The Internet Is Rotting

I do what I can. It’s disheartening how, in the past three or so years, several of my free instructional web pages that used to be high in the Google search results have been pushed out by predatory services that provide custom term papers (for a fee, of course). Users of social media are trained to use a flashy, well-designed app, but they don’t learn how to curate and maintain their online content; instead, they are giving away their creations to social media giants.

One of the best features of the World Wide Web was that webmasters took the time to create hyperlinks pointing to hand-picked resources that represented the best information (and commentary and humor and whatnot). But a generation trained on social media just scrolls through a feed generated by an algorithm that’s designed to make the most money for the social media giants.

I’m glad I got to experience a World Wide Web full of hand-crafted lists of links, “link of the day” features, the “What’s new?” page, FAQ pages…

So much is lost in time, like tears in rain.

I’ll keep doing what I can.

The web, like the internet, is a collective hallucination, a set of independent efforts united by common technological protocols to appear as a seamless, magical whole.

This absence of central control, or even easy central monitoring, has long been celebrated as an instrument of grassroots democracy and freedom. It’s not trivial to censor a network as organic and decentralized as the internet. But more recently, these features have been understood to facilitate vectors for individual harassment and societal destabilization, with no easy gating points through which to remove or label malicious work not under the umbrellas of the major social-media platforms, or to quickly identify their sources. While both assessments have power to them, they each gloss over a key feature of the distributed web and internet: Their designs naturally create gaps of responsibility for maintaining valuable content that others rely on. Links work seamlessly until they don’t. And as tangible counterparts to online work fade, these gaps represent actual holes in humanity’s knowledge. —The Atlantic