Though the Internet had a breakout year 2006, it wasn't all birthday cakes and butterflies for everyone. Companies, institutions and philosophies came head to head every other day trying to exert some sort of control over it. And most of them failed miserably.
Biggest Internet Losers 2006
2006 is a year that will live in infamy for one of the world's premiere ISPs. AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham couldn't have picked a tougher climate to press his company's causes. Their causes were paper-thin and they paid dearly for it.
Troubles hit AOL early after the company tried to sneak in a per-email fee for bulk mailers in the name of reducing spam. Tales of a mystery press release put AOL in the hot seat as the company denied any intention of eliminating its Enhanced Whitelist. It wasn't a press release, just a "thought piece" the entire American press thought was a press release. The Goodmail fiasco got AOL dragged into the California legislature to explain itself.
Shortly after that hubbub died down, Americans learned all about "The Call," where a dissatisfied AOL subscriber recorded his nearly fruitless effort to cancel his AOL account. It became quite clear that AOL's efforts to clot its hemorrhaging subscribers were borderline abusive, and Vincent Ferrari wasn't the only one (not by a long shot) that received this type of treatment.
And then, there was the AOL Data Valdez. Careers were tanked at the AOL campus when researchers published the entire search histories of AOL users, substituting names with numbers. That so-called "anonymized" list was quickly shown to be not so anonymous as patterns were so easily recognizable that actual users were tracked down by the press.
More layoffs, a complete restructuring, and a free AOL emerged. But Netscape went down in flames. Ay ay ay.
After the runaway success of MySpace and YouTube, everybody looked at Facebook as the next great Web 2.0 acquisition. Yahoo, Microsoft and Google all reportedly made outrageously generous offers or were courting the startup founded by a young Harvard dropout.
But founder Mark Zuckerberg had trouble getting out of bed or postponing dates in order to negotiate. And then, after the most they could get out of Yahoo was a paltry $1.62 billion, Facebook comes down from space to say it should be more like $8 billion.
Why not take the billion, put it in the bank, and let Yahoo worry about it once it tanks? You know, just in case this really is a bubble.
Facebook, meet Friendster. You guys may have a lot in common one day.
With broadband access reaching nearly 80 percent of the US population, dial-up is on its deathbed. There'll be no more click and wait.
4. Free Speech
The most heralded of American traditions, free speech took some hits this year as a few Wild West bloggers abused the privilege, government's sought to regulate it, and lawsuits flew at it because The Man was getting a bit freaked out by it.
Blogs entered the American court system for the first time, putting bloggers on the spot for libel. Google was forced to censor search results to do business in China. Those with no understanding of copyright law but a lot of time on their hands, sent out DMCA notices to anyone who would speak out against them. Britain proposed a blogger code of conduct, which was unanimously rejected. And the US government outlawed even linking to questionable web pages.
With so much citizen media out there, the coming years will be the most challenging test of free speech in history.
The DOJ subpoenaed all the major search engines for their search records to bolster more than one government witch hunt. AOL leaked massive amounts of data, proving a chilling point about search records. The US government also wants ISPs to keep records on subscribers for certain lengths of time, and has a deal with AT&T to help the government spy on everybody.
Welcome to the first installment of the fabled Big Brother. There are eyes everywhere. Merry Christmas.
Whether you're a supporter of the GOP or not, it became abundantly clear in 2006, that the leaders of the Republican Congress weren't exactly the cream of the crop. In addition to gay pedophilia, outright corruption and bribery, and strange interpretations of national security, and mishandling foreign relations, their ineptitude was poignantly illustrated by veteran senator Ted Stevens.
Octogenarian Stevens was put in charge of writing 21st Century legislation regarding the Internet even though he had little understanding of how it worked. Stevens led the Republican charge against Net Neutrality at the behest of the telecommunications industry, at the horror of over a million grass-roots petitioners.
7. Net Neutrality
Though awareness and support for the concept of Network Neutrality increased exponentially, the construct intended to be the Internet's First Amendment still suffered defeat after defeat in Congress.
8. The Telecommunications Industry
It's interesting that all players involved in the Net Neutrality debate come up losers. But there was no compromise on either side of it. Just when it looked like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast would put the debate to bed, enough grass roots support popped up to delay it just long enough to get to the mid-term elections. Net Neutrality got a reprieve, and it's driving the telcos crazy.