Maybe as a result of breaking up with social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), I’ve become more nostalgic for earlier times. I have fond memories of the early pioneer spirit of the independent web. On archive.org, I found a snapshot of my personal website from 1996.
I made this amazing art using Microsoft Paint in 1996.
What has happened to the web in recent years just makes me sad. Would-be bloggers decided to “digital sharecrop” for the big tech companies instead of building something that they owned. It was easier and it was free. That is where the conversation moved. I can’t say I blame them.
Social media networks have the smartest minds working on making their product as addicting as possible and getting you to create and consume as much unpaid content as possible. For many, this was understood and it was a fair trade-off. However, the posts you think you are sharing with the network you built are only displayed to a fraction of your network.
In a recent Kevin Rose Show podcast, the topic of “Podding” Instagram is discussed. (Episode 33 at 42:28) The short version is that most of your Instagram photos are hidden from your followers unless they receive engagement in the form of likes and comments. Some sophisticated users have figured out how to game the system so their posts are displayed more than yours.
Facebook just flat-out asks for extortion (I mean promotion) money to deliver your posts to your network. I discussed this back in 2013. And we know Twitter favors displaying tweets from the blue checkmark royalty and not us peasants.
The wonderful thing about having your own website is that your posts aren’t being filtered by anyone. Your readers can see all your content either via directing linking to a page (no account required), an RSS feed, or if set up an email newsletter.
It should be noted that I pay for my own hosting with my own domain name. Sites that use blogspot.com or wordpress.com are at the mercy of those companies and are increasingly being de-platformed for having the wrong opinion at the wrong time. Having my own website means that I’m not going to wake up one morning to discover some snowflake in Silicon Valley put me in time-out.
For a moment it looked like Medium.com might have been an option to save bloggers from the social media silos, but now the site is littered with click-bait crap that requires a paid subscription to read. What happened? They offered to pay writers. This created an incentive for the site to fill up with BuzzFeed-style titles. So instead of seeing content from those I follow, I see mostly junk writing where every third post says there is something I should do.
** Tip: Avoid any article where the phrase “you should” is in the title. It’s almost always poorly researched or written.
What is the Future of the Indie Web?
I recently found the IndieWeb project. It gives me some hope that there are others out there that feel the same way I do. The fact is I have no plans to return to the toxic mind-numbing “infinity pools” of social media. I’ll keep my little shack here on the side of the Internet highway. I’ve been at this since 1996. I’m not going anywhere.
* * Infinity pools is a term from the book Make Time. It means “apps and other sources of endlessly replenishing content”.