GOOG - FB - AMZN - MSFT - AAPL
November 9, 2017 1:44 PM   Subscribe

 
> Another thing was that there was no dross, because everything had to be written and uploaded by a person.

This...does not jibe with my memory of the internet at any point since I discovered it in 1994, but maybe I was one of the newbs who helped ruin it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:56 PM on November 9, 2017 [53 favorites]


That second link reads like it was written on Angelfire by some 15-year-old.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:02 PM on November 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


Once again, the nature of the Internet is not to enable competition, but to kill it. Behold the power of network effects.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:22 PM on November 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


I don't see how AAPL fits into the narrative, and MSFT is clearly an also-ran for the first link's thesis.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:26 PM on November 9, 2017 [6 favorites]


I still have my own domain(s), roll a lot of markup by hand (I still use tables for layout!), and unless my host goes belly-up, the only person who'll disappear my own content that I've put up on my own sites is me.
posted by tclark at 2:28 PM on November 9, 2017 [9 favorites]


So I got to the third link, and tried to think of "what did I use to search for on the internet before Google took over?"

And I remembered: I searched for Pinky and the Brain quotes and was happy to find some Geocities site where someone had archived them. (Link is long gone, but people are welcome to look through reocities.com and oocities.org, the two geocities preservation projects.)

So I put [Pinky and the Brain] in the search bar, and the first link that comes back is Tissues in the Profession: CAN BAD MEN MAKE GOOD BRAINS DO BAD THINGS? which is one of my all-time favorite links about philosophy and ethics... and which I shared with my daughter last week, so maybe that's somehow affecting the results? But anyway. You should all go read that.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:28 PM on November 9, 2017 [7 favorites]


I don't see how AAPL fits into the narrative

Walled-garden appification? It's a bit of a stretch...
posted by Dysk at 2:36 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


> Another thing was that there was no dross, because everything had to be written and uploaded by a person.

This...does not jibe with my memory of the internet at any point since I discovered it in 1994, but maybe I was one of the newbs who helped ruin it.


Yeah, CGI, Perl, and shell scripts wave hello from 1993.


I don't see how AAPL fits into the narrative
App-ification?

posted by MikeKD at 2:40 PM on November 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


It’s grim. Staltz is basically correct imho. Something unambiguously liberating has turned to corporate crap.
posted by Segundus at 2:41 PM on November 9, 2017 [9 favorites]


Yes before 2014 the web was a freewheeling anarchist utopia and was hardly commercialized at all, and there certainly weren't any 800 pound gorillas driving things.

To state the thesis is to refute it.
posted by PMdixon at 2:49 PM on November 9, 2017 [24 favorites]


America Online waves hello from 1996 or thereabouts. I mean, if you want to talk about walled gardens.
posted by arkhangel at 2:50 PM on November 9, 2017 [18 favorites]


Web technologies are now so complicated on every level that most people would rather just deal with having a facebook page than trying to host their own, and this serves as a very effective funnel into the walled gardens of google et al. Personal webpages started disappearing when html stopped being something written by humans and instead became something produced by increasingly complex toolchains.
posted by Pyry at 3:16 PM on November 9, 2017 [23 favorites]


I am loving the surprise me feature of wiby.me. Something has been lost with today's slick content delivery systems but on the other hand half the sites are bordering on unusable or are just extremely ugly. It is a mixed bag but a fun trip back to where you didn't need an eye for slick design to slap together a page.

I can't critique other people's sites though, the last time one of my pages got popular most of the comments were people complaining about my font choices.
posted by AndrewStephens at 3:16 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


"Does anyone remember websites? These might be unfamiliar to anyone unexposed to the internet before 2005 or so [...]"

Interesting data point... I always thought it would take a lot longer for false projections and memories of an imagined historical golden age to manifest. Like at least a generation or even two. Looks like it only takes a dozen years.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:17 PM on November 9, 2017 [12 favorites]


I can't imagine reading an article that long on a smart phone...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 3:20 PM on November 9, 2017


Web technologies are now so complicated on every level that most people would rather just deal with having a facebook page than trying to host their own, and this serves as a very effective funnel into the walled gardens of google et al.

