Last night's BBC documentary The Virtual Revolution, available on iPlayer now, is exactly typical of all internet documentaries I have seen, from the generic title (pick one of "The Digital", "The Cyber", "The Virtual" and one of "Revolution", "Renaissance", "Tomorrow" etc.) to using "web" and "internet" interchangeably, to cutting to shots of computer screens showing something internetty, like repeatedly typing www.com into a browser's address bar (it is a valid domain, but it is enormously more likely to be typed through incompetence), to the intentionality ascribed to the entire edifice, which, they alleged, was deliberately designed to democratise everything ever.
In fact the only unusual thing was the omission of make-up to blend Aleks Krotoski's blush red nose into the rest of her face. I don't mean to be personally insulting to Krotoski – if my nose was coming out bright red on camera I'd want the production team to address it.
The story was woven into a history of the internet as told by "key players and pioneers" including Sir Tim, Youtube, Wikipedia and Arianna Huffington of frequently alt-med promoting rag HuffPo, thus neatly side-stepping the role of the millions of faceless bloggers and web users who pump content into the web and Web 2.0 sites and who are in truth responsible for what the web is today.
Actually, I say sidestepping – blogs were mentioned.
The world of blogging is going through a crisis. Of the more than 130 million blogs active since 2002, it's estimated that over 90% are now dormant.
Ok, a lot of people set up blogs and stop posting to them. But ignore that: what they've reversed here is the fact that there are 13 million active blogs on the web. That is a HUGE number. That means there is one active blog for every 130 Internet users.
Youtube in particular is noteworthy only for being the most popular video distribution site. As a site neither pioneering or unique, you wonder how their CEO's opinion could possibly be more valuable than that of it's more popular video bloggers. Incidentally, unlike many sites, such as Facebook, there's almost no drawback to switching to a competitor, such as Vimeo.
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, on the other hand, is truly visionary. Nobody would have thought a wiki could scale to the size of an encyclopaedia and beyond without its quality suffering a lot more than Wikipedia's actually does. The result is the most useful site on the Internet outside of Google. Wales did not, of course, invent the wiki or prove the wiki concept itself.
But the main thing this programme gets wrong is simple definitions. The whole episode laments the fact that the internet was supposed to be democratic, but they claim it isn't because everyone uses Facebook, or Youtube, and sites like HuffPo get more traffic than your average blog. The word oligarchy was used.
Wrong. People can choose which websites to use or not use. Remember Myspace? Owned by News Corp, one of the world's biggest media companies? What happened to that? I suppose, as oligarchs, they must have decided for us that we weren't going to use it any more, right?
I won't bother with the rest of the series.