I remember when the Internet was just freedom and porn and free porn.

Recently, Ethan Zuckerman, the guy who invented the pop-up ad, made a public apology for what his creation has done to the Internet. Probably the only person who can understand his pain is 20th-century physicist Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer famously declared that the atomic bomb’s first test, codenamed Trinity, made him remember the words of the Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” That pretty much describes pop-ups in a nutshell. A nutshell that, when you open it, causes a ton of other nutshells to fly out of it, stinging your eyes and making you regret trying to shell nuts in the first place. Zuckerman may be the only one with the conscience and guts to stand up and apologize, but there are many other people we think ought to come forward, hat in hand, and say they're sorry. We need to put their heads in the digital stockade (i.e. a moment of viral outrage) and then pelt them with decomposing refuse, aka comments. Here are 10 examples of people or groups who owe us an apology, big time, for all they've done to make the Internet a horrible place.

10. The creators of the free, open Internet, for letting us think it would stay that way.


Brent Rambo: part of a generation horribly misled as to what the Internet would be.

Every single second of getting free things online was the planet-wide equivalent of giving a kid on the playground a free crack rock. For the first 20 years of the Web, if you could pay to connect to the Internet, everything except LexisNexis was gratis. Sure, a lot of it was illegal, but only by the laws of meatspace. Legal sites like Hulu offered free network television where you could pay to remove ads. Even Netflix felt free once you had paid the monthly fee. This was a lie. Comcast and Time Warner will make getting on the Internet pointless if you can’t pay extra for the burden of transporting premium ones and zeroes from “premium” websites to your non-premium house. The legal sites were a bait-and-switch. Now, even if you buy Hulu Plus, you’re supposed to act grateful if you get any content at all between the ads. “Free” now means giving advertisers access to every detail Facebook has stored on you for the past decade—and a game marked “free” is guaranteed to be the most expensive of all. This is not the Internet we sorta paid for.

9. The first homo sapiens to develop speech, for paving the way for Internet comments.


The direct descendent of a guy typing 'show me your tits' as we speak.
(via& Musée de l'Homme)

There was a time, believe it or not, when the idea of everyone being able to share their opinion on a topic was seen as an unquestioned good. The marketplace of ideas would prevail; only the best and the truest would survive. Obviously, they didn’t count on Internet commenters uncovering Illuminati conspiracies, neocon propaganda, and lamestream media cover-ups on every single article from celebrity news to scientific research (just kidding—no one actually reads scientific research). The incessant flow of sexist, racist and misanthropic tripe wherever people can make themselves heard is a constant force on the Internet, like gravity in the real world. If you build it, they will call you the n-word on it. If you printed out a page of comments on even a boring news story, jumped in a time machine and went back to the Big Bang, shoved that page in God’s face and told Him and/or Her “this is what will happen if you press play on the whole Universe thing,” we could have avoided this entire mess.

8. Jack Dorsey and the other Twitter founders behind the blue checkmark.


I was worried I was talking to the cakes. Thanks for clearing my mind, Twitter!

If you ever want to make billions of people feel like nobodies, just invent a little symbol that will make a few select people Somebodies. Even though 90% of blue checkmarks are obtained via bothering a Twitter employee at a party until he or she gives in and verifies you, they are widely seen as totemic signifiers of personal importance. Here’s a conversation that could feasibly happen in 2014. “Hey, according to Twitter, people are jumping off this bridge.” “What, why?” “Noname Soandso said to do it. She said there’s a prize at the bottom.” “Who the hell is Noname Soandso?” “I dunno, but she has a blue checkmark.” “Race you theeeeeeeeeeerrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…..”

7. Kim Kardashian.


By looking at this, you somehow gave Kim $10.

Any time you make a list of 10 people who ruined things, you’re pretty safe slapping Kim Kardashian on there. Most people assume this is because she sucks, but I think she should get off the Internet because of the mercy rule—she is kicking our skinny asses out here. While her sex tape was initially stolen and sold to porn juggernaut Vivid, Kim received at between $3-5 million following a lawsuit. Every time someone masturbated to Kim Kardashian and Ray J, they shook out a few coins directly into Kim’s pocket. Instagram is practically an extension of Calabasas at this point, in that everywhere you look there are fucking Kardashians. Even the woman who is only famous for showing her butt on Instagram still has a less-famous Instagram butt than Kim Kardashian. Finally, after years of the Internet ruthlessly mocking Farmville and games like it, Kim Kardashian hooked millions on a game that is literally about hard work—that people are expected to pay up to $200 million this year in order to play a little faster. Get the fuck out of here, Kim. The Internet is for amateurs.

6. Whoever made MacKeeper and LiveJasmin, for interrupting millions of Americans’ self-love.


Even on the Internet, sex brings the risk of viruses.

