Midweek reminiscence: Netscape turns 20

Well, it turns 20 in the sense that it’s two decades since it started: when did Netscape vanish from our lives? About an hour later. But let’s not dwell. Let Quartz take you back in time to what we used to look at.

Netscape’s graphical interface made the web accessible to everyday people. “This was the gateway to the early web,” says W. Joseph Campbell, an American University professor whose book 1995: The Year the Future Began chronicles Netscape’s rise. “It was a cool company with a great name. Netscape—back in the mid ’90s, it evoked this wide open frontier with all sorts of possibilities.”

Netscape changed the internet—and the world—when it went public 20 years ago – Alice Truong, Quartz (9 August 2015)

It’s amazing how something so ugly sticks in one’s mind this much. Read the full piece.

Rich kids use the internet differently

Well, they still have computers and phones and they’re glued to web browsers but if you’re a rich kid, you are using the internet to get ahead. And if you’re poor, you’re not.

Compared to their poorer counterparts, young people from upper-class backgrounds (and their parents) are more likely to use the Internet for jobs, education, political and social engagement, health and newsgathering, and less for entertainment and recreation,” Putnam writes. “Affluent Americans use the Internet in ways that are mobility-enhancing, whereas poorer, less educated Americans typically use it in ways that are not.”

Rich kids use the Internet to get ahead, and poor kids use it ‘mindlessly’ – Jeremy Olshan, MarketWatch (17 March 2015)

Read the full piece for how and maybe why.

Sunday read: the Internet knows when you’re depressed

How do depressed people behave online? According to a new study of college students with depressive symptoms — recently described by its authors in the New York Times — they compulsively check email, watch many videos, spend a lot of time playing games and chatting, and frequently switch back and forth between applications.

The Internet Knows You’re Depressed, but Can It Help You? – Maia Szalavitz, TIME.com (22 June 2012)

It’s not at all clear whether you do these things because you’re depressed or whether doing this makes you depressed or whether you’re really just trying to get those crumbs out of your keyboard. And I have to think that chatting is a good thing. But read the full piece, would you?

Søren Kierkegaard nails it about internet trolls – in the 19th Century

There is nothing really new. And nothing old that doesn’t apply today, at least unless it involves floppy discs. The invariably interesting and absorbing writer Maria Popova’s latest entries in her Brain Pickings site includes a piece about trolling and bullying – in the 19th Century, not the 21st. The crux of her article is this quote from philosopher Søren Kierkegaard:

There is a form of envy of which I frequently have seen examples, in which an individual tries to obtain something by bullying. If, for instance, I enter a place where many are gathered, it often happens that one or another right away takes up arms against me by beginning to laugh; presumably he feels that he is being a tool of public opinion. But lo and behold, if I then make a casual remark to him, that same person becomes infinitely pliable and obliging. Essentially it shows that he regards me as something great, maybe even greater than I am: but if he can’t be admitted as a participant in my greatness, at least he will laugh at me. But as soon as he becomes a participant, as it were, he brags about my greatness.

That is what comes of living in a petty community.

Why Haters Hate: Kierkegaard Explains the Psychology of Bullying and Online Trolling in 1847 – Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – (13 October 2014)

Just as I did, just as I’m sure you did, Popova sees the Ben Franklin effect in that passage. I have Benfranklined people now I know of it, I can think of people I need to Kierkegaard too.

But just as I urge you to read this one piece on Brain Pickings I’ve already read it so I’m off to continue my regular poking around the whole Brain Pickings site. Join me when you’re done.

The internet did not kill newspapers

Yeah, right. But not so fast. Matthew Gentzkow of Chicago University says they were dying anyway.

His full paper Trading Dollars for Dollars: The Price of Attention Online and Offline is restricted to academic subscribers and you’re not fussed enough but The Guardian had a look and says his reasoning is that we make three mistakes in our assumptions:

Fallacy one: Online advertising revenues are naturally lower than print revenues, so traditional media must adopt a less profitable business model that cannot support paying real reporters.

“This perception that online ads are cheaper to buy is all about people quoting things in units that are not comparable to each other—doing apples-to-oranges comparisons,” Gentzkow writes.

Online ad rates are typically discussed in terms of the “number of unique monthly visitors” the ad receives, while circulation numbers determine newspaper rates.

