I have been thinking more and more about the downsides of today’s Internet. While the “always on” and “24 hour self-service” are repeatedly talked about, I find on many ocassions where these claims either turn out to be false or worse a severe let down. It is interesting to think that sites like Amazon.com who cornered the online retail market with their innovations such as 1-click ordering and customer reviews now no longer mean much. In a sense, the Internet has become stagnant and I am not sure if this partly due to Microsoft not really investing much in Internet Explorer or that much of the Internet has adopted a “me too!” mentality.

The rampant rise of the commercial aspects of the Internet have caused the Internet to grow immensely since the 90’s, but the cost of all this growth has created a major problem of signal to noise ratio. If today, I go looking for some specific piece of information on how to go about fixing a computer problem, if the problem is too specific I will almost never find a solution. Google and Yahoo will try their best to bring up some results, but most of all the results will be junk sites with ads. What is worse is that when something relevant does come up you usually run into protected or pay-for-information sites. These are sites which once offered their information for free but then decided to go member-only. Lastly there are the old links which point to nowhere. All the search engines have build up quite a list of outdated pages which are no longer retrievable at all.

Disappointed By Internet Shopping

Remember when you wanted to buy something and the Internet was helpful? A few years ago you could type in the model number and brand name, along with the word “review” and find instantly some helpful consumer comments on said product. These days that same search brings up hundreds of online shopping sites that sell the product, offer no consumer reviews, and most sites cannot even tell you if the product is in stock or how much it will cost to ship! Just try finding a review for simple ADSL Router or an inexpensive television set, and you will be hard pressed to find anything useful.

For whatever reasons, companies have chosen to use the Internet as their cheapest marketing tool, and the idea that providing helpful information to consumers is most likely an afterthought. Today, most companies that do provide forums, censor them heavily or let them linger into uselessness. Independent web site operators are also guilty of pushing their sponsor’s products or wanting members to pay for access to their archives. In fact many new sites specifically entice participation, so that at a later date they can go commercial and restrict access.

The only exception is the personal blog, but even that is being invaded by the rise of “professional bloggers” and commercial sponsored blogs. All of these changes though point to a less useful Internet and a challenge to search engines who want to remain relevant, as the search results are becoming more diluted every day.