I think that is backwards. The maintenance of a personal webpage is complicated, the retaining and maintaining of a domain is not easy to the non-tech segment, webhosting is a complex added expense for a small business, and a personal web developer to maintain it all is also complex and expensive. Compare that to a Facebook page, which makes it easy to schedule events, notify customers, upload fun pictures, and test specials - and that is what drives businesses to Facebook.

And none of this is new - arguably with blogs and templates, it's actually gotten slightly less complex to go your own.

Also the fact that the web is so open that they have to employ a legal team to fight customer search typos and it's easy to see why the controlled web is preferred.
posted by The_Vegetables at 3:26 PM on November 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


The shift is palatable.

These days you build api’s into your application stack which interact with google, Facebook and amazon.

Really, if you’re trying to get traffic to an application landing page where users then interact with your site you are losing.

In their ideal world the users never leave google, Facebook or amazon. You publish your tech stacks, skills and inventories into their platforms and if you are big enough they structure a way to hand their user off to you that is favorable to them losing the traffic.

It has changed folks. Traffic is not coming to you, it’s being brokered to you.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:30 PM on November 9, 2017 [18 favorites]


America Online waves hello from 1996 or thereabouts.

Man I was on Prodigy and CompuServe back in '92, '93.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:35 PM on November 9, 2017 [6 favorites]


related and previously: Maciej Cieglowski on the feudal internet presaging the antidemocratic implications of having so much of our information consolidated (and exploited) within a few narrow channels that can be endlessly manipulated by money.
posted by bl1nk at 3:37 PM on November 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


Web technologies are now so complicated on every level that most people would rather just deal with having a facebook page than trying to host their own, and this serves as a very effective funnel into the walled gardens of google et al. Personal webpages started disappearing when html stopped being something written by humans and instead became something produced by increasingly complex toolchains.

I bet that there are more personally hosted webpages today than there were in whatever ancient time you consider peak internet freedom of simple technotopia. "Most people" have never been interested in hosting anything.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 3:49 PM on November 9, 2017 [17 favorites]


> To state the thesis is to refute it.

To exaggerate and misrepresent something you disagree with is to fling poo at a public debate.
posted by ardgedee at 4:00 PM on November 9, 2017 [7 favorites]


Compare that to a Facebook page, which makes it easy to schedule events, notify customers, upload fun pictures, and test specials - and that is what drives businesses to Facebook.

Geocities didn't have nearly the features of Facebook, but had it stuck around, it would have tried. Large-platform host-your-content site builders have been a thing for as long as we've had an internet.

Even for people with the technical know-how to buy a domain, buy site hosting, sort out content options and so on, there's almost too many choices. "What do I make my website look like" is a nightmare of possibilities. And those who can't afford a professional designer for advice, are stuck with "copy something that doesn't look awful." And if you're going to do that, why not just put it on a platform where the layout and features come pre-installed?
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:04 PM on November 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


I bet that there are more personally hosted webpages today than there were in whatever ancient time you consider peak internet freedom of simple technotopia. "Most people" have never been interested in hosting anything.

If you want to argue that the increasing centralization of the web is actually a good thing, then go right ahead, but I don't think you can plausibly argue that it isn't a trend.
posted by Pyry at 4:04 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


The web isn't dying. The issue is that no one wants "the web" or websites.

People want to read things. They want to communicate. They want to share photos and send money. They do not give a shit about whether it's via cheques and ACH or whether it's Venmo or Google Wallet.

The reality is that there are economies of scale and big companies can do stuff more efficiently than small companies so over time we end up with big companies.
posted by GuyZero at 4:05 PM on November 9, 2017 [27 favorites]


Last week I removed FB and Instaspam from my phone, I still monitor and use them via desktop but it sure as hell feels great to have so much time and mental focus back.
and after a recommendation from Mefi, I use duckduckgo for searching.
posted by Dr Ew at 4:06 PM on November 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


The commentary in this thread is sort of bypassing what seems to me like the most important part of TFA: the role of residential and cellular data ISP's. The point is not that the web is consolidating - that's a given. The point is that in the not-too-distant future, you may start to get charged a premium to see non-centralized content. And then...eventually...said content will simply wither and die. So that your entire Web and Internet are only what the big tech firms approve of. Ever.

