The enshittification of the web… in 2012

Liked The Web We Lost by Anil DashAnil Dash (Anil Dash)

The tech industry and its press have treated the rise of billion-scale social networks and ubiquitous smartphone apps as an unadulterated win for regular people, a triumph of usability and empowerment. They seldom talk about what we’ve lost along the way in this transition, and I find that younger folks may not even know how the web used to be.

Devastatia (NSFW website) shared this post that really made me smile. She found this 2012 post by Anil Dash called The Web We Lost.

Although I had been blogging since middle school, I bought my first domain name in 2012 (actually, two of them: the personal one (Internet Archive didn’t keep the design, sad times) and Réussir Mes Études), so the timing is pretty great.

I do remember:

  • « Ten years ago, you could allow people to post links on your site, or to show a list of links which were driving inbound traffic to your site. Because Google hadn’t yet broadly introduced AdWords and AdSense, links weren’t about generating revenue, they were just a tool for expression or editorializing. » -> a thousand times yes. On RME, I tried to cover for hosting cost way, way before I was ready, because that’s what real bloggers do.
  • « In the early days of the social web, there was a broad expectation that regular people might own their own identities by having their own websites, instead of being dependent on a few big sites to host their online identity. In this vision, you would own your own domain name and have complete control over its contents, rather than having a handle tacked on to the end of a huge company’s site. » -> Yes! I felt so special for having my own website.

And yes, a thousand times yes to this conclusion:

This isn’t some standard polemic about “those stupid walled-garden networks are bad!” I know that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites, and they give their users a lot of value. They’re amazing achievements, from a pure software perspective. But they’re based on a few assumptions that aren’t necessarily correct. The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.

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