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The Web We Lost 255

An anonymous reader writes "Anil Dash has an insightful post about cutting through the social media hype to see all of the social functionality we've lost on the web over the past decade. 'We've lost key features that we used to rely on, and worse, we've abandoned core values that used to be fundamental to the web world. To the credit of today's social networks, they've brought in hundreds of millions of new participants to these networks, and they've certainly made a small number of people rich. But they haven't shown the web itself the respect and care it deserves, as a medium which has enabled them to succeed. And they've now narrowed the possibilities of the web for an entire generation of users who don't realize how much more innovative and meaningful their experience could be. ... We get bulls*** turf battles like Tumblr not being able to find your Twitter friends or Facebook not letting Instagram photos show up on Twitter because of giant companies pursuing their agendas instead of collaborating in a way that would serve users. And we get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.'"
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The Web We Lost

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  • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Friday December 14, 2012 @10:29AM (#42286443)

    Most of the stuff this guy is bitching about is stuff that is STILL THERE. You can still create your own website and post whatever the hell you like, create whatever community you damn well please, etc. Unless you're in a country like China or Iran, you have every bit as much freedom today on the internet as you did 10 or 15 years ago.

    Just because people CHOOSE to use social sites like Facebook and give up certain freedoms in the process doesn't mean anything has been lost. About the only area where I see where freedom has really been lost is in the increasing prevalence of tablets, phones, and likely soon even laptops that are behind software "walled gardens," like iOS. And even if that case, no one is *forcing* anyone to buy those devices.

    And as for complaining about the lack of standards in sites sharing info, well WTF is new? Companies developing proprietary formats for sharing info is hardly something that Twitter just discovered recently.

    To me this guy just sounds like another FOSS zealot bitching because the world doesn't work like he wants it to, and things didn't turn out like the Open Source utopia he had envisioned in 2000.

  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @10:33AM (#42286475)

    You are right - I just checked and my server in the basement is still serving up the same photo album it did 10 years ago. Phew! :)

    The existence of Facebook or Twitter in no way diminishes my ability to put up a crappy website or to fire up a usenet client. IRC is even still around.

  • by MyDixieWrecked ( 548719 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @10:37AM (#42286511) Homepage Journal

    From what I see, though, one of the big issues is that when you get to be the size of Facebook or Twitter, it HAS to be about making money. Who is going to pay for your servers and who is going to pay your employees who work on the site full-time? Once you hit critical mass, in order not collapse under your own weight, you need to protect your monetary interests and that means closing off access to competing services.

    Now, in the past, this wasn't as much of an issue because people actually paid for things and/or the advertisements covered costs. Today, the bottom has fallen out of the advertising market and no one wants to pay for anything anymore. I have friends that think Flickr's $25/year pro account is a rip-off. I think that's a *steal*.

    The ecosystem of the web today is full of freeloaders and "entrepreneurs" who are trying to make a quick buck (via VC or getting bought, primarily) rather than trying to build awesome new products that people would actually want to pay for. No one wants to build companies anymore, they just want to build windfalls.

  • Not exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @10:38AM (#42286523)

    we've abandoned core values that used to be fundamental to the web world.

    No we haven't. They're just no longer in the majority. It's like religions: In the United States, for example, everyone's on about how the 0.5% of atheists that exist here are oppressing the christians' (who make up 76%) right to celebrate their christmas holiday. Please -- I'm just using this as an example, no flames! But elsewhere in the world, it's dominated by muslims, or jews, or hindus, or whatever. And within each of those communities, those values are the dominant ones.

    The web was originally created by academics, scientists, engineers, and people from these fields are collaborative. They're peers, and they broker in knowledge sharing and exchange. It's very different than the hierarchy that most of society is based on. Now that "most of society" has moved onto the web, they've taken their values with them. The web is simply a communications medium; It does not have a morality.

