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Do I even have a web manifesto?


Currently Feeling: contemplative

These are popular on "web revival" websites these days, and I do love reading them where ever I find them. I guess it makes sense to post my own, but I don't really want to rehash the same talking points everyone else has brought up.

In terms of social networks I'm down to Reddit and Instagram these days, and Instagram may be on its way out. I left Facebook most recently, and never looked back. In terms of friends I had mainly amassed a collection of extended family members, who were getting progressively more and more alt-right, and I couldn't deal with the toxicity (this was about three elections ago, in fact, so I can't imagine how bad it is now). Before that I had tried Twitter, but couldn't really find a niche I felt comfortable with, and then I grew tired of all the toxicity there as well. I've seen the alternative networks like Mastodon, Ello, and the like, but I'm just not really interested right now.

I, too, have missed the old web. And having been a webmaster before, more than anything I missed having my own website. I make so many things that I like to share, and I felt like I didn't have one place to put them all, instead scattering them across different social networks that didn't really belong to me. Fragmenting my projects like that was disconcerting, and as time goes on it seems to become harder and harder to be a follower, as the feeds from social network sites get retooled to become better at selling things to me. They usually start out as a way to connect with others and discover new ideas and art, but eventually that falls away as more people join and the landscape becomes homogenized.

That's what the modern web does. It boils everything down to sameness, in an effort to make the web palatable to advertisers. Back when I was first online, we were excited about things like The long tail, which basically boils down to the idea that the web can be profitable by selling a wide breadth of products, rather than a huge volume. While I object to the idea that the web's primary purpose should be to make money, the idea of the long tail led us to believe that at least the web would exist to serve users, in an effort to reach as many markets as possible. But it seems that the problem with many of the web's biggest participants (Google, Facebook, etc) isn't that they want to make money, but that they want to make all the money. This seems to happen to most market players once they reach a certain size, and it's what drives a lot of anti-consumer business practices.

So what we see now is the web universe slowly getting conglomerated and centralized by the largest players, as the barriers to entry get higher and less accessible to most people. There's an excellent book about this phenomenon and how it's played out in nearly every information-based market in history, that I suggest you check out if you're interested in this sort of thing. The Master Switch, by Tim Wu lays out the history of radio and television, and how both movements started out as indie-type things in which regulations slowly choked out small players with the help of legislation ostensibly meant to "help" the little guy. Did you know setting up a radio network or telephone line used to be a simple affair, often done by hobbyists who wanted to share things with their local communities? You'd need licenses to do both of those things now, or you would run afoul of some very serious federal laws. Wu warns that if history is any indication, the web may end up going the same way.

So, even though it may be an uphill battle, I'm doing my part to keep the hobbyist part of the web alive, by hosting my own site and choosing not to engage with websites that want to monetize me. I hope you'll do the same. There are some really lovely places on the indie web, and I'd really hate to lose them.

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Cheapskate on :

Despite the commercialization of the web, we still have hobbyist who build web sites for the joy of it. My guess is that in places where governments begin to license web sites people will just move to the Tor network or some decentralized network.

Nice web site. Keep up the good work.

Bekah on :

Thank you! I love reading through your blog, so I was super happy to see you stopped by.

And truly that is one of my big fears--that I'll end up seeing the bar for entry getting that high. In the long run I'm totally fine with learning new things moving to other networks, but I hate that it would be necessary, you know? Even so, it is neat to see the growth of things like the Gemini protocol that are out there for those who want to keep alternatives alive.

goesby on :

I belive that everything has an impact, wether it small or big. it Just the matter of "Time" till the impact would be showed.

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