve where ISP's and still just BBS provider, we had it hacking , data theft, hacking, cracking, fakenews, witch hunts, bullying ....i remember the winace- winzip fiasco which 2 very nice people almost had there lifes ruined.

      Don't know what early NET people are remembering it was broke before it started...because of us .

  5. coconuthead

    Who cares what those guys think on those subjects?

    Cerf and Berners-Lee are engineers: why would anyone assume their opinions on geopolitical subjects like this are worth listening to?

    In the case of Berners-Lee, we *know* he could not spell "referrer". Do I think he's read more widely than I have on history, totalitarianism, politics and the social issues driving what's happening online? No, in fact I have no reason to think he's better read even than the average person.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who cares what those guys think on those subjects?

      Cerf and Berners-Lee are engineers:

      Sir Tim has not done any proper engineering for a very long time. He has gone to Layer 9 in the ISO stack and has stayed there early on. That would have been fine if he had the knowledge of history, culture, etc - all the things you need to transition to Layer 9. He does not. I have listened to him at a couple of IETFs where he was a "visiting feature" and I was only inches away from heckling him to just retire and let people more qualified than him work on both the Layer 9 and the engineering.

    2. Semtex451 Silver badge

      Re: Who cares what those guys think on those subjects?

      @coconuthead & above AC

      "Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee and other identify lots of problems, few solutions"

      If you believe they are wrong, and that everything's just great and will be, could you please expand on why you believe that?

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Pub talk

        > If you believe they are wrong, and that everything's just great and will be, could you please expand on why you believe that?

        When you say "wrong" what it sounds like is whether others do / should agree with their politics. A field in which they are no better at thinking, analysing or solving than any other person of voting age. Being able to design packet protocols does not imbue a person with greater geopolitical insights.

        But their views on the state of the world are irrelevant (unless you do agree with their politics). They are technical architects and really should limit their punditry to things that they know more about than ordinary folk.

        That would be worth listening to. As far as opinions are concerned, they are like arseholes: everybody has one, but they are best not revealed in public.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Pub talk

          "They are technical architects and really should limit their punditry to things that they know more about than ordinary folk."

          By that reasoning, almost nobody should be able to express their opinions on most things. That doesn't sound right. For one thing, it would mean the death of the comment section here (and everywhere else).

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Pub talk

            And some would consider that a blessing. If you could only talk about stuff you actually know (instead of think you know), we might not waste so much electricity.

    3. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Who cares what those guys think on those subjects?

      In the case of Berners-Lee, we *know* he could not spell "referrer"

      Ah, of course, the perfect opportunity to add another plug for 'Grammerly' - another slip and slide the snake that's taken us down into this particular internet hell.

  6. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Google, Facebook and friends

    (Wendy Hall) pointed to the impact and growing influence of China and Russia on our lives, highlighting their authoritarian impulses.

    To be fair to China, the impact of Facebook's & Google's influence on our lives is not entirely positive either. Their motives are at best profit-driven and at worst power-crazed. They have their own agenda and I don't see them much different to Russia or China — powerful actors protecting and extending their space.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Google, Facebook and friends

      "Their motives are at best profit-driven and at worst power-crazed."

      This applies across the spectrum.

      Obsessive state control is no different to obsessive monopoly control when it comes down to it - and we've already had to deal with mercantile robber-barons more than once - they're actually worse to deal with than wannabe emperors because they tend not to have "territory" you can confine them to.

  7. Long John Brass Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Optional

    To be fair, The internet provided all the things that were hoped for and much much more.

    You can watch training videos and find reference texts for anything from Blacksmithing or Plumbing to Compiler and Language design. Fancy some history or Nuclear Physics the net has you covered. It has amplified our abilities to communicate and collaborate in ways never heretofore dreamt of.

    It also created the "global village" for those old enough to remember that lovely piece of marketing wank; Turns out that is a bit of an issue for some, never mind the inevitable culture clashes and language issues. But it exposes people of one mindset to people of radically different mindsets and people have a bad habit of loosing their shit when that kind of thing happens

    It will take a while for human social norms to adapt to this new way of doing/dealing with things.

