the interwebz – an exploration

This article is part of the series the interwebz.

I was astounded by an article that appeared recently in one of my news feeds.

The article incorrectly said that the internet was 25 years old in August 2016. This irritated me because it was published by Facebook – not in someone’s post, but by Facebook itself. Facebook is an organisation that lives in cyberspace, so we might expect them to know the facts.

I have also been surprised by some discussions with colleagues, friends and acquaintances. The simple fact is that many of us do not understand beyond a most superficial level what this thing we call the web is. This lack of understanding exposes us to manipulation and malpractice.

Consequently, I have decided to write a series of articles about the internet, the web – yes, they are different – and the attendant commercialisation, manipulation, misinformation and monitoring. I will exercise the notion of privacy, and how it relates to anonymity. I will also talk about how we are herded and tribalised by the things we do on the web.

Given my early career in AI, I will talk about that, and machine learning and the battle we face against algorithms.

Fake news? The dark net? Blockchain? These will be the subject of articles, too.

I will avoid giving technical detail on some of these topics, so I don’t end up in gaol. Whilst I will mention hacking, trolling, identity theft, anonymisers, and resources from the dark side, do not expect instructions on how to do it.

To return to the original point, we conflate the internet and the web. Simply, the internet is the infrastructure that the World Wide Web uses. Whilst the web is oriented towards human beings, the internet is mainly machine to machine (M2M) communication. Hence the term interwebz – a slightly disparaging term used by IT people to describe this common perception.

Does it matter? Not really, but if we want to know why some things are the way they are, a little knowledge of the background may help.

The next article will give a working explanation of the internet, its history and structure. It will also correct Facebook’s mistake.

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