When I first got online about 15 years ago, it was a pretty wild place, both in terms of design and culture. There was very little continuity or uniformity to be found. And everybody was as anonymous as they wanted to be. Everyone who was building anything personal online was following nobody’s rules but their own. Many websites were vibrant and lurid and strange. And I liked it.
I remember dark sites full of bad poetry in luminescent green text. Other sites were like being lost in vast and lightless subterranean rooms. You had to feel your way through the darkness with your mouse, as text and images appeared, linking and luring you farther into cyberspace. Which generally meant more bad poetry.
Gradually, the template builders appeared, staggering from the subsumed ruins of Geocities bearing design sets resembling styrofoam cheeseburger boxes, and a new strip mall Internet began to take form. I lamented the loss of out individuality even then, having no idea how much worse it was likely to get. Because millions of people were poised to swerve – one foot on the brake and fervently gripping their pocketable, plasticized brains – onto the information highway, with no skills or inclination to make anything to represent themselves.
Now look at what we’ve got. A megalopolis of shoeboxes, over half a billion strong, with little creativity involved.
Wait. I’m not saying that everyone who uses Facebook should have built a web site instead. There’s nothing wrong with living in apartments that look like they were designed by bees.
Unless that becomes the only place in town to live, which I’m afraid is the trend. That would be bad. Where are the custom hand-built homes of the Internet today? Getting hard to see amidst the cardboard forest.
I miss the wild west manifest destiny days of the Web, with all its strange, colorful verbosity. And all the happy glassine metaphorical tubes of the Internets, ringing with clear, untangled anonymity.
I just did something I almost never do, I posted a virus warning to the general public, on the thoroughfare, to the camp at large. I mean I did it on Facebook.
I usually consider spreading rumors of viruses and spyware and such to be very bad form, especially if you’re just forwarding about something that hasn’t happened to you. Hoax virus alerts are just as common and annoying as real viruses. And such alerts are usually outdated, futile, or generally crap. But here’s the poop:
Last night, I dozed off in my chair, watching Letterman. I woke up at 1:00am and tottered off toward the bed, stopping in the home office to shut off the computer. There on the screen was an email from Facebook, saying there was a wall post to me from a friend. What the hey, I opened the email.
"Kyle, awesome workout video.. check it out! :)"
Sure, a little chuckle before bed, thinks I. And I clicked. Big mistake, which I probably would not have made if I hadn’t been half asleep. I thought it was just some innocuous Facebook app, to open a little video.
The next thing I knew, there was a download running. I tried to stop it, but it was too late. The toolbars on my Firefox browser changed, and my default search engine was changed from Google to Bing.
I finally got to bed an hour later, at 2:00, having been forced to reinstall Firefox, research default search, uninstall the new flash video player that had forced its way in, then run 3 different antivirus and malware scans. Some of that was maybe overkill, maybe not. They did find spyware had been installed on my machine.
Side note: As part of this process, I fired Microsoft Security Essentials. It saw the virus coming, claimed to neutralize it, but changes were still made. I don’t know if the AV program should have blocked those changes, but it sure seems like it.
So I got Panda Cloud Antivirus, which was recently acclaimed very highly by PC magazine. It’s free, and the interesting thing about it is that it runs in The Cloud. The virus definitions do not have to be downloaded to your hard drive. Which is cool.
I sent an email to my friend, letting him know this pretended or seemed to come from him, in case his FB had been hijacked.
This morning, I got an email from a friend of mine, saying I appeared to have posted the same thing on her wall.
There is no evidence of any of this in my Facebook account. So in reality, I don’t have a clue what happened. But I know this for sure:
Facebook is a dangerous neighborhood of the Internet, kids. Don’t talk to strangers, don’t accept candy, and watch where you step. It’s probably best not to go down there late at night, is my point.