    I find it equally horrifying and funny that the same clowns that moan about Chinese censorship will in the very next breath demand protection from the "trolls". (Diversity and hate speech)

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Optional

      Actually, it became very difficult to find reliable, and trusted information. Frankly, who cares about trailer videos or cat videos. My real cat is enough - sure, you have to clean its litter box too, but it means you actually care.

      Sure, there are some reliable and trusted information around. The issue is to find them, and evaluate their reliability. Actually, only people with enough first hand knowledge of them can asses their reliability - most can only hope they are. Look at Wikipedia - how many misleading information it hosts? StackOverflow? Lot of litter there too. One million stupids don't make a clever one. Knowledge is not "democratic".

      Sure, it had amplified the communication ability - but a global soapbox was really what we needed? Collaboration too may not always be positive - you can collaborate for nasty ends. It won't be the first time a new communication and collaboration platform is used that way, especially when most users are unaware of how much they can be manipulated.

      What we see now it's not a clash of cultures - it's the deliberate exploiting of ancestral fears exactly to stir a clash.

      Every democracy has a level of "censorship" - defamation is an issue that can mine the very foundations of a democracy, and evidently breaks fundamental rights. And we unluckily undergo several periods when hate speech turned into real massacres.

      Comparing it to China censorship which is built just to ensure a ruling elite can't be changed, is really specious.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Optional

        "Comparing it to China censorship which is built just to ensure a ruling elite can't be changed, is really specious."

        Britsih censorship wasn't much different not that long ago - and for much the same kinds of reasons (a few hundred years of civil wars etc)

        I find it heartening that no matter what the chinese government tries to do, the chinese PEOPLE carry on regardless and ignore most of their restrictions (including endless dodges around the Great Firewall). It's pragmatism writ large and speaks well for the future.

        Elon's sky cloud (and others) are going to be the death knell of terrestrial firewalling anyway. It's bloody hard to force people to use "your" network when you can't tell what direction the antenna's pointing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Optional

          "Elon's sky cloud (and others) are going to be the death knell of terrestrial firewalling anyway."

          Maybe.

          Does the distinction between internet and web not matter any more? I think it does, and will.

          When all people have got is smartphone apps, and no generic web access, who needs a firewall anyway?

          When all people have got is Zuckerberg's FreeBasicInternet, who needs a firewall anyway?

          When people no longer have meaningful web access, who will need web search engines? Google won't have to worry about censoring web searches, because there will be no web to search.

          When all roads to the Internet have to pass through the likes of Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Paypal, Palantir, etc, are people going to realise that Zuckerberg's mate Peter T's career history should have been a warning?

          https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2018/12/09/peter-thiels-invasive-palantir-push-ramp-secretive-uk-government/

          see also (from 2010 here on El Reg)

          "The conclusion is fairly obvious, if fairly unpalatable to most of the chattering classes:

          World War III is over and done with, and China has defeated the West (specifically, the US/UK West) hands down, with hardly a tank having rolled (except perhaps in Tiananmen Square)."

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Optional

          "It's bloody hard to force people to use "your" network when you can't tell what direction the antenna's pointing."

          Not really, when we live in a world where jammers exist.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Optional

            As well as the simple fact the signals have to get back to the ground. Meaning there are chokepoints. That's how China works its magic: it forces everything through chokepoints under its control. Easy enough for anyone else to do.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: Optional

              As well as the simple fact the signals have to get back to the ground. Meaning there are chokepoints. That's how China works its magic: it forces everything through chokepoints under its control. Easy enough for anyone else to do.

              Yeah um. NO. I've used ground-isolated transmitting and receiving equipment quite often, as do most people in the western world. I even use ground-isolated wireless internet equipment very often, including right now as I type this.

              Jamming works to a degree, but you need a lot of power to cover a large enough area to be effective.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Optional

                "I've used ground-isolated transmitting and receiving equipment quite often, as do most people in the western world."

                So how do you link up to the rest of the world which uses terrestrial communications equipment? If you don't connect to anyone else, you're just another Darknet.

  8. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Maybe we're just not very good at doing big communities ?

    Many communities work fine when they're small. As they grow they get out of control - the members stop caring about each other. Unlike many communities, the internet promotes communication but not contact.

