I recently read a fascinating article discussing a study in which a male and female fly were placed in a small, closed glass sphere and given an unlimited supply of food and water. As the population grew, the sphere became so contaminated with waste and pollution that all the flies died. The experiment was repeated numerous times, each time increasing the size of the sphere. It took longer, but the results were the same: everything died.
Since the earth is a closed ecosystem, everything - including the Internet - must be a subset. Year by year, I've noticed that the Internet is becoming profoundly polluted, and if the industry doesn't figure out a way to clean it up, it will become a glorified game-playing, spam-advertising, sex-pandering, fraud-inducing chat room. Or are we already too late?
Too much trash. The Internet is continually collecting more waste products - specifically dead links and moved Web sites. Each time I run a search on one of the major search engines, at least a quarter of the returned links are dead. If the search engine administrators can't find a way to clean out the dead links, the search process will become so frustrating that people with deadlines simply won't have time to use it.
As millions of pages per day are pumped out on to the Internet, the art of finding what you want has become a lesson in futility. Why do search engines keep "advanced" search pages behind the initial search pages? Do they think that everyone initially wants to do a really bad search and pull up 3000 pages of garbage?
Every search should be advanced. Search sites should standardise the way Boolean searches work. This way, you wouldn't have to know the syntax of each search engine to be able to find what you were looking for.
Trash points to trash. Now that most ISPs provide the ability for everyone to have his or her own home page, the flood of poorly updated and managed pages is creating a navigation nightmare.
Worse yet are pages that have lists of links that point only to lists of other links. Where's the data? In the past, Internet programmers policed themselves pretty well. Now, just about everyone is writing Web pages and leaving them out there.
Corporate trash. My biggest complaint with most business sites isn't finding information, it's finding prices. You would think that if company B wanted to sell its products so badly, its Web site would show you all the cool things it sold, including how much everything cost. This isn't the case.
More and more companies are removing the suggested retail prices from their Web sites. Why? Because the Web is international. Foreign countries' value-added resellers are complaining that their clients visit the manufacturers' Web sites and see the suggested retail prices. These clients don't understand all the hidden export and add-on costs.
This practice has spawned yet another time-wasting fiasco: you can't do research and cost comparisons with other vendors, because they don't list their prices either. I wonder how many people would shop at Wal-Mart if they didn't list their prices?
Cleaning up the trash. Can the Internet be saved from its own pollution? Probably not. Like flies in a glass bubble, its own contamination will eventually lead to its demise. In the next 10 years, the Internet will assume a role not unlike network television. Serious companies and businesses will splinter off to virtual private networks, similar to cable TV, where each person will be charged extra for access.
The Internet as we know it will go the way of the typewriter, becoming a once-valuable tool that's no longer efficient or productive - a catch-all conduit that only appeals to the lowest common denominator.