If you’re a Gen Z kid, there’s probably nothing especially strange about the state of the internet. It exists now pretty much as you’ve always known it to exist.
For the rest of us? Things are changing and we’re not psyched about it.
Does anybody else hate how the Internet now feels like 7 major websites which are all interconnected, whereas it used to feel like a vast place with something new around every corner? from NoStupidQuestions
So, are we screwed by tech monopolies, doomed to embrace the generic forever more? Or are there silver linings? Let’s chat about it with the Reddit folks.
1. Remember Stumbleupon?
I met my wife because of Stumbleupon.
I was working nights in a call center. I got maybe 1 call a month, and my boss had no problem with me doing whatever as long as I answered when the phone rang. I brought in my laptop and started using Stumbleupon.
I eventually came across an abandoned photography site (this was before urbex really hit it off). I loved the photos and found the person had a forum so I joined.
Long story longer, I met an awesome person on there that shared my interest in photography. We ended up meeting up (I lived near the east coast, her on the west coast). That was ~13 years ago. We’ll be married for 10 years this year.
I owe a lot of happiness to Stumbleupon.
2. Dead links.
I went through an old backup of bookmarks from like 15 years ago and like 80% of them were dead links.
3. Forum forms.
The hardest hit sites have been the “Forums” were the content was pretty narrow.
I used to post on at least 6 different forums daily. A few PC forums, tool forums, woodworking… And one, I think was called The Samba, was a VW forum that for awhile was like Reddit, had pages for many different topics.
Then Facebook and Reddit kind of took over. Those forum sites were expensive and it was getting harder to find admins to patrol everything.
Reddit is the Walmart of online forums… with p*rn!
4. It’s a trick.
The thing that messes me up the most is when you google something extremely specific, and you get results that match your search exactly, but when you click into the links the content doesn’t match what you’re searching for at all.
SEO optimization makes it look like you can find anything you could possibly want with Google, but it’s really just a marketing technique.
5. We make choices.
It’s not the internet that has gotten small, but people’s browsing patterns.
Back in the early days of the internet, people had a preferred search engine. Some used Lycos, others liked AskJeeves or Dogpile. I still remember when someone told me about google and thinking that sounded like a name a baby came up with. Your search engine of choice was a way of saying something about yourself and how you used The Net, as we sometimes called it.
The point is, everyone used the internet differently. There were lots of ways to choose and curate your experience.
Today, the internet is vastly bigger than it was then, with exponentially more content, and what content there is is exponentially more sophisticated and interactive. But our gateways into it are narrower, though fewer, massively popular channels. These channels are also more defined by our peer-group (digital or physical) than they used to be.
You never learn about fringe content if you only ever check social media sites like Reddit, Twitter, Snapchat, etc, because those people all tend to talk about the same things, as well as seek out content from similar places as you do. The result is a digital experience that feels very insular and contained.
The content is there. People just aren’t actively seeking it out as often or in the same ways as they used to.
6. We saw it coming.
I was a web developer back in the 90’s, and even back then people were predicting this consolidation of websites.
It sounded unfathomable to me back then, but I remember reading an article that said we’d have five main sites: a social site, a data site, a shopping site, an art site, and a news site.
Other sites would still exist, they (correctly) predicted, but most of the time most people would just use those 5 sites.
7. Such great memories.
Between bored.com and Ogrish, there were so many places to end up.
Now it’s almost like a cable service with all the channels owned by 3-4 corporations.
We knew it was going to happen, there have been countless “sci-fi” stories about corporate dystopias and we let it happen anyway.
8. Rare tastes.
This may come across as snobbish, but that’s just what happens once something becomes wildly used and/or popular.
Television, gaming, and even film has kind of gone that path as well. Formulaic, same-y garbage meant to appeal to the common denominator.
Of course variation does exist, you just gotta search harder
9. There really is still good stuff out there.
This thread is a heaven for nostalgiasaurs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of them, from the days of ENWorld and Something Awful, and Icanhascheezeburger, but… No original content?
Youtube, tiktok, Tumblr, instagram, reddit, ao3, tvtropes, fandomwiki, there’s lots of megasites bursting with (links to) creatively made stuff.
It’s really not that bad. Randomly typing urls when you’re bored still gets you weird places.
It’s different, is all.
It’s become very clear how monopolies have been established. You just can’t compete with them at this point, the funds alone make it so you don’t stand a chance.
What really sucks is once something good comes along, someone like Google just buys them and consumes them.
You might want to say “that’s capitalism” sure to some sense, but monopolies tend to not be good at all.
I don’t think the internet is an exception.
11. Craft your own internet.
My internet doesn’t feel that way.
But my main intake is through RSS feeds; makes it easy to follow a menagerie of whatever interesting crap you come across, and means there’s no-one putting their own algorithm in the way to filter/prioritise what of it you see.
12. The seven deadly sins.
7 major websites…
– There’s Google, everyone’s main search engine tool
– There’s Youtube, everyone’s main video search engine tool
– There’s Reddit, where there’s millions of subreddits pertaining to different interests and topics. Basically, a giant forum site for literally anything
– There’s Amazon, everyone’s main online buying tool
– There’s Netflix, mostly everyone’s go-to source for entertainment streaming
– There’s Twitch, everyone’s source for live streaming
– There’s Facebook, mostly everyone’s go-to social media tool for chatting
Google, Youtube, Reddit, Amazon, Netflix, Twitch, and Facebook. Yeah, that sounds about right.
13. Hidden gems.
I do but at the same time there are some gems out there that no one wants to give the light of day.
Social media site ello as an example. It’s been taken over by artists primarily but their mission statement is great. Non profit social media and your data is protected.
There are plenty of examples out there of sites and things like that. But we have gotten to a point where if we don’t see people who know or the likes we don’t go there. We all contributed to the internet’s centralization and none of us do much to change it. Including me.
14. The Simon Mall phenomenon.
remember as a kid growing up, malls were the best.
In the 80s you could go to a different state in the malls would look completely different. Different stores different styles. I really enjoyed it because I traveled a lot as a kid.
I remember when all of a sudden people referred to some malls as Simon Malls. The company Simon had started buying up malls in the United States. Within for five or six years, all of the malls in the United States were pretty much the same. Most of the same anchor stores with the same filler stores.
The Styles really weren’t different and everything just kind of Blended in.
That was the end of malls. They never came back.
This post reminds me of this
15. Don’t give up hope.
Sure, there was a lot of “charm” back in the day. But there’s a lot more gold out there these days.
I’ve been using the internet since the 90’s, but I still prefer what we’ve got today than in any other time period.
Especially when it’s not especially hard to filter out the crap.
Man, I could keep chatting about this forever.
But I wanna hear from you. What do you think about this?
Let us know in the comments.