    It makes me think the tower of babel is an illustration of treatment, not of punishment.

    1. Trilkhai

      I think that's actually a big part of why Usenet worked so well until it became temporarily overrun by spammers — the newsgroups tended to be subject-specific enough that a reasonably limited number were interested in participating in a particular group, and the threading further limited it by topic. Even beyond that, most programs let users easily banish trolls to their personal 'bozo bin' and auto-hide posts containing certain 'trigger' phrases, rather than needing others to police things for them.

  9. John Sager

    Too much pessimism

    BOB THE BOMBAST has it. All new things bring with them pluses & minuses, and society soon learns the trick of maximising + relative to -. I think the Net is a marvellous tool. The range of stuff to inform & entertain me is more or less inexhaustible. I'm glad I've been alive when it happened.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too much pessimism

      New things have pluses and minuses? Not much of an opinion, that, chief.

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Too much pessimism

      I'm glad I've been alive when it happened.?

      Me too. But confidence and optimism doesn't sell as well as fear and pessimism.

      And there is plenty to be optimistic about. Take a leading example: I don't LIKE Google's behaviours, on the other hand Google has done loads of things for me that weren't possible before, or has simplified them, done them better, or done them at lower cash cost than anybody thought possible. For those that disagree, it is easily possible to avoid Google's services, and with suitable ad-blockers and the like to avoid their intrusion to our lives. So for me, I take a balanced approach of using Google services, strapping down what I can through permissions, blockers and similar, and accepting the balance that I can't strap down is how I'm paying the bill.

      Even behavioural people stuff like internet trolling is easily avoided - don't participate in unmoderated forums with huge, poorly behaved memberships. It has never been safely possible to shout your mouth off in partisan, ill behaved crowd of strangers - anybody (like my own mother) who thinks they should suddenly have that "right" online really haven't thought the matter through enough.

      Rather than wringing their hands in fear, the panel ought to have celebrated what has been positively achieved, and where so much of the downsides can be avoided. I think that is the solution - education of internet users, so that they understand how and where companies like Google, Facebook etc make their money. How to manage permissions. How to install ad + script blockers. The difference between membership and open forums. The difference between moderated and unmoderated forums. How language can be misinterpreted to take offence. And perhaps more importantly, the value of the sites they visit.

      A central problem behind a vast number of internet problems is that the internet as created by these wizzened old geeks has conditioned people to expect stuff for free. Nothing (other than air, dog mess, and other people's opinions) is free, and that means underhand cost recovery models, it means abuse of privacy, it means no money for moderation, and no willingness to reduce readership by moderation and exclusion. China, Russia, there not big issues - they're merely using the existing "free and unmanaged" nature of much of the web to play games.

      The main technical solution the internet needs is a successful and widely adopted micro-payment service, so that content websites don't need to rely on advertising and behavioural data income. Looking at public domain data for the Register and parent company, I'd guess they'd be better off if they charged all users as little as 5p per week. At 10p a week they're making twice as much money (suggestions welcome for how they might invest that). Specifically doesn't need to be pay per article, and IMHO shouldn't be a rolling subscription. Facebook ought to be charging users, and work out their own market price, but like most hosting or user content aggregation platforms, that probably needs to be a subscription model. I can't see a choice of "free with ads" or "paid without ads" working well for content web sites, others may hold different views.

      There's various sequential barriers to getting past the problems caused directly or indirectly by the "free" internet. But until that happens we won't change what we see now. So back to the wizzened geeks: Where is my internet education programme? And where's my micropayment platform?

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Too much pessimism

        "it is easily possible to avoid Google's services, and with suitable ad-blockers and the like to avoid their intrusion to our lives"

        Avoiding their services is easy. Avoiding their spying is very hard. In order to accomplish that, you need a lot more than adblockers. You pretty much have to stop participating in large segments of society, including no longer using bank cards, no longer giving out information to any organizations, etc.

    3. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: Too much pessimism

      I would sort of agree. On the whole, the Internet has been good for me.

      But in the latter half of my lifetime, the thing that has been shattered and is now wholly lacking, in Politicians, Government and local, Big Business especially, is TRUST.

