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May 16, 2018

The internet’s problems haven’t changed in 22 years

A 1996 Wall Street Journal article that’s been quietly sitting on the web, waiting for its rediscovery and renewed relevance, has found its moment on Twitter this week. Though it discusses the contemporaneous issues and concerns of its time, if you extract the particular problems it identifies with the internet and apply them to our present day, you’ll find something disturbing: nothing’s changed. The core concerns that troubled us about our participation in online communities and services in 1996 are basically identical in 2018.

“Arguments continued over the use of technologies such as ‘cookies’ that collect marketing information as people browse the Web,” says the prophetic WSJ reporter. I’m impressed that in 1996 those arguments were...

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