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Death by a thousand likes: Facebook and Twitter are killing the open web (qz.com)
263 points by snake117 on Nov 12, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 175 comments

Facebook and Apple News might be "killing the open web", but Twitter? I'd say Twitter is a great champion of the web. Linking is so fundamental to the Twitter experience. Half of Twitter is links to other websites.

Exactly! Which is IMO actually one of the reasons why Twitter is having such a hard time monetizing. I see them more like a router protocol where people are pointed towards consuming content outside of twitter instead of on the twitter platform.

My guess is that they will change exactly that sometime soon. First allowing you to write longer texts as attachments and first then might join FB and Apple in "killing the open web"

Getting content directly through Twitter and being linked to it through Twitter wouldn't change all that much from a monetisation standpoint. The value of Twitter is in the interest graph.

Is there no value also in how millions of people stare into its feed day and night? Or the vast amounts of content created for free by its huge amount of users who include both the influential and the aspiring?

Not really because they stare at the feed only to find something that then lives somewhere else.

It's like being that guy the girls hang out with because you are good friends with the handsome guy in school. You might get to hang out with them but in the end they go home with your friend.

People only stare at Google to find content that lives somewhere else. There is alot of value of linking users to content they are interested in.

Thats not at all how Google works.

Google works because it give you a selection of what you are looking for right now. It knows whats top of your mind and.

Twitter gives you things other people are interested in or find interesting.

They are in no way comparable.

One is letting you find things you are looking for, the other is mostly showing things you don't care about sometimes things that are interesting to you.

I'm only pointing out that you don't need to host content to provide value.

Yeah but you are using the wrong example since twitter is not a search engine.

Both Twitter and Google help you find information you're interested in. The internet is massive so sorting and serving useful content to a user is valuable.

Google finds this information based on keywords. Twitter finds this information by looking at conversations and people you are interested in.

Saying Google and Twitter are in no way comparable isn't helpful. They are comparable though certainly different!

Google has better information on your preferences and exactly what you're interested in. That doesn't mean Twitter doesn't have good information.

If you follow a ton of yoga instructors then Twitter can feature yoga ads in your feed. While not as targeted as Google ads they still provide value to the user and the advertiser.

I don't want to get into an argument, just wanted to explain where I was coming from.


Twitter lets you discover what happens in areas that you might be interested in if someone wrote about it. It's a newsfeed for that specific reason. It require a tweet to happen.

Google allow you to find exactly what you are looking for whether someone tweeted it or not in all the content they can get a hold of including twitter.

Your search term on twitter does not show you intent, search on google does.

You are comparing two completely different things here.

Furthermore EVERYONE who uses google search use it to find things they are looking for when they are most interested in it. Only some people use twitter search terms to figure out who on twitter has something to say, mostly about themselves.

People don't use twitter as a search engine but as a discovery engine the difference is hugely different for so many reasons I am not sure why you keep insisting on them being the same.

I haven't insisted that they are the same! And I agree with your descriptions of both companies. I didn't mention twitter search, I was actually only thinking about the Twitter feed.

All I'm saying is that at a high level both services let you find content you're interested in. That's it. It doesn't contrast with what you've said above. They do it in very different ways and for very different use cases.

You said and I quote:

"People only stare at Google to find content that lives somewhere else."

Thats not what people do. They search google and then stare as those results.

Thats a completely different concept from staring at a twitter feed with random things.

It's comparing apples and cars.

A twitter feed isn't random though. You choose who you follow on Twitter, if the links they provide are unhelpful you unfollow them. It is more random than Google but still tailored to your preferences.

I think you're hung up on the "stare at" wording. I interpreted the words to mean "use" - hope that clarifies my point.

People use twitter in many different ways. You are assuming people carefully select who they follow. Many people dont, they follow all sorts of people often based on one tweet. You have no way of knowing what other stuff they are going to write about because it's people. Furthermore a lot of people follow thousands or hundreds of people and are simply not able to follow everything thats going on in their feed.

Compared to a google search result it is completely in the opposite end

I am not hung up on anything. I am saying that your comparison is as wrong as comparing DuckDuckGo with an RSS feed. There is so much noise even with the things you carefully select.

Compared to a google search where I am going specifically for something and is showing my intent.

I don't go to google to see whats going on, I go there to find something very specific.

I feel as though we've gone off topic here.

You said that twitter doesnt provide value "because they stare at the feed only to find something that then lives somewhere else."

When you search Google you're finding things that live somewhere else. I'm simply pointing out that you don't need to host the content the user is looking for to provide value.

I'm not saying the companies are the same. I'm not saying Twitter can be successful the same way Google has. I'm agreeing with all your points besides the fact that you need to host content to provide value.

No I said their problem with monetization for twitter was that people don't spend enough time on twitter but instead on the places that tweets lead to.

In other words they provide plenty of value they are just not able to make a living from it.

Instead they should get more people to stay on their own platform by allowing more content to be created there just like Facebook is.

I agree getting more content on twitter is an good option for montetization. It might even be the best one.

I brought up Google because time spent on a site doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot more ad revenue. What matters is serving up useful ads that provide value to the user and advertisers. Google is great at that - Twitter isn't because of many reasons you've stated.

So maybe twitter should be trying to improve their ad program to serve better ads. If they can't do that well (no way they could do it as well as Google) then perhaps increasing time users spend on Twitter is their best option.

I only wanted to point out that the solution is not self evident. Just because people are using a service to find content hosted elsewhere does not mean it can't make money. The problem might be that Twitter is bad at finding ads people want to see.

You brough up google because you claimed that google was making money on what twitter wasn't able to and thats simply wrong.


  > Not really because they stare at the feed only to find something that then lives somewhere else.
Maybe not. When I want to jump in to @fat's stream of thought and humor for a while i read his twitter log, scrolling thru dozens of tweets.

For me, twitter is for a few things: connecting with folks in a cold-call way; learning of trends and new ideas in my areas of interest; getting to know someone.

You spend way more time reading an article outside of twitter than you do reading @fats stream of thought.

Many many many people don't use it like you do but almost everyone use it as a way to find new content and so thats where twitters opportunity is.

In other words, you are a perfect vector for advertising. If another guy wants to reach those girls, he might want to pay you his whole allowance.

Edit: to clarify my point, I say that Twitter not only is friends with the attractive guy, but is also funny and charming and interesting in his own right, and that this is a major value.

It doesn't matter what I am. The point is that twitter doesn't monetize properly right now and the primary reason for that is that people don't consume the content twitter links to on twitter but somewhere else.

I don't know what the primary reason is.

Facebook has directed huge amounts of traffic to external sites for years and that doesn't seem to have been a major problem.

You consume way more content ON Facebook than you are aware of. Thats the big difference. And a lot of content is being written ON FB. The discussion is ON FB and they allow them to be long which keeps people there too.

Just the ability to do a preview of on article is such a big eyeball keeper that it leaves twitter in the dust. Or to write a comment to the article which make people then react to what someone wrote about the article without maybe even reading it.