    4. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Too much pessimism

      "All new things bring with them pluses & minuses, and society soon learns the trick of maximising + relative to -."

      True, but there have been many things in history that, even maximizing for the positive, have been negative on the whole. I don't know if the internet itself will end up being one of those things, but at the moment, the trajectory of things is not inspiring a lot of confidence.

  10. lglethal Silver badge
    Devil

    "The internet is going to hell"? Going? I think we've been there for a while already, it's just taken a while for people to realise the water is hotter then they actually like...

  11. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Saving democracy

    The only way: education, for anyone and free for all. There's no democracy without education.

    Learning to people to think by themselves, how to detect fake news, not to rely on one source of information, it's the only solution, no technical mean nor laws won't be able to do that in a reliable manner.

    "I'm not sure anonymity and democracy are completely compatible."

    I disagree, 'Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority'.

    1. Mycho Silver badge

      Re: Saving democracy

      Agreed. If you have a humiliating accident in public, e.g. trip over a paving slab and end up covered in mayonnaise from your shopping bag, the twats laughing at you from across the street shouldn't automatically know your home address and where you work.

      Anonymity, protecting the innocent from trolls since forever.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: Saving democracy

        Anonymity, protecting the innocent from trolls since forever.

        I disagree with you here: if there was NO anonymity on-line that would almost certainly get rid of the vast majority of trolls, stalkers, confidence tricksters etc. but it would be very hard indeed to implement securely enough to make it work.

        The few legitimate uses [*] for anonymity, e.g. whistle-blowing, should be easy enough to handle via anonymising servers by ensuring that incoming messages are securely sent only to the owning watchdog organisation and responses are only sent to the originator.

        * Voting NOT included as that is most (only?) secure and verifiable when paper ballots are used.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Saving democracy

          "if there was NO anonymity on-line that would almost certainly get rid of the vast majority of trolls, stalkers, confidence tricksters etc."

          I see literally no reason to believe this to be true, and a number of reasons to believe this to be false.

        2. Mycho Silver badge

          Re: Saving democracy

          The first legitimate use for anonymity is walking down the road. You will pass potentially thousands of people who have no legitimate reason to know who you are and a non-zero number of people with highly illegitimate reasons to want to know who you are. The thing protecting you from them is that it's too bad for them, they don't get to know who you are.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Saving democracy

            Once upon a time, you couldn't be sure of that. Back in the village days, communities were small enough that everyone knew everyone else, and any stranger in town was quickly pointed out. In other words, there wasn't much expectation of privacy back then, especially when sound carried much further than now due to less background noise. It's happened before, it can easily happen again.

            1. Mycho Silver badge

              Re: Saving democracy

              sound carried much further than now due to less background noise

              Says the townie.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Saving democracy

                Have you actually BEEN to the boonies? It's amazing how much you can see at night when the only light source is a clear full moon and how much you hear when it's just the trees and the animals. I speak from firsthand experience.

                1. Mycho Silver badge

                  Re: Saving democracy

                  You have some very quiet animals around your parts.

                  I live on the edge of a forest and it is f****** noisy.

                  1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                    Re: Saving democracy

                    EXACTLY! You don't hear them in the city (not even in a park), but out in the boonies...

                    1. Mycho Silver badge

                      Re: Saving democracy

                      You don't hear them in the city because 99% of them have left for the wilderness.

                      I am certain you could creep up and rob someone using the sound of crickets fucking to drown out your footsteps.

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Saving democracy

      It's not that hard to figure out what's false news, you just have to think about it and ask yourself who's benefiting for this? It's nothing new - fake news has been around as long as the human race ... people lie to try and fool others for their benefit.

      What's changed is that people don't think any more ... stop and wonder how many followers Hitler would have had if Twitter and Facebook had been available in the 1930's - it's nothing new, it was bad then and it hasn't changed much since, it just got faster.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Saving democracy

        "It's not that hard to figure out what's false news, you just have to think about it and ask yourself who's benefiting for this?"

        Plenty of people seem to find it too hard.

