Yup, soon it will be but a distant memory and those of us that recall the heady days will bore our children with stupid tales of things we never really saw.
"And then, about the time of Y2K, I found this email from Microsoft explaining why open source was evil. Yeah, it was at the end of October. Man it was cool."
"Mom, dad's, like, drooling again." (In the future we will all have American accents.)
No, I'm afraid the internet as we know it is doomed. Of course, this isn't the first time the internet has died, but this time is different because it affects me.
The first time it died was when the geeks were shouldered aside by the capitalists and blinded by the sunlight bouncing off their shiny suits and their polished pitches and didn't realise they were all talking rubbish. I remember Flying Pig and Boo.com and, best of all, Aquaria 21, a company that made fish tanks but which was branded as "dot-com" by the business press. It still makes fish tanks as far as I know. It doesn't even have a website ("Mom, dad's drooling again.").
The internet that the capitalist surge killed off was one of academics sharing information (usually text, of course) at astonishingly slow speeds. If you wanted to do anything unusual you had to write the software yourself, code your way into and out of trouble. Men were real men and bytes were sorely afraid. Baud wasn't a misspelling of anything to do with being cheerfully indecent and you had to know what you were about to get things done. Pioneers, early adopters, geeks tinkering under the hood of their PCs before taking them out into the desert to race them in the moonlight.
Gone like so much static.
Instead we got the razzle dazzle of corporate life. Amazon, eBay, billions of dollar bills hanging from trees like fat stupid wood pigeons waiting to be plucked. Boy were we plucked by that lot. Search for "what is the internet really for" on Google and check out the responses. My god but we're obsessed with money.
Thankfully, that internet has also died a death, replaced instead by a tentative and, to my way of thinking, really interesting internet that's about sharing ideas and information. Forget making money off the beast, this one's about education and enlightenment. You can find enlightenment online in any number of places and in any number of forms, but for me it's been about different points of view and true freedom of speech. Not just the kind of freedom of speech that lets me watch TV shows that tell stories in my language, but the kind that tells me stories in someone else's.
What is it like to live in Baghdad or what Canadians think of Americans, or how to make banana cake or what a Stealth scan is, or that lets me watch the trailer for just about any movie I care to name.
It's an internet where we've got enough technology to give us the freedom to do all these things and so much more without the political or business worlds being aware enough to curb that freedom. We can mix and mingle freely and without fear of anything more unpleasant than pop-up windows and porn sites that never close.
For all its faults -- and there are many -- it's an internet I enjoy because I like finding things out, regardless of the subject. I have learned more since I went online in a professional capacity six years ago than I did in the six years before that. When I think of that waste of time I am in awe at my own ignorance.
Sadly, the rest of the world is catching up with this internet. Laws are being drafted that relate to the net and our place in it. Business plans are being reviewed that will require us to pay to do the things we take for granted now. It's changing and soon it won't be recognisable as the place we grew up in. Perhaps it'll be more sustainable or safer or whatever, but I for one will miss the rampant freedom of being able to point my mouse and find things out.
"Mom, dad's drooling again."