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When I was in school, in the mid 90s, I got on the internet for the first time. Our school had one computer that had the internet. It was dial up. The computer was a mac, even though every other computer we used was a Windows PC.

This computer also had Encarta, which was an encyclopedia. We were amazed that it had really obscure things on it. Even though in retrospect those things aren't that obscure (like local towns).

I remember feeling at the time like this was going to change everything. A massive rush of progress. These things are going to accelerate the human race. Everyone is going to be smart, there's knowledge everywhere.

I remember the distinct feeling that I was standing at a point in time where I could look back at the past, where people were running around like ants on an ant hill, operating within their own knowledge, in tiny isolated pockets all over the world. And I could look forward to the future, where everyone would be working together, knowledge was shared enabling rapid human progress.

I remember feeling like there can't be any more wars. Everything would change from being local, to global. There'd pretty much be no countries, because everyone would be able to interact and share information, and we'd see we're all the same. The leaders of one country couldn't brainwash and fool their population, because their population would have access to the internet - so they'd be perfectly enlightened.

The World Wide Web

The early web was a wild west of creativity and information. Every website you went to was different. People, individuals, actually made their own websites. They were filled with their thoughts, discoveries, news, interests. They had things like visitor counters and link-backs. 

I was trying to learn how to program at the time, and the internet was dial-up, so we paid for it by the minute. I had a scraper set up so I could go online, connect to gamedev.net, planethalflife, bluesnews and download all the latest posts on them, then disconnect.

Later on I would aggressively camp the comments of CSNation, reacting to every news post until Rizzuh eventually banned me. 

To me, I look back on CSNation as the peak of the internet. It was a custom made websites focusing purely on Counter-Strike. It posted news multiple times every day. It had features like pic of the day, where people would post, and comment on a funny/cool screenshot. It had map/weapon strategy guides, frequently asked questions, item information and other documentation to read through. It had guest writers with their own sections and features. It had polls and mailbags.

Money

Then the worst thing happened. Real people started using the internet. And there were a lot of them. And that bought money. 

Websites started slither.io'ing. Any moderately popular websites got bought out and swallowed by bigger networks. Their website was thrown away, their content became something to wrap ads around. 

These networks then grew to a size where the smaller sites they own weren't worth the effort to run. So they got deleted too, along with all the content.

Traffic moved to fewer and fewer websites, which fought each other aggressively for bigger chunks of that traffic. Some died, some didn't. Because that's where the traffic was - that's where people moved.

Ad revenue dropped. So more ads were added. Ads before the content, ads after the content, ads at the side of the content, ads behind the content, ads in the content, ads in front of the content, ads popping up, ads covering half the screen, ads in your email.
In the old web this didn't happen because it would have stopped people from visiting the websites. The website's owner would have been ashamed that their site was like this.

But this is a different model. These websites don't expect an audience. They don't expect regular loyal visitors. They make their money from people stumbling across the site and accidentally clicking the adverts. So they optimize for that.

Popups

Ad companies got that big that they were on every website. This meant that they could effectively track your movement between websites and optimize ads specifically for you based on that movement.

This is technically a huge invasion of privacy, because that ad company shouldn't know any of this stuff. So the EU added a bunch of laws and now every time you go to a website you have to click accept or deny on a cookie/privacy warning.

In the early years popups were a scurge of the web. You would visit a website and it could create a popup (which was a whole other browser window) - in the background. A single website could create infinite popups. A malicious website could create a popup that would open a new one when you closed it. Opening a wrong link meant you had to restart your computer to get rid of it.

They fixed that. For a few years.
The cookie law normalized popups. When you click a link now you expect to close a popup dialog. It's become part of browsing the web. So much so that now you get multiple popups in a row. Accept cookies? Join mailing list? Make account?

The web is now hostile to people trying to browse it. Visiting a website has gone from one click to a chore of checkboxes and close buttons.

Apps

The escape from this has become apps. Which are pretty much all just websites. 