    3. myhandler

      Re: Saving democracy

      I wish you were right - but don't you remember the kids at school who always messed around, and the others who were certain they were right in every argument.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Saving democracy

      Are you sure about wanting to save democracy? Would a floppy disc be enough to keep it safe?

      Couldn't we just focus on saving the Internet from the demon cats?

  12. Pete4000uk

    We've been on

    the M25 of hell for some time. Pick a slip road.

  13. Christian Berger Silver badge

    It's fascinating to see how people are so much behind the times

    I mean there already is a set of guidelines for the "Digital World" (whatever that is supposed to be) and that's the "Hacker ethic". Additionally what is needed is to educate people about computers, in order to give them some idea of how they work. In kindergarten we have learned how printing works by building our own sets of movable type from potatoes. Today computers represent a technical achievement just as important as printing was.

    If you do not give people the tools they need to understand the world around them you are sure to enter a dark age in which only an elite can control the population. Democracy needs good education and we have failed to provide computer education for to long now.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: It's fascinating to see how people are so much behind the times

      How computers work is not the issue. It's how they can be used. And how they are being used is to spread information, which is more or less how they are designed.

      The problem is that critical thinking is still not taught at any level and people are also not taught how to recognise people exploiting logical fallacies to spread total nonsense, or question why things are being presented in the way that they are.

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: It's fascinating to see how people are so much behind the times

        The problem is that critical thinking is still not taught at any level and people are also not taught how to recognise people exploiting logical fallacies to spread total nonsense, or question why things are being presented in the way that they are.

        Spot on!

        There only four things that schools need to teach:

        • Critical thinking / the scientific method
        • How to learn
        • The ability to read the local language and to write it clearly and simply
        • Basic numeracy

        With these taught properly, virtually all other subjects, apart from sciences and manual skills, can be self-taught as needed and individuals will have the tools to distinguish truth from lies and fantasy.

        Of course this will never happen because politicians would never allow it.

        1. Christian Berger Silver badge

          Re: It's fascinating to see how people are so much behind the times

          "There only four things that schools need to teach:"

          Well those things are absolutely important, however we also need to show children the world around them. Even if you are a great learner, knowing what to learn, what might be interesting to you is hard. School needs to show you the world at least how it is now and how it was before.

      2. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: The problem is that critical thinking is still not taught

        The problem is that people who can hide behind anonymity behave like gits.

        Trolling, cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, swatting; all made attractive because no-one knows whodunnit.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: The problem is that critical thinking is still not taught

          Trolling, cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, swatting; all made attractive because no-one knows whodunnit.

          Not entirely true. All those things exist(ed) off-line, but with higher risk of being identified. Online, there's more scope for anonymity but you can still be detected. Problem online is the ability to cross borders, which then complicates matters for law enforcemet. Or lawyers.

          Fixes, like de-anonymising the 'net and insisting on real identities would just make things worse because it'd then be easier to identify targets. This already happens with doxxing where people take online issues offline to harass their opponents. And there's also lobbying by the likes of Facepalm, who can more accurately profile a 'real' person than a pseudonym, making their data more valuable. Even if it may increase risks to the data subject.. Which may just be access to information given Facepalm's lobbied for identity management work. Log in to your official government portal using your Facepalm ID. What could possibly go wrong?

          Privacy is one area where the Internet is slowly maturing, ie a realisation that people want and expect an amount. It's also where there's some irony. So Vint Cerf may be the 'father of the Internet' (sorry Al Gore), but he's also the Internet evangalist for Google.. who're taking a bit of a beating over privacy at the moment.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you do not give people the tools they need to understand the world around them you are sure to enter a dark age in which only an elite can control the population.

    You don't need to give people the tools. Nobody gave me books when I was a kid. But they did leave them lying around where I could get at them.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      That's you, but for many others, just because something is there doesn't mean someone's going to intuit what you're supposed to do with it. Plus, even if the tool is at hand, there's the matter of knowing how to use it properly. For example, apply Murphy's Law to a simple hammer or slotted screwdriver.