It's gone way past 'delete your FaceBook account' at this point.
posted by dragstroke at 4:07 PM on November 9, 2017 [36 favorites]


I always thought it would take a lot longer for false projections and memories of an imagined historical golden age to manifest. Like at least a generation or even two. Looks like it only takes a dozen years.

There's always been a sort of tech elitist Web utopian who never really looked all that hard at the social and economic ramifications of what they created, and when they came back to bite them in the ass, their response was to go so deep in denial that they were drowning in Egypt.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:08 PM on November 9, 2017 [7 favorites]


If you want to argue that the increasing centralization of the web is actually a good thing, then go right ahead, but I don't think you can plausibly argue that it isn't a trend.

If I want to argue either of those, I'll let you know, don't worry. The argument I'm currently making is that web technologies have always been so complicated that most people would rather just deal with having a facebook page than hosting their own. Never in the history of the universe has a significant percentage of people wanted to host their own site. If hosting your own site worked in the exact same way today as it did in the year 2000, people still wouldn't be doing it. And if facebook/their alternate universe competitor wasn't around, people just wouldn't have their own web presence.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:31 PM on November 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


And if facebook/their alternate universe competitor wasn't around, people just wouldn't have their own web presence.

I mean, 'technology was frozen exactly as it was in 2000' and 'the current status quo' are not the only conceivable possibilities. It is possible to imagine an alternative present where web technologies evolved to be more accessible without also having the web be dominated by a handful of giant corporations and their many associated ills (harboring nazis, aiding trump's election, pushing deeply unsettling algorithm generated videos at children, etc.).
posted by Pyry at 4:42 PM on November 9, 2017 [7 favorites]


I just put up a webpage from my phone. It took me less than two minutes. It's not much but if I give it an hour I could have a small web app up there. The diy web is bigger and easier than ever.
posted by graymouser at 5:24 PM on November 9, 2017 [7 favorites]


I don't see how AAPL fits into the narrative
I think it's fair to say Apple greatly extended the reach and popularity of the Internet by popularizing smartphones and tablets. The author of the first link would likely say this accelerated the de-website-ification of the Internet.
posted by seiryuu at 5:35 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


There are some pretty valid criticisms of OP here, but I agree that there's been a sea change, and that a lot of it has to do with the dominance of social platforms.

Coming at it from a different angle, I really like Anil Dash's observation (from 2013 no less) about how the standard user experience on the web has changed from pages -- single documents with defined beginning and end, from which you deliberately navigate to other documents -- to watching a stream, a scroll which is constantly refreshed and optimized for attention. Starts at about 40:30 on this video, but here's the transcript:
The other defensive thing a lot of us want to say is it's only some of the Web, right? It's just Facebook. It's just Twitter. You can get by fine without it. People in this room do, right? And it's funny because this assumption comes from the again from those early days that we built the social Web for pages. The Web was made for pages, right? It's meant to public academic papers. That's what it was designed to do.
[Wireframe illustration of a common two-column web layout]
And we think of pages and I always think of something like this, this sort of classic web page layout. A bunch of boxes like the New York Times home page. And an interesting thing that happened in the past decade is this model of what a web page looks like has shifted to this, to a stream.
[Wireframe of the previous page layout, linearized into a single column]
This is increasingly how we consume our information. If we think about whether its on our mobile phones or where we spend the day cruising up and down in a browser, there are all these narrow, single-column streams of the information we want to consume that we're constantly refreshing.
There's been a shift from user-directed interaction and movement across the web to single-stream content presented automatically by algorithm, where the user directing themselves away is considered a failure to be addressed. Consider one of Twitter's biggest problems: it's not just that it can't turn a profit, it's that it's so successful at keeping eyeballs in the stream that users are infamously averse to actually clicking through any given link.