    That said... I miss the old days too.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @10:43AM (#42286569)

    nobody paid for things in the past. the internet was even more free than today. the NY times website was free for years. i remember the sales wars of the late 1990s when dot com stores were "selling" DVD's for a few $$$. not old crap, but new releases that cost $30 at retail stores

    the money came from stupid VC's and investors flushing tens of millions of $$$ down the dot com toilet or mega corps willing to lose money on the web until they could monetize it

    radio was the first to work out a free business model
    TV copied it and even added a pay TV model that a lot of people liked for a decade or two
    and now the internet is trying to work out its own version of the pay TV model

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2012 @10:47AM (#42286607)

    and it is much easier to put up that crappy web page now. can rent a virtual server somewhere cheap, don't need to deal with the box in the corner.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2012 @10:57AM (#42286707)

    I'm putting little stock in a blogger who bitches about how Facebook is ruining the web, yet uses it for his blog comments.

  • by mfnickster ( 182520 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @10:59AM (#42286729)

    Yep. Folks who got on the Internet/WWW after about 2001 don't realize that it wasn't always just another medium for slapping ads in front of people.

  • by ISurfTooMuch ( 1010305 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:03AM (#42286769)

    I have to agree. I've been around long enough to remember when people built their own Web sites. First, they built crappy sites on the space their ISP gave them, than, when sites like Geocities and Tripod came along, many of them moved there. Facebook isn't really that much different. Well, it is in that you can't actually build a page/site to look the way you want, but many people couldn't do that anyway, which is why those site-builder tools at Geocities and Tripod were so appealing. And what did they do with the sites they built? Often, they posted pictures of their babies, dogs, cats, etc.; you know, the same thing they're doing on Facebook now.

    But OK, we have lost something if you look at it from the perspective of people getting out there, building sites, sharing all sorts of useful info, or whatever it was that we thought people were going to do on the Internet. That never really happened, but is that so surprising? We've tended to misunderstand how every new technology will be used, so why should the Internet be any different? And besides, creating content takes time, and creating quality content takes lots of time. Most folks are tired when they come home from work. They want to read others' content, not create their own. And yet, we still manage to see content posted online. Look at all the forums out there. In fact, I had to do some research on seizures yesterday, and I found the info that I needed in some of these forums.

    And if, after reading this, someone is still lamenting what we've lost, then they can get out there and try to get it back. It's going to be hard to change user behavior, but there's nothing stopping them from trying.

  • Re:Not exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lightknight ( 213164 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:03AM (#42286771) Homepage

    Indeed. The web has become something of a sewer. It's no longer about getting you the right information on demand, or you offering up the right information on demand. It's about a bunch of people in a dark room, wearing dark clothes, trying to talk to each other with duct tape over their mouths, while the latest pop video blasts loudly from somewhere outside. It has become almost impossible to find even relevant information, which is why people are breaking out into VPNs; they are throwing up dams to keep the misinformation at bay.

    See, there were questionable things on the web many moons ago. There still are. However, the good things about the web greatly outweighed the bad. Just by browsing around on it, you became a better person. You were more knowledgeable, you understood that power is often invisible, and while there were trolls, they were dealt with quickly. That's not the case today: the web is now filled with white noise, misinformation, and criminal stupidity. Yes, I said criminal stupidity. It's not that they are holding unpopular opinions, or that they can't spell a word if they have a dictionary in hand, it's just pure idiocy. And it's contagious.

    The morons outnumber us, and they would, if given the option, call for further regulation of the web to 'fix' things if they had a chance. And that's where we are failing -> we're too nice, and we are being taken advantage of. You want an open and free web divorced of this stupidity, and while you are trying to convince people of this merit, they are positioning things for a takeover. You come with good intentions and an open hand, they see a delusional person who is unarmed. And contrary to popular belief, the unarmed man is the first person an attacker goes after; why not, he doesn't have a weapon?

    Which leads us to the present. Not content with having thrown the creators of the sandbox out of their own invention, the bullies now want to destroy it. To taught their 'alpha male' (actually super beta) -ness, they will destroy it, so no one else can enjoy it. Even now, they are calling for a cyberwar. This entire enterprise is beyond f*cked up, and frankly, it's killing our respective way of life; scientists and engineers can't discuss important information without being accosted, because they "know things," and could use their knowledge for evil. This is anti-freedom of speech, and frankly anti-American. The United States is a slut, and will go down on anyone for the right money; gone are the days when her principles meant anything, she sold them for a pair of pumps and a glittery purse.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:04AM (#42286777)

    or to fire up a usenet client

    Good luck finding a feed. Those are dropping like flies.

  • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:08AM (#42286829) Homepage

    "A decade ago, there weren't many choices. Everyone I knew all used the same services and it was easy to find stuff. Now all the people I know use all sorts of different services and I can't find anything! We've lost the small, intimate web community we used to have!"

    Yeah, yeah. Every few years someone with a blog goes through a mid-life crisis and realizes the world isn't the way it used to be. BFD, so the world changes. Get over it. Abe Simpson summed it up best...

    "I used to be with it, but then they changed what *it* was. Now what I'm with isn't *it*, and what's *it* seems weird and scary to me. It'll happen to you... "

  • Re:Not exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:09AM (#42286841)

    Kudos for your religion analogy, very well worded.

    Well, the moderators are frothing at the mouth over some of my "devil's advocate" posts lately. Like pointing out the United States isn't all sunshine and unicorns in an earlier thread today... it's been from -1, Troll to +5 insightful a half dozen times already. It really has nothing to do with the strength of my argument, but the fact that the moderators on slashdot these days have a lower tolerance for cognitive dissonance because fewer and fewer of them are highly educated and experienced within the fields Slashdot used to cater to -- science, technology, and engineering. Now it's become a cesspool of fanboys who may have enthusiasm for those things but not enough experience with it to recognize their own limitations, or that there is more than one right answer (or sometimes no right answers, which is a terrible thing for a young geek to learn).

    As you can see now, it's currently, "+2, offtopic", in spite of the fact that the whole premise of my post is explaining how we lost the web the author is reminiscing about! And they probably marked me down because I used an example that was politically charged. I chose that example precisely because it illustrates why the web has changed: The general population is full of prejudice and intolerance. Slashdot used to be exempt from that, but like I said -- as the less-experienced and knowledgable have flooded the forums, it has seen an influx of those values as evidenced by both the comments and the moderation.

    Since the buyout, Slashdot has gained more mainstream attention (thanks, Dice, for spending all that money on choice SEO placement...) as an aggregate news site, but it's lost its original values -- those insighful and in-depth, and often humorous, posts that you and I remember and love. And don't let my high UID fool you... I had a 4 digit once. Then a troll hacked my account. :)

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:09AM (#42286845)

    This isn't some standard polemic about "those stupid walled-garden networks are bad!"

    Yes it is. It's a long winded whine about how core principles have been lost, which they haven't.

    I know that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites

    But you point at them and say what huge amount of harm they've done.

    But they're based on a few assumptions that aren't necessarily correct.

    Oh really, let's examine them then.

    The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth.

    The primary fallacy of this article is that ordinary people want the complexity and extensibility, that every user wants to twiddle with RSS and build web pages from scratch. The vast majority of the internet using public don't. They want someone else to take care of the minutia. It's been that way since the days of the BBS. The BBS culture had users and sysops and wasn't pure peer to peer "read-write" because not everyone could be arsed to set up his own BBS and pay for a phone line or even bother something so simple as an ANSI menu layout screen. It's still this way. The vast majority of users just want to post their pictures, send mail, pirate media, write their blawgs and to leave the icky technical stuff to people more competent.

    And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.'

    And users can vote with their feet and migrate elsewhere. This article is written like the users have nowhere to go and the big services are some sort of social prison that nobody can escape. People are perfectly free to set up their own servers and whatnot. We've seen an explosion of cheap hosting like never before. But most people don't want to do that. The number of people I know, personally, that can write a simple HTML 1.0 web page from scratch, even with commercial tools, I can count on one hand. This is not the fault of the likes of Facebook or whoever. This is the because of the fact that even 20 years after the invention of the www, it's still complex with concepts that are nearly impossible for most people to wrap their heads around. And thus we wind up with services that are more than willing to do it for them.

