Did you ever use the internet to find instructions on how to do something? While doing so, did you ever find instructions that made no sense or didn’t apply to your specific task or device with which you were working? Did you ever feel the internet was leading you down one blind alley after another? How frustrated did you feel after spending however much time trying to find the needed information, and were you able to find it at all?
Today, I’m going to ventilate my frustration about one of my pet peeves, namely internet obsolescence. It’s not the internet itself, it’s the presence of so much obsolete and useless information on the internet. As a case in point, just this morning my wife wanted to set up a recurring reminder on her cell phone using Google Calendar. Now setting this up should be something easily accomplished in a matter of seconds on an android cell phone, but it took us nearly an hour. Why? Because there was no obvious way to do it using the app on her cell phone, and when we “googled” how to do it we found instructions at a support.google.com webpage that didn’t begin to match any Google Calendar app we could find. We finally found a solution using the old “seek and ye shall find” method but, as I said, it took nearly an hour.
These days, I do a lot of research on the internet that I used to do in libraries. In the libraries I relied heavily on the card catalog to lead me to the information I needed. Today I rely on the Google search engine to do that. The library’s card catalog had one distinct feature that made a big difference in being able to find the right information I needed. Each card had the date of publication. The Google search engine seldom tells you the date of publication, and a large percentage of information on the internet is obsolete; especially information related to computer software which is changing at the speed of light. (That probably explains why the instructions didn’t match the software on my wife’s cell phone.)
To make matters worse, memory capacity has expanded at such a rapid pace that there is no longer the financial imperative to effectively manage website data (good management is expensive, memory is cheap)1. Huge, multi-terabyte memories have become so inexpensive that website managers make little or no effort to clean them out. Many websites have become the equivalent of infinitely large landfills for storing waste data.
Lacking effective information management and given the accelerating rates of advancement in technology, memory capacity, and information storage, the internet will soon become virtually useless as a research tool2 because of the overwhelming presence of obsolete and useless information. This is totally unnecessary and could easily be mitigated by simply imposing the requirement to include the dates of publication and updates on each webpage and document hosted on the website.
Why we haven’t imposed the requirement to post publication and update dates on all information hosted on the internet long before this is inexplicable. Why we don’t start imposing this requirement now is also inexplicable. It needs to be done soon or the internet will become useless as a research tool3 and nothing more than a sales catalog and a medium for gossip.
1 In 1987, working on a government computer, I purchase a very early1 gigabyte memory hard drive for $40,000. It was enclosed in an 18” standard rack mount chassis weighing a little over 100 pounds. Today, I can purchase a 1 terabyte microSD card which measures 1/2” by 5/8” and weighs less than 1 gram for less than $250. Soon we will see 1 petabyte (1,000 terabytes) hard drives on the market.
2 This is not the case for commercial use of the internet as vendors need to keep price and inventory information current. Failure to manage their websites diligently can be costly.
3 Development of the internet was funded by the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) specifically as a research tool in the late 1960’s. The first prototype was called ARPANET. You can find and interesting history of the internet at https://www.history.com/news/who-invented-the-internet.