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The once and future Internet

It's always interesting to consider the various opinions that people have about the Internet/Web and its influence on American culture.  Suffice it to say that most people feel strongly one way or the other - there isn't a lot of middle ground here.  Let's take a look at each (for the purpose of this commentary, Internet and Web are used interchangeably.)

1.  The Internet is the greatest invention since (fill in the blank).  Those who fall into this category tend to be optimists.  Yes, they recognize the potential damage that the Internet can render, but the positives far outweigh any such negatives.  The lightning speed of commerce, depth and value of information retrieval and community connectivity dominate their thinking, and thus, their online activities.  In short, we're a whole lot better off with the Internet.

2.  The Internet is the greatest threat/danger since (fill in the blank).  Those who tend toward this world view focus on the Web's delivery of negative influences, again, with lightning speed and global reach.  Pornography, online gambling, and time wasted in front of computer screens at the expense of social interaction are the usual suspects here.  This perspective sees only the doom and gloom - the digital destruction of what all Americans (and likely other nationalities) hold sacred.  In short, the world is going to hell in a hand basket thanks to the Internet.

The description of these two perspectives, of course, isn't particularly earth-shattering.  Both have been around since the Web explosion in the mid-90's.  The more important issue is where the Internet (and thus, we) are heading.

What do you think the future Internet will look like?  Do you see continuing improvements in information delivery and utility, or will the commodity Internet (the one used by the public today) devolve into a cluttered combination of ads, spam and porn?

Have we reached the point where people would willingly pay to use a "private" Internet - one devoid of advertising, etc?  What do you think?  Your comments are welcomed and encouraged.

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