10 things the Internet has ruined and five things it hasn't

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Web

For some people, the Internet is the killer app -- literally. From newspapers and the yellow pages to personal privacy and personal contact, the Net has been accused of murdering, eviscerating, ruining, and obliterating more things than the Amazing Hulk. Some claims are more true than others, but the Net certainly has claimed its share of scalps.

Here are 10 things the Net is making virtually extinct, plus five that have flourished.

1. Trust in encyclopedias

When I was a kid, if something was in the Encyclopedia Britannica (or even Grolier's), it was true. Now -- thanks to Wikipedia -- having "encyclopedic knowledge" of a topic isn't as impressive when there's a good chance most of what you think you know was concocted by a 12-year-old. After a 2005 study by the British journal Nature showed Britannica and Wikipedia to be equally inaccurate, faith in all encyclopedias plummeted. Britannica attacked that study's methodology as "fatally flawed," but it was too late.

Also dead: trust in studies of encyclopedias.

2. Barroom arguments

It used to be you could kill many hours and even more brain cells drinking beer and arguing over arcane trivia. Who was a more fearsome slugger, Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron? Who'd win a one-on-one match between Kobe Bryant and Doctor J? (Sorry Kobe -- we love ya man, but in 1972 the Doc was unstoppable.) Now whenever there's a question of fact, somebody just whips out a smartphone and does a search on Google or dials up Wolfram Alpha and runs a statistical analysis. Where's the fun in that?

3. Your old flame