Big Internet? No thanks

Reblogged from Legal Web Watch September 2014.

The early adopters have been getting restless lately. I’m with them. This is not what we signed up for.

Alan Jacobs, writing for The New Atlantis, predicts The End of Big Twitter. Twitter used to be like your front porch, now it’s the middle of Broadway and he’s getting out:

I don’t like this change. I made friends – real friends – on Twitter when it was a place for conversation. I reconnected with people I had lost touch with. Whole new realms of knowledge were opened to me. I don’t want to foreclose on the possibility of further discovery, but the signal-to-noise ratio is so bad now that I don’t think I could pick out the constructive and interesting voices from all the mean-spiritedness and incomprehension; and so few smart people now dare to use Twitter in the old open way.

In similar vein Scott Rosenberg on WordYard writes about social media burnout and the revival of blogging:

Then something happens. The early users begin to burn out, or feel neglected, or resent how the platform owner is changing things, or just chafe at problems the service has never been able to fix. Eventually, they lose the love. They start looking for a new home. If there is a hive mind at work in these matters – and there’s almost certainly not just one but many – it rouses itself and, at some critical moment, moves its energy center elsewhere.

Brent Simmons on inessential is also fed up with the exploitation by social media companies, but keen to keep blogging:

What I do care about is that my blog isn’t part of a system where its usefulness is just a hook to get me to use it. It works the way I want to, and the company running the servers (DreamHost) doesn’t care one fig what I do.

Nick Carr on Rough Type takes these arguments further, considering the wider picture of Big Internet, and concludes:

These trends … stem from a sense of exhaustion with what I’m calling Big Internet. By Big Internet, I mean the platform- and plantation-based internet, the one centered around giants like Google and Facebook and Twitter and Amazon and Apple. Maybe these companies were insurgents at one point, but now they’re fat and bland and obsessed with expanding or defending their empires. They’ve become the Henry VIIIs of the web. And it’s starting to feel a little gross to be in their presence. So, yeah, I’m down with this retro movement. Bring back personal blogs. Bring back RSS. Bring back the fun. Screw Big Internet.

The web we want

So what kind of web do we want? 25 years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee gave the web to the world. To mark the 25th anniversary of this turning point Web We Want is running a three-part festival at Southbank Centre, London. The Web We Want movement is calling on everyone, everywhere to play their part in shaping and enhancing the web.

As part of the festival Tim Berners-Lee spent an evening in conversation with SCL President Richard Susskind on September 27, reported by Roger Bickerstaff on the SCL site:

Susskind asked what worries Berners-Lee most about the Web. His main worries relate to the extent to which the open and collaborative nature of the Web is being challenged. He mentioned the problems over State censorship limiting Web access in various countries. He said that this had been a concern for him well before Snowden and he talked at some length about State surveillance. He commented that in countries where Web access is not limited, the Web can be monitored to track the activities of political opponents and dissidents and be used to ‘round them up’. He also discussed the risks associated with large company Web ‘silos’ and the lack of exposure this brings to the benefits of the Web if people simply use a single site. (Presumably Facebook – but Berners-Lee is very careful not to mention any specific names). Web users then don’t experience the range of opportunities that the Web has to offer. The increasing lack of ‘net neutrality’ and the prioritisation of net traffic is also a concern.

Image by Anonymous9000 on Flickr