The Internet 2024

June 12th, 2024

At the risk of sounding like an old man, the internet has changed a lot. Not all changes have been positive. Before starting a conversation about what is disappointing about the modern internet, we should list some of the things I do not miss about the old internet:

  • Browser compatibility hell
  • Dial-up speeds
  • Popups
  • Brittle security
  • “Dumb” keyword based search engines and directories
  • Lack of video as a media

What I do miss about the old internet:

  • Popularity of small niche websites / blogs
  • Forums as main venues for community discussions
  • Leaner web pages
  • Macromedia Flash (sorry, had to)

The modern internet has evolved and there’s no turning back. With that evolution we now have:

  • Video as a 1st class media
  • Incredibly good search engines
  • Stronger security
  • Modern and mostly browser compatible web standards
  • A gazillion options for developing web applications and sites
  • Mobile/responsive web

But we also have:

  • “Social” media
  • Click-bait and doom scroll driven walled garden giants
  • Increased centralization, data-hoarding and mining
  • Paywalled news sites
  • “AI” search summaries
  • Massive content aggregator sites (e.g. Reddit, Hackernews)

The points above share a few commonalities, such as the quest to increase “engagement”, a fantastic metric for generating revenue, but a terrible one for humanity.

Aside from the struggles of newspapers desperately trying to stay relevant and companies making product blunders, social media and content aggregators try to solve a real need: the need for information and social connections. Whether they are effective or not is for another discussion. But people crave what those sites offer.

If you are reading this post, you also arrived here because you craved information. It will probably not improve your day. You probably will not remember what is written here in a week or month from today.

People, myself included, are often spending insane amounts of time consuming content that does not benefit, if not outright negatively impacts, our lives.

Whereas old internet forums and niche websites had a relatively small membership, the new web giants encompass large swaths of the world population. Most people are there. Everyone is shouting. A few dedicated winners become the loudest. As platforms grow, so does the concentration of top influencers.

Some research suggests that smaller communities thrive better than larger ones, perhaps rooted in the Dunbar’s number principle.

There’s no going back to small blogs and forums. The future is forward. But the discontent among people with some of these platforms is evident. What will replace them?

Perhaps a new, smaller paradigm of these sites will take their place.