    The author is bemoaning the loss of the peer-to-peer read-write-web which never existed in the first place.

    There are the technorati and there is everyone else, and the technorati run things. This is entirely by consent. There was no wresting control from users who wanted to do their own things. If there was any freedom lost (there hasn't been) it's because it was given up, not taken.


  • by Gotung ( 571984 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:17AM (#42286933)
    And he seems to be acting like there used to be some deep integration out there that the walled gardens have shut down. 10 years ago "integration" and "APIs" between sites consisted of a adding a hypertext link on your geocities page to somebody else's geocities page. Maybe you made it flash to stand out.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:22AM (#42286983)

    I used to be part of a network of computers called a BBS (bulletin board system) and that was back in the early 90's before there even was a web.... I knew several friends who were working on the code for AOL and several others... In those days you had a sysop (system operator) who ran a BBS... You would dail up his or her computer, leave posts, upload and download files and yes send lots of emails... great way to get messages around.... Then came the web and things got so much bigger and better..... Do I miss my BBS... yes at times... but now I can go anywhere in the world and see what is happening instead of just the Bay Area... I would say we've come a long way in just a short time...Just think what we will be able to do with the web in another 20 years...

  • by timholman ( 71886 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:27AM (#42287051)

    But we're going to face a big challenge with re-educating a billion people about what the web means, akin to the years we spent as everyone moved off of AOL a decade ago, teaching them that there was so much more to the experience of the Internet than what they know.

    Anil Dash seems to remember things a bit differently than I do. We didn't "re-educate" the AOL users. Instead, those users turned the rest of the web into the trash pile so much of it is today.

    The Twitter and Facebook fanatics of today (who know and care nothing about the way the web really works) are exactly the same people who would have been obsessively dialing into AOL twenty years ago. Nothing has changed with that demographic, and the idea that we are somehow going to "re-educate" them is laughably naive.

    Today, we are still suffering from the consequences of the misguided belief that the average user could be "educated" to properly operate and maintain a general-purpose computer. The result? Huge botnets, DDoS attacks, and exploits at every turn. Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs had it exactly right - build a walled garden to keep those users from doing any more damage to themselves or to the rest of the net.

    The "old web" is still out there. No one has taken it away from us. And if the teeming millions have no knowledge or appreciation of it, so what? As long as walled gardens keep them from ruining it for the rest of us, I fail to see the downside.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:39AM (#42287221)

    And radio's "free business model" is exactly why I don't use it, even when I forgot my iPod and don't have CDs with me. Honestly, an occasional song between five minutes of advertising and station plugs with the same music anyway between the half-dozen clear and "decent" stations? Not to mention the know-nothing DJs that want to constantly remind me of their Y-grade celebrity status?

    I'll listen to the music of my engine, thank you very much.

  • by skeptical_monster ( 1436977 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @11:57AM (#42287425)
    You actually named the glaring problem. Smartphones and tablets and such don't use open standards to share data, they are apps that are not searchable, not based on standards, and can only be built by someone who knows objective C or whatever. The threat is that tablets and smartphones are going to so deeply undercut the PC market that virtually everyone moves to using proprietary apps in walled gardens, and the web itself shrinks to almost nothing. Then the "medium" becomes the domain of elite programmers and the data becomes wholly owned by the app owners. The web is important because it is open AND widely used. If it is no longer widely used then it isn't as useful.
  • by Push Latency ( 930039 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @12:16PM (#42287625)

    And anyone who agrees with this post is most likely not posting content to the internet with the same zeal to connect and share as they once had. I'm surprising myself by actually posting.

    For me, the problem is that where most content on the Web was out on public pages, it now hides behind a Facebook etc. login screen. I don't use that service, so when I hit that login screen, I close the tab. After a while, it leaves you with a sick feeling.

    The real problem is not that these older/better internet services aren't around anymore, but that most people don't look at every available option first, and then choose Facebook etc. They have learned that there is only Facebook and then commercial sites for buying/building things. They may as well not exist - so the argument that they are still there is mostly irrelevant.

