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This isn't fun anymore

Angry guineapig courtesy of

This isn't fun anymore.

There was a time when the web was new, and you could wander among countless troves of information, read articles, browse products and services, purchase things, explore: all in relative privacy.

Soon adverts started tracking you, thanks to cookies: if you looked at a fancy mattress at an online store, you could be pretty sure you'd be seeing adverts for that mattress and similar mattresses for the next couple of days. Still, you were the only one using that browser and computer, so it was annoying but not dangerous.

Then smartphones and web platforms came around, and software-as-a-service provided by some of the same companies that want to sell you that mattress. ...

And don't even get me started about digital audio assistants you can command from across the room with your voice. And in the meantime, all sorts of other thievery and skullduggery happening behind the scenes allowed cookie sharing and probably worse. Facebook could track you even after you stopped using Facebook; Google wants to track your credit card purchases to show that online adverts offer value. And finally, the likes of Microsoft can't figure out if they'd like to offer you software for your desktop, or subscriptions to web apps - basically webpages with functionality that makes it do what Microsoft software used to do for you. And toys like Rokus and smart televisions are fully vested in similar web platforms like Hulu and Youtube, managed by big companies that share all that data too. The fact that basically every large store of consumer data has been hacked and relinquished to criminals, well that's another concern, but not the point of this little rant.

What a mess. I'm not privvy to enough of the details to know how to sort it out. Yes I do my searching on DuckDuckGo whenever possible. Yes I segregate my data. Yes I use ad-blockers. But is it enough? I don't know. But I do know what sort of stuff merits a snarky blog post:

1. I know for a fact that whatever products I browse via smartphone, nights while walking the dog, will show up at work again - on another computer, another browser, and another IP network.

2. I know for a fact that if I log into Google services to edit a Google Doc at work, the sidebar will advertise to me Johnny Test and SpongeBob episodes based on my kids' viewing habits on the Roku at home. And I know for a fact Google would desperately like me to merge my modern Google/Youtube user profile with a previous, non-Google user profile that, if memory serves, I used to watch some pretty non-kid-friendly videos back in the early days of Youtube. I haven't succumbed yet, but sooner or later they'll just force it on me in the name of offering me, cough cough, better service.

3. I know for a fact, that my kids are offered plenty of opportunities to watch videos about DEC VT100 terminal emulation and old VAX hardware - not as exciting as Spongebob, to be sure.

4. Lastly, I know for a fact that Ebay has connected the stuff I browse via smartphone while not logged in as a named user, with the stuff I browse for via desktop while logged in.

All these examples - and more I probably can't think of at the moment - are annoying, dangerous, and off-putting. The best solution I've come up with is the hard firewalling of websites using different browsers. I use Vivaldi exclusively at home now (Lynx/Links too; but they hardly count), as well as a Pi-Hole DNS blocker for adverts that keep spy networks off my browsers. At work I use Pale Moon for personal stuff and Firefox for work related stuff, and of course all the Intranet stuff still requires IE (thanks, I mean fuck you Sharepoint). And I don't touch Facebook with a ten-foot pole. But several browsers I use share the same rendering engine. It would take very little code to ... hmmm, nah, don't even think about it.

And yet, despite religious adherence to this plan, at work I'm seeing some adverts that look suspiciously relevant. Hmmm. That puts us one position closer to the final solution:

Abandoning the web.

To all you developers helping build this insanely intrusive, corrosive, abusive, technology: your every success puts the platforms you love one step closer to irrelevance. If people like me can't be sure our home life won't leak onto the sidebars of corporate presentation, or the recommendations of software our kids are using, we'll stop using it entirely. That would be one hell of a loss, when I consider how much enjoyment and use I've gotten out of it. But gopher is calling on port 70 over there, and it's advert-free. Go get stuffed.


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