Its easier than ever to run your own servers, but today few do.
The old internet is dead (for now) and it looks more like the BBS era today. But we innovated past that then, and we will innovate past that now.
I am greatly looking forward to all of the decentralization work that is in progress from the numerous people on HN and the internet.
What I find myself missing more than anything else is that news server was something you paid for, either as part of an ISP package, as a dedicated service or your university tuition fees. The commercial model was purely the provision of that resource - not selling your data, nor being a vector for targeted political ads. There was no incentive to make the basic mechanics of discussion worse or promote flame wars in the name of "engagement" or "monetisation", and while I'm sure the smaller community size played a part things seemed to bump along with a far greater degree of civility and allowance for misunderstanding.
From my perspective though, the "old Internet" died when Deja News sold out to Google. When phpBB forums started replacing Usenet, and ICQ or other chat apps started replacing IRC.
From the perspective of those newbies, the "old Internet" died when phpBB forums were replaced by LiveJournal pages and blog comment sections. When ICQ fragmented into AOL, Yahoo, and MSN instant messengers.
Those people saw the "old Internet" die when pages and blogs coalesced into early social media.
Those people saw the "old Internet" die when social media took on its contemporary shape (e.g. YouTube videos becoming more professional and SEO-oriented, clickbait, photo and video-based social media surpassing text-based social media).
This article is just some person at Buzzfeed, writing a eulogy for the "old Internet" as understood by the generation of people who have jobs at Buzzfeed.
I don't know if I agree with your unstated premise that none of these iterations are inherently better or worse than what came before or what will come after. I think there has been a phase change from participation to consumption. The internet has become TV for most users. Not just in the sense of the viewer passively watching, but in the sense of the content itself being highly centralized. There's no more "you" in youtube. The main content feed is high production costs and celebrities, not random clever people.
The main feed by definition doesn't comprise most of the content on Youtube. I'm following close to 500 channels and many if not most of them are not celebrity channels with high production costs, but just someone with a camera and maybe some editing skills.
People need to get over this hipster delusion that quality of production is inversely correlated to quality of content. There's plenty of horrible content on Youtube with low production value from random people (take a look at reaction videos,) and plenty of good content both poorly and well produced.
> People need to get over this hipster delusion that quality of production is inversely correlated to quality of content. There's plenty of horrible content on Youtube with low production value from random people (take a look at reaction videos,) and plenty of good content both poorly and well produced.
One of two of my pet peeves with YouTube videos. Good content is 90% of the way there. I don't know why some YouTubers quit there or why people make excuses for them. There are literally YouTube videos about how to make good YouTube videos. Even a little effort in production goes a long way.
(The other peeve is videos that should be 30 seconds long but are 10 minutes long. Although a good portion of that has to do with incentives created by YouTube and/or monetization of the videos.)
I will say a lot of stuff is much better produced these days. Proliferation of good cameras and editing software and even the big producers using smash cuts makes that so.
FWIW, my view at the time was a bit different - the normal cycle was that fresh students et al would join each year and they would either take time to learn the community conventions or they would leave. All of us were new once (indeed, I wasn't "new", but neither was I an old timer), so the issue wasn't the newcomers being idiots. The issue is that the community worked because of the conventions. We'd say "lurk for a while. Read the FAQ that I'd regularly posted. Learn how to quote and trim so many people can have manage an in-depth conversation that is spread over time and space".
Some considered this elitist snobbery and left. Others learned and stayed (and newcomers DID bring change - the conventions werent static).
But this sort of community cant survive the fast paced ephemeral connections that the eternal September brought.
What exists now is different. Better or worse? Too complex to answer. But definitely the kinds of conversations that were had then do not exist in the replacement media. They cant, anymore than the reverse could.
I'm not aware of any culture that survives integration with a larger one if that larger one has no regard for the smaller one.
The closed systems were better able to fight spam because they could easily ban people and IPs.
On a deeper level spam, "brattish" commercial sites, etc. all come from when money got involved.
The old Internet was mostly noncommercial. Money changes everything.
Even on the new sites I saw a massive shift when e.g. it became possible to monetize YouTube videos. All the sudden everything became about engagement and controversy and got big and divisive and dumb and flashy.
Ultimately we must adapt or perish. There is no going back. I think all new systems must be designed with the trial by fire of spam and other profit motivated attacks in mind from the start.
Usenet on the other hand required cooperation from all providers. Actually I blame Google for killing Usenet. They used Microsoft's EEE (Embrace, Extend, Extinguish). They acquired DejaNews, renamed it to Google Groups, provided a gateway that allowed everyone to use Usenet. This introduced a lot of spam to the network, but whenever someone reported it, they did nothing. Eventually they introduced their internal groups, and shifted search in a way that it got hard to use Google Groups for searching Usenet posts.
They did similar thing with XMPP (Jabber). When they introduced Google Talk, their service was interconnected with the other XMPP servers. Once it got popular they discontinued it and introduced Hangouts (then later iterations) Hangouts was still connected people could see each other being present people on Hangouts could message anyone, but people on other XMPP couldn't message people on Hangouts. It didn't even show an error. This made many users switch to Hangouts to continue taking with their friends.
They attempted to do the same thing with email, but were less successful (since many big companies are also providing the service), this was done through introducing various anti spam measures. You now have to jump through various hoops (SPF, DKIM, RBAC) to have your service still reach Google uses. It didn't matter that I used the same IP and domain for 15 years never had spam sent from it, but suddenly my emails started being silently classified as spam without any warning.
> Usenet on the other hand required cooperation from all providers. Actually I blame Google for killing Usenet. They used Microsoft's EEE (Embrace, Extend, Extinguish). They acquired DejaNews, renamed it to Google Groups, provided a gateway that allowed everyone to use Usenet. This introduced a lot of spam to the network, but whenever someone reported it, they did nothing. Eventually they introduced their internal groups, and shifted search in a way that it got hard to use Google Groups for searching Usenet posts.