It's like with checkins. People think FourSquare and Swarm is big but it's dwarfed by FBs checkins it's just not a major focus for them and so we don't think about it as a place a lot of people check in. But it's a numbers game.

I believe you are mistaken. In fact having more content on twitter and users consuming more content on twitter would allow them to actually get value of the interest graph which they don't have now.

It would completely change because suddenly you are consuming your content on twitter not someone elses page and so twitter would have much better ability to do advertising.

It doesn't seem like Twitter has a hard time monetizing. They have a much harder time growing their user base.

I'd agree with that.

It's not that there is no value in Twitter nor in the amount of data on things people like and talk about on the service, but more it's more difficult for new users to intuitively jump in and start than it is with facebook or snapchat (Twitter strikes me more as a platform to listen to lots of others than as a platform to have a broad audience unless you, the content producer, are bringing fame from elsewhere).

They have both problems.

Google web search has exactly the same behavior. They are able to massively extract value from that flow.


When I search on google I am getting the results I am looking for and I am only there because I am looking for something. Google uses their knowledge of my intent to give me highly targeted results. It cannot be highlighted enough how big a difference that is from twitter. I am not passively looking at random search results streaming in.

On twitter I am served with a combination of things most of them not really interesting to me and always depending on someone having tweeted them.

The big difference is that google knows your intent at the very moment you are using it. Twitter don't.

They are as different as day and night.

Reddit basically has the exact same behavior -- with deeply engaged user bases around each external link talking about it and forming rather cohesive "communities" around each topic...

Yet they have a tough time monetizing that.

Why hasn't a twitter or a reddit sought to get rev share from the traffic they drive from the resultant pages? (I don't know enough about adrev/rev-share to know if this would work) -- but reddit and twitter know exactly how many people click on each link.

One thing I would like to know is the diff in % of users that click into a comments session without ever clicking on the actual link. I know that I do this as amajority of the way I read reddit and HN even. I get the gist from the title, some additional details from the comments and sometimes other, better links from users as well as commentary, corrections or what not.

I also upvote an extremely few number of posts and stories. How many times have I clicked a link or read comments about a post without ever upvoting or down voting it? Probably about 90%

> Why hasn't a twitter or a reddit sought to get rev share from the traffic they drive from the resultant pages?

Why would I, as a site owner, ever pay Twitter or Reddit? There's only two ways they can motivate me:

* Prevent linking to my site if I don't pay. This has obvious (and terrible) side effects on what those sites are and how they work.

* Provide some sort of advantage to payers. For something like Reddit, this would be possible through rank boosting or "sticky" posts, likely on posts that I the payer create myself. Twitter could maybe have tweets distributed to random users, regardless of whether they follow the originator. (I believe Facebook does something similar to this.)

Content and relevance is meant to be controlled by the users in these platforms. Both these options begin to abuse that implicit trust by placing the ability to pay on equal footing with the ability of users to naturally boost content. This will work for a while, until the users' trust is sufficiently eroded that they begin to leave.

I agree with you.

All I was saying that monetizing link aggregation with commentary, twitter and reddit, is pretty hard. Vs google who is actually providing the conduit for people that are actually searching for something where suppliers will incentivize google (pay) to be a top result.

sites like reddit, even moreso than twitter, have a user base who HATE the idea of a content provider paying to be a top of the frontpage or anything "sponsored"

my suggestion is equally flawed in that you cant then expect reddit to have a yelp-like model where they extort money from content providers for traffic...

But that was essentially what I mentioned, I guess.

Maybe the real model is a super low cost fee for advanced customization features?

Like i'd happily pay reddit $1.99 a month for more control over my experience -- even though we get that also from RES.

Not sure Twitter agrees with you, since they're collaborating with Google* et al on the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project - which can be thought of as an open, web-based alternative to Instant Articles.

*my employer

I am not talking about just articles. I am talking about content. (essays, discussions, comments, videos, promotional posts.

I'd say that google search is a router protocol as well--you go there to go someplace else.

Seems to have worked pretty well for them.

Does Twitter load other web content through a built-in web browser in the app? That seems to be the big "white-washing" problem with the various reader apps (Facebook, Flipboard, etc), that they're unifying the interaction experience.

> Does Twitter load other web content through a built-in web browser in the app?

On iOS, yes, it has a built-in browser. You can go to Safari if you like.

They're not packaging up web content as if it's not web content, though. It's just to access sites quickly.

Facebook also shows what should/could be the whole page, but I'm not sure we know what all they strip out in the name of making things faster or more pleasant. I'd wager the same is true for any built-in browser that overrides the default action of sending a web link to the actual mobile browser.

And I've gotta say, I'm really bothered by the way Facebook handles browsing. I have to copy the link, exit Facebook, open Safari, then paste and navigate to the link whenever I want to have a page I found on a Facebook post in my bookmarks, reading list, etc. Super frustrating.

Is this on iOS? I've had the option to open a link in Safari for quite some time now (as long as I can remember, at least).

If I open a link in Facebook, tap "Share", I see "Share in New Post", "Send in Messenger", "Copy Link", "Open in Safari", and "Save Link".

I mean when I click the link in a post, or click a link post. If there's a hidden option somewhere that's something, I guess. But I'm going to bet most folks aren't going to go hunting for the hidden option...

You can make it automatically open links in an external browser (on android at least?). Hit the little hamburger icon on the right, scroll all the way down to app settings, then turn on 'Links open externally'

Yeah, the debate is on the forcing functions these companies and apps are deploying, I think. Though it's good that that's an option.

They did that for some time but that isn't the case anymore these days, at least on Android.

> Half of Twitter is links to other websites

...via URL shortners, which is very unfortunate.

> ...via URL shortners, which is very unfortunate.

This is true for some tweets, yes. But most links are via Twitter's own shortener, which means shortened link rot is impossible, and the actual URL is shown to the user.

What is wrong with URL shorteners? (Sincere question)

It introduces a dependency on the shortening service, if the service vanishes the link breaks.

It allows the shortening service to track clicks on the link.

It obfuscates the target of the link.

I'd add that they allows evil persons (read SEO/Marketers) to hijack traffic by changing the target URLs.

I'm surprised that we haven't seen this yet.

The second a popular link shortening service goes belly up I'm sure someone somewhere will buy the domain and setup a program to redirect all the shortened links to an ad-ridden search page.

It happens all the time with small url shortener services. Also the owners sometimes uses cloaking to make the search engine bots get different redirection than normal users (for SEO reason).

It also creates unnecessary traffic, of course.

Not necessarily. Link shorteners can act like referrer guards, which is useful from a privacy standpoint.

No, they just shift the party that can see the referrer to whoever runs the link shortener.

Do CDNs use link shorteners to cache content in specific regions? Let's say A often shortens links and users B and C read them most of the times. So once user A shortens a new link the CDN (who would need to own the link shortener) could cache the content close to users B and C.

They hides the real location of the links and allows third parties (the url shortener owner and their partners) to track peoples.

Edit: like maxerickson said.

Twitter still bugs you to create an account to access their content. (Try to see someone's list of followers when you're not logged in, even when that information is public.) Compare with Wikimedia where you don't even need an account to edit content.

