Could the internet disappear within 20 years?

From a Quora answer I just made :
The protocol will still exist.
But there is now a real danger that “the internet” will have been successfully enclosed by private corporations.
What will that look like?
1. the end of net neutrality means that the phone companies / network providers can choose to prioritise packets from certain companies / services. They start to demand a premium from popular services.
2. most people don’t notice or care because they only use a few popular services anyway : Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Pinterest, Netflix etc. These large corporations complain but start to pay the premium to be first class citizens. Packets from other services / web-addresses get deprioritized.
3. the commercial Content Delivery Networks probably play a role here. Basically anyone who wants to provide content to the public will need to go via a CDN because they’ll be the ones cutting the deals between the phone companies and any company smaller than Facebook and Google. That’s probably how Quora and Pinterest etc. will keep going.
4. Meanwhile, governments will continue to try to reassert control over internet content. In the name of clamping down on piracy, pornography, fake news, terrorism, online harassment, illegal crypto-currencies etc. they’ll start putting more pressure on online services to police their content. Facebook and Google will be increasingly required to co-operate. Smaller services will find they need to be vetted to get onto the CDN.
5. Also networking “hardware” is increasingly moved into software. Routers become generic boxes whose protocols are just software configuration.
6. Finally, phone companies, CDNs and router companies figure out some “improved” protocols which make the shaping and inspection of traffic more efficient. Stripped of the need to route generic packets from anywhere to anywhere, this new infrastructure, brought through a software update, is sold to the consumers as an “upgrade”.
7. By now, consumer IP is dead. Email protocols stop working. (Google and other “web-mail” providers arrange an alternative that looks the same but works over the new protocol. Or perhaps integrates directly with other messaging providers.) Communication is via Facebook and Twitter which work on the new protocol. Other P2P protocols that rely on IP also stop working. No more bittorrent, btsync, syncthing, webrtc etc.
IP survives as a “legacy system” for corporate users of course. Too many large companies still depend on it. But it will now be expensive, like most “enterprise” kit.
Within 20 years, we’ll find that the remaining “free” internet, where any ordinary person can hire a web-server and put up their own content independent of any of the major corporations or systematic government oversight is reduced to a tiny minority of hobbyists like amateur radio. Most people never access it or even know of its existence.
If you don’t like this scenario, NOW is the time to do something about it.
Not just do what you can to defend net-neutrality, but start to use the free / peer-to-peer, open protocols that we still have. Run your own web-site or blog. Use RSS to share content. Use webrtc to do your video conferencing, and bittorrent to share legitimate files. Do what you can to make sure that there is just too much demand and usage of the open protocols and internet that the large corporations can’t afford to try to switch it off because they know they’ll be losing too many customers.
Once most people aren’t using the internet, taking it away becomes easy.

Restraining Bolts

Today I’m being driven crazy trying to print out FiloFax pages on an HP printer.

Although I’ve created a PDF file of the right size, I have the right size piece of paper, and I’ve set up the paper-size in the print-driver, the printer is refusing to print because it detects a “paper size mismatch”.

A quick look through HP’s site reveals a world of pain created by this size-checking-sensor which can’t be over-ridden. People are justifiably pissed off.

What’s striking is that this is a problem that didn’t exist previously. There are many accounts in this forum of people who, on their older printers, happily used incorrect page-size settings in the driver, with odd-sized paper, and just got their job done.

HP by trying to add “smartness” to their product have made it less usable. This is such a common anti-pattern, engineers should be taught it in school : the more smart-constraints you add to a product, the more likely you are going to disempower and piss-off the edge-cases and non-standard users.

Recently I wrote a Quora answer which I brought to ThoughtStorms : MachineGatekeepers . I worried for people who didn’t know how to navigate technological problems in a world where we’re encaged by technology.

But I have an even greater worry. The road to hell is paved with “helpful constraints” added by idiots. And we’re all suffering as technologies which, with a pinch of know-how or intuition we could bend to our will, become iron cages. It’s no good knowing how to google the FAQ or engage with tech. support when HP support is effectively non-existent.

The most disturbing thought here is that BigTech knows this, and increasingly takes away our freedom with one hand and sells it back to us on the other. If enough people complain that their HP won’t print on FiloFax pages what’s the most likely result? That HP release a fix to disable the page-size-sensor? Or that they’ll just release a new printer model which also handles FiloFax paper but is otherwise equally restricted?