> People want to read things. They want to communicate. They want to share photos and send money.

Aside from sending money, weren't we doing that pretty well before Facebook? And isn't Facebook, in a lot of ways, basically Uber for the internet?
posted by postcommunism at 5:39 PM on November 9, 2017 [10 favorites]


The gated gardens have always existed. MySpace and Angelfire - Facebook and Twitter. There is no end of history.

Usenet will rise again. With better automated moderation tools.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:47 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting for the follow-up article on how cities were better off before cars, barring some minor details.
posted by happyroach at 6:25 PM on November 9, 2017


Umm... Much earlier. I surmise 2005 is the very earliest. Or maybe that was peak. 2007-2008 is the start of the decline. 2010 when Google really just goes all in on Plus. And then FB's continued dominance...

It's already been dying for a decade now. At least.

Also - Eternal September.
posted by symbioid at 6:25 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


(OK, I see it's a more specific claim, interesting, but... I guess my point is the seeds of this "dominance" were planted long before then)...

Google closing off and becoming buddybuddy with silo and walledgarden was the deathknell.
posted by symbioid at 6:27 PM on November 9, 2017


Usenet will rise again.

I wish. Unfortunately, Comcast cut access to Usenet over a decade ago.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:28 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


Are there any sites that talk about the retro-pre Web 2.0 internet? With new projects like Wiby and the growing Neocities community you'd think there be a forum (or better, BBS) type organization devoted to finding and sharing old school sites. And it'd be great if the end goal was to great secondary archives with IPFS or another technology as redundancies in case the Internet Archive ever has issues.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:53 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


this is a shift back towards proprietary from the open standards that were the bailiwick of the web

let's focus on open standards again, and swing the pendulum back toward openness

it's a huge hurdle, but we have recent experience from which to draw. when the web arrived many people suggested it would not last, that AOL was here to stay.

open standards can take digital application platforms to the next level... again. the web protocols are not primarily designed for applications, primarily focused on publishing.
posted by gkr at 8:33 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


I blame security as the root cause of all of this.

As for computer security It's just not safe to visit web pages any more. Going off to any random web domain you don't recognize could wipe your computer and cost you all your stuff, or worse. Why risk it? So, as a consequence, walled gardens became preferred.

As for personal security (aka privacy) It's just not safe to put things on the internet. Facebook, Twitter, etc have ways of letting you post things and select your audience. You can post pictures of your kids on Facebook, and know that only your family can see them. There's no simple way to share things on the open web without having to manage user accounts for everyone who you want to allow access to.

So, it's a bleak picture. There are technical solutions available for both of these problems, but there's a lot of inertia to overcome, and that will only happen when people get fed up enough to seek them out. I'll be happy to discuss if anyone asks.
posted by MikeWarot at 8:48 PM on November 9, 2017 [7 favorites]


That first article is chilling and seems pretty hard to dispute, at least in the big picture. If three companies decide what you see online, and buy online, and host any other website online, and the ISPs can also restrict our access, it is inevitable that the great majority of people will soon have only this limited world of internet to look at.
posted by latkes at 9:37 PM on November 9, 2017


I don't see how AAPL fits into the narrative, and MSFT is clearly an also-ran for the first link's thesis.

One thing to bear in mind is that AAPL, GOOG, MSFT, AMZN, FB together (and in that order) recently filled the top 5 spots in the list of largest public companies by market capital*. Market cap is a bit of a vanity metric, but it does indicate that investor money is feeling confident that software & services will continue to eat everything. While GOOG and FB may rule social and web, there are other fronts where these five companies compete, i.e cloud (data-centers), devices, enterprise, social, messaging, games/apps/music, photos/video, retail, AI, AR, virtual assistants, etc. Each is a component of the "Appleification".

It's hard to imagine any new players being able to compete with these five, when table stakes is billion offshore war-chests, mountains of IP, multi-region data-centers and exabytes of user data. It's also hard to imagine consolidation between any two happening any time soon, but that's probably the most likely scenario in the long term as the gardens get larger and the walls get taller.

