What will life be like for Net users in 2004. Will the endlessly rising
tide of spam, copy-protection and user-pays initiatives significantly
change our online experience? Here’s one scenario.
It’s 6:30am some day in 2004.
The alarm goes and you rise from your bed to face the day’s challenges.
After a quick shower and breakfast you wander over to your PC and check
to see if any email has arrived overnight.
Hmm… 231 new emails but your filters say that 217 of those
are likely to be spam. Even though they’ve been dropped into another
folder you’ll still have to wade through them to make sure that you
don’t miss an important message that might have been accidentally sidetracked
by the less-than-perfect software.
Damn, it looks as if you’ve also received 5 new virus/trojan attachments
as well and one of them was 20MB in size — that’s another $4 on your DSL
Suddenly a pop-up dialog box appears advising you that there are 2 new
Windows Security updates that should be downloaded, totalling some 60MB in size
(another $12 worth of traffic).
You just know that downloading these updates will require you to reboot your
PC and you’re in a hurry so you hit the “cancel” button and fire up your
web-browser to check the latest news headlines.
Within seconds, the PC’s desktop comes alive with
pop-up flashing, animated advertising banners — but you’re used to this highly
intrusive advertising by now.
Another dialog box pops up, this time warning you that the license for your
copy of Windows XP2004 is due to expire in 10 days. It reminds you that should
you fail to renew your license (another $199) then your PC may no longer boot.
Fond memories of the days when there were alternatives to Microsoft’s OS
pass through your mind — but that was before the government realised that
software was like petrol — a totally essential commodity in the lives of most
businesses and individuals. Legislation was passed in 2003 that required
all software developers and vendors to be licensed and a 45% tax added to all
sales. Of course, much to Microsoft’s glee, this killed the Open Source
movement since being an unlicensed software supplier risks a stiff fine or
even a jail term and those licenses are incredibly expensive.
You type in “cnn.com” then enter the ID and password associated with your
monthly subscription. Remember when there were
hundreds of sites offering the latest news for free? Not any more. Sure,
there still a few, but they’re regularly hit with law suits by the big names who allege
breach of copyright. Although such suits are inevitably dismissed — the cost
of defending them means that the independent news sites usually only last a
few months at most.
Flicking the remote beside you kicks your digital music player into action and
you marvel that 95% of its computing power is dedicated to the sophisticated
digital rights management system it contains.
Following an unsuccessful attempt to copy-protect CDs, the recording industry
forced everyone to a new mini-CD format that has yet to be cracked (although
there are rumours that some Russians have succeeded). You just can’t buy
music on CDs anymore and the old CDR/RW media now costs $10 a disk, thanks to
the $9 anti-piracy levy that was introduced in 2003.
Another warning appears — “Your license for this recording has expired,
unable to play.” Damn — another $49 if you want to listen to that music
for another year. You wonder, if as they claim, these new measures
significantly reduce piracy, why music is now so much more expensive?
You type up a quick email to a friend, inviting them to meet you for lunch.
Of course you’re very careful not to use the words “bomb” and “aeroplane” in
the same message for fear of attracting the attention of the new anti-terrorism
police. After all, every single bit that enters and leaves your PC is now
scanned by the authorities — under the premise that it is in the interests
of (inter)national security and crime reduction.
It’s funny how they can supposedly detect even an unfriendly tone in an email
but they can’t (or won’t) stop the endless tide of spam isn’t it?
Suddenly your PC’s screen clears and the image of a naked woman in a seductive
pose appears. Oh no, more porno-hacks. Maybe you should have downloaded
those latest security patches after all.
For a moment a smile crosses your face — you’re thinking of the “good old days”
when the Internet was a much simpler, saner, safer place.
Then you return to reality with the realisation that it’s just 7:05am and
you’ve already spent $264.
News Service: Daily Aardvark