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Digital Resistance: The Story of The Alternative Internet

Once upon a time there was no advertising and fake news on the Internet, people discussed global problems and thought that they had found the perfect community. But then something went wrong. Screenlifer tells what the Internet was like in the past, why everything has changed and how alternative Internet will help reset everything to its “original form”.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

Tim Berners-Lee
Photo: Catrina Genovese/Getty Images

In the early 1980s, the Internet was small, and it could be used either by the military or by employees of American universities. Every user felt part of something terribly important, secret, and incomprehensible to most. He or she could not help but think that the virtual community was perfect.

By the early 1990s, the Internet had grown, and virtual communities were hit in the gut: their cozy world was intruded by millions of users with their own rules and habits. They could be completely uninterested in discussing global problems, but wanted to get free information or make purchases. In order to make the Internet a bigger space not just for communication with one’s associates, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau invented the World Wide Web. It allowed to create websites with pictures, texts, and hyperlinks. That is, today’s Internet adjusted for the prices and speeds of that time.

Beginning of the End

In a sense, the web gave even more freedom, because now everyone could make a website for themselves, publish their opinions, become an author with a capital A. But the more there were authors, the less there were readers. Pretty soon, posting content on the Internet stopped doing honor. It was necessary to make additional effort to be heard: exchange banners, invest in the website promotion, i.e. do everything that was impossible to imagine in the era of pioneers with their dreams of the perfect Internet.

That’s when commercial companies and the state became the most active players in the network. it happened because they were the only ones to have necessary resources to invest in the Internet. The Web pioneers, including  its creator Tim Berners-Lee, didn’t like the web anymore, obviously. They began to invent the new Internet — an alternative one, without companies and governments, like in the good old 1980s.

The Map of the Internet/Martin Vargic

Resistance Option

The alternative Internet is quite a powerful movement today, at least in the USA, where the Internet was created. “A new breed of informational capitalism sprang up”, say activists in the Alt. vs.Ctrl. magazine. Corporations and governments capture information flows, isolating the average user in their filter bubbles. The most dangerous of them are social networks that develop services, imitate diversity and keep a person within his or her limits, as in The Matrix movie.

The average user is threatened not only by state control, which became known thanks to Wikileaks, but also by big data. Big data leads to commercial or political manipulation and deprives users of their own voice.

Fighters for the Internet independence from corporations and governments are considering various options for resistance. They discuss, for example, a return to Community Networks, i.e. small communities of people united by interests or geographic proximity. Or, on the contrary, they come up with new web shells that are available to all Internet users, where they can exchange messages while staying out of the evil forces control.

Stuff in Space

Hacktivists carry out conferences and hold contests for the best alternative Internet projects. Last year, Berners-Lee announced that he decided to create a new, more honest Internet.

“The web has evolved into an engine of inequality and division,” Berners-Lee wrote. “It is swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.”

He spoke about his new project called Solid and finally noted that “the future is so much bigger than the past.” That is, those who want freedom have chances.

Solid has not yet become a new web, despite Berners-Lee’s high prestige in the Internet community. Fake news are still there, manipulations go on, the decentralization of the Internet is still far away. But digital resistance is growing too. Hacktivists have already come up with enough platforms and projects that anyone can use. But in order to find out about them, you need to leave social networks for a moment.

Natalia Konradova

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