  15. Flywheel Silver badge
    Pint

    Look to SciFi for inspiration

    If we can assume the infrastructure of the Internet is ok (for now), we can fall back on TOR. What I foresee though is an alternative Internet which doesn't use the existing Internet and would be Mesh-based, probably running on numerous 4/5/nG cells. Set up a few in your neighbourhood and get some real community going. Use decentralisation and help build the Fediverse. Let the existing Internet fester in its current form and let the rest of use the Other Internet.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Look to SciFi for inspiration

      If freenet has taught me anything, it's that there's no panacea. Mesh networks like freenet are going to exact their toll in some way, usually in the form of increased bandwidth usage (which will usually translate to higher fees). Plus, what's to stop the Other Internet from intruding on the Mesh Internet. It's not like you can say no...

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: Look to SciFi for inspiration

      Well we can still prepare for it, for example by making future alternatives to the web work with lower bandwidth and complexity requirements. This would allow us to have lower bandwidth devices.

      I personally don't think the Internet itself is broken, IP(v6) is to simple to be broken. What is broken ist the protocolls on top of it, particularly the new ones big coorporations try to force upon us. So maybe just like when we kickstarted the popular Internet from the telephone network, we could kickstart new ways of communications on top of IP(v6).

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Look to SciFi for inspiration

        But you'll still need to convince people to actually use it. Or as they say in sales, "Style sells." You'll have to correct the human condition first. At which point, you probably wouldn't need a new Internet.

  16. MJB7
    Boffin

    Eu EHCR

    "Whatever level of stiffness the BrExit, if it has any form of formal agreement with the Eu ECHR has to stay"

    Aaaaaaarggh! The European Court of Human Rights is entirely independent of the European Union. It is a creature of the Council of Europe (which has as members all European countries except Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Vatican City).

    The senior court of the European Union is the European Court of Justice.

    1. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: Eu EHCR

      Since when has Kazakhstan been a European country?

      And no, simply being in Eurovision (if indeed it is) doesn't count.

  17. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    It’s a bit short, OOO and yesterday.

    Stacatto, spiral, sound, shot, magnetism, protocol, time and synchronicity in that order. #happyhour

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: It’s a bit short, OOO and yesterday.

      Forgot to mention, the more encrypted something is the faster it travels. #funnyoldgame

  18. IGnatius T Foobar !

    I thought they were going to talk about the Internet?

    When I read the headline I thought they were going to talk about the Internet. You'd think a bunch of Internet pioneers would talk about the Internet. But instead the article goes on for several screens about social and political issues.

    How about this one, guys? "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it" [John Gilmore, 1993]. Remember that? How's that going these days, when Facebook/Twitter/Google are more than happy to censor or "de-platform" anyone who dares to post wrongthink?

    The Internet is under attack by a small group of elite who are working hard to monopolize it. THAT is the biggest issue we face right now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I thought they were going to talk about the Internet?

      Facebook/Twitter/Google are not the internet. they're applications on the internet.

      to these guys, the internet is the connectivity and accessability of one informational asset from another informational asset. or to put it another way, linking and routing.

      you're talking about the quality of the taps while these guys are talking about the piping and plumbing.

      1. holmegm

        Re: I thought they were going to talk about the Internet?

        As it happens, "de-platforming" has also involved domain name registrars, network providers, and payment processors (yes, it all has to be paid for, so that's part of the plumbing).

        So when people said "well, let them go set up their own websites then!", ah, no, apparently not ...

        1. IGnatius T Foobar !

          Re: I thought they were going to talk about the Internet?

          "de-platforming" can include domain registrars, payment processors, and having your career and/or life ruined. So what difference does it make if the pipes still work, if you can no longer make use of what's in the pipes? Technical problems have technical solutions, but these three digerati were not there to talk tech. The "Orwellianization" of the Internet by a few privileged elites is the single biggest problem facing the online world today, bar none.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: I thought they were going to talk about the Internet?

            ""de-platforming" can include domain registrars, payment processors, and having your career and/or life ruined. So what difference does it make if the pipes still work, if you can no longer make use of what's in the pipes?"

            I think you're being hyperbolic here. Even if you are no longer able to register a domain name at all (something that approaches impossible), and even if you can no longer work with payment processors, you can still make good use of the internet.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: I thought they were going to talk about the Internet?