* And another tech company, Alibaba, was 6th, at least according to the 2017/10/31 snapshot of that page. Wikipedia only shows the list up to end of Q3 2017.
posted by rh at 10:16 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting for the follow-up article on how cities were better off before cars, barring some minor details.

I think that cities were better off with far fewer cars, for sure. Not certain how that orthogonalizes (could that actually be a word?) with the criticisms of the current web, however.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:08 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


could that actually be a word?

It's the 90s - go for it!
posted by thelonius at 11:13 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


If anything, Apple kind of doesn't belong in that list because they have been so consistently unsuccessful with any sort of social network or anything like that. They used to sort of do hosting, but they don't anymore, and unless you count iMessage as a social network (and it arguably kind of is, but doesn't replace anything resembling the open web anyway), they've mostly just been spectacular failures at anything that could conceivably be considered an assault on the open web.

Remember Ping?
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:13 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


Appification is an assault on the open web.
posted by clew at 11:52 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Appification is an assault on the open web.

Your point? The open web failed because it never developed good answers for things like security. Stop treating the failure of the open web as a moral failing on the part of users, and start looking at it as a product failure.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:12 AM on November 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


I really like Wiby, and I think it could stand to use more user interaction. Neither of the articles in the OP say anything against Wikis, which I'd argue as one of the better creations of this current internet age. An archive like Wiby could use a bit of curation, so long as it's done in an appropriately simple and minimal way, eschewing modern over-functionality and AJAX. Sometimes you have to remember that Jerry Yang and David Filo were just cataloging the web sites they surfed to.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:28 AM on November 10, 2017


I'm waiting for the follow-up article on how cities were better off before cars, barring some minor details.

I think this author would frame the discussion as "As the negative externalities of the old horse-drawn transportation system emerged, what if instead of optimizing our cities for cars, we optimized for bicycles instead?"

We could have embraced different emerging technologies. There were other options for the web, now stricken from the menu, with different tradeoffs.
posted by Svejk at 12:49 AM on November 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yes before 2014 the web was a freewheeling anarchist utopia and was hardly commercialized at all, and there certainly weren't any 800 pound gorillas driving things.

To state the thesis is to refute it.


Well, to state *that* thesis is to refute that you actually read the article, but okay.
posted by duffell at 3:06 AM on November 10, 2017


To be fair, he might've read the second link, to which that is a perfectly reasonable response. The first link presents an infinitely more sensible thesis.
posted by Dysk at 3:17 AM on November 10, 2017


I find it genuinely weird that we're 50-odd comments into this thread and there's a bunch of people scoffing about how it's super easy to build websites nowadays, or saying, hey, maybe changing the architecture will save us, if we just made it easier to to get to web content and broke free from apps, and no one's addressing the central claim of the first article, the reason why he selects 2014 as a doomsday: Traffic. Before 2014, google controlled 1/3 of traffic; in the three years since, which facebook's plunge into content, the two of them combine to control 70%. Every other fucking website in the goddamn world: 30%. It's a Web of two strands.

Changing architecture does nothing if people don't use it; it's building more on-ramps to a highway that has been bypassed.

The control of traffic is the source of their power. You can make the world into your garden if you can just build a great enough wall.
posted by Diablevert at 3:44 AM on November 10, 2017 [10 favorites]


The control of traffic is the source of their power. You can make the world into your garden if you can just build a great enough wall.
People aren't trapped in the Gardens because Google, Facebook, etc are so clever, they willingly, rationally, chose to use them because of a lack (perceived or real) of better (for them) alternatives. Network effects help make those choices stick, but aren't insurmountable.

If better (for the internet, and society) alternatives are built, and discover-able, there will be a shift... that's why we're not still all on AOL or CompuServe, etc.

For example, alternatives to Youtube exist, and there are small audiences on them... if one of them proves to have the viable minimum set of features, and has a non-clueless set of management and developers, audiences and creators will start migrating, en mass. Knowing what that minumum set of features is, however, can usually only be determined after the fact.

The market is still seeking alternatives, and non-market forces are working hard on it as well (including this very thread). Everyone who is pissed at the status quo is part of the force working to change it, and not captured by the capitalist system.

