Years ago, someone put up a funny little web page that claimed to be the final web page on the internet. The page is located at http://hmpg.net, and according to whois, it was first registered in 2001. It doesn't seem to have been updated much, if at all since that time: it has a basic html format with a single image, and no scripting or flash animations. The page gently suggests that after having exhausted the internet's possibilities, that the viewer take some time to go outside, say hello to their family, and plant a tree. It also includes a humorous mock Internet Explorer dialog box showing the internet being downloaded to the hard drive, which, even in 2001, was a ridiculous notion.
At the time it was made, and at the time I first saw it (probably not long after its creation), it seemed like a small joke, and perhaps that is what it is. But I wonder if we can really say that the internet has ended, and at the expense of crossing the high and the low with nothing but the coincidence of a name, I wonder if the idea of "The End of the Internet" can be compared with the idea of "The End of History".
At the risk of giving a thumbnail version of something that I have only done cursory research on, "The End of History" was a view developed by Francis Fukuyama, a sociologist employed by (amongst others) The RAND Corporation, that stated that liberal democracy and late capitalism had solved the dialectic of history: that the big issues of social and economic organization had been solved, and that what remained was a mopping up operation of sorts. Events would continue to happen, but history itself had reached an equilibrium.
The Internet as a technological tool is still here. But it could be that, as a sociological phenomenon, we have witnessed the end of the internet. To continue the analogy to "The End of History", the Internet, as a social phenomenon, had its own dialectics. My first guess about what drove the dialectic of the early internet was the contrast between public and private, and by extension, between the exoteric and the esoteric. At the time that the internet came to widespread use (1996-2003, let's say), there were many things that there were no public channels to talk about. One of the most obvious examples is sexual preferences and practices, which when they were addressed in the mass media were usually treated with a matter of either titillation or reprobation, depending on the outlet doing the analyzing. The internet allowed people to discuss, and put into a semi-public domain, lifestyles that would have at one time been invisible. It is an interesting thought experiment to see how homosexuality would be viewed in a world that never had a widespread adoption of the internet. But sexualities are just the most example: every other lifestyle, from veganism to paganism, and every other hobby, from cosplay to composting, that would have at one time been filtered through a "public" media, was able to be expressed by its actual participants. At the same time as the early internet made private and esoteric things public and exoteric, it often required anonymity, of a sort. Before 2003, much discussion over the internet was done through handles or aliases and (by extension) personas. This site's habit of doing so, which now seems quaint, was par for the course at the time it started.
Now, in 2015, many of these lines have become to blur. Most of the public has a Facebook account. People use their real names and public personas to discuss things that would have at one time been only discussed between the initiated. Lifestyle choices that would have, a decade or two ago, been taboo or at least not for public discussion are now shared along with other forms of consumer behavior. And part of this own site's decline might be due to the fact that it has won: in a world where a wider range of opinions and attitudes are allowed, the type of structured creation of alternative and diverse viewpoints this site encourages are no longer necessary. We have reached, perhaps, the End of the Internet, and while (just as in the End of History), events will continue to happen, the underlying dialectic has been solved. All that remains now is funny pictures of cats and games where you click on colorful shapes.
At least for me, there are some things I still can't quite express on the public internet. This is not always a matter of having a wildly radical or confrontational view. Perhaps I can't really explain why what I think and feel doesn't fit into the prevailing, public culture, and in a way, the inability to explain is proof that it doesn't fit in. I feel that, despite the seemingly wider acceptance that the public culture has given different lifestyles and viewpoints, that there are still feelings and experiences that it will censor, that in some way challenge it to another continuation of the dialectic. And for that reason, I will continue to write here, and on other parts of the internet that have not been converted to the public culture.