The World Wide Web is Dead

The world wide web is dead, long live the internets. That's not misspelled either. The internet is fracturing under pressure from national governments. The global internet might very well become a mixture of regional internets that have limited access to those in other countries or regions. National governments are placing more obligations on citizens and the companies that provide services to them. The other aspect that is slowly dying off is the idea of a world wide web. Computers acting as nodes in a vast mesh of information is slowly turning into computers acting as terminals to access proprietary services hosted by a handful of companies. Sure, the world wide web might still be around now but not for too much longer.

Governments are seizing back their power from the decentralised world wide web. China is essentially already quarantined from having full access to the global internet with the Great Firewall of China only allowing access to sanctioned information. Russia is also moving this way with legislative requirements that companies who provide services to Russian residents must host them inside Russia and allow the government to access records. The British parliament keeps passing laws that expand the spying powers of GCHQ. The NSA in the US has broad powers although they tend to disregard the law when it suits them anyway. The Australian government is talking about outlawing end to end encryption. With a true world wide web the governments of the world have reduced power. They do not have access to or control over the information their citizens see. If any of the information is hosted elsewhere any government agencies will have to wade through a mess of jurisditions for any sort of control. This is scary. Imagine a population that can't be stopped from organizing against you. Or one that is well informed regardless of what state run media might say. The power shift would be massive. It must not be allowed.

Humans do not deal with choice well. It's too hard to keep making decisions when you could just pick what other people are doing and stick with that. Companies have taken advantage of that by making services that completely lock their users into them. Once they get over a certain amount of users no one wants to leave because it is too difficult. Gradually everyone begins to use only a select handful. There's always the exceptions to this. People who need to use a lot more for work or for their hobbies but eventually it all begins to come together. Governments love this. The US government can serve a warrant to once company and get all the information on a particular user they could ever want. Once company can be compromised and suddenly millions or hundreds of millions of users are compromised. This is a goldmine for everyone, except the users. Companies can monetize the information in the form of ads. Governments, friendly or hostile, can gain access to vast troves of information. Criminals can do the same. Information that users expect to be kept private isn't. Not without an encryption scheme that does not allow anyone except those intended view the information. Essentially companies do not want to give up their very profitable income source and governments do not want to let go of their access to it.

The solution to all of this is simple. Just to clarify, the word was simple not easy. The internet needs to move back towards the world wide web. The security and privacy of personal data needs to be prioritized. Services need to be built on top of protocols and formats that are open. Rather than using social media for everything there would be personal sites that get linked to. Protocols like RSS that allow for notifications from many different sites would be used. Today we use the internet to connect to services, it should be used to connect to a world wide web of people.