Information in the Digital Age is the currency and the Internet is the Treasury which prints it.THe problem, though, is distribution. We want more information, and we want “richer” information at that, so we need bigger pipes to deliver this information which takes up more and more bandwidth. So we get our information, so now what? We suddenly want more. I found something cool about cephalopods on Wikipedia so I am going to look up more about a particular kind of squid, which requires more bandwidth than the simple query on cephalopods, then maybe watch a crappy B-movie on Netlfix like Giant Octopus vs Megashark because all this talk of the sea has gotten me wanting some crazy sea creature battle. My friend Thomas sees all the fun I am having learning about cephalopods and wants to get in on the action. Bad news for him, though, is that the doesn’t have high speed internet. Seeing all this fun I am having with fast Internet makes him decide to get faster internet.
And here lies the catch-22: faster internet breeds more users which breeds slower average speeds which breeds more push for faster internet speeds. The internet feeds into itself. The content that lies within it keeps people going back for more, and wanting more, and contributing more. More, more, more. Today we are only as good as how fast we can get our information. To get that information, we are locked into a certain internet speed. Being locked into that speed for long breeds contempt in users since they see other users adding more content and making the internet experience richer. But if I can’t load the page on cephalopods or watch bad movies on Netflix at a reasonable pace, then I am less happy and want faster internet.
This faster internet and richer content that we as producers, designers, and generators provide feeds back into the great system that is the internet and puts more demand on the system. What we run into the problem is that faster internet speeds also equate with bloated files, sites, and thoughts. We have the idea of cramming every bit with as much information as possible. Sometimes to do that we execute it well and avoid clutter and disorganization. Sadly, though, most of the time we just run into slapping more information on a page and say it is done. We forgot those with slower internet speeds still exist. Countries like those that are “developing” have the problem of slower speeds, which can lead to a high barrier for entry for those people entering the 21st century.
The tyranny of the fast internet connection is that now we are ruled by it and expect it to be there for us. The revenge is that the internet simply feeds into itself and creates a monster that we are unsure of how to tame other than throwing the glass of wine in our hands onto the raging grease fire. How do we avoid bottlenecks and the race for having more content? Simple: quit encouraging those sorts of behavior. Create websites that are just as streamlined. Have graphics that are optimized and not filled with extraneous information (i.e. crop down to what you need and size the image accordingly). Remember that there are still plenty of people who have internet connections so slow dial-up looks like a T1 connection. We shouldn’t be needlessly throwing away principles because we now have more room to fit in the new divan from Ikea. Our bandwidth doesn’t need to be clogged by just a handful of sites. We, as consumers and users of the internet, need to think about what we want to see in sites. Sure Youtube videos are cool but they are not always necessary on a blog. Bandwidth being choked by more people is a good thing because that means more people are potentially learning something or keeping up with an old friend or staying current on the news. Bandwidth being choked by designers is never a good thing because not only does it make everyone look bad but also shows our lack of restraint. We become more worried about filling up the space when we don’t even know how big the space is, yet we still do because we can. Maximizing one features almost always minimizes another that could have been good.