      "when Facebook/Twitter/Google are more than happy to censor"

      Facebook/Twitter/Google/etc. are not the internet. They provide services that run on the internet.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Liberal democracies are under threat in a way that they have not been before," he despaired, before suggesting that the nature of Western governance may need to change in the face of the manipulation of elections from Russia and others.

    We could do that, I suppose. We could also recognize that THE foundational freedom of liberal democracies, from which all other freedoms flow, is Freedom of Speech. Changing the nature of Western governance is just as likely to destroy liberal democracy as it is to save it, especially if the changes made are to appease those that hate the freedoms offered by liberal democracy.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "We could also recognize that THE foundational freedom of liberal democracies, from which all other freedoms flow, is Freedom of Speech."

      At the same time, we also have to recognize that this (and thus ANY) freedom has to have limits. That's why United States v. Schenck (the "fire in a crowded theater" decision) is cited so often. The problem comes from setting those limits because they're inherently subjective and impossible to fit for everyone.

  20. Shaha Alam

    "She pointed to the impact and growing influence of China and Russia on our lives, highlighting their authoritarian impulses."

    I wonder to what extent this happens in reverse - western cultural hegemony projected towards those nations (and others) as 'liberal impulses'.

    1. Long John Brass Silver badge

      liberal impulses

      I wonder to what extent this happens in reverse - western cultural hegemony projected towards those nations (and others) as 'liberal impulses'.

      What part of current western cultural hegemony is liberal? We have had the the right wing authoritarian won't someone think of the children in the name of common decency. 1/2 time change side now its the left wing authoritarian bastards with, Diversity, inclusivity & hate speech.

      Nothing liberal in the efforts and mind sets of either crowd as far as I can see. They both want to shut you up, and will think nothing of destroying you if you don't.

  21. imanidiot Silver badge

    "And after all that carnage, the world's leaders came together and decided they had to come up with some kind of document that would help prevent it all from happening again."

    War... War never changes.

    No document is going to stop the carnage when things kick off again globally or locally. Conflicts bring out the worst in humanity and horrid things will be done. Then we'll eventually come to our senses and say: "Never again".

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      No, because "Never Again" is usually the cause of many wars. Someone who gets jackbooted long enough or gets cornered finds no recourse but to retaliate, things escalate, and things get ugly. Worse, wars caused by oppression are the more likely to go to extremes, especially the kind of "Well, if that's the way you want it..." where MAD becomes an acceptable scenario.

  22. Curly4
    Happy

    Sorry, I must have missed that memo form John Kerry, the inventor of the internet. Could you send it again?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sorry, I must have missed that memo form John Kerry, the inventor of the internet. Could you send it again?

      That's 'cos it came from Al Gore.

  23. Christian Berger Silver badge

    There are some technical bugs we can certainly fix

    For example the Web has the problem that it's possible to have 3rd party elements on a page. This used to be used for webcounters, but now is mostly abused by advertisers and Facebook.

    Same goes for Javascript. It used to be an interresting idea which is now mostly abused. To add injury to insult we now have CPU bugs we cannot fix which can be exploited (in principle) via Javascript. In any case cyber currency miners are a problem.

    Imagine a different protocol, one that is more like a terminal protocol. You have your "screen" which in case of traditional protocols is composed out of a grid of character cells, and in a new standard might be more like the browser DOM tree. This "screen" can be manipulated via a single persistent TCP/IP connection. If you just want to display a quasi static document, the DOM tree includes some sort of URL for links and you send that URL when connecting. After the whole "screen" has been transmitted, the connection is dropped or put into an "idle" state from which you can request a new page from the same server if you wish.

    If you want to use an application however, the connection stays open and elements of the "screen" can send events to the server. This allows for much simpler "Web Apps" as they can now work synchronously and don't have to string together disjoined HTTP-requests into some sort of session.

    The beauty of this is that it's compatible with what we already have. SSH can easily carry such a stream and you can outsource your authentication and encryption to it. One could even create it in a backwards compatible way to ANSI terminals so you can instantly use it as a drop-in replacement for your terminal.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: There are some technical bugs we can certainly fix

      So basically you're describing a variant on Virtual Network Computing or related protocols: a virtual desktop. Thing is, that probably won't fly with the providers because increased network traffic and server loads mean they foot the bill.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Why the VNC reference (or RDP)?

