... The vanishing of a culture, and the way in which it hurts our future.
How Much Will YOU Pay?
A brief history of time. A couple of years ago, people started predicting the bursting of the dot-com bubble, the collapse of the advertising driven culture and the 'consolidation' of service provision.
Then it happenned.
We're living in the start of the aftermath now people - you may have your own problems solved, but the great unwashed masses are as clueless as ever. Can you see where we are going next?
For a long time it seemed like no one would ever be able to charge for anything. Everyone was offerring something for free to try and entice you onto their payfor services - and someone else would offer those for free.
It was a wonderful time to freeload in. And it is, pretty much, over. You can still find some free services - but they have so many conditions attached that it's hardly worth it.
So now the justification for charging isn't "Something you can't get anywhere else" it is, intead "This is reliable, and you won't have to notify all of your users every ten days that the URL has changed"
Of course, if even a few of the "free for life" services had honoured their contracts this wouldn't be a problem. But all of the redirectors are buying each other, and refusing to honour their old contracts. A few are going out of business entirely. "Lifetime" means "a year or two" online...
One of the big problem behind all of this is bandwidth costs. There is really no good reason for bandwidth to be as expensive as it is. Once you have a piece of copper, or fibre - it is practically free to use it.
The problem is that lots of people overestimated the future expansion of the net - mainly because these people were optimistic idiots. (It's doubled in size every year! It'll continue to do so!) And thus they put vast improvements in place, expecting to be able to pay them off with massively increased usage in a years time. Now it's a year or so later. The vast increase never came, and so they have to continue to charge high to try to make up their losses.
Of course - some of them tried to fiddle the books instead and went bust. Marconi, worldcom... But removing these people from the equation isn't going to reduce prices. Instead, with reduced competition, the low level providers can keep prices high. Which leads to hosting companies keeping prices high...
The final Mile
ISPs don't want to give home users sensible uprates. And it's home users that want the uprate. A small business only wants to run a website - with a few piccies and online ordering and some email. They may occasionally ftp up huge project files - but don't mind if it takes an hour (still quicker than fax or courier)
Home users want to run game servers, and voice servers, and shoutcast, and home video frameservers and ftp sites and...
So, what is hurting?
We are, slowly but inevitably, losing online creativity.
People who make small mods cannnot host them anywhere. (The few remaining free providers either throttle bandwidth per day to unuseable levels, or limit max file size)
Similarly, people can't create music, or videos unless they are already part of a clique that has bandwidth to burn. And it is hard to join a clique unless you are a part of it at the start.
And that means that this content is aggregating into the hands of people like GSI. Which is hardly a good thing.
There is an upside
Once you have paid the fees for full colocation - there is no way on earth you will be able to make money from that site. So you may as well share it out for free (or nominal cost)
Which does mean that we are seeing a layer of 'community' groups springing up again. Where before they didn't bother now they have a reason to band together. And small groups have a bit more shouting power than masses of individuals. They also aid the flow of news and new ideas.
Service Centres Need to Notice
They cannot continue to JUST target themselves at businesses - businesses don't see any reason to spend the money any more. Colocation and server hosting centres are going to have to aim themselves at home users.
One problem is cost - they cannot offer full guaranteed bandwidth to each of them. But most users are happy with the idea of sharing bandwidth, as long as they know who they are sharing it with (and can argue about it) and have lots of different centres they can switch to (so that if one becomes congested they can move to another)
Instead of "You may not use more than..." guarantees, why not "You will always have at least..." guarantees? They come to the same thing in terms of traffic shaping; but knowing that you will be able to use up the slack would be reassuring. Why not put the bandwidth monitoring tools online for the various users to see who is using their stuff - and arrange their own solutions?
The other problem is legal. Service centres are, for reasons of stupid lawmaking, responsible for policing the activites of their users. Which means that they don't want home users - who tend to pirate stuff left right and centre, or write rants that are libellous. Service providers do NOT want this hassle. The solution is to use service providers hosted in places like korea that don't care - but that leads back to the 'reliability' problems I talked about at the start. We need stable and cheap offshore hosting. Lovely. Perhaps something like uplink?
Taking to the Air
Eventually, I think, we are going to move outside of these constraints completely. Point-to-point wireless links enable the last mile to be the only mile. We are already seeing p2p networking taking off as a viable technology. The only bandwidth use would be your own - and forwarding agreements don't seem to be needed. The vast majority of people are happy to unknowingly run servers. Which is all an ISP is supposed to be anyway... Small group ISPs may be the way ahead. And group hosting is the logical step towards them becoming the standard.
The Final Cost
Let me put it this way. I paid out 100 quid a month to have a 56k connection to the net.
Now I pay 30 quid a month for DSL. That leaves 70 quid to pay for co-location. Being asked to pay perhaps isn't as daft as you expect. Everyone likes a free lunch, but no one really expects to get it, do they?
Watching talent disappear simply due to a lack of stable hosting is terrible. The real cost will be the thousands of projects you never even hear about because of it.
I'm not sure that micro-payments will ever be a solution to this problem. They would need to be invisible and automated and small. Perhaps once everyone is connecting to the world via mobile devices you could get away with it - and of course there is a watershed effect. Only once the content is the only content available will people want to pay. And for a hobbyist site, that is unlikely.
I think, in the meantime, you are going to have to give in and pay for a few of the things you took for granted. And if you do, please share your spare capacity with your friends.
In closing, vitenka.com is back online, with 256k uprate (and it seems to actually get 256k) and willing to mirror some of your stuff.
Encourage people to spread content. You don't want fileplanet to be your only source of games. You don't want msn to be the only source for new silly flash games. You don't want aol.
Edited by Vitenka at 2002-08-17 00:01:51