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Is the web boring now?
🤷 The web is more homogenized than it was a decade ago. Here's why.
While browsing Pocket earlier this week, I came across a New Yorker article entitled Why the Internet isn’t Fun Anymore. This caught my attention, because as you know, I’m just a basic web guy and I’m always tempted to click on article links related to the web.
But is it really not fun anymore?
The article’s author, Kyle Chayka believes that the web is more homogenized than it was a decade ago. Here he reminisces about the web’s more fun times, while highlighting the changes that have dominated the web lately.
Remember having fun online? It meant stumbling onto a Web site you’d never imagined existed, receiving a meme you hadn’t already seen regurgitated a dozen times, and maybe even playing a little video game in your browser. These experiences don’t seem as readily available now as they were a decade ago. In large part, this is because a handful of giant social networks have taken over the open space of the Internet, centralizing and homogenizing our experiences through their own opaque and shifting content-sorting systems.
The web does feel more corporate and less quirky now. This is largely because the most popular sites are run by a few large corporations. Google for search, YouTube (both Google), Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp (all Meta), and Twitter/X.
Moreover, most of these platforms operate on algorithmic feeds, meaning they serve up trending content for users more often than the content we’d like to see from those we’re actually following.
Social media “used to be more of a place for conversation and reciprocity,” Eleanor Stern, a TikTok video essayist told the New Yorker. Now conversation isn’t strictly necessary, only watching and listening.”
Chayka also believes we’re mostly just consuming content these days. He adds that there’s now more pressure to be like influencers, and that this pressure leaves most people willing to only be passive consumers of content.
Posting on social media might be a less casual act these days, as well, because we’ve seen the ramifications of blurring the border between physical and digital lives. Instagram ushered in the age of self-commodification online—it was the platform of the selfie—but TikTok and Twitch have turbocharged it. Selfies are no longer enough; video-based platforms showcase your body, your speech and mannerisms, and the room you’re in, perhaps even in real time. Everyone is forced to perform the role of an influencer. The barrier to entry is higher and the pressure to conform stronger. It’s no surprise, in this environment, that fewer people take the risk of posting and more settle into roles as passive consumers.
This may be part of the reason why social media use has been waning. The growth rate of new users has declined over the past few years and is predicted to be down to just 2.4 percent in 2023, according to Insider Intelligence.
Social media aside, the web in general seems more sterile these days. Much of it feels like recycled content from other sites and AI is likely to make this worse as it churns out more content, trained on existing websites.
But I still find value in the web. In fact, I don’t know where I’d be without the internet. The web has enabled me to make a living building websites, and it’s giving me the opportunity to write, publish, and share this newsletter.
And I still have fun online. I’ve been subscribing to more Substack newsletters lately that interest me. I’ve also discovered a few comic artists to follow on Mastodon for some midday laughs (my favorite is War & Peas).
Like Chayka, I find myself reminiscing about the older web, but there are still fun and quirky websites we can visit. There are still rabbit holes we can go down late at night. The web isn’t boring yet.
“That old version of the Internet is still there, but it’s been eclipsed by the modes of engagement that the social networks have incentivized,” writes Chayka.
Wi-Fi 7: The next gen Wi-Fi arrives
Wi-Fi 7 could be an even bigger speed boost than Wi-Fi 6E was, thanks in part to the wide open spaces of the 6GHz band that 6E unlocked. It’s also supposed to deploy other tricks for speeding things up and bring new ways to cut through interference and drop the latency of your network.
But there’s no need to upgrade just yet. Your current Wi-Fi router will work fine for a while longer. Though as we add more smart home devices to our Wi-Fi network, Wi-Fi 7 will come in handy.
“The smart home has gotten better over the years, but devices can still be sluggish or even nonresponsive in a busy wireless environment,” notes The Verge. There are features tucked into the Wi-Fi 7 spec that may help with that down the line.”
Catch up quick
X wants to stop bots by charging $1 a year. When will the madness stop? Now, X plans to charge $1 a year as a way to verify users and to prevent bots. “But while critics, including WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, have suggested that fees alone will not stymie the efforts of determined spammers, an X engineer took to the platform to explain that the nominal $1 per year fee was not the only tool X planned to use to deal with its bot problem,” writes TechCrunch. “Instead, it’s only one piece of a broader plan to stop bots that may also include payment, phone and ID verification, in addition to traditional bot-catching methods involving heuristics.”
Google has announced new features to Chrome’s search bar. In an attempt to make things easier when using Chrome’s search bar, Google plans to release five new features including searches within bookmarks, smarter autocomplete, automated typo corrections, suggestions for popular sites, and an improved layout. I’m sure this will be a welcome improvement for most people, but I just can’t stomach the way Google tracks us anymore. I’m fully committed to Firefox and DuckDuckGo.
Eww. Netflix raises its prices again. The Netflix Premium plan is now $22.99, the company announced during its third-quarter earnings report. “As we deliver more value to our members, we occasionally ask them to pay a bit more,” Netflix wrote to its shareholders. “Our starting price is extremely competitive with other streamers and at $6.99 per month in the US, for example, it’s much less than the average price of a single movie ticket.” But at least it will soon include TV games.