TL;DR: This too shall pass.
posted by MikeWarot at 4:03 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Appification is an assault on the open web.

Your point? The open web failed because it never developed good answers for things like security. Stop treating the failure of the open web as a moral failing on the part of users, and start looking at it as a product failure.
QFT. My pet thesis is that appification is a response in no small part to the dumpster fire that is, and almost always was, the browser stack (i.e., HTML += CSS += Javascript, with a hefty seasoning of a failed security model. See: ActiveX, XSS, cookies, etc.). Up for debate is whether this dumpster fire arose by arson or merely just dousing the whole thing in kerosene and walking away whistling a 2600 Hz trunk line tone, as is whether or not appification is 'better' or 'worse' than the browser stack, but those debates are practically academic at this stage. The "open web" was always fertile ground for the seeds of its own destruction.
posted by the painkiller at 4:18 AM on November 10, 2017 [6 favorites]


Let's also take a moment to remember China. China has built its own walled gardens, and with products like WeChat, and the rest of the Baidu/Tencent/Alibaba product offerings, is pushing hard to achieve the same global dominance enjoyed by Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple.

I'm not saying these are good, or even viable alternatives, but the game is far from up. Even just as a battleground for warring platforms, the open internet will persist.
posted by saysthis at 4:30 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


I blame security as the root cause of all of this.

And now we’re in a situation where our national security is potentially compromised. How is this better.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:24 AM on November 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


> The "open web" was always fertile ground for the seeds of its own destruction.

I've wondered how successful social networking would have been without the decade-long deluge of email spam. Email is so much more comprehensible and easy for people to pick up than app interfaces, but it was nigh unusable during social media's rise. It's much better now, but only because of consolidation and massive data crunching by the big players to filter out spam.

Facebook would still have taken off on college campuses, but with usable email, would the mass of adults still have joined up? They could have been sending family messages and baby pictures just fine without it. Email forwards were certainly a thing before, during, and after 2003.

On the other hand, email doesn't present a commons in the same way Facebook does, and email can feel like a to-do list rather than an invitation to socialize, so probably not.
posted by postcommunism at 5:29 AM on November 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


Come now. Facebook is no more a threat to democracy than Fox News or the Daily Mail.

(I'm suggesting that the problem is bigger, not smaller.)
posted by Dysk at 5:30 AM on November 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also, the Internet is international (the clue is in the name!) so it's a bit rich to talk about "our" national security in that context...
posted by Dysk at 5:44 AM on November 10, 2017


To be fair, he might've read the second link, to which that is a perfectly reasonable response

No, I was responding to the first, because:

no one's addressing the central claim of the first article, the reason why he selects 2014 as a doomsday: Traffic. Before 2014, google controlled 1/3 of traffic; in the three years since, which facebook's plunge into content, the two of them combine to control 70%

Why is 1/3 OK tho? Like, so long as the biggest player stays under 50%, all is well? My point is not that G/F/Am don't control the web - it's that I don't see a qualitative difference between "only" 1/3 and 70%. But by the first article's thesis, if Google and Facebook didn't consume any more traffic share now than they did in 2014, everything would be different and better and more sustainable somehow. Or else why is 2014 a tipping point?

He's saying, as far as I can tell, that the level of centralization of traffic in 2014 was qualitatively different than now and that level was OK and the current one is not and I'm saying that's goofy. If Google already has 1/3 of the packets going their way, it's already too late to worry about them being too central.
posted by PMdixon at 5:45 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


i hit an old school site when I was searching for a quote in the boredom thread. Check the URL! Good times.

I decided not to post the quote. But here it is now, OCR errors and all:

Life presents itself first and foremost as a task: the task of maintaining itself... If this task is accomplished, what has been gained is a burden, and there then appears a second task: that of doing something with it so as to ward off boredom, which hovers over every secure life like a bird of prey. Thus the first task is to gain something and the second to become unconscious of what has been gained, which is otherwise a burden.

