I have a complex relationship with the internet. We have known each other since I was young and it was still finding its way, morphing from a unix based set of gofer sites into something visual. Before that, I knew my local dial up systems and multi-user portal systems and we grew to respect each other.
I fear, though, that my relationship is hitting some mid life crisis as the internet and I take cheap shots at each other. And I'm not sure what to do.
I remember the early days of sites like Mapquest. Looking at maps was fun but those direction...man, they were uncannily accurate! Directional signs were exactly as they appeared on the road and the mileage was spot on. OK, so there was the occasional mistake so I drove 15 minutes south before deciding to turn around because I was supposed to be going north and, no, the road was not going to magically make a u-turn to get me to my destination, but that was a one-time thing and I still loved downloading directions. But as sites like Mapquest got bigger and fancier, they forgot about me. Amidst the satellite pictures and reminders of "if you reach....you have gone too far" and the cute directions like "now swim 2500 miles" they have started giving out sloppy directions. Maybe it has gotten too big for me. Maybe there are just too many demands on its time for it to remember that I was there when it was just starting out. But I have gotten lost twice in a week while using online directions and I think that I have to stand up and defend myself at some point.
And other sites, like White Pages. When it was first around, we sued to spend hours looking up phone numbers. And when a reverse directory came out, man did we have fun. But that time is past. Now, I wade through oodles of redirects and ads and find that the system won't just give me the phone number. "Click here to get a background check" it pleads. What if I don't want the ages of the people, or their email addresses, but just a phone number. And I can't crawl back to the old stand-by, the phone book. Many have died out and others have sold out so much ad space that finding a number is almost as tough.
Search engines? I admit, I have tried out a whole bunch, rarely being loyal to just one. And maybe this drove them to keep reinventing themselves. But at some point, search engines forgot that they were supposed to be helping me, not advertising themselves. Won't anybody think of the children?
I remember looking in awe at the burgeoning internet and thinking of all it could do. VRML promised walks through stores with complex visuals and a fully interactive experience. Nothing. Frames, colors, java and its applets all promised that somehow, the same information which bored me as I lived my real life would suddenly be compelling and worthwhile when I stared into the unblinking VDT. Now, I hang on every page load (and often, so does my computer) waiting for something to happen, somewhere so that I can have an opinion about it, or click on something. Facebook has, through all its permutations, reminded me that my life is pretty much not that interesting and waiting for one of my friends to do something is like watching paint dry or water boil. Sure it is fun for the first couple of days, but eventually, you have a hankering for a sammich.
So internet, return to me. Remember me and your childhood days. Remember the innocence of your youth and remember the promise of the future. Help me love you again by doing something so wicked cool that no one saw coming.