Is anyone happy about the state of the internet in the Year of Luigi 2023? Search sucks now, what you do find is riddled with generated text and SEO land grabs, and everything you use every day has either been ruined by a billionaire or is owned by a billionaire with ruining-it aspirations, which is a problem if you like using it because it’s kicking you off the boat, and a problem if you don’t like using it but are forced to because you’re chained to a boat that sucks to be on even more now. And that’s just what’s top of mind right now because they’re the examples everyone uses when complaining about the state of the internet in the aforementioned Year of Luigi 2023.
So what does make me happy on the internet? What are my e-raindrops on digital roses, what are my electronic brown paper packages tied up with @string? Mastodon, obviously, because that’s where my friends are. Comics of all kinds, from snazzy webtoons to archives of ancient-and-still-running newspaper strips. Playing board games with friends and strangers alike on a website from 2002. Finding little personal websites is a big one. I love clicking on a link in something posted 15 years ago and seeing it still go somewhere. Remember, before he sold it, the way Wordle sprung up?
So what’s the string that ties all of these packages together? It’s all pretty people-first. I think it’s also pretty… billionaire-last. What I like here is the people. You could get rid of the billionaires, and everything I like about the web would still be there, but the same isn’t true about the people. No people, no internet worth having. So how do you get rid of the billionaires, or at least solve the billionaire problem for yourself?
On billionaire-owned platforms I am restricted in doing so. On these platforms it’s very common for what you put out there to be considered in some way in the public domain, you don’t control what happens to anything you do, you are never the captain of your own ship. And the trends are in the wrong direction. YouTubers chase the algorithm like dogs chasing cars, TikTok has kids saying “s🥚🥚🥚” and “unalive” because to say “sex” or “death” is to hex your relationship with the algorithm.
I don’t know what the solution is here. I do know I don’t want this, and that I don’t think anyone should want this. I think I can alleviate some of the issues, at least for myself, simply by being more conscientious about how and where I put things out into the world. What do Mastodon, this blog, little personal websites, all have that I don’t have on the big platforms? Here I have ownership, control, and freedom.
Baio, there, in 2016, in the post Kottke quotes, quotes Kottke from three years earlier saying the blog has died. No matter how much we might constantly ask for it to, the situation has not meaningfully changed in the decade since and it doesn’t particularly look or feel like it will. But the web isn’t a sea, where the rising tide brings inevitable change over and over again on a regular schedule. The web is the people on it, it’s me, it’s you, it’s all of our friends, and all of our aunts. And change is the decisions we make.
Starting a blog will not make the problems with the state of the internet in the Year of Luigi 2023 magically go away. But I can at least live the change I want to see.