Welcome to Web Hell

by David Vest

Practically every major mainstream web site I like to visit has gotten significantly worse over the past few months.

By worse I mean slower, uglier, more cumbersome, more likely to be down, and more intrusive.

Even trusty old Yahoo, long known for speed and simplicity, is noticeably slower. Worse, like many other sites, Yahoo now opens a second, unwanted, browser window whenever I go there, which I have to close before I can read the news.

I have no idea what is in this second window. I refuse to look at it. So far, not one word of text, not one image has registered in my consciousness.

But I am pretty sure it is nothing I want to see.

Even newsgroups have become minefields. They are full of devastating traps for the unwary. You click on a header to download an innocent-looking message. You quickly discover that not only have you opened a new browser window that very much doesn’t want you to close it, you have also detonated an infernal graphics-laden program that won’t go away. Opening the browser means you have ingested “cookies” that tell whoever dropped this “smart bomb” who you are and what sites you visited lately, and who’s dumb enough to click on this message twice.

A short while later you will of course begin to receive e-mails from these fiends. Opening the message (or just seeing it in the preview window) opens a hard-to-close browser window that in turn opens a program that in turn … etc.

Sometimes the e-mail contains an “opt out” link, inviting you to click and remove yourself from the mailing list. Usually, clicking on this link does nothing but inform your tormentors that your e-mail address is indeed valid. This information encourages them to send you more spam and to sell your e-mail address to other spammers.

If you have a slow Internet connection, you are essentially immobilized. If you have broadband, as my brother Mike has observed, you have basically just bought the ability to download the spam faster. Not to mention the Bots and Spiders.

It’s enough to make you sorry you ever went online.

All you ever wanted in the first place was quick access to what the tech industry contemptuously regards as “content.” You look at “content” as “what I want.” They look at “content” the way home-building contractors look at the foam insulation they spray between the walls of attics with big hoses.

It’s as though the whole idea was to use our own technology against us.

That what-you-are-looking-for is what-you-in-fact-want seems never to have occurred to these people. Simply giving it to you is much too modest an undertaking for their grandiose dreams of stock options and mergers. It’s true even on subscription sites where big companies sell data to each other. To look at the information they’ve already paid for, they make each other watch inane Flash presentations, then download tons of JavaScript and bizarre graphics (you’d think they were selling graphics or licensing the right to watch menus load).

What’s next? Mandatory corporate beeper implants? Contact lenses that show commercials? Free hearing aids for people willing to listen to jingles all day? Guide dogs for the blind that lead only to the Outlet Mall?

Communicable computer viruses that can jump the gap from machines to people, the way Ebola jumped from monkeys to human beings?

The web will soon be worse than magazines. (You are in the doctor’s office. You select a magazine. Three or four loose cards and inserts fall out. You have to pick them up and do something with them. Finally, you locate the Table of Contents — and that’s not easy. There is an article you find inviting, on page 71. Try finding page 71. After page 70 come pages and pages of ads. You flip through these and find page 132 but not page 71. Perhaps you made a mistake. You go back to the Table of Contents. Muhahahaha! Just try to find it again!)

My theory is that this spammeling of America all started in department stores, on the day someone decided that leaving you a direct path from the entrance to the escalator (or to whatever you wanted to look for) was bad business. “We have pampered these people long enough,” someone must have said. “Let them enter the labyrinth.”

My fear is that what we are seeing on the web, in stores, in magazines, on CNN, with its frantically jumbled screen, is merely the reflection of what has happened to our politics, our public policy, our very lives, where the simple search for a direct path has led us, finally, somehow, to Afghanistan. CP

David Vest is a writer, poet and piano player for the Cannonballs. A native of Alabama, he now lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit his webpage for samples of the Cannonballs’ brand of take no prisoners rock & roll and other Vest columns: http://www.mindspring.com/~dcqv

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece