'User agent' is a great idea that has been weirdly perverted.

Nobody these days (even highly technical people) has a user agent. (Maybe @drwho does.)

A user agent is a piece of software controlled by the *user*, that performs the automatic tasks the *user* has instructed it to. It communicates with other user agents, automatically, on the user's behalf.

Today, the term 'user agent' means 'long, misleading browser-lineage-identification string'. It identifies one of ~3 corporations.

Imagine if we actually *had* user agents.

Like, imagine if our computers were doing things we wanted them to do, automatically, on the network. And, it was our computers doing these things, instead of a rental service like ifttt or google alerts that's selling info on the back end. Imagine if they stopped doing things when we told them to stop.

Imagine if non-technical users had this too.

'User agent' is basically 'daemon, but controlled by an end user'. And, it's a thing we really need & don't have.

@enkiv2 I remember I think it was the early 1990s, lots of talk about 'software agents'. They were sort of the buzzword term, the 'neural networks' of that decade.

I don't really understand even now what lab that hype came from, and why it went away?

@natecull @enkiv2 i've never really found the "software agents" line of thinking very compelling, or at least it hasn't been very compellingly _presented_. it always felt like hype in much the way that VR or that weird brief period when XML was going to save the world did.

on the other hand, if the idea is just that people should own and control computers which do things with their data in their interests, well, that sure does sound like a pleasant contrast to the status quo.


@brennen @enkiv2 The Wikipedia page is weirdly bland and all-encompassing (to the extent that it almost literally just means 'software') and yet also weirdly technology-specific - JAML, JADE?


Very confusing.

The idea of 'app', which now seems to mean 'startup', seems to have entirely replaced the idea of 'agent' in modern Silicon Valley.

@brennen @enkiv2

like I don't think a younger me could have imagined that some day people would say 'app' to literally mean 'a service company run by a few people (in another country even) making millions of dollars and outsourcing the actual service jobs to casual/temp piecework not-even-employees at Dickensian below-market exploitation rates' and also think it is still a meaningful word meaning 'a program on my computer' and yet

(points at Uber, etc)

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