That human life must be some kind of mistake is sufficiently proved by the simple observation that man is a compound of needs which are hard to satisfy; that their satisfaction achieves nothing but a painless condition in which he is only given over to boredom; and that boredom is a direct proof that existence is in itself valueless, for boredom is nothing other than the sensation of the emptiness of existence. For if life, in the desire for which our essence and existence consists, possessed in itself a positive value and real content, then would be no such thing as boredom: mere existence would fulfill and satisfy us. As things are, we take no pleasure in existence except when we are striving after something - in which case distance and difficulties make our goal look as if it would satisfy us (an illusion which fades when we reach it)- or when engaged ill purely intellectual activity, in which case we are really stepping out of life so as to regard it from outside, like spectators at a play. Even sensual pleasure itself consists in a continual striving and ceases as soon as its goal is reached. Whenever we are not involved in one or other of these things but directed back to existence itself we are overtaken by its worthlessness anti vanity and this is the sensation called boredom.

posted by thelonius at 6:31 AM on November 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm waiting for the follow-up article on how cities were better off before cars, barring some minor details.

Best as I can tell, NYC had about 3 million people in 1900, and I'll take that 120,000 horses as a given.
NYC today has 1.4 million households that own a car of 3 million total households, so a minimum of 1.4 million cars. The numbers aren't quite the same since we are comparing households in 2017 to people in 1900, but close enough for a comparison right? 120,000/3million = 4% owned horses. 46% of households own a car. And that's not even counting cars mostly used for business. So they traded a 4% problem for a 50% problem. I don't think that is a minor tradeoff.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:12 AM on November 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


I've wondered how successful social networking would have been without the decade-long deluge of email spam. Email is so much more comprehensible and easy for people to pick up than app interfaces, but it was nigh unusable during social media's rise. It's much better now, but only because of consolidation and massive data crunching by the big players to filter out spam.
Honestly, I think if we'd had proper host authentication during the rise of e-mail we'd have been fine. But it was only towards the start of the social media era that DKIM and SPF got popular enough to make a dent, and by then it was sorta too late.
posted by -1 at 7:34 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Email is so much more comprehensible and easy for people to pick up than app interfaces, but it was nigh unusable during social media's rise

The mega-corp I work for is experimenting with "no-email" days, because too much email is constantly stated as a negative on the job satisfaction front, and corporate email has never been damaged by spam. We have internal instant messaging, social media sites, and apps for common email messages.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:53 AM on November 10, 2017


Re: spam, it has struck me lately that fake needs and bot accounts and probably listicles are all basically spam for social networks. And the social networks have done a much worse job combatting them compared to how we (eventually) fought spam. Centralization seems like it could be part of that, FB doesn’t really have a lot of incentive to not serve you more links because there aren’t 4 other mail hosts you could switch to.
posted by macrael at 8:14 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


FB doesn’t really have a lot of incentive to not serve you more links because there aren’t 4 other mail hosts you could switch to.

FB has the direct incentive to serve you as many links as it possibly can, and to keep the mix skewed towards advertising and away from your actual friends and relations. The fox isn't just guarding the henhouse; the fox built this henhouse and coded its smart locks.
posted by halation at 8:21 AM on November 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


(the clue is in the name!)

Do you enjoy being condescending?
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:40 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


About as much as I enjoy the kind of US-centricity I was responding to.
posted by Dysk at 9:45 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


FWIW "the internet" as a bunch of BGP peering contracts still exists, but at the logical and business layers it's functionally dead.

So yeah, blame insecure web protocols and whatnot but the root of the issue is greed and colonization.

In 1998 when I worked at Excite it was called "mind share" as in "how much of your daily cognitive brain cycles can my web community consume"

I found it horrifying how casually people in Dotcom tech would just assume they had the right to that mindshare. It felt like a new form of colonization.

Well, the winners have emerged and the process has ended. What was an international web is now something entirely different and it is is defined by national borders, EU data privacy laws, China, Iran and North Korea setting up parallel internets, and the US "owning" the global mindshare and recolonizing the globe.

