If you look at the current internet, giving its age and the type of problems it's facing, you can see clearly that we're still in the middle of, what I'd like to call it, the stone age of the internet.
We're talking about a technology that's only 30 years old, it has yet a lot of potentials to be discovered and drawbacks and problems to be solved. The problem I want to expose here is privacy. I'd like to compare the real stone age (5000 years B.C.) to the internet stone age (1985 to 2009).
The stone age:
During the stone age humans lived in the forests and took cover in caves from the rain, they lived in tribes that shared the same interest and cared for each other's interests. Communication between those tribes was almost impossible and they probably fought over everything (territory, food, women, etc). They slept right there in the open thinking that they are well protected that way. Invented some traps and protection systems to protect them and maybe considered those who got eaten by predators just flows in the protection system they had and they probably had their engineers work on that flow. By the end of the stone age humans made some of the most important discoveries in the history and those were agricultural and building homes. Sick of being exposed to all what nature had hidden for them, they built homes to protect themselves from the predators that intentionally meant to hurt them and other occasional incidents such as rain. Building homes close together they formed cities with a great building in the middle of the city forming the city hall. That city hall is were messengers from other cities went to communicate with that city.
The internet stone age:
I think by now the analogy should be a little bit clear. We're now creating profiles leaving them exposed one some public servers with some security and privacy measures that are broken and patched all the time. Leaving the data of our teenagers exposed to all kind of e-predators and think by having that easily breakable privacy measures we're doing our best. Also we're scattering our information amongst different social networks and services that can't really agree on a way to communicate and that most of the time are fighting over the money coming from the ads business.
We're basically making one "Ahmed Saeed" appear to be 5 different persons because he has 5 accounts on different social networks and services. And by that we're wasting the precious data that can be inferred by knowing that those 5 men are basically the same (Google is working on that but it's just another patch). On the other hand, this "Ahmed Saeed" is leaving his data out there for people he don't know to use in all sorts of ways.
I guess we're close to getting out of the internet stone age as the work suggested in "Privacy, Cost, and Availability Tradeoffs in Decentralized OSNs" published in Sigcomm's WOSN 2009 suggests what's near to discovering homes in the stone age. Probably over time we'll start building homes that are sustainable and reliable to provide us with the online cities we all dream of.