      As an example, the "young folks" (college/highschool age folks ) that I've convinced to use IRC with me have come around to my understanding, and feel basically the same way I do. But they wouldn't have known it was there, or how to use it. Back in the day, there was an incentive to learn about it. That incentive is gone - so it doesn't really matter if the services still exist or not.

  • by tiberus ( 258517 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @12:27PM (#42287771)

    For better or for worse, these are very important things in a Capitalistic society.

    I've often heard of Capitalism but, I don't believe I see it very often. The result of a Capitalistic Society that practices Capitalism would be Open and Free Markets, right? The markets in the U.S., IMHO, run much more like a Plutocracy than an sense of the word Open. Companies like Walmart, the local market, decide who can and can not come to the market, how and how much they can come to the market, set prices for products they don't produce, etc.. Microsoft has forced Dell to change how they sell PCs and laptops. Groups of companies have frequently colluded to control the markets in terms of price and availability or their products.

    If Capitalism produces Free Markets and we don't have Free Markets . . .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2012 @12:58PM (#42288125)

    And folks who got on the Web after Adblock have no idea what you're talking about.

  • no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grenadeh ( 2734161 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @01:03PM (#42288197)
    The people hating on the article need to get a clue. He may have worded it incorrectly but what he is saying that because of the internet these corporations have created, it has shifted to a consumer society rather than an internet populated by content-makers who build and run their own websites and host their own content. Further worsening things is SOPA and the other internet-dragon acts that, while not all entirely implemented, serve to do nothing but ruin the internet - people who do create content will be lucky if someone doesn't claim it was stolen, whether SOPA returns and gets passed or the internet stays the same. Google axes multiple blogger sites on a daily basis that are 100% legit and run entirely by their creator, containing original work made by said creator, and they aren't the only offender. People have no less ability to find their own way on the internet than they did in the early days. However, so few people actually do (even among us IT workers) that the mainstream consumer culture of the internet obscures them and so this article is appropriate, to the general masses.
  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday December 14, 2012 @01:21PM (#42288419) Homepage Journal

    TV copied it and even added a pay TV model that a lot of people liked for a decade or two
    and now the internet is trying to work out its own version of the pay TV model

    Yes, except they're trying to emulate the crappy pay TV now instead of what it was when young. I first got cable in 1980. The only commercials were on the OTA stations, the movies weren't censored, the Discover Channel actually had science instead of "trick my truck" and the History channel had history instead of "ice road truckers". Now? Commercials on the pay stations, and not just commercials during breaks but while the actual content is playing. Rather than a dozen channels you get hundreds, few of them you would ever care to watch and most redundant is many cases -- there are so many sprts channels ESPN is showing pool and poker as "sports" and it costs an arm and a leg.

    TV got frog boiled. Unfortunately, the web just followed pay TV. And to paywalled sites I say the same as I say to pay TV: Fuck 'em. You want me to pay? Get rid of the goddamn commercials, have a decent product and charge a reasonable price. They're doing none of these nowadays, either on TV or the web. Fuck 'em, I refuse to play or pay.

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @01:33PM (#42288627)

    And if you rent a virtual server somewhere, you potentially also could lose control of your website and its contents.

  • by greenbird ( 859670 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @07:12PM (#42295889)

    So you could have a device based upon the Android source, but doesn't meet the CDD, so it can't call itself Android. thinking on that is it's more to protect the Android trademark from crap implementations that would tarnish it's image. I' haven't read the CDD but from the summary it's focus is making sure applications will run correctly on a particular implementation.

    I admit that doesn't say that the "license" actually requires a fee, but I think it does.

    The Android compatibility page [] (where the CDD is hosted) states "Android compatibility is free, and it's easy." Although it does also have the below so there are some other factors that may involve some fee.

    Once you've built a compatible device, you may wish to include Google Play to provide your users access to the third-party app ecosystem. Unfortunately, for a variety of legal and business reasons, we aren't able to automatically license Google Play to all compatible devices. To inquire about access about Google Play, you can contact us.

    Although requiring a small fee for such certification may technically make it not virtually free, if the fee is relatively moderate I would still consider it essential free.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller