who the fuck wants to live in a walled garden?

Guys, the internet is broken. Can we start over? Let's review a few incredibly infuriating examples of why the internet is driving me nuts, lately:

  • Google invents the ultimate tool for information gathering and sharing (Google Reader), recruits an entire generation of devotees and information addicts, and then brutally murders it, because they want to drive more eyeballs to G+ because they need to compete with Facebook, even though no one actually uses G+. Thanks, shitheads.
  • theoldreader.com (an awesome Google Reader replacement) lets you share posts to Facebook, kinda like how Google Reader does. Awesome! ... Except that facebook now relegates all such shared content to "recent activity" -- a sad little widget outside the main timeline that no one ever sees, rather than showing up in anyone's timeline. Why? Facebook is trying to discourage third-party apps because they want to drive eyeballs to their website, where they can foist ever-increasing levels of "sponsored content".
  • Amazon Kindle's highlighting is basically useless because they only post the content to an obscure hidden URL buried in Amazon's website, and only for Amazon's purchased books, because they want to keep their users buried in an insular corner of their website. Fuck if I know why, but it probably has something to do with some idiot's grand idea to eventually sell ads. Possibly it has something to do with DRM, but that's a rant for a different day.
  • Twitter neuters ifttt.com (an awesome trigger/automation service) by locking down its API because .. why? You guessed it: they want eyeballs on their website.

The end result, increasingly, is that no one can fucking interact with anyone. What happened to the Internet where information was shared anywhere you liked as quickly as you could read it, and every awesome new web 2.0 app that emerged held the potential to interact in a million different ways with the rest? Remember when people read and shared stuff other than the same 3 damn huffingtonpost.com URLs circulated all fuckin day long? I actually distinctly remember a conversation I had with Marcus Whitney over delicious beers at the broadway brewhouse when facebook was first released. We were both ranting about how awesome it was, and how much potential it had. It really was an exciting prospect at the time. I specifically remember telling him I thought it was amazing because it had the potential to be sortof a central repository/clearing-house/aggregator for all of our different websites/feeds/data: my blog, my google reader shared items, my flickr stream. A true internet "presence" by way of all the different ways I could hook my data into it. This was true, at the time, too. Oh, how things changed. Oh, how wrong, wrong, wrong I was.

I miss those days. Social media doesn't deserve its name anymore -- there's nothing social about it. They're all high-walled gardens. I don't know how to extend the metaphor to make it clear how much this sucks. Maybe imagine some dudes on the top of the walls peeing on all of us. That works. We're getting peed on, guys.

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  • Lindsey Turner


  • Tracey

    We have a choice: free (beer) or free (information/interaction). The free (beer) services make their money from ads. Ads need eyeballs. If they let everyone and his brother API or screenscrape their way past the ads, well, you know the rest. Joe and Jane Internet User, even old farts who think nothing of having multiple newspaper & magazine subscriptions, buying stamps, and paying for telephone service, are notoriously unwilling to pay even a small amount for their social networking, news, even email. Until someone’s teady to build, run, and maintain some kind of social clearinghouse out of their own pocket with zero return (and a lot of complaints and headaches every time there’s even the tiniest glitch), the services that are running will be feeling around for the perfect balance between maximizing profit and alienating too many users (remember, you’re NOT the customer, you’re the product).

    There are other places to interact, and many people do use them. I don’t want all of my worlds to intersect in every way, nor am I necessarily interested in seeing everytning generated by people with whom I interact primarily in specific subject areas. Facebook has its flaws, but it is nice for keeping up with a general circle of family/friends/classmates/whatever, even if some of them keep telling the same tired old jokes or gabbing incessantly about their kids’ latest achievements every time we’re out on our electronic front porches. I go other places, online and off, when I want to find people with a specific interest or expertise, and I still meet friends at the park or call my mother on the phone when I want to have deeper or more extensive conversations.

    • cwage

      I think you’re missing the larger point that I don’t really give a shit about facebook or how they do or don’t make money. My point is that I’m irritated that everyone uses it to circulate information in lieu of methods that actually work rather than serve as a funnel for sponsored content.