Future of the Internet: It’s Chinatown, Jake…

And I’m not talking about the mock-up tourist-trap Chinatowns of a thousand modern Western cities, graced by a red-tile roof in up-turned smile and filled with Mom-and-Pop trinket shops specializing in red lanterns and fat-bellied Buddhas and calligraphy that says whatever you want.  Nor am I talking about the Chinatown of the Polanski film/Towne script/Nicholson fame depicting 30’s LA, though that comes closer.

No, I’m talking about the Chinatown of a thousand forgotten real Asian neighborhoods where street signs compete for sight-lines and taxi-girls hustle for ten-dollar fares and old market ladies who haven’t seen sunlight in years huddle in dark dingy stalls, their only sensory stimulation the olfactory interplay between pungent chilies pricking and bathroom odors wafting, may the strongest smell win…  The market always wins.

Aside from the kitsch factor of novelty and the quantifiable measure of convenience, the big hidden attraction of Internet—for me, at least—has always been its aura of infinity.  Whenever you post a blog, say, or a status update, for that matter, it simply stays there forever.  That’s the infinity-of-time factor.

Then there’s the infinity of space: you can write as much as you want, without some petty little Napoleon with a small-penis complex glaring over the top of his glasses with a look that screams, “I said 300 words, not 400!”  Now for the self-indulgent hack writer, this is huge!  I can just ramble on forever on matters of little or no substance or consequence, or… I can learn to edit myself.  Thus was born my First Commandment of writing—Edit thyself—just in case anyone ever asks me.

Now I don’t expect everyone to think about any of this as much as I do, or necessarily even agree with me, but you’ll have to admit, that with memory and speed expanding exponentially and Internet long ago—say, ten years, maybe fifteen—only an empty field just waiting to be developed and filled, that that illusion was huge, and the promise was more important than the reality.

That perception, and likely deception, was infinity, and for many an upstart capitalist, that was an infinity of only one thing, neither time nor space—sales.  The new gold rush bared its fangs long enough to byte them on the ass in the fabled ‘dot-com’ bust of the late 90’s, but then social media revived the dream.

It’s all about the jack, Jack.  I found this out the hard way when I was out of town without my laptop and logged on to my blogs from another computer.  Now I’d already heard that WordPress would only turn on the ads on YOUR blog when others were viewing, not YOU, but I’d never really seen it before.  Now I know.

Not only that, but, apart from the full-figured Asian girl emerging fresh-faced and dripping-wet from the ad pool, selling something I can’t remember what, they were all rather hideous, making faces and pointing fingers, making fools of themselves, and me, too, all ‘above the fold,’ too, of course, the prime ad space, which I assumed was devoted to promoting my own books, not Viagra™ and financial service products.

Then my anti-virus program expired a week later, so you know what that means.  Good capitalists that they are, they’ll never give you the same price the second year that they did the first, so that means scrambling around trying to find something new without leaving a window open too long for viruses (virii?) to sneak in.

I already went through the reasoning process with them last year, politely requesting my original price for another year, which they finally did…after I’d already switched brands.  So I prepared to switch again rather than pay an extra $40.  I knew there’d be a brief time when the old anti-virus program was ‘uninstalled’ and before the new one was ‘installed;’ I was prepared for that.  I wasn’t prepared for the tool bar wars.

The tool bar, that little strip at the top of your Internet screen, is the latest frontier in the quest to monetize the Internet, since they basically control what you see when you search, so basically a choice between Microsoft/Bing, Yahoo, and Google, though Java will now sneak in ‘Ask’ when you’re not looking (‘It’s Free!), so you gotta’ be careful.  They’re sneaky; and they all offer basically the same functions, though for pure search Google is by far the best IMHO.  Most do little more than slow down your computer.

They got me.  In that one hour—two at the most—that I wasn’t wearing protection, so much crap got on my computer that it would barely function.  They weren’t viruses, though, mostly ad schemes, in fact.  Then they had the gall to offer me a product to speed up my computer!

And if those old (Google) ‘AdWords’ and ‘AdSense’ seemed relatively benign, even cute at times, these new ‘AdChoices’ can be downright hideous.  Almost everything I wrote—every noun, at least—had an ad attached to it, most having nothing to do with the subject of the text, simply a ‘keyword’ connection.  Don’t get me started on ‘keywords,’ IMHO the genericisation—and dumbing down—of content.  Of course all those links are supposed to somehow ‘credibilise’ our work, as if we need footnotes to back up the assertions of our dissertations here.  Yeah right.

It took me two days to uninstall all the junk that got on my computer in those two hours.  I’m better now, and so’s my computer.  It’s not a jungle out there any more.  It’s a battlefield.  The dealer always wins.  I miss the Asian girl, though.  She seemed nice.  I would’ve liked to have met her family.

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