> They did similar thing with XMPP (Jabber). When they introduced Google Talk, their service was interconnected with the other XMPP servers. Once it got popular they discontinued it and introduced Hangouts (then later iterations) Hangouts was still connected people could see each other being present people on Hangouts could message anyone, but people on other XMPP couldn't message people on Hangouts. It didn't even show an error. This made many users switch to Hangouts to continue taking with their friends.
The Jabber coopting by Google always felt like something straight out of the old "Embrace, extend, extinguish" playbook of yore.
Unless the server allowed one to send email or post to usenet without having to log in first, then there's no reason why the provider couldn't simply disable the account or block the originating IP from connecting to the server. From what I can tell, the providers weren't interested in blocking spam by blocking IPs or disabling accounts. This is very similar to the robocall problem and phone companies not really trying to fix it.
A year or so freenode was hit by spam, and now everyone needs to verify, so spam still exists, as does IRC.
Even as late as 2000, usenet survived spam, conversations continued, and spam in email was far worse. Spam in email went the way of the dodo around mid-to-late 00s, with the centralisation of the providers (gmail, yahoo, hotmail)
Think of it this way: lets say you value your time at $50/hour (very conservative for a tech-savvy person). If it takes an hour a month to admin that box, that's a $50/month e-mail service you have not including VPS/VM cost.
Granted, the domain config would be overwhelming for my friends and family not involved in IT - even my mechanical engineer husband doesn’t quite understand what I’m doing.
How do you stop "mainstream" providers from sending your emails to spam?
I use the ISP's server for sending, and use my own server for receiving (the menu for install Exim has a "smart host" option which does this).
And almost always for the worse.
All the old systems had no channel at all for profit making, so it made it's own in the form of spam and similar.
The reason that former communist countries like Russia became oligarchies (what I think you might mean by mafia state) is because people with significant power in the previous communist system seized control of huge state assets during the disorder that accompanied the system's collapse, and in doing so took ownership of large pieces of the economy. Even under communism, power was closely held among a in-group, and that stayed the same afterward.
The oligarchy didn't emerge because average people were bored and provided for, didn't know what to do with themselves, and therefore decided to set up illegitimate enterprises.
Also, plenty of people in capitalist countries set up illegitimate enterprises like financial frauds and consumer scams of all sorts (remember 2008?), and capitalist societies have their own oligarchs - though we call them plutocrats instead.
Recall too that this is about when Scientologist decided to do something about people saying bad things about them on Usenet. Though maybe you can call that money, too.
The systems that died were systems that were structurally unable to fight spam or where doing so was prohibitively expensive in time or money.
I believe that incentivized, decentralized protocols are the evolution of all of this and will bring the protocol era back AND properly incentivizes participants.
I’m current earning 3.5% apr by lending out USDC (Coinbase’s stablecoin) via dApp.
EDIT: I guess I am being downvoted because people think this is spam? I only have a disincentive for people to use this dApp: as more liquidity gets added to the pool, my payout interest rate goes down.
And the world is only getting more electrified and connected as the years go on.
The SNR on old USENET and IRC was pretty low.
For what it's worth, there are still commercial newsproviders out there you can pay for. There are also free ones as well. Unfortunately, the all the newsgroups I participated in as recently as 5 years ago are pretty much dead.
There are more privately run servers, self hosted websites and bb's now than there were back then. Its cheaper, safer and easier to start and run your own network and service today than ever.
So in aggregate, there is 100x (1000x?) the niche, kooky, wierd, fun, specific internet that we had in 1997. But there is also 10^5x the giant consolidated internet that most people see.
A lot of the kind of nerds that post on hacker news, myself included, frequently discount how much of a barrier technical difficulty is. For us, setting up an IRC client, or even a server, is hardly a big deal at all.
But for the average person, they either can't or won't bother with that. So setting up an IRC client for them, is like a wall.
Responses to pointing this out often go along the train of thought of, "It's not that hard! People could totally do it!" Well, regardless of whether they could or not, they won't. So you're basically just yelling into the void.
I administrated huge systems at massive scale, I deliver, what I believe is very high quality software which solves complex problems.
And you know what? I would never want to setup a freaking IRC client that has such poor UX that you wonder if it was intentional.
Oh, wait, you have to deploy a server to host your bouncer too! Oh, and then you have to interact with the nicserver!
What a joy! Really.
We have to forget about “state of the art protocols”, “unix philosophy” and very dumb UX if we want to see adoption of decentralized services.
You know why HTTP is fucking great and so ubiquitous? Because it fucking works. IRC and what not protocols are so broken that it’s not even funny.
I read too many RFCs of protocols that are so dumb that you understand they were never really written to be implemented and even less to be used but are more there to serve an intellectual challenge.
As a result, you get fairly low-quality discussion content and essentially zero sense of identity - both of which were not a problem in pre-centralized niche forums.
It's not like IRC went away, lots of people still use it. It was just massively eclipsed by more accessible alternatives.
Let's do more cybercooking in our cyberkitchens!
There is a saying that you are what and how you eat.
What is the net? A medium for information of all sorts.
Mindfood so to speak. Mind your diet!
Chat isn't usually a necessity, it's more or less free regardless of whether you use Discord or IRC, and using your own client doesn't make you any healthier.
It's crazy how useless Google has become for discovering independent niche content -- it used to be so easy. And DDG and Bing aren't any better. So yeah there may be more out there than ever before, but if you can't find it... does it really exist?
"The old internet" is what you got when only nerds were online. Replicate that and you got your old internet back. Cue the above mentioned decentralization work...
In that regard, the "nerds" utterly failed. We're looking back at the "old" internet with some kind of sentimental sadness, but we've evidently failed to convince the general public that a noncommercial, decentralised internet is the way to go.
Average users who don't have the time to understand IPs, sockets, or authentication schemas have been served by companies willing to shoulder the burden of relieving them of those special-knowledge requirements.
Average users aren't necessarily the people I want to interact with on a daily basis. It's like an advanced version of a captcha.
Maybe I'll make a technology and discussions site that is purposefully difficult to connect to. Maybe I won't use a standard protocol and you'll have to use netcat & gpg to read / upload posts or something absurd like that.
The "old internet" was inaccessible unless you were an expert, true. The experts could have seen this as a chance to make everyone into an expert and teach the values that were important to them in the process. If all the talk about the internet as a democratising force and a tool for freedom of expression is taken seriously, this would have been the way forward.
Instead, experts chose to be elitist and decided to use the information asymmetry to offset themselves from "the masses" and exploit it for monetary gain. The result is that we now have a wealth of powerful, free but arcane and hard to use tools for devs and a locked-down, commercialised and psychologically manipulative web for the rest. What kind of future is that?
I have an aversion of being called elitist. It's more like resignation, cynicism. Like thinking 'Eat all the shit that you want. Just don't shit on me'
However, what I absolutely believe is elitist is to intentionally design a confusing UX or value it as a "feature" because it will prevent certain groups of people from using the software. That was what the GP advocated for.
I see it with cars too. I have friends that love owning fast luxury coupes, and yet don't know how to change their own oil, and can't drive a stick shift. Some of those are guys who build their own PCs, but when it comes to anything mechanical? Nope. Don't even want to learn, and that surprises me.
You can lead horses to water but you can't make them drink, I guess.
So too with software and networks. The internet would never have gotten so big and useful if we demanded every user understand all its subsystems.
They just shouldn't be surprised when organizations that build something that tries to appeal to a mass audience become much, much, to appeal to a mass audience become much, much more relevant to the masses than the niches will ever be.
I remember when MS-DOS came with large printed handbooks.
They were good. Maybe casual users should have read
about 20% of that, for learning how to organize and separate
programs and data, and doing backups accordingly.
Almost none did. And then cried because of some mishap.
Also, what leaks and breaches are you referring to? I've never heard anyone make the claim that the big sites are sources of more leaks and breaches than smaller sites. If anything, smaller sites have fewer resources to protect against attacks; if they are less often breached, it's likely because they're smaller, less interesting targets.
In general, exceptions happen and apply as alwasys.
Very few people did this. Unless you were at a university or paid for an ISDN line, you didn't have a persistent connect and could not host your own server. Even when DSL and Cable appeared, ISPs actively blocked hosting.
Also don't forget registering a domain cost like $100 and required mailing or faxing paperwork. Getting an SSL certificate required even more paperwork. It's not like today where and can get a wildcard SSL cert faster than it takes to squeeze out a fart.
People did build servers and host them in Data centers but that was the exception and they usually had a side gig or solicited donations for covering hosting fees. Again it was unusual.
I worked at an insurance company in the early 2000s and setup an old machine with NT and a bunch of those Emachine softmodems to work as a poor man's ISP for a few of the IT staff. It also had an FTP server hosting stuff for an IRC channel I frequented. It was unusual and coveted because back then it was very rare for people to get access to a server they could host anything on.
[EDIT] and wide success/adoption matters for those in particular because much of their utility is in "everyone's on it" (where "it" may be some other, but interoperable, service)
These services don't need "monetization", they can be kept up with minimal amounts of crowdfunding, while federating through well-known standards (ActivityPub, etc.) can help them achieve a network effect that might ultimately rival the big walled gardens and incent them to open up in turn.
A new “Old Internet” needs to be non commercial. I don’t know how we do that.
In that respect, I feel like Reddit and Instagram are much bigger culprit than Google for sucking up all of the space for socializing and referrals. At one point several of the forums I was on all basically just focused on linking to or talking about Reddit posts, which is when I realized those forums were not long for this world.
I goddamn know what I want, and it is so annoying that Google returns sites that don't contain keyword that I explicitly want, doesn't matter that I put + in front or write it in quotes.
This is useful for things like research or product reviews, but less of a thing for the sorts of current events and opinion pieces that blogging was used for (and then got moved to "social media").
But yeah, prioritizing stuff that's updated often has really killed the ability of sites to actually be useful repositories of knowledge and has probably intensified the trend towards opinion, editorial, and hot-takes of everything rather than well-researched articles about how to do useful/practical stuff.
Yes, I miss the days when Google search was actually useful.
(Do you know my first post on Usenet (using a NNTP client program I wrote myself, actually) was in 2019? I still use it, although there aren't a lot of messages on there, but there still are some.)
I suggest if you wanted to make up a web forum or mailing list, to set up a NNTP instead please. I also invented Unusenet which is a way to form newsgroup names which are not part of Usenet (you can have both on the same server; the names never interfere). You could also have multiple interfaces to the same messages if wanted, making more use better.
With other protocols too (such as IRC), a bridge can be done. For many kind of text-basedinteractive uses, telnet (or SSH) is much better than using a web page.
And anyone who lauds Apple for bringing tech to the masses should consider that AOL did the exact same thing for the Internet and really brought a glimpse of the Internet (not just the web!) to the people. Yes, real techies might want to install their IRC client of choice and fine tune settings and all that, but Grandma just wanted to click on Chat from her home screen, go to the "Recipes Room" and talk about cookies.
It was the same "less choice/more consistency" of technology that let Apple get so big, with the same huge mass appeal (but with less panache).
I sometimes think one could easily replicate large parts of that with
which evolved out of
but then it lacks mastodon/matrix like federation, i guess.
Sigh. Maybe this year i get to try it out... ;-)
also called 'siloing'
anything that runs across a network can be monitored, and such data is valuable when you are able to merge it across several data sources. It's very unlikely tracking can even be banned or un-monitized.
Even if you trickled tracking down to IP addresses and time of usage only you could still have a very useful database of users across services.
Oh and by the way, tracking was not invented by Internet companies, all payment systems and credit cards have been doing tracking for ages before that and selling their data to third parties.
There is nothing illegal about what is going on now, and nothing which should be illegal about what is going on. In this context, "regulating" simply means making a behavior we didn't see coming illegal.
It's a short-sighted, unimaginative, and blatantly violent way to solve a problem which stems entirely from the consumer public, not from big bad corporations. It will be used by major corps as an anti-competitive weapon against smaller up-start competition - an outcome we should expect from all such attempts at "regulating" the tech oligarchy.
When we don't like they way corporate-driven markets (so... all of them, really) are developing we should attempt to change things until they develop a way we like, where "we" is any interest group. If we're not harnessing the activity of companies to the collective good, why let our democratic states charter them in the first place?
I think that collecting data about people without their informed consent should absolutely be illegal, for exactly the same reasons that it's illegal for companies to install surveillance equipment in your home without consent.
The challenge is that it's actually quite hard to build something better. Centralization has huge advantages of common-goal, ability to curtail and exclude antagonistic actors, and decreased barriers to flow of resources.
I think the lack of alternatives to Facebook has a lot less to do with "evil" practices Facebook undertakes and a lot more to do with Facebook actually building a good tool that's easy to use for most people. Alternatives haven't hit that level of simplicity.
Who's "we"? I am not surrendering to them.
How so? It's just politics - no more, no less. I don't even consider it highly unlikely that it will, letalone can, be banned, at least in the EU.
If this data is useful to cross reference, let the user opt in and use it. Give the user control and insight into the data collection.
The data can be useful without tricking users and making money off their private use activities.
It's like saying that TV adverts give something for nothing, where the truth is they are a massive drain on society.
That's a fair opinion. But why should those of us who do not share that opinion be forced to be subjected to spying?
Except of hiding in some deep hole there is no real escaping them. Maybe in Amish County, or somewhere far off-grid. But otherwise not really.
True. And if not using the services meant that those companies wouldn't spy on me, then I would have no complaint -- I already don't use their services. But it doesn't.
More generally, I think we need to approach discussions about data collection from the perspective that data being about a person doesn't mean that the person owns that data. Here's what I mean: The sort of data we're talking about is personal (read: "individual") merely in the sense that it is about persons. However, it's social (rather than personal) in its origin. For example, the list of my commercial transactions isn't originally (fundamentally?) data about my person. Rather, it's data about a social fabric of which I happen to be a part. So, personal data is not originally personal.
What's the significance of personal data being fundamentally social (by way of its origin)? Well, I would contend that it means personal/individual means of managing personal privacy are ultimately insufficient; your data (while it is about you) doesn't naturally belong to you. Therefore, my takeaway is this: If we want to make personal data (i.e. data about persons) practically personal (i.e. give persons control over their own data), then we need social mechanisms to protect it. My aforementioned point, about the insufficiency of personally-undertaken measures, is corollary to this.
For better or worse, it seems like most people these days equate "social mechanisms" with "regulation". However, there are in principle other social bodies (both formal (e.g. unions or guilds), or informal (e.g. various social movements)) that could be sufficient to make personal data truly personal. However, I'm unfortunately skeptical of the efficacy any non-governmental body could be when dealing with this problem. But that's beside the point.
I don't understand your point. If it can technically be done and it is valuable in any way, it WILL be done. No matter the justification.
Until society determines that the practice is unacceptable and outlaws it. Outlawing it won't completely eliminate the practice, of course, but it would dramatically curtail it, and provide people with an actual means of rectifying the situation when someone is breaking the law.
All sorts of data is collected every day that is not monetized, but could be.
Consumers are allowing their data to be monetized by agreeing to sign up for "free" services which take an asset from the user which they do not know how to monetize themselves.
In a way the dynamic is similar to the early 20th century BP oil fields in Iran; the Persians had oil under their feet for centuries but outsiders came in and started to pump it out of the ground, making themselves rich but the general public of Iran - not so much. They didn't even know what to do with oil at first.
Once the Iranian people saw what was going on and realized that they were being exploited, they elected a leader who sought to nationalize the oil fields, since they finally began to understand what asset they had and how and why they could monetize it themselves.
The internet needs its own Mohammad Mosaddegh, so to speak. Not to commit property crimes and break contracts like Mosaddegh did - but to show the masses what is going on in a way that encourages them to change their behaviors in a fundamental way.
[EDIT] my point is there's a ton of info being collected that goes way beyond web server logging, so I don't know how this became about why all this is impossible because server logs are a thing.
"absolutely necessary" does not mean anything. For example, tracking in banking systems has very good justifications such as fraud detection. That alone means banks have a blank check to connect tons of features about their users, and not for nefarious purposes.
[EDIT] to your EDIT point: even with server logs you could start building user tracking and if your net is large enough you can derive a massive amount of data just from that. Pattern analysis, sites/services users connect to, geolocation, etc... even without the most sophisticated tracking systems this is already good enough to build business value.
"waaaah but we need to share it with 'partners'" hahaha OK whatever, but bet you don't though. Illegal. Figure it out. Bet you can.
You don't need to keep the data long-term (though it would be more profitable if you could). You can still get a lot of value using the data to train an ML model, then use that model to build valuable decision-making systems, which few other companies could produce.
Plus, banks training models for fraud detection has an obvious benefit to everyone.
Insider trading is illegal
That doesn't cost me more than about 35 €uros per month (of which i have to pay 29,99 anyways for my line) and maybe 3 to 4 €uros energy (which is expensive where i live).
While having 31Mbit/s upstream, which is the bandwith the external internet sees and could use. I don't need the scale the FAANGS have, do you really?
Internet is 49€, could be 30 but when I got fiber I gifted myself the max throughput because I could :)
Domain is 2x8€/year
Server was 600€ bought a few years ago.
Power I do not know, never cared to measure but it will be 200€/y, roughly.
So this is not that an expensive hobby.
Then of course comes the maintenance effort, but that part is pure joy
Even I, a nerd who otherwise loves the old internet, don't self-host my website but use a provider (Neocities). When you compare learning HTML/CSS to make your own, quirky, beautiful website with spending five seconds making a Facebook/whatnot page, convenience will almost always win.
I hope so.
While I don't think the old internet is dead at all (it can look that way because the new internet has grown much larger), it is true that the web (for me) is getting less useful and more dangerous as time goes on. I 100% expect that the day will come in my lifetime that I'll stop using it entirely. I hope that something magical happens to change that trajectory, but I honestly don't see anything like that on the horizon.
But the old internet does still exist, and so the internet will remain very useful to me even if I stop using the web.
fewer in ratio/percentage or pure numbers. If it is later, I disagree. Running your own instance of federated platform or forum has never been this easier.
I have a discourse, pleroma etc running currently. There are lot of people running them when you dig around. What you find the problem is noise and search - both of which are dominated by big companies and pesky marketers hijacking. Anything big with traction has people paid by companies in big sums trying to game their post to the top.
If you don't have shit ton of traffic or content, you won't even get on google search unless you search for very specific keyword or direct name which very few do.
The search everywhere not just your search engine but on social media is optimized for the lowest denominator who searches for x when he wants y. The search learns the way to ignore your words or meaning completely.
So both social media and search are hijacked. What else is there for discovering things? specific niche forums which also needs to be discoverable for people to land on.
With so many gate keepers on what should be installed on your device - app store or playstore. I am surprised lot of quirky things still pop up from time to time. But then I look into my surrounding, no one else gets the same stuff that I do....which means I am living in an echo chamber.
Edit: example of companies fucking with search - https://ibb.co/Lzh5ktQ
There was a time when you could serve anything from a home ISP connection.
With everyone on 24/7 cable connections, I really did expect something different.
Its too bad IPv6 isnt taking off like it could and should.
Noise increased however by orders of magnitudes thanks to social media that's why you don't see the "old internet"
We buy computers, but they are owned and restricted by others, especially and problematically phones.
It's a noteworthy point. Over the last decade or two there has been quite a bit of churn and not much archiving. You can kind of estimate a default rate of social media bitrot, linkrot or whatnot...
My completely uninformed guess says that more people are running their own servers now than ever before.
Replacing the occasional collapse of a big central service with the low-grade noise of a distributed service run by a thousand unrelated sysadmins isn't going to be improved UX for most users, so most users won't sign up.
Different bubbles we've moved to
 - https://neocities.org/
The article is about a loss of content and a lack of preservation. It's about doing nothing to preserve an era of digital heritage.
Mass preservation of literally everything isn't custodianship, it's viparinama-dukkha. It's coming from the same place that resulted in my great-grandmother's house being fit for an episode of Hoarders. She thought that each of those items might be useful to someone some day, but actually it just created that much bigger and nastier a haystack to sift through when the time came to try and sort out a few family heirlooms and keepsakes.
And, once you take that instinct and apply it to massive, corporate-owned, centralized sites where people casually socialize, it becomes even more problematic. I agree, pre-sanitization Tumblr was a great place for young people - especially queer youth - to work out their sexual identities. But nobody wants to have that phase of their life preserved in perfect detail, for all perpetuity, and nobody wants it sitting around in a big public archive just waiting for someone else to figure out how to de-anonymize people's old Internet accounts. It's OK, even preferable for some things to be forgotten.
This isn't to say that we shouldn't preserve a record of our digital heritage. But it should be a curated preservation of a reasonable subset of the content on these sites, not an enormous trash heap of everything that's ever happened on the Internet being kept around for people to fripple through when they're in a voyeuristic mood.
I tend to agree with your perspective myself. But at the same time, much of what we discovered about ancient civilization literally came from trash heaps. Future generations after we’re gone might enjoy frippling through what we took for granted.
Fortunately I used the URL to pull up a copy on Internet Archive, but there's a wealth of good info that isn't being archived.
To most people here, the "old internet" was not photobucket and myspace.
That internet didn't die at all! You're looking at the same thing with different company names! Myspace and Facebook are the same thing with a different skin.
I figured this would be an article about like, vBulletin forums, IRC, tilde pages, something like that.
They all still exist, you're just not using them, why don't you start?
I do agree that reusing the name must surely do their image significant harm.
I have no interest in debating the nature of BuzzFeed News's journalism beyond making this distinction clear.
The "old internet" is MySpace and Friendster? Really?
"Click share if you think Google and Facebook are bad" pretty much summarizes the contents of the article.
> The media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that in 100 Buzzfeed stories about Barack Obama in 2016 (most from Buzzfeed News, but also from the general BuzzFeed site), 65 were positive, 35 were neutral, and one was critical. The report called Buzzfeed's coverage of Obama "creepy" and "almost uniformly uncritical and often sycophantic".
I do wonder how BuzzFeed(News) rises the HN ladder though. The only benefit I see to having content like this here is to display what opinions some demographic of people consume and believe.
Does seem a bit ironic that BuzzFeed would be complaining about the death of the Internet.
1st sentence: BuzzFeed News is an American news website published by BuzzFeed.
2nd sentence: It has published a number of high-profile scoops, including the Trump–Russia dossier, for which it was heavily criticized
Also, "journalism awards" are as impressive as participation trophies. Pretty much X amount of awards are alotted to X number of news/broadcast companies with the "right attitude" anyways.
More like several, and no high-prestige awards. They've also published several incorrect stories and hold the dubious honor of being the only publication Robert Mueller called out for publishing incorrect information as fact while he was still investigating.
The point is, they are Bloomberg / Politico / Huffington Post tier, not WaPo / NYT / WSJ / BBC tier or even The Atlantic / CNN / Fox / MSNBC tier.
That said, this article was exactly what I'd expect for an article from Buzzfeed.
It's probably more convenient to someone that has never used a chat client before? I suppose this is how I end up siloed off with all the old fogies. :D
I'm not clicking on the link inviting me to your server any more. Have fun with those who fight through the silly spinning spider thing.
Reddit might be accessible, but that's because they want it to be accessible. You rely on them doing you a favour.
Until the day comes when I can no longer send whatever IP traffic where and when I want, I'm still using the same old internet. The roads are still the same. The scenery just changed with time. Everything else is just a roadside attraction along the way. And like roads the attractions ebb and flow with time.
Nah, because I never felt compelled to put pictures of myself on the Internet before then. I still don't.
What I miss is the personal website, where people shared information and opinions about things they loved. That Web has been crowded out by, well, people posting pictures of themselves.
It's like that point in the party where the stimulating conversation ends because the host decided it's time to break out the slide projector.
I think my personal take is that the idea of “your content is your own” got lost in the process of sharing-everything culture.
Luckily it isn’t dead, this site and the people writing informative blogs is still available.
What I really miss is what came before the blogosphere really took off: Geocities-style loosely organized collections of static pages.
The thing is, i know a few places which get instagrammed a lot, and they almost never look the way i see them when i'm there, no matter which weather or daytime. It's not exactly fake, but photoshopped, enhanced into something entirely different, almost.
It's like the serving suggestion for instant/convenince/fast food which has nothing to do with reality.
In any case, we all agree Eternal September was the beginning of the end. :) http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/A/AOL-.html
There are now over 4.5 billion Internet users. If even 0.002% of them make just one daily query on the web of the "old Internet," then it's still larger than the web before the Eternal September. Protocols like IRC and Gopher are more active today than late 1993.
It's true that data moving through centralized services is larger today, but that doesn't invalidate the continued life of the "old Internet" any more than the relative domination of analog communications over copper wires in 1993 meant the Internet was dead back then.
Anyway, back on topic: The internet is the global BGPv4 and BGPv6 network,as seen in the global routing table. It's a network and how that network functions has not changed much.
The web on the other hand has changed a lot both in terms of functionality and content. But here's a different perspective: the "old web" was very slow. There were so many limitations, i mean are we talking pre-adobe-flash? If so,you had little rich and dynamic content. You couldn't stream movies,things like napster were viewed as criminal , as much as i dislike it youtube on it's ow has given much such rich and valuable content. Social media sucks but man, we're living in the golden age of memes!. Look at all the great things that happen because people can record videos and share them live/instantly! And security! We have come sooo far!!! From how amazing twitter has been to help infosec pros communicate to all the crypto improvements. I don't think i can go back in time and be able to share or access the same sites and content i did in the past,knowing how everything was so full of holes and made with little to no security consideration. I think I can easily make the argument that the old web was a dumpster fire. But in reality, I think it was ok for it's time and what we have today works for our time as well.
Let's be real here, anyone can host a discord server and many do that. There are so many free web hosting services now that let anyone host their own site without needing to learn html or webadmin. So many blogging platforms like medium and wordpress. So many privacy friendly products and services.
The past always looks different in hindsight and you don't know what you have until it's gone.
No biggie if not. As someone said elsewhere in the thread, most of that stuff is clutter and probably best forgotten anyway. But if it's something you want to keep, and the only place it exists is someone else's site/computer/database, then yeah, it's not a bad idea to start thinking of it as being gone soon, or even gone already. (Unless you WANT it to go away; in that case you should apply Murphy's Law and think of it as uncontrollably hanging around forever.)
Growing up with computers and the internet and not knowing how they truly work is maybe the central problem here. Did you "post a picture on Instagram" or did you create an image file, upload it via an app or browser, pass it across the network, to a server somewhere, where it's getting stored in a database, to be retrieved and displayed later? Seems like if you understand how it really works, you automatically start thinking about better practices. I dunno.
I'm all down for decentralization but I think part of the protocol should be dedicated to enabling us to filter the content we receive.
I knew I have exactly 1 second below 60 minutes to be online before I get disconnected from my student dial-up.
I had ICQ. We used Altavista (and Astalavista to crack the software we illegally got). Relevant information and socializing was done via newsgroups, as well as content-sharing. Many don't know why winzip/winrar has the option to split an archive into multiple files (so they can fit 1.44" floppy disk and avoid upload limits). Later on I used Miranda so I can use ICQ/IRC/AIM/MSN from the same client. Browser wars were nonexistent. First "awesome" browser shell I used was Maxthon and content was shared on lan parties or you used obscure xdcc search engines to leech off of IRC. FPS games that I played (quake 1, 2 and 3) lagged, I had 200 ping - which is how I learned about the importance of latency and what it is. It dropped to 50 once I got ISDN.
Now, why did I type this? Not to present myself as "the old internet user". I don't consider myself a user of internet from "before", I'm well aware of even older generation whose internet looked even different. I'm just saddened by the fact that buzzfeed, one of the worst ad-ridden sites that exists, is making this kind of an article, spreading false knowledge (which is what it does anyway). It's not even an article. It's made by someone who used Facebook when it looked slightly shittier than it does now.
That's not "old" internet. The consumer-generation that's lifeblood of leeches such as buzzfeed/youtube has no experience nor right to write about "old" internet. They simply haven't experienced how internet used to be when total population online was well below 50 million people and when broadband was a luxury.
While I share your sentiment towards Buzzfeed and clueless millennials, I don't think it's entirely fair to say they have no right to write about the "old" internet.
I began to experience the web around 1997, and it was different in a lot of ways compared to now. More personal pages, less centralization, little content policing, Netscape, Real Player, etc.
I'm sure some old fart from the 80's would tell me that I didn't know the "old" internet because I'd never used Telnet to log in to a BBS. While there's truth to that, it doesn't mean I don't have my own perspective of what's "old".
Good archiving programs came with the option of using erasure/error correction codes so that the archive would still be recoverable, even if some of the floppies were returning read errors or became unreadable altogether.
When I think of the internet of the 2010s I think of clickbait farms like Buzzfeed politicizing absolutely everything. This statement by them is 100% in line with the type of content "journalists" have produced and polluted the internet with the past 10 years.
The worst thing about social media is that it allowed toxic extremists like buzzfeednews, huffpo, etc to thrive.
I read more blogs now than ever. More than in the 90s. What are you even talking about? As a percentage of online content? Who cares? there are more blogs to read on any topic than you can read in a lifetime.
> A look through its “Deathwatch” page — a list of websites and services shut down over the last 10 years — is harrowing.
It's really not.
Edit: In the project wiki there's a lot of interesting links, like this one listing all tracked projects that are dying
I don't think it's as simple as more data = better.
"WordPress has managed to keep chugging and even bought Tumblr off Verizon."
It's because Matt Mullenweg and co have held the line on open source and the open internet for more than a decade now, and we should all be grateful.
Everything cool I've gotten to do in my life I owe to learning to code via building WordPress websites. I hope in the next decade WordPress and companies like Automattic become the example to aspire to instead of people throwing more fuel on the never-ending VC trash fire.
This line resonated most with me. Truly though, it's sometimes not our first instinct as developers to design for the future- the current culture of "build an MVP as soon as possible" doesn't always incentivize forward thinking.
If you're interested in thinking about how we can better design software solutions to support online communities further into the future, you might be a good fit for a discussion group I'm starting soon, called VC3. We're trying to bring together people who are as interested as we are in solving the problem of building meaningful virtual community. Building communities that stand the test of time are part of that.
If you have any questions, shoot me a message (profile) or check out our website at https://vc3.club.
Do we want the internet to forget, or not to forget? Is forgetting so bad? Not everything needs to be collected and catalogued and preserved forevermore.
There is a lot of crap out there - I'd be happy for some personal stuff I posted many years ago as a much younger and naïve person to just slowly rot away.
Everything else is a house of cards, though. It's just software on a server, after all, and if no one cares to back it up, no one will.
Second, when one says, "we did nothing", well, speak for yourself, eh? Lots of people did a lot of things and are still doing them.
But the normals do not care. It's that simple: apathy and complacency (the twins demons of our New Age) and a good stiff whollop of ignorance.
(Over a billion people don't know that Facebook isn't the Internet! Chew on that.)
Meanwhile, you know who didn't lose all their content? This guy. Because backups. (Another thing normals try not to think about.)
I've been saying for years now that the world is bifurcating into Eloi and Morlocks.
This is "victim" blaming, yeah, but in this case IMO the "victims" are to blame: no one's forcing people to be Eloi. If you care about your digital shit, back it the frak up already.
(E.g. Tarsnap, Amazon Glacier, a box of DVDs!?)
While that's a common axiom bandied about on HN, as is your general tone of condescension towards "the normals" (Eloi and Morlocks, seriously? You know the Eloi were the villains, right?) I'm certain that practically no one who uses Facebook is actually unaware that the rest of the web exists.
"You know how stupid the average person is, yeah? Well, by definition, half of them are dumber than that."
> I'm certain that practically no one who uses Facebook is actually unaware that the rest of the web exists.
I wish there was a way to make a bet on that because I'd like to take your money.
> You know the Eloi were the villains, right?
Are you sure? The Eloi were the innocent beautiful idiot surface dwellers, the Morlocks were the grotesque cannibal machine-tenders, eh? My metaphor is that tech-elites (myself somewhat included) are the Morlocks and the users are Eloi.
> The Eloi are herded, bred and maintained by the Morlocks as a food source, much like cows or pigs are today.
Right. I've got no dog in the ol' Eloi vs. Morlocks debate, but let me apologize, I do not want to appear as an Eloi sympathizer in you presence -- or even risk taking any creative analogy (for one even I am glad to have made aware of, as my reading list ever grows), lest you accuse my tone against a fictional race as you are surely itching to -- as demonstrated prior.
Well if we're exchange common things bandied about on HN... Let's take a glaring example here. The above is an opinion presented with uttermost confidence about groups of users and their knowledge -- all in the presence of zero evidence. Hah, take that! Wait, how many does it take to tango?
It is a personal anecdote and long held opinion of mine that although the ease of access towards the internet, and therefore availability of, has increased, the technical chops of the general population may not be spread equally -- perhaps the unfairest of this is on the age variable with retired seniors not being able to get around much without help. I have helped old people with this matter, so I experience this sometimes. Perhaps I agree with OP on this, that they don't know the web really exists, and it's all a Cumulus cloud to them and I'm the wizard handles those unknowns for them. And I can take a step back and say, its alright that not a lot of people know https vs. http, or yada yada and perhaps on that point I differ from some opinions on HN, but I don't think you understand how oblivious people can be to the internet. I fear you will accuse my tone of condescension towards "retired seniors" and must now stop lest I dig myself any further. It was all fun and games with the fictional humans...
Mostly find it shocking because Instagram is so anti-internet you can't even post links to promote/sell your work...
You just need to look past the light pollution of google, facebook and twitter.
When I think of every major innovation in web dev since 2000, almost all of it has gone the opposite direction from how I would have done it. Instead of autoscaling distributed servers, programming languages and databases, we ended up with "bare hands" tools like Kubernetes, async-await and sharding on proprietary monopolies like AWS locked into physical regions. My description of what's wrong is fuzzy at best, but I feel it deep down, that this trend away from computer science to application has all but halted progress.
I could write at length (seriously dozens/hundreds of pages) about better ways of doing all of this. I already have to some degree. But nobody cares, and nobody listens to me since I never built anything that made any appreciable money. So what's the point? There isn't one. That's the internet today. Late-stage capitalism, pretty people, and divisive political discourse. Dystopia.
Whereupon young Largo LOL'd almost hysterically and said: 'What? NO!" This is so fucked up it isn't funny anymore!'
He was very surprised and asked why, young Largo couldn't
say exactly why and needed some minutes to collect his thougts and then began:
'This may come as a surprise to you, with me being an atheist, but what we have now reminds me of the story
in the old testament of the bible about the building of
the Tower of Babylon.'
That indeed raised some eyebrows!
