Magazine article Newsweek

The Internet Is for Netflix and Pills; What Was Supposed to Be a Platform for Civilized Discussion Instead Became a Way to Spend Hours Watching Porn and Bingeing on TV

Magazine article Newsweek

The Internet Is for Netflix and Pills; What Was Supposed to Be a Platform for Civilized Discussion Instead Became a Way to Spend Hours Watching Porn and Bingeing on TV

Article excerpt

Byline: Taylor Wofford

In 1995, Newsweek published what would become a widely ridiculed piece of writing. It was a column by an American astronomer and counter-hacker named Clifford Stoll that predicted, among other things, no "online database" would ever replace your daily newspaper, e-books were too "clunky" to catch on with readers and e-commerce sites would never replace malls because they lacked "a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople."

Today, Amazon, the undisputed heavyweight champion of e-commerce, is worth $250 billion. It bought The Washington Post, one of those daily newspapers Stoll predicted would be unperturbed by the digital revolution, in 2013 for $250 million. (Full disclosure: The Washington Post Co., now the Graham Holdings Co., once owned Newsweek, but it sold the magazine for $1 in 2010.)

But Stoll's column gets a bad rap. Yes, he was wrong about almost everything, but his implied thesis--that the Web wasn't going to live up to the hype--was correct. What was supposed to be a platform for civilized discussion instead became a way for us to spend hours watching porn and bingeing on House of Cards.

Last year in North America, 65.35 percent of all traffic--the raw number of bytes sent back and forth across the Internet--was streaming audio and video, according to Sandvine, a networking equipment and software company based in Canada. (That's for only fixed connections, not mobile traffic.) Of that, Netflix accounted for 34. …

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