Monday, July 02, 2007

The Seven Wonders of the Internet

The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had. ~Eric Schmidt

I have the pleasure of being a member of the Buzzblog Brigade, otherwise known as Paul McNamara's mailing list. Mr. McNamara has been writing a column for Network World for quite some time and also produces a blog. Some time ago, he asked the readership if we would be interested in joining a band of opinionated people who might be willing to offer comments from time to time on some subject of his choosing. His most recent topic was inspired by the about-to-be-newly-minted Seven Wonders of the World. He asked us to suggest what might be the Seven Wonders of the Internet.

Of course, I had a brain freeze the day he sent out that request, so I was only able to come up with six. Somewhat surprisingly, five of my choices were included in the Big Seven. If you want to see my original comments, check out the to the Buzzblog. I've made some further observations below.

  1. The Google Search engine – Barely a day goes by that I don't say to someone, "Google is your friend." I'm not talking about Google's philosophies or dominance. Google searches, for all the complaining some folks are doing, are still the best way to find something. Those of us who started out using Gopher to find technical articles on Microsoft's or Novell's web sites simply adore Google.
  2. Blogging software – Mr. McNamara kind of fudged this one. He included a wide variety of sites, including and His point is that there is a web site for every conceivable interest. There is also an incredible mass of information out there, as well as an equal (probably larger) mass of misinformation. But, it's all out there because it's gotten so easy to do.
  3. On-line shopping – This was never going to work. Except that it did, big time. Everyone has an explanation, but I can offer the simplest. If you need a transverse belt for your 10-year-old riding mower, you'll never find one at the local repair shop. But you'll find 10 places online that can supply it--and they'll do it for a lower price.
  4. Spam – I was serious when I proposed this one, but I was still surprised when it made the list. But why not? Over 90% of all e-mail is spam; an entire industry has sprung up to try to stop it. It affects virtually every user by filling his/her inbox and the tech types by slowing their networks. That's serious impact.
  5. The Domain Naming System – I thought this would be number one. Can you imagine have to learn an IP address for every web site you visit? Not only is it indispensable, it has proved to be incredibly durable--except for when it's own handlers mess up an update.
  6. Usenet – This made the "Honorable Mention" list. I've written at length before about the Usenet and how much I miss it. But the Usenet was there before there was anything else. In a way, it's what got the whole Internet show rolling.
I never thought of GPS (which is ranked number 7 on the list), which is funny considering how much science has become dependent on it. Archaeologists, paleontologists, geologists, volcanologists, you name the discipline, they're using GPS to determine where something is, where it's going, and how long it's taking to get there.

The extent of my brain freeze shows when you realize I failed to mention e-mail. In my organization, I think every file and data server could crash, but, so long as e-mail continued to function, I wouldn't hear a word. But, let me do two minutes of maintenance on the mail system, and the phone lights up.
My fellow admin was quick to remind of that oversight when I showed him this list.

Interestingly, the Brigade was once asked if we had to give up the Web or e-mail, which one would we dump? The answer may surprise you.

Oddly, though, except for one tangential reference, one major contributor to the success of the Internet didn't make the list. My fellow admin was also quick to point this one out: Pornography. While some of us were gophering Microsoft, a lot more were finding sites just chock full of naughty pictures. Those site owners were the people who pioneered online commerce in a big way, as well as pushing the envelope on streaming video, among other technologies.
Like spam, it's generated an industry to block it, yet people find ways to get it. Before people were "Googling" (TM) and floating down, they were oogling

You gotta give the people what they want.


Anonymous said...

Hi John,

Seems you did quite well indeed, especially considering the rather chilly state of your brain at that moment. As for missing e-mail, well, we've all kinda come to take that one for granted, haven't we.

Thanks for being part of the Brigade. Another question coming soon. ... Paul (Buzzblog) McNamara

The Gog said...

Thanks for the compliment. The Brigade awaits ...