The ideal scenario where you go to a website and like it, so you add it to your phone's home screen and it acts like an app hasn't happened. We've now got a situation where people wrap websites as an app and have to pay to distribute it in multiple different app stores.

When they want to update their app, they have to go through this whole process and wait for it to be approved. Instead of just updating their website. And if they want to sell something in that app, they have to pay 30% to the app store owner.

What a weird fucking situation to opt into when we've already got the web. This thing where you code something once and it works on any platform. Where you control 100% of the content. Where you can update it any time you want, as often as you want. Where you can host it any way you want.

Obviously, this isn't possible for every app. But if you're selling clothes why should you ever have an app? We all know the answer, but it really shouldn't be like that.

The worst of it is when something only has an app. I have to have so many apps that should just be websites. Why can't my McDonald's app be a website that I favourite to my home screen? What is eBay doing that it can't do as a website? Why do my robot lawnmower, robot vacuum cleaner, and robot window cleaner need an app? Why does my watch need an app for the watch and an app for the watchface store? Why have I got a GitHub app? When I'm buying a car on a website why do I need to install the app to pay for it, why can't I use a website?

The Future

I don't see this getting any better. I thought the web would enlighten humanity, but instead, it's used to watch live-stream paedophile hunts. I thought it would bring people together, but instead, it's used to find and create new ways in which we can group and hate each other.

The content wrapped in ads isn't even created by humans anymore. We're now fighting ads and popups to read text written by a GPU that thinks a human would have written. We've fully automated our own misery.
question_answer
Thomas Butters
Sunday, June 23, 2024
very sobering points my dude. I need to step back and rethink how i see the internet and this has helped. I forget it's a resource vs a form of entertainment. 
Honkman
Sunday, June 23, 2024
this has been a sad thing to witness as I age. good post 
Wolfine
Monday, June 24, 2024
I've had the same feelings for the past 5+ years, and I'm only 24. It's so sad to see stuff get ruined this way, but it happens to everything that becomes too mainstream. Shortcuts are made, quality is thrown out the window, and there is zero life or passion put into it. Just formulas and methods to make it as addicting and profitable as possible to/from as many people as possible.

Indie devs & passionate devs, niche/unpopular games, fandoms that arent centred around toxicity; these are all my safe corners of the internet to stay in. Everything mainstream gets ruined, and WAY too many people are just okay with it.
Jason Graber
Monday, June 24, 2024
And people talk about capitalism like its a good thing. What you (Gary) explain exists because of capitalism.  Capitalism operates on greed, human exploitation and keeping the population stupid. We are just cash nodes. "Capitalism is responsible for so much innovation" ... my ass it is. Humans are innovative on there own regardless of capitalism. Where TF was capitalism when the wheel was invented? Capitalism is responsible for minimum wage never increasing, disability rate never being increased, your insurance company denying that detrimental procedure and greedflation.
Keith
Monday, June 24, 2024
Solid points. Good post. Thanks Garry.
Eventlessgaming
Saturday, June 29, 2024
Garry spews nothing but facts
Sean O'Donnell
Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Man alive that App comment is so true. What is evil about that setup, is when an app has a feature you need, but the website doesn't. But you know in your web developer brain that the app is just the website wrapped in an app, so they must have disabled it on the website, so you had to download the app!

Infuriating.
KETAL 2
Wednesday, July 10, 2024
and any useful info is mostly hidden in deep layers of discord servers now
StupidGamer
Sunday, July 14, 2024
You explained everything perfectly, especially about the paywalls. I know it is still possible today with the revival of Geocities, Neocities, but I hate that the internet now is not completely creative. Certain times it's okay but a lot of things you do or create depends on something else, a company, there's always someone greedy trying to gain profit. I don't mean this as in that no one should make money, because there's people that struggle and do things and create websites, programming for a living. I hate when things get taken over, especially from things from back then. How everything pretty cool was thrown into a website but with like you said, companies taking over and buying each other out over and over and OVER AND OVERR again, making the website bland, boring, tiring and corporate....

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