I've been using the Internet since the late 1970's. I've used it ever since for either conducting Research, contacting Peers for information,
advice or review, and publishing my Research.
Back in the early 1980's, the Internet was a rather small community and literally everyone knew just about everyone (I think ATS is many times more
populous than the Internet was back then). But we had to...as to get hooked into FidoNet or UUCPNet you had to make friends with the SysAdmin of a
Node on the Backbone and work with them on a daily basis. Every BBS SysAdmin knew of each other, and it was through those BBS Gateways on FidoNet or
UUCPNet that almost everyone was able to connect to the Internet other then through their University (or Employer if you were working with the
government or a government contractor like GE).
Then, in January 1994 the first graphical Web Browser was born (NCSA Mosaic 2.0), then later that year AOL offered free 30-day Trial Dial-Up Internet
Access, but the real population buster was in 1995 when Time Magazine did a cover article about Free Porn on the Internet. Overnight, the population
of the Internet went from 3,500 people (a joke figure, but not far off from the truth) to 35 million people, all looking for that Free Porn which Time
Magazine told them about.
And such has defined the nature of the Internet since. It is has metamorphosed from a Research and Communication Tool to a
Mass-Media/Entertainment/Advertisers Wet-Dream, with the Porn Industry pioneering the way to that Gravy Train with each new technology.
Do I spend any more time on the Internet as I did back in 1979? Not really.
However, how I spend that time on the Internet has changed. Research is much quicker and easier, even if I do have to verify references and validate
citations where before I wouldn't have to do that (and if you've ever used Gopher, or Archie, or Veronica to find data, then you would have a deeper
appreciation for Search Engines!). I don't have to spend as much time entering data for other people. It used to be that if I couldn't find a
reference work online, I would order it on Inter-library Loan and type it into E-Text and upload it so others could access that reference work after I
published my paper. I certainly don't miss typing entire books into E-Text and spending a week proof-reading them for errors! Now, the books I want
are either already online, or I can scan them in and upload them as a searchable PDF document within an hour.
Sure, I have a MySpace and Facebook Account (and although I haven't personally met all 5000+ of my "friends" I treat them as real friends and take
part in their real-lives and help them out when they are in need). Sure, I have a Blog. Sure, I use Hulu and NetFlix instead of TV and Cable. Sure, I
use Instant Messaging (and with an IM Account everywhere, and friends on every IM network, I have to use Pidgin). Sure, I use Skype instead of having
a Phone from a Telco. Sure, I shop online. Sure, I look up people I meet and look at their profiles to learn more about them. Sure, I post personal
pictures from my vacation to Photobucket and Flickr to share with family and friends (and voyeurs). However, it hasn't really changed my life any
other than free up my discretionary income since I don't have to pay for Cable or Phone anymore.
Will the Internet change dramatically and continue to evolve. Of course it will. Everyone is searching for the Killer App. VoIP was one of those.
YouTube was another. 10 years from now, let alone 30 years from now, we won't recognize the Internet as it is now from what it will be then.
I think the biggest concern is that the Internet is changing and evolving so quick that we don't have enough time to consider the moral implications
of what those changes do. I think we are beginning to feel this most in concerns with Privacy (or lack thereof) on the Internet, and that is but one
small example of morality questions in concerns with the ever-changing Internet.
And as for Keyboard Commandos, Nutters, Trolls, and such, let me assure you that they have been on the Internet in the exact same percentages per
capita since the late 70's. Spammers are new, but those with a loud voice and strong opinions looking to stir up trouble have always been around. (I
think the only thing that has changed per capita wise is that the Internet used to be predominantly blind people back in the late 1970s. That's
something you won't find mentioned in Wikipedia or many other articles about the early Internet!) Now, especially since 1994, that the Internet is no
longer text-based but graphically based, you don't bump into them as often as you once did.
[edit on 17-8-2009 by fraterormus]