Further Twitter is still promoting a model where to talk to people you have to create an account on a centralized platform first. ("Want to get support from a company? Chat with them on Twitter. You need a Twitter account for that.") Compare with email where you can email from any provider to any provider.

Twitter might be more open than Facebook, but they're certainly not the champions of openness.

More than half. Twitter is basically a commenting system for web links.

This is obvious if you look at tools such as http://svven.com or http://nuzzel.com.

These projects are pretty interesting: "News from people like you." It seems like these kinds of apps further the isolation people develop from reading mostly articles recommended by like-minded friends.

I wonder if anyone is building an app that recommends articles that provide a variety of perspectives different from your own. "News from people who think differently than you do", or something like that.

But I think that's what newspapers are supposed to be.

>I wonder if anyone is building an app that recommends articles that provide a variety of perspectives different from your own.

When building Recent News (https://recent.io/) we considered adding the options of seeing news from perspectives both similar to and different from your own, at least as we understand them based on your usage.

We didn't do that. It turns out in early testing that users liked seeing a broad range of articles. For instance, a pro-2A voter might want to read a Salon.com article talking about how firearms should be banned--just to share it to argue how wrong it is! Or an anti-2A voter might be interested in a Fox News article talking about repealing anti-gun laws, if only because it reinforces how nutty those conservatives can be. (It also added more complexity when our goal was an MVP.)

The current version of our iOS+Android app includes a personal tab that is unique to you based on what we believe your interests to be, and a Hot News tab that is not unique to you. Neither filters by perspective, and not one person has requested that feature in the weeks since we launched--the feature requests have included things like dark theme, offline mode, text resizing, etc. instead.

Recent News is quite interesting. How is it different from Prismatic?

Thanks for your interest! Prismatic made a beautiful app but took a very different approach toward recommendation. They tried to build, as I understand it, their own social commenting layer on top of news--an effective competitor to Twitter and Facebook--and encouraged linking with social networks. We experimented with the latter in an early version of Recent News but discarded it in favor of a user-focused approach that doesn't require social linking (and isn't as prone to bad recommendations if your friends' interests are different from yours).

In any case Prismatic is no longer updating or supporting its iOS and Android apps. Techcrunch reported in July that Prismatic pivoted to B2B and is trying to make money like Dataminr by selling access to its APIs.

Thank you for the insight!

I'm very interested because (as I mentioned several times here already so sorry for the plug again) I'm building http://svven.com. It's also about recommendation but instead of AI I'm betting on the intelligence of the people - a social approach to relevance.

I will sure try Recent News to compare the results.

Thanks! Good luck with Svven. It's an interesting approach and different than the path we've taken with Recent News.

I just went to the site and was about to try it but saw Svven wanted permission to: "Post Tweets for you."

Is it possible to use Svven without granting you permission to post on my Twitter timeline? I have a policy of not granting apps or services such permission, so I stopped without testing it. :(

If there's a way to tweak the permissions I'll give it a shot!

Oh yes sure, Svven doesn't post tweets for you or anything like that.

Thanks for pointing this out, I'm thinking about changing the Twitter app settings to read-only. All it does is parse your home timeline to get the tweets so read-only is enough for Svven.

I use Twitter this way, to some extent. I consciously try to follow people with different perspectives than me and with opinions counter to my own. Sometimes I end up unfollowing those people if the signal:noise ratio is too high, but over time it serves as a way of introducing me to new ideas and ways of looking at things that I hadn't considered before. And, because of retweets, I'm then introduced to more people with similar perspectives. Once you "seed" your timeline with a few people with different perspectives/opinions than your own, this works really well.

All that to say you can use at least Twitter to intentionally break out of that intellectual isolation that can otherwise be difficult to escape.

Ok good idea, I just followed you on Twitter ;)

But if you're interested in different perspectives from your own, isn't this part of your, well, interests? Do you still need to break out of that?

Personally I see the "filter bubble" as a non-issue. Partly because people will go with their interests no matter what. Forcing them to see everything else reminds me of this image


I teach high school, and I feel like I see pretty direct effects of the filter bubble. My students who are inside the bubble and unaware of that fact are more closed minded, racist, sexist, and hostile toward individuals and groups with views different than their own. Students who get their "news" from a variety of perspectives (through more consistent academic engagement, for example) are more open minded and tolerant.

Breaking out of the bubble is not about "forcing them to see everything else". It's about curating a variety of perspectives, rather than curating a slice of similar perspectives.

I get the point, but as I mentioned it all comes down to how the system works.

Svven for example puts together people tweeting same links. Tweeting, not liking. Two tweets containing same link can have very different and often contradictory messages.

To give a practical example, some of you probably noticed PG's controversial tweet about unions (https://twitter.com/paulg/status/663456748494127104), and also the reply that took double the likes of that (https://twitter.com/MarkAmesExiled/status/663495439069614080). Because the reply contained the link to PG's tweet, in Svven you can see all sides of this story around the same link.

> Two tweets containing same link can have very different and often contradictory messages.

That sounds really interesting! I like how that might impact people's bubbles.

I'm currently teaching a class where students are learning to build simple apps, and ask critical questions about the apps we use. Would you be interested in doing a skype session with my class (~12 students) about how you and your team are approaching this issue, from a social and technical perspective? They'd love it, and you might get some good insights into how high school students think about these issues in deciding which apps to use.

Wow I'm really flattered!

And also a little worried given your description of some of your students :P But sure, it should be interesting, also because Svven is built in Python and I see this is what you teach.

I just followed you on Twitter, I'm @ducu, let's DM there.

Disclaimer: I'm building http://svven.com

Your concern is the so called "filter bubble". I think it all comes down to how this kind of system is implemented. Svven in particular encourages you to navigate further from your fellows and it immediately adapts to however your interests (ie. tweets) are changing. A new tweet gives you a new perspective.

My only use for twitter is literally to complain to companies if I want a refund quicker. Works wonders. Other than that, it's just full of noise, don't understand it personally.

The experience people have on each platform is almost completely a result of who they put in their network.

Me too! A while back a friend of mine came up with a specific app for that called Owner Listens.

And all those links go through their redirect gateway first. Open? Sure, just let me check those papers first...

What I didn't like about twitter is that they uploaded my contact info on smart phone app without my consent. To date, they still have NOT erased those information and I still get email asking me if I know someone who just happen to be in my address book a few years ago.

Disclaimer: I like twitter over facebook, which I don't use that much, and my comment history will show that I'm a twitter 'lackey', so to speak.

Does anyone else feel that the facebook moment is fading away? People have compared information to food, and I can see the similarities. When you come from a place where there's little or no food, you want to hoard all you can -- why yes, I would love to see your babies pics every day, of course, post three dozen photos of the same party from different angles, I love it, why yes, this memory from seven years ago is exactly what I need. When you're saturated with information (in this case, social media information), it doesn't feel as special anymore. Soon, you realize that while looking at Christmas photos from people you went to high school with, was fun for a while, there is only so much space in your head and social energy. The marginal value of that extra bit goes down, and averages start leveling off or going down. There's too much food everywhere, you don't want to be forced with another plate of who-gives-an-eff-about-your-fifth-Halloween-in-a-row. What was originally curiosity and genuine excitement about other people's lives becomes social courtesy: of course you will like your almost-friend's child's photos because that's what good friends would do. Social networking (in facebook form) becomes ritualistic.

So the solution is social networks that (artificially) limit your access to information, such as snapchat and twitter. You want to only share a few things, with a few people at a time, and perhaps that shared thing will disappear in a couple of days/hours/views. To me that sounds like the long-term future of social media.

Anyone have any thoughts?

There's a pretty big difference between communicating in and about the present vs. communicating about the past. I think what you've identified is the beginning of a distinction between those two activities in the technologies we use.

My grandparents have a large collection of photos, each captioned with the year, location, and the reason the photo was taken. Looking through these photos is a great experience because it's a curated history of their lives. For better or worse, the practice maintaining photo collections in that manner has been made obsolete by technology. The equivalent now is to upload everything and have technology curate it for you, filtering out the mundane and saving the important or otherwise memorable content. That's what the Facebook timeline attempts to do, and it's a feature missing from the other social applications you identified.

I don't think it's a failure of Twitter or Snapchat that they lack curated timelines, though. That's not their purpose. They are aimed squarely at communicating at and about the present. If they do take over in-the-present communication from Facebook, though, then Facebook will have a hard time constructed the curated timeline.

All that being said, I don't use any of them.

>There's a pretty big difference between communicating in and about the present vs. communicating about the past. I think what you've identified is the beginning of a distinction between those two activities in the technologies we use.

That's a great observation. I had not explored that line of reasoning. That gives me something to chew on. Right off though, I'd say that... I suspect we used to value communicating about the past more because it was so difficult to do so, but as facebook makes it easier, the value has gone down.

How's this sound: before long epics were written down, the oral tradition of reciting them kept them alive, and thus the entire process was valued. Once they were written, it got easier to 'remember' the epics. S, writing was not as valuable as orally remembering/reciting because it was easier/more common/not as important? This is not the best comparison, but sounds right to me at the moment.

Well,famously the Greek elders complained about the laziness of the modern technology of writing the philosophy down rather than rote learning!

I think you're partly right, but I think another aspect of it is how new all this technology is. We completely dropped the "old" way of doing things (carefully take photo, get it developed, store it in an album) and replaced it with the current way (take lots of photos, upload them all to some service, share with friends) in a decade or less. Most people simply haven't accumulated all that much history on these services yet. It'll be interesting to see what our personal histories look like once this technology has been around for a few more decades. Things like the Facebook timeline may become increasingly important, or we may all abandon curated histories because (as you say) information is so easily retrieved now.

The internet I like isn't the internet that the greater population likes. I liked when Twitter was just text. I like Twitter because when I follow an entity, I see everything they publish - and if I don't like what they're publishing, I unfollow them, or block them. It's easier to get to the source of information via Twitter. For a while, with third party software, I was able to even more selectively block what was coming down my feed - I think MetroTweet at one point might have allowed regular expression filters. I stick to the web interface & the iOS app, but I would probably pay money again for a third party Twitter app that allows regex filters.

Other people think 140 characters isn't enough for their audience, and write 20 tweets in a row, or post an image with a bunch of text in it.

I keep Facebook fairly reasonable by blocking and unfollowing, but there's so much of the presentation that's just out of my control. I appreciate how I can keep in touch with people I don't get to hang out with often, but I feel like I'm swimming in the deep end of the marketing pool just to wave hi every now and then. With a text feed, I can dream of something like a regex filter - and probably write something to make that happen. With Facebook, there's no way I'll ever be able to tell it "Hide all posts that contain images with caps-lock, block lettering"

Anyhow, that's all to say that I like Twitter more than Facebook, and I'm enjoying whatever it is while it lasts.

Hope someone at twitter's listening. I would pay money for such a client myself, and so would a lot of people, I bet.

I've claimed a similar phenomenom before. Going back further, when there was much less content, even chain letters seemed awesome and hilarious (and worth keeping around). Now, in a post-buzzfeed world, I don't want any more junk food.

Hilariously, you can see older people (like your parents, if they aren't already savvy,) start to use the internet more, and enter the chain letter phase....then send them to you because omg they're amazing. Meanwhile, your hipster internet-consumer self tries to politely decline the second helping of cheap candy.

Filtration is the key - I mainly want healthy information, with the occasional disgusting treat :-)

In reality, most people will seek out disgusting treats all day, then have a bit of healthy stuff out of guilt. That's happening already. The money is in the sugar. When it comes to supernormal stimuli, pleasure usually takes over -- not rationality.

"...Let’s start with what most people probably can agree. Information is accumulating online. The amount of available information is increasing at an exponential rate, some say it doubles every second year. This mean that any illusion of being able to stay up to date with everything that is going on is utopian and has been probably since Guttenberg invented the press.

Most people know this, yet that is exactly exactly what we all seem to be doing.

There is no shortage of content aggregators and aggregators of aggregators, daily developed to give us a better overview of all the sources of information we have subscribed to and found ourselves now depending on.

This has resulted in an endless stream of articles, news, pictures, websites, products, updates, comments of updates and comments to these comments, being delivered to us second by second that each of us have to deal with.

Constantly checking our feeds for new information, we seem to be hoping to discover something of interest, something that we can share with our networks, something that we can use, something that we can talk about, something that we can act on, something we didn’t know we didn’t know.

It almost seems like an obsession and many critics of digital technology would argue that by consuming information this way we are running the danger of destroying social interaction between humans. One might even say that we have become slaves of the feed.

It might be an obsession, but I think it’s an obsession that many critics will find themselves having to submit to sooner or later...."


Totally agree on Facebook, but Twitter is much more valuable than the ephemeral tweets.

I think the difference between the two comes from the nature of user relationships. While on Facebook it had to be reciprocal (following was added later and it's not used much), on Twitter the user relationships can be one way. That makes all the difference. This is why on Facebook the user relationships are just replicas of real-life relationships, which was great for user acquisition but it's also a huge limitation that Facebook can't get past. On Twitter on the other hand anyone can follow anyone and while user acquisition is more difficult, it opens up the world and gives a lot of opportunity for new user relationships. Because of this Twitter is the best social network we have so far.

> So the solution is social networks that (artificially) limit your access to information, such as snapchat and twitter. You want to only share a few things, with a few people at a time, and perhaps that shared thing will disappear in a couple of days/hours/views. To me that sounds like the long-term future of social media.

not a heavy user of social network sites, so this probably won't be everyone's experience, but the features you mentioned(limit of access to information, sharing only a few things, etc) can be done on any platform. It's really how you use it; none of the sites force you to share every moment with the world

imo the long-term future of social media is to get you to use it as much as you can so they can sell ads to you

A big part of the problem is that "content" insists on being wrapped up in "interactivity" that is confusing and subtracts value (or adds cost) in other ways (image carousels with ads, articles broken into lots of small pieces to generate impressions), and the internet routes around cost.

