Originally written for eVent! [ep] magazine on 07/26/06.
We are used to being frightened about terrorists. We're used to being scared of muggers, panhandlers, squeegee kids and aspirin that's been spiked. We're used to worrying about our cars being stolen, our children doing the drugs and the inevitable new Rolling Stones album. We are afraid of bears, rattle snakes, vampires and the day that Bono shows up and guilts us all into giving our money to Africa. We are afraid of another round of forest fires, more big box stores, less big box stores and hearing songs you really like on Power 104 and thus confronting the fact that you're no longer cool.
The fact is we have a lot of fears and most of them will never come to pass. So in that vein of extreme hyperbole I thought it was time to start laying a few more fears on you by letting you know that tomorrow the internet might die. Okay perhaps not tomorrow, however these things to pose a significant threat to how the internet currently operates and could change the way we get our porn forever.
1. the United Nations take the running of the internet away from the United States
Currently the net is run by the non-profit organization ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). ICANN essentially is the group that is in charge of assigning internet domain names to companies that then resell them, and introduce new ones like .net, .org and .xxx as a few examples. Though it's an American based organization it's got a fairly large percentage of foreign voices on its board of directors with only two out of fifteen actually coming from America. The trouble is that other countries, such as China, India and Russia, want a greater voice in the running of the net. ICANN may have a lot of the troubles that any large organization overseeing a global network would have, but add international politics and the problems facing the UN to that and the internet will implode within about twenty minutes.
2. America keeps running the internet
The internet is largely overseen, on a government level, by the United States Senate and the Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Ted Stevens, the senator in charge of the committee and thus the internet, is the sort of person who would spend $223 million on a bridge to an Alaskan island with a population of 50. His description of the internet as a "series of tubes" and "not a big truck" has turned into an online hit on the video site YouTube. The fact that he refers to emails sent by his staff as internets would seem to indicate that the man driving the big truck of the net is asleep at the wheel. Errr... tubes.
3. Click fraud
An awful lot of the internet is funded by ads. The majority of websites that are not selling a product make their money from advertisers every time a visitor to the website clicks an ad. The rate per click is ridiculously small, though the most popular sites on the net can make quite a bit of money from click advertising. The trouble comes when website owners start defrauding advertisers either by repeatedly clicking the ads on their own sites, or by writing a program to do that work for them. Click fraud, as its called, threatens to upset the way content on the net is monetized. If advertisers stop trusting the results of ads on the internet then all the sites that are free now may have to start charging for their content.
Remember when we all thought that the new millennium was going to destroy all computers all over the world? Really we should have realized that any good series of tubes couldn't be destroyed by a few out of place numbers. No we've got far more to worry about from crazy senators from Alaska and Power 104 playing our favorite songs.