Anything that Anil Dash writes is worth reading and this, his first article for Rolling Stone, is no different. I haven’t quoted it here, but I love the first paragraph. What goes around, comes around, eh?
[T]his new year offers many echoes of a moment we haven’t seen in a quarter-century. 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.
Source: The Internet Is About to Get Weird Again | Rolling Stone
We are about to see the biggest reshuffling of power on the internet in 25 years, in a way that most of the internet’s current users have never seen before. And while some of the drivers of this change have been hyped up, or even over-hyped, a few of the most important changes haven’t gotten any discussion at all.
Consider the dramatic power shift happening right now in social media. Twitter’s slide into irrelevance and extremism as it decays into X has hastened the explosive growth of a whole host of newer social networks. There’s the nerdy vibes of the noncommercial Mastodon communities (each one with its own set of Dungeons and Dragons rules to play by), the raucous hedonism of Bluesky (like your old Tumblr timeline at its most scandalous), and the at-least-it’s-not-LinkedIn noisiness of Threads, brought to you by Instagram, meaning Facebook, meaning Meta. There are lots more, of course, and probably another new one popping up tomorrow, but that’s what’s great about it. A generation ago, we saw early social networks like LiveJournal and Xanga and Black Planet and Friendster and many others come and go, each finding their own specific audience and focus. For those who remember a time in the last century when things were less homogenous, and different geographic regions might have their own distinct music scenes or culinary traditions, it’s easy to understand the appeal of an online equivalent to different, connected neighborhoods that each have their own vibe. While this new, more diffuse set of social networks sometimes requires a little more tinkering to get started, they epitomize the complexity and multiplicity of the weirder and more open web that’s flourishing today.
I’m not a pollyanna about the fact that there are still going to be lots of horrible things on the internet, and that too many of the tycoons who rule the tech industry are trying to make the bad things worse. (After all, look what the last wild era online lead to.) 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.
Image: DALL-E 3