The central thesis that "pretending that content is free" is the underlying problem is interesting. Perhaps part of the problem is bad pricing. E.g. content that ought to be cheap (e.g. e-books, streaming video) tends to be more expensive or certainly insufficiently cheaper than content that ought to be more expensive (e.g. physical books, bluray disks).

Perhaps a big part of the problem is publishers "pretending" they add value.

Some publishers definitely add some value, but then they subtract value in other ways -- it's great that the movie studio figures out who the good writers, directors, and actors are and risks its own money to make a good movie, but it's bad that it's provided on a bluray disk with annoying copy-and-other protection in a hard-to-open package, and that it's more expensive to buy the cheaper to distribute and generally more convenient electronic version. Similarly, newyorker.com has great writing (and I pay for it) but the actual presentation layer (the website) subtracts value from it.

> But the larger point is that the logic of efficiency on the internet will always favor scale—which is to say, platforms—over publishers.

I call bullshit on this one. It's unclear what the author means because they use such a meaningless term in "logic of efficiency", but the last time I looked, it was a lot more financially efficient to set up a website than a print publication. There is nothing at all inevitable about 'the biggest will win' online, as can be evidenced both by the disappearance of several former behmoths, and by the failure of several pre-Internet companies to 'make it big' online despite having unlimited capital to invest.

Maybe, just maybe, the author is referring directly to advertising revenue here, as in "the more popular sites can make more money from advertising, and thus will grow and grow". Of course, that's totally dismissing the fact that many of the 'platforms' being discussed simply offer a far better experience, regardless of what content they offer or how big they already are. Here's a hint for the author and any other publishers reading: there is far greater variation in the packaging, delivery, and experience of content online than there is offline. Take advantage of that. Don't, as we've all been telling you for the last 20 years, just try to replicate your newspaper online: that makes for a horrible experience. Don't try to do advertising in the most obnoxious manner you can get away with; that may have worked in print, but it's been demonstrated pretty categorically now that it fails online.

Or, you know, just carry on regardless, blame platforms for seizing the opportunity that you choose to ignore.

I think you are wrong to dismiss that point so harshly, when all empirical data shows it to be true. Engineering, Hosting, Marketing, Monetisation, all those things are massively cheaper when done by one big player. There is a reason publishers outsource advertisement to those shitty networks: They would be overwhelmed by the cost to operate, let alone create those beasts. And even when this problem would magically go away, they still lack the access to the petabytes of data the big platforms enjoy. Without this data, the advertisement will necessarily be crude and lacking focus.

I'm not saying those things aren't cheaper for bigger players, but that the playing field is more level online than it is off, at least in part because the production cost per unit is much, much less. I have yet to see the advertising that benefits from petabytes of data such that it isn't 'crude and lacking focus'. A lot of it has a focus, but it's often a nonsensical one.

> I'm not saying those things aren't cheaper for bigger players, but that the playing field is more level online than it is off, at least in part because the production cost per unit is much, much less.

I don't see how this is a relevant metric. The only thing that matters in that regard are how much economy of scale favours the big players. It might be cheap for anyone to start offering books online, but there is only amazon.

A link recently discovered was blocked by facebook (and I had no idea they were actively blocking the posting of links by users!): eulawanalysis.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/the-partys-over-eu-data-protection-law.html

Wow. Facebook actively blocking links discussing Facebook in a critical way is very bad. Are you sure?

Multiple users reported it here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10385612

Someone from Facebook explained what happened though: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10386811

Sounds like a made up excuse.

I used to work on the Site Integrity team at Facebook. It's really challenging to fight spam at scale. We've accidentally blocked many top domains in the past -- mistakes happen and we work to fix them as quickly as we can.

Really? Facebook likely is a huge target for spam, and it's not unreasonable to think there would be false positives in an effective spam killer at scale.

I find it strange that people are so quick to conclude censorship. Do they really think Facebook cares what some blogspot blog thinks? Facebook erroneously blocks links for a lot of reasons such as if many people report the link or if the link gets more shares than the domain usually gets.

"erroneously blocks links for a lot of reasons" is also a problem, whether it's incompetence or conspiracy.

With billions of links being shared on Facebook every day I suspect that they error on the side of caution.

Censorship is whan something is blocked or removed, whatever the reason. Facebook has several years of documented use of censorship, if you remember the case of thepiratebay up to the recent "hohol" case.

Facebook has definitely been known to suppress criticism in the past, though. I've shared articles about facebook, on facebook, and they've been removed.

Unrelated, but the last time I criticized FB on HN there was a rabid backlash along the lines of "you can't just criticize the biggest name in the valley and expect to get away with it".

I suspect Facebook censors things for various despotic governments in the fashion that Google does (in order to comply with local guidelines would be the excuse used here). It's also possible that Facebook has deals with advertisers and blocks some content that may reflect poorly on them as well, but it's nebulous.

I just tried and I could post that link without problems (full URL with "http://")

Slightly related: I only found out recently that The Guardian has a subscription option in their app (the 'Premium' tier, Euro 3.61 per month) that removes all ads:


It's great to see that at least some publications are experimenting with models outside the traditional paper and the obvious plastering content with ads.

Does that mean they expect to extract 3.61 from the ad viewing portion and they've set that price for parity? Interesting. That's rather a lot more than one would expect.

One of the biggest perceived problems with this business model is that the sort of person who would be willing to pay to remove adverts is the sort of person advertisers most want to reach, since the people who won't pay for a better experience are also less likely to either be able to or to want to spend money on whatever is being advertised. I don't know if any data supports that, but many people in the advertising industry have that opinion.

As such... I don't know about the numbers, I know very little about mobile advertising in general, and while I am a Guardian reader I don't use their mobile app - but my vague overall opinion is that it wouldn't surprise me if they priced it higher to compensate for losing a higher quality segment of their ad-viewing audience.

>sort of person who would be willing to pay to remove adverts is the sort of person advertisers most want to reach

People who wish to buy shit also exist. Some of them might actually want info about their options.

Then there are people who are not annoyed by commercials and who are easily manipulated to buy almost whatever. They ruin the adds for the rest of us. They are probably poor, because advertisers already got all their money.

Personally I would love someone to advertice books to me. I've even subscribed to goodreads for that, but their recommendations suck big time. (Though it's still good for bookmarking what I want to read and reading reviews.)

Certainly there wouldn't be a 100% match between "would be worth advertising to" and "would pay to remove adverts", but the problem is nobody (afaik) has any data on to what extent it might correlate, and so are scared by it.

I wonder if companies like the Guardian have thought about trying to compare between the two audiences, i.e. how people who now subscribe interacted with adverts before subscring vs. audience that doesn't pay. Thinking of some of the tracking tools that could be used... it wouldn't be impossible (though wouldn't be imperfect data either), but it would be a rather complicated thing to set-up so it wouldn't surprise me if they don't have it in place.

Yes, your point still stands.

Further problem is that most people would probably prefer adds, but only in very narrow subset of all products. And they might not want to share that subset, not with modern privacy concerns and rogue advertisers. So you would have almost infinite amount of groups and no way to find them.

