Wednesday 30 June 2010

The Decline of the Internet, Part MMMDIC

Rant mode: on. Some effort will be made to keep ear-steam to a minimum.

Internet Relay Chat (better known as IRC), specifically Undernet, was one of the very first things I discovered on the (then-)text-mode-only Internet, Over the next 20 years or so, I've gone through varying levels of activity (including writing an IRC client for OS/2, the operating system that brought technology to a marketing fight (as in, "bringing a pocket knife to a firefight")./p>

One of the changes that happened on Usenet (and other networks) when the Net started getting used by larger hordes of people, with varying intentions, was to institute some form of registration. You'd visit a bare-bones Web site (such as the one for Undernet, fill in a few items on a form, and wait for an email to pop into your inbox stating that your ID was active (known to the bot managing authentication on the servers). I'd used the same "nick" (nickname), JeffD for at least as long as I or my logs can remember (certainly before 1998), and formalized this when the channels I frequented (chiefly #usa) started requiring it.

Now, I (like to think I) do have a life outside IRC and the Net in general; I've been known to go as long as a year without signing on in Undernet. Not a problem; things Just Worked™, in almost Mac-like fashion.

Until today. I fired up my current-favourite client program (Colloquy, highly recommended); it connected to a random Undernet server (in Budapest in this case), and sent the customary PRIVMSG (private message) to the bot that handles authentication, with my username and password. Instead of the usual "authentication accepted" message coming back, I see "X NOTICE I don't know who JeffD is."

Well, blowups happen. I go to the Undernet CService page I mentioned earlier; it's a whiz-bang series of 7 pages now. I go through it, enter my desired username, password, and an email address that I can be reached at (the same one I've had since text-mode days), and am finally presented with this marvel of clarity:

Congratulations! Something went wrong. Sorry.

I'd bet heavily that the reason for the breakage would, on investigation, turn out to be a case of unchecked assumptions no longer being valid, combined with a lack of human management. Nobody has the time for community-without-a-pricetag anymore, and that in a nutshell is what IRC is

And, two hours later, I still haven't received the expected email. Feh.

Rant mode: standby.

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