50% of all left-handed clicking is spent on closing ads for either webcam girls or anti-virus software while the other hand is...occupied. Yes, they are a form of pop-up, but these have evolved a step beyond their click-the-monkey ancestors. By forcing you to stop masturbating and either a.) insist that you want viruses on your computer or b.) declare that you don’t like naked women doing what you ask them (with money), it’s as if these sites want your pain more than your money. It’s almost like someone out there with a lot of computer skills has a fetish for delaying other people’s orgasms and decided they might as well make some money off of it. In fact, that’s almost definitely what’s happening: every time you jack or jill it, you’re either giving someone money or a sadistic thrill.

5. You.


See how quickly you've forgotten you?

Remember when you were named Time’s Person of the Year in 2006? Ohhh yeah, you forgot, didn’t you? What have you been up to in the past year? Shared designs for cheap 3D-printed water filters with developing nations? Created a thriving business where artists make things for more than spare change and “the exposure”? Have you even tried creating a webseries? A small handful of you did, but I’m betting it wasn’t you, specifically, now was it? It wasn’t me, and I have a much higher opinion of me than you. You have been kind of a letdown, to be honest. We thought you were going to unite people for social change and thwart government power. Hashtags are great for awareness, but we’re aware of plenty of problems we do nothing about. Some of you have been OK. You! Yes, you over there in Tunisia! Good work. A lot of you all over the Middle East are kicking the rest of your asses when it comes to using the Internet to fight the powers that be. Granted, so are their governments, and they are not you. The governments are a them, Comcast is a them. They are all them. And you and I have to get better at this than they are, or we’re all fucked.

4. The creator of the .gif format, for not making a better format.


Wait for it...wait for it...does anyone just have a link to the video? (via)

You know why we argue about whether it’s pronounced “gif” or “gif”? Because we’ve got an hour and a half to kill while this 10-second series of apparently huge images loads and loops. It takes ten times as long to download a gif as it does the same number of images. Are they literally powered by magic? Is the computer absorbing an ancient word of power that gives the images life? Because that’s about the only excuse I’ll take at this point. 

3. TEENS!!!


Dan Akroyd has taken over a new host body.

Teens have been ruining the Internet literally since before I was born! Proof: teen Matthew Broderick almost blew up the Earth in 1983’s War Games a full eighteen months before I came into the world, and a decade before I first went online. Who ruined chatrooms in the 90s by talking up all those perverts? Teens!!! Who encouraged Mark Zuckerberg to drop out of Harvard by signing up for his Facebook? Teens (up to age 22)!!! Who has enough free time and lack of inhibition to fill up YouTube with oversharing vlogs and skateboard injury videos? TEENS. Who seems to be keeping Vine from the swift 6-second death it deserves? TEENS! Who failed to “unbox” enough Zunes to keep them around as a competitor to the iPod (so I could continue to say ‘Zune’ in conversation)? TEEENS!!! Who is responsible for the constant flood of new and confusing slang acronyms for out-of-touch magazines and FBI agents to misinterpret? TEEEENNSSS!!!! GET OFF MY FEED YOU DAMN KIDS! 

2. David Letterman, for making the Top 10 list a permanent cultural fixture.


This photo is in the public domain because it's from the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff. No joke here, just thought that was weird.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from teens, we have David Letterman and 32 years of Top Ten Lists. I mean, take a look at what you just read. Look at this crap! Yes, I know magazines and High Fidelity did a lot to ingrain the “All Time Top” whatever impulse in our culture, but no one has had more of an influence on the Internet’s reflex to digest huge reams of complicated information into tiny, ten-piece boxes of bullshit nuggets. If only he had taken his bespectacled head out of the skirts of 20-something interns for long enough, he might have seen this horrible future coming. 

1. Mark Zuckerberg, for everything.


Photo not available.

Honestly, what in life has not gotten worse as a result of Facebook? Did this planet not have enough jealousy on it prior to being able to watch the richest kid in your class “ace” his job interview with his dad’s firm? No matter what your gripe is with the Internet, you can find it on Facebook. People who complain about being asked to check their privilege should get mad at Mark Zuckerberg for creating a website that allows you to literally check how your privilege has grown and blossomed from your first “backpacking Europe!” album to that invitation you just sent out to your baby’s first hack-a-thon, where toddlers learn to disrupt each others’ blocks and set up new paradigms of crayon-sharing. Remember being protective of your personal address, phone number, employer info and diary back before 2004? For how many years did you click “no” on every single new application you bought or downloaded before finally giving in and letting corporations drool and slobber over every detail of your life like that weird kid in class checking out your vacation bikini album? (Facebook DID make it a lot easier for creeps to creep. So, thanks for that, Zuck.) Finally, thanks to this putz, every whiz kid who learns to program the Logo turtle thinks they need to wear a hoodie. Not even teens like wearing sweatshirts that much. Sweatshirts are just one spot in an entire spectrum of clothing. Put some on.

(by Johnny McNulty)