> People who wish to buy shit also exist. Some of them might actually want info about their options.

Sure, I'm sometimes one of them, but that doesn't mean I want information about my options mixed into the middle of a news article. If I'm in the mood to buy something I'll go to shopping and review sites to find information about it.

Buddy, if you're making purchasing decisions based on advertisements, you're in for a world of hurt.

If solely on advertisements, then you're correct. But if you get some kind of intuition of normal price range of bicycles, then notice add of cheap bicycle, what's the problem?

Originally adds we're about providing information that was beneficial to everybody. Now that is not true and the signal/noise ratio is terrible. But still adds could become usefull again if targeted enough. But targeting adds can be world hurt too.


Imagine the effect of that in a small village with no competition?

I think that discount codes will come big time instead of ads. You buy subscription from Guardian and you get some promo codes for something. The add guys still pay to reach you, have perfect measure on effects, and you can just ignore the whole thing if you are not interested.

Almost like simpler Massdrop (whose emails I mostly ignore but check from time to time)

I do have to say, my experience with Apple News has been very nice. These apps seem to affect publishers more than the 'open web' and at that they are little more than nice RSS readers that don't ruin your experience with ads even though there are still ads there.

I don't particularly see anything wrong with separating publishers from content producers. It now seems more appropriate to think of news magazines and traditional 'publishers' as content producers who rely on the new 'publishers' a la Facebook, Apple, Twitter to distribute their content because they cannot and should not be focused on building an enormous infrastructure to do this.

Print media is 'open' in that anyone can print something and distribute it but the ability to do so effectively has pretty much been consolidated into the hands of very few for a long time. Now a days you can publish your own music, your own books, and your own news and its popularity will be determined by the masses, not some worn out talent scout trying to please a boss who is using focus groups to figure out what might make him a buck.

Ultimately I think we will see a more open and democratic future for publishing, not the death of the open web. Control is shifting hands to a new set of publishers, one that puts the visibility of content into the hands of the readers in the form of likes and tweets.

Maybe the news produced by these traditional outlets just doesn't have as much value as it once did. That is what likely scares them in my mind.

> Mostly, I get my news from Twitter.

This should be the first thing to read in this article. The author seems to not have any preferred publisher anyway. He can consider and write why not, I'd also like to know.

Then don't be surprised with the statement in a paragraph before:

> And that’s why so many articles kinda sound the same these days.

I find the author’s argument regarding “publications losing their voice and not focusing on the preferences of their audience to meet the preference of the platform’s audience” self-contradictory. Is it not your own audience that is following you on these platforms? More so, the platforms give you real-time feedback and allow your audience to tell you which issues are most important. I find this to be the real issue here. The author is most interested in telling you what is important, instead of allowing you to decide for yourself. …And this is why certain publications struggle with these platforms.

>platforms give real time feedback..

Unfortunately often it's not completely honest feedback about your content. It's feedback filtered / deformed by the fact that other people on the platform will see the likes, retweets, comments etc As a result it's not the best content that becomes popular. It's the one used to impress others.

I don't need an ad-blocker. I need a like blocker. When I go on facebook I want to see personal things my friends share, not a bunch of shit they saw and clicked "like" on. And I'm guilty of "liking" crap too. Maybe they could prioritize personal plain text posts, since those are actually the most relevant to me. But that is least relevant to advertisers.

If they don't focus more on the users, a distributed replacement will eventually come out and there will be zero ad revenue to be had from that social platform. I've got some ideas in this space, but no time and no team.

I am on the opposite. What my friends like actually come out to be what I am probably going to like and I quite enjoy most of those likes. There are a few spammy one or useless crap, but overall the situation has been much better compare to, say, 2-3 years ago.

I think the way Facebook and Twitter present stream is inconvenient for users who have a lot of friends or following a lot of people. It is simply a long linear scan and it literally takes me ~10 mins to review when I am on at the end of the day, I just want to see what's going on in everyone's world, ya know. I don't think gallery style will work either. I don't know, but linear scan is just not working.

FB Purity does a pretty good job of this

Thank you. I was not aware of that!

Completely OT: You know that phenomenon that when you hear a word for the first time in a long time or first time ever - and then you suddenly hear it again and again? Just happened to me with the word "Fungible". I happen to know what the word means, coming from a financial/trading background but don't recall hearing it for some time now. Then 2 completely unrelated Hacker News articles I read, almost in a row, had the word "Fungible" in them - neither of which had anything to do with finance/trading!

I know it is just random chance, but it feels really strange!

Good ole Baader Meinhof phenomenon. True story: I learned about it after hearing "Baader Meinhof" thrown around one too many times. :) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baader-Meinhof_phenomenon#Freq...

That page doesn't explain it properly. Try this one:


> Stanford linguistics professor Arnold Zwicky coined the former term in 2006 to describe the syndrome in which a concept or thing you just found out about suddenly seems to crop up everywhere. It’s caused, he wrote, by two psychological processes. The first, selective attention, kicks in when you’re struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you unconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence.

> The considerably catchier sobriquet Baader-Meinhof phenomenon was invented in 1994 by a commenter on the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ online discussion board, who came up with it after hearing the name of the ultra-left-wing German terrorist group twice in 24 hours. The phrase became a meme on the newspaper’s boards, where it still pops up regularly, and has since spread to the wider Internet. It even has its own Facebook page. Got all that? Don’t worry. You’ll hear about it again soon.

baader meinhof phenomenon

This is simpler than most people think. If there is no ad time/place, the platform won't be able to monetize it. Google makes people go away, but right before that people look at their search result where the Ads are displayed.

Why it doesn't work twitter, probably nobody follow the news link and bother come back to strike a conversation on twitter. Mostly the conversation takes place right below the news article and with the author not the tweet.

Most online conversation took place right where the content is at, on Youtube, on NYtimes, on Forbes, unless compassion with twitter but now we that passion is going down.

There is also a subtle difference of the social relation where the news feed is from, which is why facebook news feed is a BAD idea. Why would I have my mother in law in my facebook circle yet sharing the latest Intel acquisition news, or even makeing comment.

Never mix life and work, even hobby or side projects, that's social network 101, or platform 101. I know a friend who has 9 facebook Ids, I personally have 3,4 twitter accounts, for the purpose explained here.

From a news consumption standpoint, iOS news is a joke, facebook news is meaningless, twitter is inconvenient, therefore I use Zite, which connects to my twitter.

From a conversation standpoint, Hacker news format is idea, but lack of twitter's networking.

Something has all these together would be a hit.

The article doesn't define the "open web," and platforms like Facebook and Twitter would seem to mostly follow the dictates set out in Tantek's original definition.[1] So it's hard to guess at what the author means -- Facebook and Twitter aren't "the open web" by tautology, basically. It's really hard to engage with the author's arguments that way.

What is trivial to understand is that the author's proposed remedy doesn't work:

> The answer is simple, but it isn’t easy. We need to stop pretending that content is free. Publications need to ask readers to pay for their content directly, and readers need to be willing to give up money, as opposed to their privacy and attention. This means that publications will have to abandon the rapid-growth business models driven by display ads, which have driven them to rely on Facebook for millions of pageviews a month.

