Tuesday, May 15, 2012

License to Surf .. the shape of things to come

Internet Commerce, Presence and the Shape of Things to come

The internet has evolved dramatically since conception ... inception and I do not believe that the founding fathers of would have imagined it in it's present form. 

Like all things "free", the world has used, misused and abused the internet as it is continues to be a self governed network, owned by no one. Organizations like ICANN, IETF, W3C do their bit in controlling or running this worldwide network. 

When I started an online business in the mid-nineties, I realized that there are no taxes in cyberspace - the seller in country A was not selling in the domestic market so there was no tax liability... and the buyer in country B was buying (retail for personal use) from overseas so there was no domestic transaction ! Cool.. a lot of people made a lot of tax free money.

Email, tweets, networking, websites, graphics, content ... et al - everything is "free" on the internet. Or so it seems. We in India, and many other countries, are yet to face the whiplash of IP theft or have an organization like SOPA follow an IP address to prosecution and penalty. 

All that we pay for is internet access and once on the information highway, one just let loose. There are no rules - one site leads to another, check out recipes or people, post stuff online or make your sites. 

We are leading to an Internet which will be paid for and with the amount of wild west type shootings and lawlessness, pretty soon we shall have to have a "License to Surf". A license which will uniquely identify me and allow me to visit a certain set of websites. 

Governments are already creating tough laws to rein in the lawlessness and the new breed of criminals. Websites, service providers and law enforcement agencies are increasingly tracking every move / keystroke made online for their own purposes. Technology is advancing towards a more connected life, towards blurring the  difference between online and offline persona. 

ISPs are already 'shaping' traffic and can start offering 'bundled' internet access much like a cable service. Websites will consolidate services and will charge a small fee when you visit and this will be charged from the ISP - based on time. Emails will start costing money and so will tweets and social network posts - quite possibly the ISP will have to share a part of their revenue here too or pay an annual license fee.  

The "free" internet is slowly fading - there is an Internet Interpol proposed, international treaties coming up, international cooperation among law enforcement agencies, global takedowns and many other such related activities happening. On the other hand, botnets owners, spam-masters, cybercrime gangs and such criminals use free resources and cyberspace anonymity to wreak havoc on the global user community.

Maybe this will be a good thing because it will protect us from the paedophiles and other cyber criminals. A small price to pay for the protection and personal safety on the internet but a very high price when one considers the surrender of privacy and the 'freedom' of an unfettered cyberspace. 

No comments: