[ExI] Is the old internet dying?
pharos at gmail.com
Sat Jul 18 10:39:45 UTC 2015
Are blogs and mail lists becoming a niche interest for oldtimers?
This is a long article by a blogger who was jailed in Iran in 2008,
mostly for things he blogged about, and released in 2014.
It is the old story that gradual change is imperceptible, but he saw
six years change all at once.
Six years was a long time to be in jail, but it’s an entire era
online. Writing on the internet itself had not changed, but reading —
or, at least, getting things read — had altered dramatically.
The Stream now dominates the way people receive information on the
web. Fewer users are directly checking dedicated webpages, instead
getting fed by a never-ending flow of information that’s picked for
them by complex –and secretive — algorithms.
The Stream means you don’t need to open so many websites any more. You
don’t need numerous tabs. You don’t even need a web browser. You open
Twitter or Facebook on your smartphone and dive deep in. The mountain
has come to you. Algorithms have picked everything for you. According
to what you or your friends have read or seen before, they predict
what you might like to see. It feels great not to waste time in
finding interesting things on so many websites.
Maybe it’s that text itself is disappearing. After all, the first
visitors to the web spent their time online reading web magazines.
Then came blogs, then Facebook, then Twitter. Now it’s Facebook videos
and Instagram and SnapChat that most people spend their time on.
There’s less and less text to read on social networks, and more and
more video to watch, more and more images to look at. Are we
witnessing a decline of reading on the web in favor of watching and
The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was
invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear,
passive, programmed and inward-looking.
When I log on to Facebook, my personal television starts. All I need
to do is to scroll: New profile pictures by friends, short bits of
opinion on current affairs, links to new stories with short captions,
advertising, and of course self-playing videos. I occasionally click
on like or share button, read peoples’ comments or leave one, or open
an article. But I remain inside Facebook, and it continues to
broadcast what I might like. This is not the web I knew when I went to
jail. This is not the future of the web. This future is television.
It seems to me as well that the new Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.
generation are very different to the old fogies of the internet.
Everybody now walks around staring at their smartphone. The latest
Dilbert makes the same point.
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