The fundamental problem with this is that siloing content the way the author suggests (publications with strong identities and paywalls to get readers to give money in exchange for content) breaks hyperlinks. It breaks sharing. Paywalls work when there's a marginal benefit to knowing something that someone else doesn't -- say, it helps you pick stocks better than the next guys. Otherwise, all else being equal, the article I can share with my friends, link to in my blog post, that I can engage with and respond to and have other people able to read the same article I am -- that's far more valuable than the article that I can read but can't share. We didn't get here because we're all stupid, or because people are unwilling to pay for anything ever. We got here because we were trying to come up with a model that allows people who make content to be compensated for it without betraying the fundamental thing that made the Web the Web -- the hyperlink. If your proposed alternative business model doesn't even TRY to engage with the question of linking and sharing, it's not going to work.

1) http://tantek.com/2010/281/b1/what-is-the-open-web

What is a page view on an article worth these days? A couple cents? Less? If the micropayments implementation was right, and if paying for content became a more mainstream idea, I don't think you'd feel that you "[could] read but [couldn't] share" an article just because it charged a nickel to continue past the intro paragraph. I don't see how that would break hyperlinks.

The problem with this model is that the mental transaction (do I care enough to pay for this) is more expensive than the couple of cents it costs for access.

A similar problem exists when trying to decide to pay for an article from a journal you don't have access to. Is the abstract compelling enough for me to fork out $100 dollars for this article? What if the abstract was misleading? Can I return it?

As a consumer, I'd rather just pay a higher flat fee for internet access / browsing and have that collective wealth distributed to content providers based on some metrics. Better content gets bigger portion of the pie. The problem is probably determining the metrics.

Behavior economics suggests that you're wrong[1]. Users do not like metered useage even when it benefits them. An anecdotal illustration of this at work:

> What was the biggest complaint of AOL users? Not the widely mocked and irritating blue bar that appeared when members downloaded information. Not the frequent unsolicited junk e-mail. Not dropped connections. Their overwhelming gripe: the ticking clock. Users didn’t want to pay by the hour anymore. ... Case had heard from one AOL member who insisted that she was being cheated by AOL’s hourly rate pricing. When he checked her average monthly usage, he found that she would be paying AOL more under the flat-rate price of $19.95. When Case informed the user of that fact, her reaction was immediate. ‘I don’t care,’ she told an incredulous Case. ’I am being cheated by you.’

The transactional friction between "free" and "not free" is high, even for very small values of "not free." This has been backed up by experiments[2]:

> In his book Predictably Irrational, Ariely describes a series of simple experiments that offered subjects something desirable – chocolate – at a variety of prices. Two types of chocolate were used – a Hershey’s kiss and a Lindt chocolate truffle. While the kiss is an inexpensive and common treat, a Lindt truffle is a far more tasty confection that costs an order of magnitude more than the kiss.

> The first experiment offered subjects a truffle for 15 cents (about half its actual cost) or a kiss for 1 cent. Nearly three out of four subjects chose the truffle, which seems logical enough based on the relative value of the offers.

> The next experiment reduced the price of each product by one cent – the truffle was offered at 14 cents, and the kiss was free. Although the price differential remained the same, the behavior of the subjects changed dramatically: more than two thirds of the subjects chose the free chocolate kiss over the bargain-priced truffle.

It's not about getting the right micropayment system, it's about overcoming something about how humans understand and deal with price signals. You can either sit around trying to rewire people or you can come up with a business model designed for people. Micropayments as a business model for web content is wishcasting.

1) http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko/doc/case.against.micropaymen... 2) http://www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog/articles/the-power...

The Case anecdote doesn't address her desired usage (at least not as presented in the pdf). Maybe she ends up using the service a great deal more at the flat rate, with it's significantly lower marginal price.

It'd be nice if it laid out her perception of what would be fair (we have roughly one data point, that the hourly rate at the time the conversation happened is unfair) and what the economics looked like for AOL (perhaps they could have substantially reduced the hourly price but were good at math and figured that a flat rate was the more profitable path).

The flat rate would have been a guaranteed higher monthly bill that what she was paying at the time, for as you point out potentially higher usage. But if her desired price to pay was $20, and her average monthly bill was n, where n is below $20, why wasn't she already using the service more, at the rate of $20-n?

And, again, the AOL anecdote was an illustration, not evidence. See the truffle study, we know more about this than your response suggests.

Her stated reason was that the hourly price was unfair. This suggests that it was a couple dollars an hour:


So we have an anecdote about marginal pricing going from $1 or $2 (or more) to $0 being used as an illustration that people don't like metering.

If AOL had costs of $0.20 an hour, her perception that their pricing was a ripoff probably wasn't ridiculous.

(I'm not trying to refute you, I was making the perhaps not very useful argument that the anecdote was not a good illustration, because it left too many loose ends. It's compelling because AOL is famous and her behavior is easy to cast as ridiculous, but it wouldn't be real surprising if it was told in a way that was useful to AOL.)

Paywalls do not work, but Kickstarter and Patreon do work.

Also, hosting a website for several thousand people (as opposed to hundreds of thousands) it so cheap this days that the cost becomes negligible. It maintenance becomes the most "expensive" - or annoying if you're doing it yourself - part of it all.

Apps are doing much more to kill the open web than is any browser-based service.

I never understand these articles. No they're not. You're not required to use these two (out of billions of) websites.

Vote with your time and attention. For better or worse, the majority of people vote for these sites.

Remember how we were talking last week about how people seem to desire crowds and crowd-thinking, even if it literally kills them?

Well that makes sites like Facebook and Twitter predictable and the power they wield.

Also slightly related:

Facebook is actively blocking a rival community that "pays" users by passing ad revenue to users (users get incentives to post content and invite friends)


Tsu is basically a pyramid scheme where the investment is your time. The "payments" they would give to their users are tiny, not enough for people to actually get any money out (except some outliers), and all what people are talking about on Tsu is: getting referrals to Tsu, making money from Tsu.

Somehow, Morocco was among the countries that used Tsu the most, and being Moroccan I was myself continuously spammed by people posting referral links to Tsu... so it's understandable that facebook blocked them.

The pyramid scheme analogy only holds true if you are paying in with money, not time. Other social networks are investments of time too.

Testimony: I registered for Tsu and have been active on it a for a few days after reading that story. There is nothing within the site that pushes monetization at you - there is a tab for payments, but it does not direct you there, and I didn't look at it until just now. When I did, I was presented with a terms of service, and then a "no spamming" click-through agreement.

Therefore I have to conclude that all of the hubbub is generated by some combination of early external marketing efforts and the natural tendencies of wishful thinkers. They've decided to stop pushing that angle, most likely because they hit their critical mass targets and can move on towards more sustainable growth options.

Yeah, I think this illustrates why "monetising content" is the antithesis of community.

