Going To War Against The Evil Empire
Prompted by a post from Peter Giblett (responding to an earlier one by Kaylar) and then to a post from Kaylar on a different but related topic, I decided as someone who spent 30 years working with computers and was involved in the development of internet technologies, to throw my hat in the ring on the subject of where the web (and Wikinut in particular) might be headed. (Image is my simple mash up)
Who Will End Up Controlling Web Content
It may seem strange for somebody who spent a year not participating, apart from sporadic ripples of activity) at Wikinut to say I like the site and think it is one of the few sites on which writers can post their work and get satisfying numbers of readers that will survive the 'purges' being advocated by Big Government, Big Media and Big Technology at the moment. If you think that sounds a bit like an Orwellian Big Brother regime, you are on the right track. Matt Drudge, and love him or hate him, nobody can seriously suggest he has been an influential figure since the early days of the world wide web, recently claimed he had been told by a US Supreme Court judge that new copyright laws currently being pushed through the United States legislative system will finish news aggregator sites like the one Drudge has run for years.
Personally I think Matt was being a bit of a drama queen, he says the new laws will prevent news aggregator sites such as his using headlines from or even linking to corporate media news sites. So what? It seems Drudge, along with many others in US media is labouring under the misapprehension that Barack Obama was speaking the truth when, addressing the United Nations (September, 2015) he said "I believe what is true for America is true for virtually all democracies." Vladimir Putin slapped him down at the UN of course, but there was also a muttering of dissent around the world. The words may not be spoken aloud in the corridors of power, but there is a strong feeling among the general populace that what is good for America is seldom anything but bad for other nations involved.
One area the USA is encountering increased resistance to its attempts to dominate in internet freedom. A Wikinut post from Kaylar, Another Side To Google, illustrated how far Google will go in their quest to control the totality of online information. The wannabe Search monopoly has not had things its own way of course, both Russia and China have placed restrictions on its activities within their national telecommunications networks, and a law suit being contested with the European Union could result in heavy fines and penalties being imposed for Google's manipulating of search results for its own commercial benefit. And then there are the numerous legal issues regarding the cavalier attitude to users privacy to be faced.
Pushing back the evil empire
Another area in which, I confidently predict, Google will encounter problems is their latest world domination plan, to use Artificial Intelligence to measure the 'quality' of content and grade it according to how factual it is. I'm sure there are some science tits (yes I know that looks like an error, it isn't) who think the internet should only be about 'science' i.e. content universally acknowledged as correct, but what an anodyne world we will inhabit if there is no room for opinion, debate, dissent, satire, surrealism, speculation, fantasy, exploration of spirituality or the supernatural and good old fashioned silliness. So in their ambition to regulate what can be seen online, Google make themselves look even more Orwellian, like The Ministry Of Truth in the dystopian novel 1984 in fact.
Clearly then, it is way past time Google's dominance was challenged. But how? Bing is not much better in its behaviour towards search integrity and users privacy. Users of Firefox can use a search facility on the browser home page and be sure their searches are not tracked, but I guess Firefox will not have its own web index and so will used Google or Microsoft data farms. Duckduckgo (created by Russian search company Yandex I understand) is getting better all the time but while its results are less skewed towards profit, its indexing is not so deep. Startpage.com also uses the Google index although users say its algorithm is better at prioritizing what is relevant over what is profitable.
The Route To Victory
Really the answer to breaking Google's dominance lies in the hands of "We The Punters", and especially those of us who create content for the internet which can be accessed through sites like Wikinut and Authorsden or from our own web space. It takes a lot of work and earns little reward beyond appreciative comments and the pleasure of watching our traffic figures go up. We can work to build personal followings here and elsewhere, network our presence on various sites, not take too much notice of search companies warnings about duplicate content not being tolerated and thus spread our ideas and thoughts as broadly as possible. Search engines do not look for the odd paragraph duplicated, or even a web page which has for its main body article a text that appears elsewhere, they look for whole domains duplicated and because they use 'Artificial Intelligence' (AI) will give a clean bill of health to pages that are 'substantively different'.
What is 'substantively different', you might well ask. I have always said (as an former IT consultant) that the only way computers will ever be intelligent is if we radically redefine the meaning of intelligence. I will write about AI in detail another time, for now it is sufficient to say computers can match strings on binary digits and through a huge number of logical steps can convert binary strings into letters, numbers and symbols humans understand. but the computer has no way of inferring meaning from those strings. So if I post a body of text in my Greenteeth or Daily Stirrer pages, at Authorsden and here in Wikinut, it will be picked up by a duplicate content checker but not penalised by a search engine because the navigation and extra information surrounding the body text is enough to make the page substantively different. We can network our pages and boost traffic at all of them. (when I get back from a short break in Majorca I will reveal a few traffic catching tricks.)
So, dare I say <b>The Revolution Starts Here</b>. are we going to let the profiteers and purveyors of dross and gossip hijack the web, the peoples' medium, as they hijacked television, radio and print media. Are we going to surrender our right of free speech because we are to lazy to exercise it. Or are we going to become "dissentious rogues" to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare's Coriolanus, to reject the mainstream, question, challenge, create, discuss and by doping so to arrive at a truly diverse range of valid points of view and present users with interesting, entertaining and stimulating ideas. That is the way we will take back the Internet and regain control of our lives from the Corporate Imperialists.