So yeah, mea culpa for saying "our" in my comment about national security. But my point still stands. Furthermore "we" meaning "everyone on on earth" are less secure in today's online monoculture than we ever were in a LAMP-driven diverse web.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:51 AM on November 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm curious how Salesforce, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and... not sure who else... fits into this. Seems like business use of the internet is a whole different set of players?
posted by latkes at 9:54 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


business use is consolidating onto AWS, Azure (Microsoft Cloud) and Google cloud
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:57 AM on November 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


Salesforce as a separate SAAS platform will probably be around for a long damn time on their current cloud infrastructure. I believe the only reason Salesforce doesn't move their services to AWS is cost, because technically it could be done.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:00 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Intrigued by the first article author's decision to use ticker symbols instead of the more commonly-used names of the companies; any idea why?
posted by dendritejungle at 10:17 AM on November 10, 2017


I read it as a way to emphasise that these companies are businesses with a profit motive, not public infrastructure.
posted by Dysk at 10:33 AM on November 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


Here's a quite relevant Oatmeal comic. (apologies if this was already linked)
posted by knownassociate at 11:34 AM on November 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


the Internet is international (the clue is in the name!)

lol good one! Now do "interstate".
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:16 PM on November 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


My pet thesis is that appification is a response in no small part to the dumpster fire [...]

Appification of websites is a direct result of Advertising and the success of Ad Blocking technology.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 5:46 PM on November 10, 2017


I run a few minuscule websites/blogs and my traffic has actually been steadily increasing with very little effort on my part (including not posting anything new in years and having lots of dead links). Now it is not nearly as fast as viral thing or as fast as it would if I was promoting/updating but it is increasing simply because more people are getting online. Now the ad revenue which used to buy me about one beer a week as plummeted to one beer a month and that's sad. But is weird to harken back to a time when millions were online and compare it to now when billions are online. If your proportion of the pie has shrunk and that bothers you remember that the pie is now galaxy or universe sized.

Don't get me wrong, I think lots of things are broken. Google is steadily getting worse, particularly for advanced or technical knowledge which is getting drowned out by "I read Wikipedia, here is your answer" and "Have you tried rebooting?" answers on endlessly copied web forums. Site designs are truncating functionality chasing lowest common denominator user interfaces and those user interfaces are frighteningly low in functionality.

And the mobile web. About 75% of my traffic is phones/tablets. That severely constrains interactivity. People simply can't/won't write well on a phone or tablet.

Then international users means a whole lot of bad English. Better than my writing in other languages so I tip my hat at your efforts. But at the same time....I mostly don't want to read it.

So go ahead and have a party at the park across the street or the lobby of the corporate tower around the corner if you want but there is also my lawn which is magically getting bigger.
posted by srboisvert at 5:52 PM on November 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


lol good one! Now do "interstate".

Bit overblown for what is fundamentally just a national motorway network, isn't it? At any rate, you seem to be confusing "clue" with "consistently deterministic factor".
posted by Dysk at 2:26 AM on November 11, 2017


I don't think interstate or clue mean what you think they do, which makes your aggressively condescending snark about language quite surprising.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:44 AM on November 11, 2017


About as much as I enjoy the kind of US-centricity I was responding to.

Given that the word has nothing to do with nations, states, or even cities, it's not a very good point? I mean, yes, HTTP and HTML are fine products of Switzerland, but given that the Internet was initially funded by a part of the US military as a means of maintaining functional communications after a nuclear war and would have died in the cradle if it weren't for another US government agency paying for the vast majority of the cost of running it up until 1994 or so. I don't think it's at all unreasonable to remark upon the extra irony involved in it being a major national security risk to the US specifically.

As far as the language goes, Internet is a literal shortening of the word "internetwork," which refers to literally any network of networks, but was initially coined to describe a network of around five campus networks, all in the US at the time. I've built my own internets of similar scale. A couple of them are still operating, though with much more connectivity to the actual Internet than was once the case.

Sorry that offends your sensibilities, but some things do in fact originate mostly in one geographic location. Acknowledgement of that doesn't seem particularly nationalist to me.
posted by wierdo at 3:42 PM on November 12, 2017 [4 favorites]




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