Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two Internet trends

Two interesting events have occurred recently that demonstrate a new development in the age of information.  Facebook reached half a billion users and WikiLeaks released thousands of classified documents about the Afghan war.  The interesting thing about Facebook is the way in which Internet users have abandoned anonymity by using their real names.  When I first started using the Internet, contributing to Wikipedia or posting on forums I tried to be careful in only using a handle and not a recognizable name. However as time passed, the internet changed and as an Anglican priest I've become a semi-public person. The challenge is being open about who I am without letting it all hang out in a way that's shameful.  This is where the other development comes into play, WikiLeaks.  As more records, correspondence and analysis becomes electronic, the potential for that information to be accessed and released at a later date or to other interested parties increases.  In the long term even if you actively seek anonymity on the Internet, all your activity and information will be stored somewhere.  I think the long term implications of these two trends will be a sharper delineation between on and off line activity.  Paper notes, face to face conversations and areas without internet connectivity will become the hallmarks of off-line behavior and confidentiality. It's not that the on and off line worlds will become indistinguishable but that a sharper delineation will emerge.