'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 I can say that even the term "software agent" sounds sort of dull, uninterestingly hands-off, and like something the average person wouldn't think they needed or was qualified to mess with.

Exactly the opposite of the hands-on, approachable, and self-ownership feel that future tech stuff needs to have.

Meaning no offense.
@natecull @enkiv2

@erosdiscordia @brennen @enkiv2

Well, on the one hand, part of the 'software agent' fuss was sort of linked with, um, personal organizers, early handhelds, the idea of an 'electronic butler/secretary' and so there WAS quite a bit of that 'hands-on, approachable' hype about it? You'd have a personal 'Agent' who would be a sort of pseudo-personality in your computer?

But then the other side of the 'software agents' thing was... mobile code, that you'd transmit? I guess 'cloud server' ate that?

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@erosdiscordia @brennen @enkiv2

and then the success of the 'search enginet' model, and Google with it, sort of led to the idea of the 'agent' being a personalised service provided by Extremely Large Corporations rather than an actual thing you'd own and control

so the 'agent' got replaced by the idea of 'portal', then 'portal' as a buzzword got replaced by 'app' after the iPhone got big and mobile became the interface to the same Extremely Large Corporation pretending to be your tiny friend

@erosdiscordia @brennen @enkiv2

so now we get companies like Trivago advertising comparison services on TV, and the company-service-slash-app-slash-website-slash-portal-slash-agent they provide is essentially the same idea as those 1990s 'shopping agent' concepts? At least that's what they claim. But how do you know they're not messing you around? they almost certainly are or how would they make money?

@natecull Back in the 90s those "shopping agents" (websites, proto-apps) wanted to take money out of your hand. Now they want to sell you to someone else, while still gaslighting you that you're the lord of all creation. It fuckin sucks.
@brennen @enkiv2

@natecull You're nailing it here.

I think people need to take a look at how much sunshine they let be blown up their butts too, though. Being sold "experiences" and "services" (that turned out to be data-mining ventures) was presented as more aspirational than owning or doing anything for yourself, and people went with it.

@brennen @enkiv2

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