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Nostalgia For Things I’ve Never Experienced (Also Capitalism Is Bad)

from miscellaneous on 2020-02-11 ↩ back

Do you know those 13 year olds who go onto YouTube videos of Queen concerts and comment something like “modern music sucks, I was born in the wrong generation”?

It’s a pretty dumb take. At no time in history has old music been so accessible than now, so while you might miss out on live performances and the cultural “vibe” around the music, great music shouldn’t need that to be great.

I’m telling you this because I’m going to need to do some explaining on why it doesn’t apply when I say this:

The Internet peaked in the early 2000s and it sucks now.

Do you remember when the web was open and everybody wasn’t in the closed gardens of Google and Facebook? I don’t.

Do you remember when websites didn’t give you 200 MBs of JavaScript bloat that is literally just user tracking? I don’t.

Do you remember GeoCities? I don’t.

For the past week, I’ve been scouring through a few archived GeoCities. Here are a few of my favourites:

I’m not sure why, but I feel "sehnsucht" from going through these pages. They feel so endearing, you can tell they were made from labours of love. Where the owners were just trying to make something cool for their friends or to show to their family. It feels a lot more personal than just having a social media page on Instagram or something. They had to put actual work into it, they chose where the pictures go, what content is displayed, how it’s styled, etc.

I really like this quote from Matthias Ott[2].

Personal websites are called personal websites because they are just that: personal. Thus, the primary objective still is to have a place to express ourselves, to explore ourselves, a place that lasts while the daily storms pass by. A place of consideration, and yes, a place of proudly sharing what we do, what we think, and what we care about. A place to contribute your voice and help others. A home on the internet. A place to tell your story.

I know personal websites aren’t dead obviously, you’re on one right now. But It feels like everyone who has a personal website now are kinda into the same things. As in, most of the are into technology. Look at the dude I just quoted, he’s a UX designer, look at the IndieWeb Directory, they’re all nerds who have GitHub profiles.

Normal people don’t have GitHub profiles.

I’d like to see sites from people who have different experiences to mine, and going through those old GeoCities, I found loads of them.

But GeoCities is gone.

There’s the difference between me and that 13 year old YouTube commenter. I can’t go back to the old Internet. There are archives of it sure, but they’re missing a lot of things. For a lot of these sites the community was the site, if they’re gone than the site is as good as dead.

And it’s not just personal websites. Do you remember when you could change the backgrounds and the colours and stuff on your YouTube channel? I remember, but now all you get is a small banner at the top. And don’t even get me started on the Reddit “redesign”. The day they remove old.reddit.com is the day I will quit Reddit.

The Internet has lost it’s personality…

AND IT’S ALL CAPITALISM’S FAULT!!!

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve shit on capitalism. I think the last time was “Team Trees And The Climate Catastrophe”? And that was like two months ago, so I think I’m due for a rant. I touched on it a bit in the beginning, but our over reliance on what - like five(?) social media sites is messing us up real bad. Remember how CollegeHumor shut down because Facebook was faking their viewership numbers?

Don’t care about CollegeHumour? Fine, but did you read the part where FACEBOOK WAS FAKING VIEWERSHIP NUMBERS?

So many publishing companies had moderately successful business models. Then Facebook came along boasting their amazing viewership numbers. So, everyone “pivoted to video”, switched to targeting native Facebook views, and started chasing those unbelievable viewership totals. The views ended up being well lower than reported which means the promising revenue never materialised like expected. By the time companies realised this, it was too late to pivot back to hosting their content on their own site because the behaviour of their users had already been broken by Facebook. This destroyed countless publishers including CollegeHumor and the similar Funny or Die. It’s amazing that Facebook only paid a $40m settlement for this fraud.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on Reddit (again).

Reddit needs a lot of views for advertising to pay its investors. A lot of views means you can’t be too picky about what people share. Have you ever wondered why it took so long for r/MGTOW, an incel[3] community who try to spread their shitty misogynistic ideology, to get quarantined? It’s because Reddit finally got bad press from it.

Thank you Reddit, I love how you let hate speech fester on your site for years unchecked, and when you’re finally called out in a way that may affect advertising, you don’t EVEN BAN THEM. They’re just under quarantine!

Trying to keep people in their communities (that you own) of hate speech is profitable. Faking numbers to get you to migrate your services so that you become reliant on them is profitable. Capitalism has centralised the Internet into a mindless, impersonal game of chasing metrics and “user engagement”.

Further reading:


[1]: I don’t know who these people are. I just think it’s neat that they have a web page.

[2]: https://matthiasott.com/articles/into-the-personal-website-verse

[3]: They say they’re not incels, but come on… they’re totally incels.

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