"It only really makes sense if you view writing as a fungible commodity"

I have no sympathy for writers here. You view us readers as fungible commodity. I use Reddit, HN, Facebook and twitter to weed out the worst bullshit. There are lots of articles around just to keep me comfy long enough to show me adds. One of the worst these days is New Yorker, beautifully written articles about stuff people don't really care about. (Or atleast I don't care about.) Currently it survives on elitism. Web platforms are problematic. But lot better than ordering magazines at random, or paying for New Yorker monthly for that yearly gem.

“Go where the readers are”

It's more important to write what the readers want to read. I click stupid shit. I read mediocre pieces. I'm willing to pay for good stuff.

I think there should be ordering/crowd funding service solely for written media. So that authors don't just babble nice sentences inside their comfort zone, but actually tackles things people are interested in.

The real problem is that author doesn't know if s/he gets paid before the article is written, but also the reader doesn't know if the article is worth anything before reading it.

I think the author of this piece has many good points, he just needs to dig deeper. This bleak context free future the author is painting is probably not true. People like context. Any social meeting is often first superficial introductions, then shallow gossip and only later dvelves into deep stuff. Internet is probably going to mirror that, but with more inertia.

The article seems to be confused over content viewed by way of advertisement and content delivered by users actively seeking content.

When I want to read up on some news, I go to the publisher's site directly or to a preferred aggregator, which is not going to be facebook/twitter/etc.

Advertised content is typically very poor, and really not worth defending.

On mobile, this page has a sticky banner at the bottom of the screen with a Facebook "like" button and a message asking me to "stay connected."

Just like cable and CB radio, we need the government to reserve a section of the internet for non-commercial open access.

Why does the government need to do such a thing? You're free to set up your own corner of the Internet, unless the government itself tries to stop you, which does happen to some people in this world.

brb, digging along the highway to lay my fibers.

srsly, it depends on the medium. With Citizen's Band radio, the government only had to step out of the way. With Cable public-access, the government had to require cable companies to give access to communities to equipment such as a cameras, studios, video players, etc. Public access internet's needs are much closer to those of community access television than Citizen's band.

>With Cable public-access, the government had to require cable companies to give access to communities to equipment such as a cameras, studios, video players, etc.

I don't even see why public access cable was forced on any company to begin with. The only reason that comes to mind that the public would even be entitled to free access to the company's facilities is the monopoly status that telecoms have often enjoyed in North America. In that case, a bit of give-and-take might be expected. But otherwise, I don't see much of a case for forcing a company to let people use its facilities for free.

> Public access internet's needs are much closer to those of community access television than Citizen's band.

This seems like a dubious "need". I can rent a VPS for a few dollars a month and generally do with it whatever I'd like. The barrier to entry is surprisingly-low, in that regard.

> I don't even see why public access cable was forced on any company to begin with.

That's a great question... and the fact that we have to consider it is a testament to how thoroughly the corporate-state has succeeded in refiguring our concepts of natural resources and democratic participation.

The justification is that natural resources are the property of the people with the government managing them as an entity where distributed individuals can not. The key is to realize that not only clean, safe, air and water are resources, but also the wireless spectrum is a resource and the infrastructure to support cable television. Hence entities like the FCC to manage these natural resources. When the cable television infrastructure was set up, it was clear it was going to be an enormous windfall for the corporations at the cost of public and private land.

It was also going to divert attention, including sources of information necessary for running a democracy, such as the ability to organize communities, away from existing media. They were afraid we would become an isolated nation of television-watching dummies. (Imagine that!). Furthermore, access to these public resources is not free. You have to pay, further limiting the ability for everyone to participate. So in negotiation with these industries, our government from several generations ago gained us the right to participate for free in the communications process through community access television. It wasn't perfect, but it was a serious attempt at democracy, the town hall process through which everyone gets a say.

As opposed to the market sense of democracy, in which expression and participation in governance is cheap, but still costs money. That's what you're talking about when you say "I can rent a VPS for a few dollars a month and generally do with it whatever I'd like." The issue here is that while "noarchy," a Hacker News reader for over five years, who could probably be considered an expert and well beyond the top 1% of skill level in their field can express his desires, that's cool and the gang, but that doesn't further democracy, the ability for everyone to take part in the governing of their lives and country for free.

It's worth pointing out that the effect on cable companies has been absolutely minimal. They've never been burdened by this requirement, just look at the billion dollar mergers. Also, the FCC has finally pushed off the corporate forces of NPR and allowed Low-Power FM radio for community organizing.

I hope my discussion has been persuasive to you. You seem bright, but maybe just a little overtaken with the notion of pure meritocracy - in this case meaning that people get to express themselves once they've earned enough money to produce the media to do so.

If you look at history over the last century, you'll notice that the cellular bandwidth allocation, with absolutely no concessions to the public, as resulted again in overwhelming corporate success and greater community isolation. It's a shame, I wish we could get back to the days of CB radio, but I have high hopes for Low-Power FM.

I just wanted to mention that I did read your reply, but I've yet to take the time (and some time would be needed) for a proper response to what is a bit of a wall of text (in the context of HN, at least, I'd say). I may eventually do so, despite the somewhat patronizing tone of your message.

I think this is hyperbole. I rarely use either and the open web seems fine.

How's your blackberry ;)

No, no. Not Facebook and Twitter. This is coming from everywhere. Because you can't sell the open internet as a branded experience. (And you can't force people to look at ads on it either)

Beautifully written article on articles.

Probably not a dumb hypothesis, but this author turns this into a lament about the changes in publishing. Next.

Gotta love the Facebook and Twitter buttons at the bottom of the article :)

I wish that every ISP was required to collect a "Distributed Content Fee" that every domain would get a portion of according to the number of visits they get. I think that would really help level the playing field. A lot of good content goes unrewarded (or uncreated) b/c their is no good way to monetize it.

You mean your ISP tracking every move you make? Seriously?

You think your ISP doesn't already know exactly where you're going on the Internet?

That's why I use HTTPS and an independent DNS server with encryption. It's not exactly hard.

I don't get why you're so dismissive. Your ISP still sees that your IP connects to the IP of some server, at what time, for how long, how much data, etc. That's plenty of information.

Facebook is for closed networks. Twitter has literally no effect on the real world and is only cared about by the people on twitter.

Neither are really a problem.

> Twitter has literally no effect on the real world

People have lost their jobs after twitter maulings.

Twitter is tough because it's so useful and cool in one sense, but the majority of its use is keeping "social media managers" occupied with something the appears to be work.

I've rarely seen non-IT people using it.

IT people and politicians in my experience

And by politicians I mean not just those already established but also those in youth organizations.

Killing the open web? Not hardly...

> I had a blog once. It wasn’t big, but I loved knowing who I was writing for. I loved knowing that the same couple hundred people would come back again and again...

Had a "blog once"? And your a writer? Why did you stop writing for it?

This is the same article that could have been written by musicians 12 years ago or the MPAA 8yo...yes yes existential threats to the fundamental nature blah blah fucking blah...

Don't get me twisted tho...I don't even like Facebook and Twitter anymore due to their obscene popularity, but whining about them "killing the open web"?

Please just stop the hyperbole.

> your a writer?


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