The Internet is probably the most significant invention since fire, the wheel, or the printing press.   (Gee, thanks Al, what a guy!  If you really, really want to know who invented it, read more.)

Up front, let me say that regulating anything – but particularly regulating the internet, is a difficult subject to wrap your head around.   But to say that it’s EXTREMELY SIGNIFICANT (yes, I’m shouting) wouldn’t be putting too fine of a point on it.  Sad that it probably insures that a significant segment of our population will dismiss the conversation entirely, lamenting  “Eweeeeu, it’s too hard to understand.”  We currently live in a culture that seems unwilling –  or is it too lazy – to address the BIG IDEAS of the day – ones that require some hard thinking and intelligent conversation.  Or are they just trusting that a good outcome will materialize without vigorous debate?  That’s not something I trust anymore.

I could not do 95% of my work without the Internet.  I use it constantly for research,  instant information and, yes, amusement – for everything from what time the movie starts, to how to spell or define paradigm shift, to in-depth research on autoimmune diseases, to printing a turn-of-the-century map of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire for my genealogy project.  Just this week I –

  • bought a perfectly good ‘used’ copy of my book club selection and replenished my moisturizer, all on Amazon.com;
  • found the actual immigration documentation for a relative on Ancestry.com;
  • pulled up four recipes for Beef Stroganoff;
  • made a reservation for dinner on the fabulous Open Table website;
  • researched a quick trip up the PCH including Google maps (it’s about 500 miles) and directions, plus locations of well regarded B&B’s and horse ranches along the way;
  • booked flights to Boston, rented the car,  made three separate dinner reservations and purchased Boston Pops tickets for our grandchildren;
  • sent perfectly lovely, personalized Thanksgiving cards to everyone I care about, from my electronic address book; and
  • done the research for this blog post.

In the olden days, it would take weeks and miles to slog through the same to-do list.

The Internet brings the world to our fingertips and our computer screens.  It connects grandparents with grandchildren through video sites like Skype.  It has significantly changed the way we shop or travel.  It’s diminished some industries or made others obsolete (phone-book doorstops anyone?)  and created new ones like E-Bay, Epicurious, Amazon, Travelocity, or Zappos: household names that would have gone unrecognized a decade ago.  It’s safe to say the Internet has  revolutionized everything we do and we trust that will continue.

There are several aspects to this new frontier that warrant the intense discussions that are influencing current events.  Google, which dominates the search market by a whopping 70% (hence the term “Google-it“)  is under great pressure and scrutiny, accused of abusing its search power.  I agree.  According to a recent Time magazine article:

“Specifically, the group argues that Google has been using its dominance to ‘foreclose competitors from the search marketplace — particularly in high-traffic specialty segments, like travel, jobs, health, real estate, media and local search.’  In other words, the companies charge that Google unfairly demotes rivals  — i.e., them — in its search-engine results in order to steer users toward Google’s own competing products.”  Read more. 

Well..I’m downright shocked, aren’t you? To think that a company would do such a thing.  Since Google changed its algorithmic process, I can promise you, the searches are NOT THE SAME and the sources/sites that should have higher ranking, suddenly do not.

To add insult to misery, the UN is getting in the game, hoping to expand their authority over the Internet with the IUT Treaty – creating new rules to govern the Internet globally, and, oh by the way, adding a tax for content providers.   Hummm.  Anyone who doesn’t recognize that this is a very big thing is comatose.   Is there anyone out there who believes that the UN has the capability, capacity, or integrity to monitor, regulate or govern anything?  I keep envisioning those inter-galactic Senate scenes from Star Wars.    

Playing right into the messy debate to regulate the Internet is the insidious desire of some to viciously muck about with the technical aspects of this incredible tool that we now take for granted.  These brilliant, brazen miscreants spend their waking hours designing and launching Trojan Horses, Worms, Viruses and other insidious hacking routines guaranteed to wreak havoc with your computer operating system.  I consider myself a relatively savvy computer user, but I’m a babe in the woods compared to that lovely geek I live with.  In other words, I know just enough to be dangerous, so I’m very careful not to make things worse when I discover something is amiss.  What my concrete sequential brain is good at, is following the logic and diagnosing “what” the computer is doing and in what sequence, because that’s usually the diagnostic starting point.  Then my sweetheart graciously takes over without a word of complaint and spends literally HOURS running Spybot, Adaware, Malware, AVG, etc., deleting, re-installing,  rebooting, to get things working again.  That is until now.

For the past several months I’ve noticed an increasing amount of unsolicited ad traffic when I’m doing  research.  I use two separate search engines.  Why, you ask?  Because a while back I became aware that certain websites “play” better with Chrome than they do with Internet Explorer.  And why, you ask again?  My own theory is that they are in direct competition and are doing nasty, annoying things in “background” mode that will piss me off enough to drive me to use the other engine.  WORKING.

For instance,  playing scrabble on Face Book with IE is painfully slow when dragging the tiles into place.  Chrome “plays more nicely” with that game – and I swear – it’s the only game I play ’cause it keeps my brain a little sharper.  Also, if I’m using IE,  scores of ads pop up or hover in the middle of what I’m doing, while with Chrome not so much.  But, on the other hand, when using Chrome, in the initial search step I experience some serious hijacking that is downright scary.  To date, we’ve not figured out how to remedy it – other than rebuilding the whole computer. AAARRRRRGGGGG. Do you have any idea how much TIME that takes?  I could take the box into an “expert” and let him burn a couple of days trying to figure out the problem but I’ve got little trust that they can do any better.  They’ll just tell me to buy a new box.  Good old built in obsolescence.

Do I think some of the problems are being deliberately ignored so that we’ll all shout in frustration that “someone has to take control of these frustrating problems and regulate?”  YES I DO.  That way the UN (and Congress) can surreptitiously slip those regulations in there without much outcry from the masses.  “They” are trusting that “we’re” not paying attention!

Currently, what happens with my computer is this:  I put in the “search words” to find a site – could be as simple as “movies Palm Desert.”  I click the result I want and the Chrome hijacks me to unrelated “ad driven” sites such as Infomash, Bees, Nixxie,  Deal Cabby, or the most insidious one of all, MerchantCircle.  If I arrow back to the search results page and select the same result again, only then does it connect me to the site I want.  Hijacked the first time, successful result the second time except with MerchantCircle which, like a snapping turtle, won’t let go at all!   Annoying!  And creepy!!  Some little demented Geek-elf is somewhere in Croatia laughing his ass off because he’s got power over my computer.  While this may seem minor,  it’s not.  The virus or whatever it is will simply continue to infect other areas of the computer’s operating system until it finally crashes.  There are some who are silly enough to think that if we “regulate” the Internet, someone can stop these pirates.  NOT!  Yeah, right.  And gun control will keep guns out of the hands of criminals, too.

In this last example, we’ve traced the hijacking back to advertising pages connected with Face Book .  Oh horrors – would Face Book  do something like that?  Be forewarned:  if you have experienced any similar problems, think about it.  It appears that the gargantuan Face Book site is completely vulnerable to all sorts of hackers, not to mention all the data mining that is going on in background mode, to which most of us are completely oblivious.   As much as I enjoy Face Book and keeping up with my friends, I’m pretty close to shutting down my page.

The Internet has meant “freedom”  –  freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom from control or regulation, freedom from cost.  But as with most freedoms, there comes Responsibility – of the users to do the right thing, and Trust – that those governing those freedoms, will make the right decisions.

Right now there seems to be a scarcity of both.  Geesh – guess we’ve been look’in for love in all the wrong places.

Crede sed proba!