The literary and film genre known as the Western covers a very short period of American history — 1850 to 1900 by the most commonly-accepted definition, but it’s more accurate to say from the end of the Civil War (1865) to maybe 1890, when our forefathers ran out of frontier — a small window of time, in a large but sparsely-populated area, where laws couldn’t be effectively enforced. The the lack of effective law enforcement, and thus the popularity of the area with those who wanted to avoid the law, are (along with the handgun) the elements that define the genre.
The Internet has been compared to “the wild west” many times, and for essentially the same reason: with very little effort, those who scoff at laws can put virtual bandannas over their faces and hold up any bank that opens a branch in their neck of the woods, or any honest folk that dare to venture into the area, and fade away into the badlands until the heat is off them.
But like the wild west, the Internet is becoming civilized. It’s getting easier to enforce the law, and the bad guys are finding those bandannas a lot harder to come by. If the same sort of timing holds, the next decade will see the end of the digital frontier, and Internet black-hats will fade away like those of yesteryear.
It will be the end of an era. and many will eventually look back on it with longing, but the Internet will also be a much safer place to travel through, and that can’t be a bad thing.
EDIT, same day: Another example.