😎 Make the internet weird again
We're moving toward a more democratized and weird internet, similar to what we experienced during the 90s and early 2000s. And we're not as engaged on social media as we once were.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve read several articles about how the web is changing. The recurring thesis is that we are entering a phase where individual blogs, independent social media platforms, and interoperability will play a larger role in our future web usage.
The latest article to highlight this change comes from tech entrepreneur Anil Dash, who writes about a power shift taking place that could move the web closer toward a more democratized internet similar to what we experienced during the 90s and early 2000s.
“Going back to the more free-for-all nature of the Nineties internet could mean we see a proliferation of unexpected, strange new products and services,” says Dash. And changes have already begun to take place.
Dash opines that companies such as Google, Meta, and Twitter risk losing dominance as users reconsider their daily habits.
Some of the most dominant companies on the internet are at risk of losing their relevance, and the rest of us are rethinking our daily habits in ways that will shift the digital landscape as we know it. Though the specifics are hard to predict, we can look to historical precedents to understand the changes that are about to come, and even to predict how regular internet users — not just the world’s tech tycoons — may be the ones who decide how it goes.
We’re already seeing new tech emerge, such as the fediverse, will offers opportunities for interoperable social platforms. This means we could see an influx of independently made apps that work with these platforms. For example, Mastodon users can access their feeds through a number of apps including Ivory, Mammoth, Ice Cubes, Woolly, and more. And the number of independent developers building apps and services is sure to grow.
Users are posting less often too (see below), and as a result platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are seeing reduced engagement. But at the same time, there’s increasing interests in services and platforms that operate independently.
Perhaps people are tired of platforms controlled by Big Tech and are looking for alternatives. Or maybe users are deciding to leave due to an increase in hate speech, misinformation, and bullying. Either way, this change is opening the door for alternatives that could look very similar to the weird and wondering web that we knew decades ago. “It was a more democratized internet, and while the world can’t return to that level of simplicity, we’re seeing signs of a modern revisiting of some of those ideas,” writes Dash, adding that:
There’s not going to be some new killer app that displaces Google or Facebook or Twitter with a love-powered alternative. But that’s because there shouldn’t be. There should be lots of different, human-scale alternative experiences on the internet that offer up home-cooked, locally-grown, ethically-sourced, code-to-table alternatives to the factory-farmed junk food of the internet. And they should be weird.
Perhaps we’re entering a new age of the internet, which will be familiar for some of use and new for others, but either way, it may seem weird to all. I’m looking forward to that future. 😎
👀 Social media users are doing a lot more scrolling than posting these days. The Wall Street Journal calls this “lurker mentality” and notes that users are reconsidering how often and where to share their opinions and points of view.
“I don’t need to add more friction to my life and have people bickering about who I voted for or what I think,” Instagram user Isaiah Hug tells the Journal, who adds that he’s more likely to communicate in one-on-one messaging or group chats.
The Journal highlights a report by Morning Consult, which shows that “61% of U.S. adult respondents with a social-media account said they have become more selective about what they post.”
Among the reasons for reducing their social media posts, users point to the fact that they are “more protective” about what they share online and also feel that social media is no longer fun.
I recently read a post by writer Emma Gannon, who took to her Substack newsletter to voice her opinion on social media and to explain why she quit Instagram.
“I’ve been reassessing my relationship with social media for a while now,” she writes. “I would have done it anyway — it was my plan to continue my 2023 ‘quitting spree’ and leave Instagram (along with Twitter, drinking, people-pleasing and caffeine) — but it also helps that I don’t feel alone. It feels like one of those things a lot of people are reflecting on.”
Indeed, a lot of people are. According to a Garner report quoted by the Journal, “50 percent of users will either abandon or significantly limit their interaction with social media in the next two years.”
This could pose a challenge for social media platforms, who hope to keep us addicted to scrolling and engaging online. But with so many saying excessive social media use is bad for our mental health, perhaps reevaluating our relationship with it is a good thing.
📱 Microsoft’s Copilot AI chatbot has launched on iOS. With the app, users can ask questions, generate content, and create images. This helps put Copilot in direct competition with OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and maybe brings misinformation to your mobile device? 🤷♂️
🎉 Happy New Year to you all! I hope 2024 is your best year yet and brings you many wonderful surprises and fulfills your wishes. My hope for this year is to grow this newsletter. I’ve already been pleasantly surprised by the amount of positive feedback and subscriber growth. I also plan to use more emojis in 2024! ✌️😎
👨💻 P.S. I just had to add a meme as this post’s cover image. The internet wouldn’t be weird without memes.