Young Largo rambled on about the siloing of data in different non-interoperable applications for reasons of customer tie in, which is against the interests of said
customer. About the bloat in software which requires ever more potent hardware in regular intervals with every new software version, while the old ones would be perfectly servicable if they only could read the data from the newer versions, which of course is a No-Go because it is against the interest of the software producers.
He rambled on about lack of stability and unintuiveness of
UX while compairing that with kitchen- and general household appliances, which would be considered useless and broken if they required the effort PC's did then.
He fantasized on about something which combined the ease of use of Hypercard and Visual Basic in some hypothetic platform with the versatility and networkability of some Unix, extendable with modules available in countless variations like in DOS/WIN in a way every other 'module' would benefit from, because of extended capabilities and 'teaching' them new data formats, creating a bespoke environment exactly fitting your needs, while being able to run on ridiculously cheap and small hardware, nonetheless capable of reading everything you could reasonably throw at them.
Young Largo rambled on about the impossibility of this happening in our current society and economy with patents, intellectual property, and so on, that this was easy to see and extrapolate into not getting any better EVER!
Because even then bloat was a thing.
What young Largo didn't really knew at the time were Plan9, OS-9, QNX and TRON but he had dabbled in 386/FreeBSD, early Linuxes, knew some FORTHs and some Assemblers and paid a shitload of money for his ISDN to get onto the internet with his hot rod Pentium.
Young Largo concluded then that this all was nothing else but the biggest bullshit job creation program since the
building of the egyptian pyramids, and at the end of the day
almost as useless as them for society, with a few exceptions
of research and simulation, CAD/CAM and such, but not applicable to the general public.
When asked 'But what for!?' he answered: 'How should i know?
TO THE STARS!'
There could be a prequel to this, where an even younger Largo said in school that he wanted every computer being able to speak with each other, one big universal library,
when being asked in class what the biggest thing he wished for would be.'
That was pre- or proto-internet
Anyways, in a purely technical way all of this is possible,
and even has been realized in parts, or as complete proof of concept, except the ability of handling proprietary data formats by already entrenched market players behind their moats.*
So one part of the army of bullshit jobbers is pecking like vultures at the long rotten carcasses which were thrown out of some research labs eons ago for antimonopolistic reasons, producing nothing but bloated zombies in different paint schemes. Another part specializes in exploiting the bullshit jobbers with proprietary software and services which don't really run according to their needs, but clogging their toilets, while the part who feels like it is the airforce tries to simulate being intelligent while unable to reliably reproduce or even explain their cheap stunts, the part being the navy looming beneath the waves and snorting..err snorkeling every and any shit, while the real spaceforce which does solid engineering could have been up in the sky in O'-Neil cylinders since decades, if the rest of the retarded shitheads wouldn't have dragged them down so much.
Instead of the universal library with nice haptics i got
craptastic movieplayers in different sizes, which i use like giant microfiche readers. So be it!
Aye häff SPOQQN!
I also wish that HyperCard had been a bigger influence on the early web. It was written in human terms for techno-novices trying to get real work done. As HyperTalk evolved into AppleScript, it lost its original elegance and is now just another cryptic toy language that is difficult or impossible to write without a manual.
IMHO to fix all of this, we need to bring back ideas like research budgets of perhaps 5-25% and every company over say 50 employees or $5 million/yr gross having some form of 20% time for in-house projects. That can't happen as long as everyone is competing with each other just to survive though. And not when the leading internet companies plow most profits into share price and dividends instead of free and open source community tools.
I wish we had more stories of individuals and groups that made enough money to retire, but instead of just reinvesting into the status quo, went on to fund real innovation through philanthropy or alternative business structures like co ops.
That's not sad, actually, it's great. Being upset about that is like being upset that too many people use telephones who've never operated a switchboard or know morse code.
The internet (or at least the web) was never meant to be a niche redoubt only for nerds and programmers, it's supposed to be for everyone. The old hacker ethos was about liberating humanity from censorship and centralized control of access to information and communication, but now that that vision is actually coming to pass (kind of) people are complaining about how the normies ruined.
Fie. Fie, I say.
Also, almost everyone from the 'old internet' is watching Youtube and using social media as well. Your implication that everyone using social media is only doing so for entertainment or a dopamine rush is inaccurate. There are more hardcore, old school nerds on the modern web than there ever were on the old web.
>People who are just looking for entertainment or social dopamine think the old internet is "boring" or "looks dumb".
Nobody says that. Your can stuff your sorries into a sack, sir or madam.
As TFA says, most of those sites switched to paid accounts as the promise of "build a huge audience and work out how to monetise them later" didn't actually deliver any money.
So it's not that they died (they're mostly still there). It's just that they're not free any more.
I think the next decade will see this more and more: people actually paying for the things they use on the internet, because they realise that's the only way this will work now. The rise of information products and services focused around actually providing what their customers want, for a reasonable fee.
I think that "pay what you want"/crowdfunding models can fund a lot of the stuff that used to be provided "free" back in the day. The thing about paying for stuff on the internet is that many people find it quite inconvenient. It's not about the actual monetary expense, that's a minor factor (although it is a barrier to causal browsing, in and of itself). It's everything else you have to deal with as part of paying for something.
If you actually missed something from back then, you would remember it, and it's not really gone. If you don't remember it, it wasn't important. But here people are, trying to convince you you've lost something that you don't even know what it is.
The first time you lose all your files, it feels like disaster. The second time, you realize it's just digital materialism, and you get along
just fine without it.
I've found time and time again that something I thought wasn't important before can end up being very important later. That's only what I can remember, too.
Plus, there's a selection bias in what you remember. If you don't remember it, how would you know that it's important or not later?
If the cost is small then I think "digital materialism" is probably mostly okay. I've come to the conclusion that it's hard for me to predict the importance of things later, so if something appears to be ephemeral and has even a modest chance of being important later, I'll archive it and organize it so I can find it later if I want to.