hmm, I didn’t have a solid plan when I started this review. I simultaneously wanted to do a running list of “‘the internet’ thinks this, ‘the internet’ thinks that” and a traditional intro, body, rating, conclusion review. Unfortunately I had neither enough entries for that running list or a fully fleshed out concept for the traditional review, so we get a questionably coherent mishmash of both.
hmm #2…I scrapped the list I had when I realized how long the traditional part was. The list wasn’t very good anyway. Anyway, enough meta.
Notice those quotes up there? The ones around The Internet? Those signify that we’re not talking about the actual internet. Nope, we’re not discussing millions of computers, countless low-level hardware thingies that are probably made by Cisco, nor little understood software and protocols that link all of it together. In fact, we’re not even talking about the 750ish million people that use the internet. We’re talking about those people, the one’s that both provide and fuel almost every stereotype about the modern “geek.”
“The Internet” is almost a collective consciousness; the phrase “all your base are belong to us” means less than nothing to those not part of “the internet.” But those in that club thinks (or at least thought at one point in time) that it is hilarious. “The Internet” loves being first to know about something that’s become “pop-culture,” and isn’t afraid to hold that against you. In fact, here’s a disturbingly complete list of pieces of internet culture. Some of them never caught on with the general public, but some will look quite familiar.
The anonymous nature of participation on the internet (no quotes) allows for those who care too much about something that is inconsequential to spend time (hours, days….years?) and defend their work because there’s someone else on “The Internet” that probably is working on something just like it. These two people will hate each other and will develop fanboys, the offical animal of “The Internet.”
Because the internet is so unfathomably large, there’s stuff about everything. Without going into history, the type of people who were first using the civilian internet, were (standby as I stereotype and generalize)…well, let’s call them the type of people who had the technical background or interest to have the means and abilities to connect to the internet. Stereotypically (and accurately), these aren’t the people to have “mainstream” interests. I’m not necessarily judging what those interests might be, but needless to say, the population at large doesn’t share those interests. Being that college campuses were some of the first places people could experience what would become “the internet,” students with the interest and ability to participate in the internet made some of the first “home pages,” sites dedicated to whatever their left of mainstream interest happened to be. Combine that with the fact that much of the internet traffic was coming from other college campuses, a huge social network of young people who normally weren’t part of a huge social network developed. Before “the internet,” college campuses also served as larger-scale examples of the comic book store phenomenon, with numerous people with non-mainstream interests meeting enough people with those same interests to create a community where discussions could take place about those interests beyond the “Comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, and etc. suck and so do you” stereotypically presented by the “mainstream.” Members of “the internet” would indignantly mention that I skipped the discussion of BBSes, IRC, usenet, and other things that our readership wouldn’t care about.
Oddly enough, “The Internet” doesn’t really have much to say about music. Sure, there are fansites, but if one were to list influential music websites that are just websites, pitchforkmedia.com will probably be the only he can think of. I’d guess that this is because the world of music is simply too huge and diverse; genres are so monolithic that there can’t be a general-purpose site serving all of it.
Oddly enough, considering how similar members of “the internet” are, they have no central meeting point. That doesn’t mean there aren’t sites “they” frequent. Fark, sort of a weird news aggregator, serves as the general news-gathering device. To be fair to Fark, I know of no one, member of “the internet” or not, who didn’t get a kick out of it, at least during their first visit. If they want more scathing humor that specializes in topics of which “the internet” is conscious, there’s Something Awful. Both Something Awful and Fark have Photoshop contests; naturally the two subcommunities hate each other. Usually the Something Awful’s Photoshop efforts go over Slashdot provides computer news and some of the most frustratingly inane arguing about each and every story without fail. The Internet Movie Database, originally “property” of “the internet” is very much a mainstream internet tool and continues to be “the internet’s” definitive source for movie info, while Roger Ebert, the unofficial official movie critic of “the internet”‘s already high profile has managed to rise since “the internet” adopted him. His stance on video games turned off many, but there’s no widely agreed upon second place critic for “the internet” to worship. Computer hardware is taken care of by Anandtech or Tom’s Hardware Guide (or any of the dozens of other hardware reviewing sites). Aint It Cool News continues to be “the internet’s” movie site and, like SlashDot is famous for its attracting of relentless fanboys of particular movie properties. TheForce.net provides Star Wars news (an interest/passion among much of “the internet”). I’m sure there’s an unoffical official site for every science fiction property (I’m condescendingly including LOST in there, 411mania and insidepulse are popular (though both have expanded to cover pop culture and more traditional “internet” interests). Simpsons fans have The Simpsons Archive where you can find “episode capsules” where you’ll learn more than every wanted to know about everything about each episode of the show. Wikipedia and Google had begun as jewels of “the internet,” but Google has long since become the standard for all users and Wikipedia, for better-or-worse, is in the process of becoming the standard for informal research (and formal research by those that don’t realize that an encyclopedia that has a more detailed entry for the Green Lantern than for the Watergate scandal might not be the best source of information).
The above wasn’t an all-encompassing tour of the popular destinations, but that’s a lot of them; each category could have more added and I glossed over some categories (such as shock sites, so it’s your own fault if you see something in three clicks that you wish you hadn’t).
“The Internet” receives two-and-a-half stars not due to its interests, but due to its attitudes. The ending of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back really captured the whole concept, with two guys previously unfamiliar with the idea of the internet going after (and beating up) everyone that trash talked them on a movie website, not unlike Aint It Cool News. Aside from the fact that much of “the internet” has become used to anonymous, consequence-free trash talking, the significance is that the “mainstream” still doesn’t understand the whole community, why anyone would visit, much less create, comment, or contribute to a websites devoted to, of all things, Star Wars action figures or the intricacies behind how the episodes on the Simpsons DVD’s aren’t 100% complete.