Some quick links I wanted to capture. First, Joan Westenberg, writing “I miss the internet.” I miss it, too.
The homogeneity of the modern web is disheartening. Every website and platform is just a slight variation on a handful of templates. The eccentricity, the vibrant individuality, and the raw expression that once pulsated across the net all seem to have been replaced by either an inoffensive, user-friendly sameness or an algorithm-endorsed near-genocidal mania of hate speech that is somehow deemed socially acceptable.
Worse still, today’s internet is a place of scrutiny, surveillance, and unprecedented data exploitation. We’ve traded our privacy and autonomy for the convenience and connectivity it provides, and in so doing, have become commodities in an unseen market. In the pursuit of progress and personalization, we have inadvertently sterilized the very essence of the web, transforming it from a shared experience into a solitary echo chamber.
Joan Westenberg, “I miss the internet”
Then Anil Dash wrote a piece for Rolling Stone, and then elaborated on his blog, “The Web Renaissance Takes Off“:
So, while I’m still circumspect and cautious about the very real threats and harms that will come from the worst parts of the major internet platforms, I am more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time about the massive potential of the human internet to come roaring back in a way that we haven’t seen in a generation. More and more, I think of it as “the people’s web”. And like so many things that come from, and by, the power of the people, it’s a movement that can be delayed, or undermined, but increasingly I have come to believe that it cannot possibly be truly stopped.
Anil Dash, “The Web Renaissance Takes Off”
(I appreciate the optimism of it, and remain somewhat hopeful as well.)
Next, from Jason, a post asking “Where have all the websites gone?” Which feels a bit like an elegy for the internet of yesteryear, while calling out something I’ve felt myself: one of the ways the old internet worked was through the curators, and how essential the sharing was.
We used to know how to do this. Not long ago, we were good at separating the signal from noise. Granted, there’s a lot more noise these days, but most of it comes from and is encouraged by the silos we dwell in.
Somewhere between the late 2000’s aggregator sites and the contemporary For You Page, we lost our ability to curate the web. Worse still, we’ve outsourced our discovery to corporate algorithms. Most of us did it in exchange for an endless content feed. By most, I mean upwards of 90% who don’t make content on a platform as understood by the 90/9/1 rule. And that’s okay! Or, at least, it makes total sense to me. Who wouldn’t want a steady stream of dopamine shots?
Jason, “Where have all the websites gone?”
Worth a read. I like seeing the direction the discourse has been going lately.
Finally, Giles Turnbull issues a challenge to creators and developers: let’s put effort into creating a sea of new tools for the indie web, and let’s make them easy to install and use:
We need more self-hosted platforms for personal publishing that aren’t WordPress. And don’t point me to Hugo or Netlify or Eleventy or all those things – all of them are great, but none of them are simple enough. We need web publishing tools that do not require users to open the Terminal at all. And we need lots of them.
We need a whole galaxy of options.
It’s not that I hate WordPress. I don’t use it, personally, but I don’t hate it. I can see the benefits of using it. It’s a great tool.
But it needs more competition. People coming fresh to web publishing should have more options.
Giles Turnbull, “Let’s make the indie web easier”
I do use WordPress, and I still agree with the sentiment – the competition is useful to keep all platforms on their toes, and now may be a fantastic opportunity to go back to first principles and see what a tool for putting things on the internet should look like now.