Ten brilliant things the internet has done
The news this morning that Belkin has been paying people to write positive reviews on Amazon will inevitably undermine “user reviews” on websites, but for me they’re still a valuable resource – especially for areas where there aren’t any “professional” reviews to fall back on.
The thing is, you need to look out for the pattern of a real review as opposed to the one someone’s churned out for the sake of a few pence (or cents, in Belkin’s case) or – in the case of book reviews on Amazon – where the author, publisher or friend of either has posted the review themselves.
Anyway, to fight back against the inevitable backlash I thought I’d quickly write about ten brilliant things the internet has done.
10. Giving the public a voice
The internet has been the ultimate democratiser (a new word I’ll be sending to the Oxford dictionary folks soon), with the public being given a voice via everything from user reviews on Amazon (despite the shambles mentioned above) to blog sites that have the power to affect decisions. Remember what life was like back in 1994?
9. Spread BBC radio across the globe
I was listening to Radio 6 Music this morning, and was once again struck by how absolutely fantastic it is. Quite aside from the quality of the music and the eclectic guests (this morning, a master cooper from Wadsworth Brewery was explaining why he was looking for an apprentice), the DJs are actually there to talk about music rather than just inflate their own egos. And now everyone can listen to Radio 6 Music – not to mention Radio 4 – wherever they are in the world, so long as they have an internet connection.
I’m currently in my loving Facebook phase, having passed through the Barrier Of Irritation – thanks in part to sage advice from Lise (thanks Lise) about fiddling around with the settings to get rid of the biggest reminder/post spam irritants. And now it’s become a source of entertainment, whether via ridiculous comments by friends and colleagues or my own not-so-secret addiction to Facebook Scrabble, and very occasionally information too.
7. Built communities
Whatever your interest, be it building bicycle wheels or following Stargate Atlantis, there will be a community you can join to share stories, successes and tips. Compare that to the pre-internet world, where if there weren’t already a number of like-minded souls in your town – and one of them had the gumption to set up a club – then you were alone.
Something so ubiquitous it’s now simply annoying. But who’d go back to paper mail?
5. Created online gaming
As it happens I’m no great fan of online gaming – unless you count the Scrabble I mentioned earlier – but even I can see the mass appeal of playing against a worldful of opponents rather than just a couple of friends or (more likely) yourself.
4. Ended pub arguments
Although ending pub arguments in itself is arguably not a great thing, thanks to Wikipedia (keep that salt handy) and just the whole resource that is the web, you can now get hold of information in a trice. In the olden days, we needed to buy the Encylopedia Britannica.
3. You can’t lose your documents
Thanks to excellent online backup services such as Carbonite and Mozy you now have to try very hard to actually lose documents, while the likes of Dropbox and Live Mesh have solved the tiresome problem of sharing documents between computers that aren’t on a network. No more burning to CD, no more searching through piles of miscellaneous media to find vital files. Hurrah!
2. Made software free
Despite the best efforts of Adobe, Microsoft and Symantec, there’s absolutely no need to pay for software any more. The internet has made it easier than ever to co-develop open-source software, and we’ve also seen the advent of free software as a marketing tool – so get anti-virus cover for free, but expect nag screens for the full internet security suite. And to top all that, the lovely people at Google have made brilliant software such as SketchUp free as well.
1. Means I never need go shopping again
But my all-time favourite thing about the internet is that it means I never need go shopping again. For example, I bought two pairs of shoes online last night. And there really isn’t anything you can’t buy: contact lenses, books, holidays, organic vegetable boxes, music… it’s little wonder that Woolworths, Zavvi and numerous other high-street names are finding life tough.