        What was described sounded more like Son of HTML with a basic (Lynx-class capabilities) browser-inspired prog to display it, preferably with limited (ideally zero) means of the client app unintentionally executing data as code in the now-fashionable way.

        That approach would also have the side benefit (for end users) of *reducing* network and server load in many cases. Which wouldn't suit the vendors and their need for constant upgrades, but hey, I could care less.

        Something has to come in between Web 2.0 and Industrie 4.0, surely?

      2. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: There are some technical bugs we can certainly fix

        Well VNC is one way this could be done. Considering the terrible state of the web, I don't think VNC would actually require more data than the current web. After all most websites are now larger than screenshots of themselves.

        However there are lots of other ways to do this. This is something I don't have a set answer for, but something I'd like to encourage experimentation.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: There are some technical bugs we can certainly fix

          Oh yeah, what about video playback? Video files aren't compressed for no reason. And what stuff that MUST be interactive like online mapping? And before you say "dedicated apps" (like the old Real Player), you say diversity, I say multiple points of failure.

  24. JohnFen Silver badge

    Between the three

    "Every speaker noted competing visions from three main sources: The US, Europe and China."

    All three visions have some very significant problems, but between the three, I think Europe's is the least worst.

  25. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    The PCI

    Regheads will assume that I mean the Peripheral Component interconnect from Intel, when it could also be the Partita Communista Italiano.

    I would say that the world seems to be going to hell, just like it usually does. Whose advice would you rather follow, Jesus Christ, the Dalai Lama, Bill & Melinda Gates, Marx or May?

    Half of all the good guys and the bad guys are now online, just like we hoped hey would. That the Internet is a den of thieves, fake news, peddlers of religion and viagra should come as no suprise. Most of the threat to tthe net comes from politicians and do-gooders who would clean the webs.

  26. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    How to fix the internet?

    Turn it off one week in four.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      How to fix the internet?

      Turn it off one week in four.

      Fixing society may require that it only be turned on one week in 4.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bah!

        What about the old lady who MUST be able to reach the benefits website because she has no family, friends, or support, the nearest office is a hundreds miles away, and she has no car? AND she's too proud to ask for help?

  27. bigtreeman

    Vint is the problem

    Trust is the problem.

    The problem is the base protocols - TCP-IP just makes it work then has bandaids applied to fix all the problems.

    Security has to happen from the hardware up.

    Anonymity is a problem.

    Location is a problem.

    Auditability is a problem.

    The Internet is not People-Centered it is a Server-Centred dumb client network.

    Governments want to poke their noses in where they shouldn't.

    Companies want to have a lend of all Internet users.

    Let it go to shit, then start again with a sensible design, from the ground up incorporating all the lessons we have learnt from Internet #1. While it is going to poo, install lots of fibre-optic which can be re-purposed to carry whatever we come up with.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Vint is the problem

      As a New Yorker would say, "Fuhgedaboutit!!"

      Security is a dilemma. You can't trust yourself to do it right, yet you can't trust anyone else, either, because they may be secretly doubled or coerced to act against you.

      Attestation vs. Anonymity is a Morton's Fork. Attestation means Big Brother is watching you. Anonymity means no one can figure out your Evil Plan until it's too late.

      As long as the Earth and countries exist, location and sovereignty will be an issue. Then again, do you really want a single world government to rule over us all?

      Lastly, for many people, they WANT the Internet the way it is, meaning any attempt to do it again is likely doomed to be sabotaged. It's frankly down to the human condition. You want a better Internet? Evolve a better human first.

      PS. As for all that cabling...who's going to pay for it first?

  28. chuckm
    Go

    Same old same old

    Like all the other fings humans make, the webinets can be and are used for goodness (e.g. cat videos) and evilness (e.g. breitbart. Or is that vice versa?). But whether you believe the internet will lead to utopia or hell on earth, you're likely to be disappointed. Humans are just not that thorough. It'll be a fucked-up something in between. As usual.

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