Dispatch from the Super Internet
- 30 June, 2018 20:00
There’s a version of the internet that’s superior to the internet you’re probably using.
Call it the Super Internet.
The Super Internet is faster, more powerful, more secure and more private, and it offers modular features on popular websites that most people don’t have access to.
I believe millions of people, thousands of businesses and hundreds of enterprises would profit massively from having access to the Super Internet.
But they don’t have access, because they don’t know it exists.
That’s why I’m writing this column — to tell you that the Super Internet does exist, and also how to gain access.
The Super Internet exists right now. But understanding it requires a contextual understanding of the past and the future.
The internet past and future
Ten years ago, most people and businesses used the internet via a web browser, which existed as an application on desktop or mobile devices. The core model for using desktops, laptops and smartphones was the application or the app, with tasks performed inside apps, and all features or capabilities available to users to be found exclusively inside applications and apps.
Ten years from now, using a desktop, laptop, tablet, PC or wearable will be far less application- and app-centric. Operating systems will function more or less like Google’s nascent bootstrapped OS, called Fuschia.
Instead of applications and apps serving as the core focus of usage, tasks or strings of tasks will be constructed on the fly partly by the actions of the users, and partly by the intuition of artificial intelligence (AI).
What we now call features inside apps will instead be replaced by à la carte nuggets of functionality that work across tasks, contexts and even devices.
Almost everything will exist and run in the cloud, and any device will have available not only the tasks in process, but those tasks in their current state.
Single operating systems such as the future Windows, the future iOS, the future Linux and the future Fuschia will run on all user devices, from glasses to desktops — no more separate mobile and desktop operating systems.
User interfaces will be far more voice-, context- and AI-centric.
Most work will feel like a collaboration between individual users, ad hoc teams of other people and AI. Everything will be instantaneous.
So what is the Super Internet?
The Super Internet is the closest thing we have to the future I described. In a nutshell, the Super Internet is simply the use of a Google Pixelbook.
Wait! Don’t stop reading! This isn’t a fanboy tribute!
I understand that Pixelbooks aren’t capable of running heavy business applications the way Windows machines can or powerful content-creation tools the way Apple devices can. And Pixelbooks, while well built and elegant, are not as solid and brilliantly designed as MacBooks are, and the hardware/software experience is not quite as “perfect” as the MacBook experience.
I won’t talk generally about the well-known benefits such as security and Android support. And I won’t talk about problems such as battery life, trigger-happy touchscreens and the pen’s inferiority to the Apple Pencil. You’ve heard the arguments and read the reviews already.
The Pixelbook as a Super Internet machine is an alternative perspective, and one that needs to be considered by every serious technologist.
The Pixelbook, of course, is Google’s expensive Chromebook.
A Chromebook is normally and historically an underpowered, low-cost device great for students and octogenarians. The Chromebook platform gives you an almost disposable device that’s personalized instantly by simply logging into one’s own Google account. That user logs out, another user logs in, and it’s personalized for the second user.
Chromebooks run on Chrome OS, which is more or less a web browser modified to function as an operating system. More importantly, it’s an extremely “lite” and low-footprint operating system that can perform very well on cheap, low-powered hardware.
The Pixelbook, however, is very high-powered. The vast distance between the hardware of a “regular” Chromebook and the Pixelbook is often understood as waste. You’ve heard this sort of thing, or maybe you’ve said it: “Pay more than $1,000 for a Chromebook? That doesn’t make sense when you could buy a ‘real computer’ for the same money!”
There are all kinds of assumed reasons for this hardware “overkill.” One is that Pixelbook is the reference design for future Chromebooks that can run Android, Linux, Windows and Fuschia.
But another is that all that power on a “lite” operating system turns Pixelbook into a performance beast.
What most users know about Chrome extensions is that they’re great, but if you add more than a dozen or so, performance gets clobbered. So people have to be careful about how many they install, and also turn them on or off to conserve system resources.
The Pixelbook is the only device that can run dozens or hundreds of Chrome extensions without a performance penalty. And that changes everything.
On a “regular” laptop, for example, running the Chrome browser with, say, 30 extensions is likely to slow the browser to a crawl. Yet 30 extensions really isn’t that many, considering how many powerful extensions exist.
Chrome extensions might not seem all that exciting. In fact, they are.
Many Chrome extensions are “features” that are not trapped inside applications, but can be used across cloud applications, websites and tasks. This is a glimpse into the future.
You select a feature, then have access to and can apply that feature to just about everything you do. (In another sense, they’re not at all like the future, since extensions don’t work on the mobile version of Chrome. That’s because they’re not all universally applicable across sites and cloud applications and because their usage is not controlled or guided by AI.)
Wait, you haven’t told me what the Super Internet is yet
The Super Internet is the sum total of how the internet operates when you’re running a very large number of Chrome extensions. It’s a different and better internet, where all the normal complaints don’t apply.
On the Super Internet, you don’t enter passwords or see advertising. You don’t get tracked. Every page is HTTPS. And if you go to a page where your registered password has been leaked to the dark web, the Super Internet will tell you.
Cloud applications on the Super Internet are ten times better than those available to most users.
The Super Internet version of Gmail can send and receive SMS, do advanced mail merge, send recurring and scheduled emails, send PGP-encrypted emails, apply follow-up and due-date reminders to incoming emails, edit outgoing emails using HTML or Google Docs, block notification of senders when you open an email — the list goes on and on.
The Super Internet has social networking features most users can’t even imagine. Twitter, for example, is enhanced with auto-refreshing streams, one-button account switching, instant and automatic following and unfollowing, the ability to remove any component of Twitter, including promoted tweets, and hundreds of additional features.
Products on e-commerce sites are cheaper on the Super Internet.
All pictures are zoomable, one-button downloadable and instantly hideable.
When you’re on any given website on the Super Internet, one button push reveals all email addresses and Twitter accounts associated with that site or domain name. Another button saves the page in Evernote, Google Docs, Instapaper or Kindle. Another button shortens the URL and puts it into your clipboard. Another emails it. Another tweets it.
Sometimes the mobile web offers features and benefits that the desktop web does not have, and vice versa.
The Super Internet gives you all the benefits of the desktop web, plus all the benefits of the mobile app-only internet. You can upload and download photos and videos to and from Instagram, for example, use Snapseed full screen and do a thousand other things normally available on the mobile web exclusively.
In short, the Super Internet is far faster, easier, more powerful, more efficient and more secure than the regular internet.
All this is made possible by Chrome extensions.
This is a subtle and underappreciated fact: Anybody can run any of these extensions on any major operating system. But only Pixelbook users can run all these extensions without a performance hit.
Windows laptops are best for business because they’re optimized for business and run far more business applications.
Apple laptops are best for content creation because they’re optimized for content creation and run far more content-creation tools.
By the same token, Pixelbooks are best for using the internet because they’re optimized for the internet and run far more internet “features” (a.k.a. Chrome extensions).
Soon, other Chromebook devices will do the same. And eventually, all operating systems will offer the Chrome extension-like ability to run à la carte features across applications and workflows.
Pixelbooks aren’t for everybody. But it’s important to understand that Pixelbooks do provide access to a massively superior internet experience. And that’s no small thing.