I remember pre-Google. The Internet began shrinking when business became involved. Personal and hobby sites, especially those on Blogger or GeoCities were sneered at. Web mail for email became a reason to block or ban people. Funny how that attitude never seemed to touch GMail.
AOL began the filtered Internet. If AOL was your ISP you didn’t get on the Internet and see everything as everyone else did. AOL blocked and filtered the user experience to suit themselves. Now AOL is seldom heard of. I assume they were swallowed up by some other company.
I miss the Internet before social media. Though I do like Twitter, most of the rest are clutter, popularity contests and marketing extravaganzas where no one is really listening any more. Fifteen years ago we had blocks for pop up ads and frames. Now pop ups are back and almost no one gets into a ranting fit about them. Ironically, I wasn’t bothered much by them the first time around. But they really do bug me now. Especially those which descend as soon as you move your mouse to your browser bar.
There are far less personal or hobby sites now. People want to use information to make a buck. That’s not terrible but it does make everything less trustworthy. I review sites with dmoz, still. I see a lot of garbage. The interesting thing is noting how the garbage has changed over the years. There are always new schemes cropping up. Some good sites get drowned out just because they are personal sites, don’t look sleek and professional.
Marketing, content selling and so on isn’t a bad thing, so much. I think it’s more an issue of intentions. Too many sites are focused on SEO, keywords, marketing and they have forgotten people. Not so different with business, retail, commercial offline. Customer service is something they promote but don’t really care about. (I worked as a department store cashier, I heard all the pep talks in between being told how to sell/ market and smile). Meanwhile customer service people are paid minimum wage, like a lot of sales people. The Internet could hardly avoid this same phoniness.
I hope they can find a balance, but I don’t think we will ever get there. Twenty years ago people came online for different reasons. It really was social then. The Internet was about communication with IRC, BBS, etc. How many of those are still active – spam doesn’t count as activity. Now we have social media but it is flooded with marketing. Facebook is full of meaningless games built to scam people in small cash amounts over time, addicting, like gambling but legal.
I don’t think we can get back what the Internet was, it doesn’t even have the atmosphere of being friendly any more. It’s a business, impersonal but with a smile.