Several different studies already have shown that people spend more time with newspapers and magazine than the average monthly visitor online, which makes looking at these rates as analogous incorrect.

By comparing the amount of time people actually see an ad, Gentzkow finds that the price of attention for similar consumers is actually higher online. In 2008, he calculates, newspapers earned $2.78 per hour of attention in print, and $3.79 per hour of attention online.

By 2012, the price of attention in print had fallen to $1.57, while the price for attention online had increased to $4.24.

Fallacy two: The web has made the advertising market more competitive, which has driven down rates and, in turn, revenues. That, says Gentzkow, just isn’t so.

Fallacy three: The net is responsible for the demise of the newspaper industry. No, writes Gentzkow, the popularity of papers had already significantly diminished between 1980 and 1995, well before the internet age.

And, he finds, sales of papers have dropped at roughly the same rate ever since. He concludes: “People have not stopped reading newspapers because of the internet.”

Newspapers’ decline not due to the rise of the internet, says professor – Roy Greenslade, The Guardian (13 June 2014)

That looks to me like fallacy #1 had some work done on it and the other two were just chucked in with a so there.

John Oliver gets trolls working for a good purpose

At stake: the fact that you or I can create a website and people find it as easily and quickly as anything by gigantic billionaire-funded multinational corporation. The internet has always been a level playing field and that has been how it grew, it’s been how it’s great. But it genuinely is at stake.

Watch John Oliver’s piece about it on Last Week Tonight for exactly how and why. And then when you’ve heard him encouraging internet trolls to put their evil power to good, bask in the news that it worked.

Jeff Goldblum and Steve Jobs on connecting to the internet

Inspired by the video of today’s teenagers reacting to how the internet was in 1990 and also by how today is WWDC day where Apple announces something or other, let me show you two things.

One is the Apple way of getting online back in the olden days:

And then there’s this. This is the Apple announcement in 1999 when Steve Jobs demonstrated wifi. It’s now impossible to imagine there was a time we didn’t have this so, strangely, it’s also impossible to conceive how jolting this Jobs presentation was. As ever, wifi existed before, but as ever, you wouldn’t know it from how no other firm got us using it so completely.

Smart stuff from Gwyneth Paltrow at tech conference

My bad: I knew Paltrow is an actor, I didn’t know she is one of the people behind the lifestyle website Goop.com. Maybe primarily because I hadn’t heard of Goop.com. It’s got more about clothing than I’m interested in – look at me, do I look like I pay attention to clothes? – but there’s travel, recipes and also a related app with travel guides. And Gwyneth Paltrow just spoke at California’s Code Conference about the site, the app and much more.

According to Re/code, she spoke about anonymous internet comments and how it feels to be “a person in the culture that people want to harm”. Read the full Re/code piece for more but I was especially taken with this series of comments about the internet in general and Facebook in particular:

Facebook actually started as a place to judge women on their pulchritude or lack of it. I think it’s kind of fascinating that a company that’s so huge and that would come to define much of the modern Internet was founded on this objectification of human beings.

Celebrities, we’ve always gotten stones thrown at us and, you know, for good reason: We’re annoying. Some of us look okay, we look like we have money, our lives seem great. That may or may not be the case … Nevertheless, we get it. Or, at the very least, we expect that it’s part and parcel to what we do. Anyone in any field who has their head rise above a poppy in the field, they get their heads chopped off. It’s our human nature to feel that way, and to do it. … Everybody takes shit, it’s just the way it is.

Perhaps the Internet has been brought to us as a test in our emotional evolution. What is growth? What is maturity? It’s being able to experience an external event and creating the space within to contain that experience, to see it through the filter of who you really are, to not be reactive. To see someone in a dress you don’t like, and instead of writing from a username like shitebomber207: ‘Who does this fat bitch think she is,’ or whatever, even though you might feel that way, just stopping and saying to yourself, ‘I wonder what this image represents to me that I feel such a surge of anger?’ To love the Internet for what it provides, but to know it’s not real, and it’s sometimes dangerous for our development.

I don’t ever expect my venture Goop.com to contribute and advance the collective code-base or redefine social selling, though don’t count us out. But I expect us to be ourselves no matter what the reaction, to know that it’s okay to be at once irreverent and practical. … And above all, to not give a fuck if the Facebook guys think we’re hot or not.