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Have We Reached the End of the Internet Age?

Dreams of a better Internet have evaporated, says Alexis Madrigal. How did we become contented with the same basic apps, all modified to fit ever-smaller niche groups? 

What's the Latest Development?


If you can remember all the way back to the 1990s, you may recall that integrating mobile phones with the Internet was all the futurists' rage. But after living in that world for several years, dreams of a better Internet have come to a sudden halt, says Alexis Madrigal. The Cloud and Big Data are extensions of old ideas; hardware development has mostly surpassed people's needs. Most of what we consume is essentially the same basic program or smartphone app, modified to fit a niche market rather than bold new computer innovations. 

What's the Big Idea?

Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest have all added slight modifications to an accepted way of thinking; the iPad is the a big iPhone. For this lackluster innovation cycle, Madrigal blames the standard start up business model. "The dominant idea has been to gather users and get them to pour their friends, photos, writing, information, clicks, and locations into your app. ... I return to Jeff Hammerbacher's awesome line about developers these days: 'The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.'" Why does it no longer feel like Internet technology is going to change our lives for the better? 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


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Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
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Russian astrophysicists propose the Casimir Effect causes the universe's expansion to accelerate.

Black hole accretion disk visualization.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman
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How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

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