Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Internet Lies, Updated


Over two years ago, I posted a series of Internet Lies. Given the rate of change in the digital world, I decided to review the list. (Read the original posts here by searching for “Internet Lie #”.)

First, all those lies are still lies. All that’s changed are the numbers, e.g., more people are connected to the Internet. But I did find two whoppers, although only one is really new.

The one lie I missed was about speed. The speed they advertise is not the real speed of your Internet connection. What they’re measuring (and providing tools to prove it) is the ping speed.

Pinging sends a signal from a machine at point A to a machine at point B and returns it to point A. That’s the speed they claim they provide—and charge you more than fifteen other countries.

Pinging a signal tells you absolutely nothing about how much time it takes to upload or download a file between A and B. It says nothing about the average speed of this transfer.

Say your car can do 120mph. A five mile trip in town takes you fifteen minutes. That’s 20mph. Similarly, real-time Internet speed is what matters. (I measure mine for free with NetWorx.)

They not only lie about Internet speed, they lie a lot. Get your own tool and measure your real speed. Then try to get a reduced rate based on what they delivered, not what they promised.

The second, sneakier, bigger lie was not much talked about two years ago: The Cloud. The lie is there is no such thing. There are various clouds, but there is no one single “The Cloud.”

You search Google in the Google cloud, and shop at Amazon in the Amazon cloud. It’s convenient for Internet giants to pretend there is one Cloud, the same way they refer to one Internet. Both lies. The Internet you connect to in China, Singapore, or North Korea is very different from what you connect to here in the US.

This is no one unified happy Cloud in the sky offering candy canes and protected services. Among the clouds it is all-out war, and we can only hope the winners gobble up the losers. Otherwise the fallout will make us wish for Chicken Little.

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