A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on the problems at Reddit, Gawker, and Ashley Madison. This morning I uploaded a podcast recorded days after the article that discussed the current death of the old internet. The future of the internet is a topic that consumes my mind throughout a large portion of the waking day, I think I actually dream about the idea on some nights. I am excited, and saddened, when I think about how many of my favorite sites have changed with the times, and how many of them have failed to adapt. Being a beginner in content creation for the internet, I wanted to learn from all the successful people in the past, and heed the warnings of the failures. The new internet is where I want to live, it is where we will all thrive.
On August 6th, the website Vox.com published an article by Todd VanDerWerff titled 2015 is the Year the Old Internet Finally Died . I was initially shocked that there was an article out there with a similar headline, and many of the same ideas I had proposed. My first basic thought was "Have I been ripped off?". Then my rational brain took over and reminded me that Vox, Todd VanDerWerff, or any other large professional news organization probably did not rip off my piece. They did not know the article, or SeedSing, even exist. I really wish they had ripped me off, because that would mean some big dogs are reading, and agreeing, with the ideas I am presenting. I highly doubt, but am naively hopeful, that is the case.
VanDerWerff's piece recounted some of the same problems I talked about surrounding Gawker and Reddit. The Vox.com article was more researched, and devoted a lot more words to the overall topic. The author also has experience working with websites I frequently visit. He is definitely more of an expert on the death of the old internet than I am. I also believe he is wrong in his conclusions of the new internet. Where VanDerWerff thinks we are getting away from community and long form expression (funny considering his piece was definitely not that short) I think that long form articles will be a big part of the make up in the new internet. We are entering a new age of enlightenment. The ideas of the common people, not only the connected elites, have a place on the new internet. Real, positive change needs to be explained, and explanation takes up screen space.
The professional internet writers are more interested in their personal profiles, they have forgotten about writing to the masses. Clicks and monetization seem to be the only concern for these old bloggers. The A.V. Club is a website I visit everyday. I have been there since the launch, and have no reason to change my loyalty. The A.V. Club is also in danger of not being a viable part of the new internet. They have built a community of writers and readers, and have walled off that community to anyone else. The movie reviewers have been my go to source for Paul Thomas Anderson praise and Adam Sandler hate. They are incredible predictable in their "reviews". I am sure Sandler's latest movies stink, but I also really did not care that much for There Will be Blood or The Master. Those views will invite the stupidest inside joke scorn from the commentators and a more professional rejection from the writers. The A.V. Club has created a community for the writers, and this shows a lack of vision. If you want to write about anything, pop culture especially, you need to understand and expand the audience. Creating a community of people that only think like you is the same as going to church (or the Republican National Convention). The kids in the high school audio visual club were awkward because they were assholes about what was cool (it was almost never something that was cool). The A.V. Club wants to be the asshole, they will also get to have their little room that no one else wants to go in.
Cracked.com is another website I have visited nearly everyday since their launch. What I enjoyed about Cracked was how they would talk about the worst fictional towns (Gotham City number 1) or the dumbest GI Joe vehicles (so many dudes hanging off of the sides). This was a site for nostalgic men over the age of 30, but who really want to be 13 again. As the audience changed, Cracked started to change with it. Their articles started to take on an intellectual vibe (with some crude humor), but at the same time the core purpose of the website stayed the same. Their commentators hated the change. Recently Cracked has added a BuzzFeed feature looking at the news of the week, which their commentators hate. The personal experience articles, where the editors talk with people who have interesting jobs and life experience, have brought a whole new group of people in. The commentators predictably also hate this. Cracked does not care what the commentators think, those people will still come to the site that they fell in love with in 2005. Cracked is interested in growing the community by adding new people.
Todd VanDerWerff's piece lamented the fact that the new internet is removing the nice communities of the old internet. That is a good thing. The old internet was built with walls, and walls do not foster ideas. Many of the writers from the "professional" sites want to live in an echo chamber where only their ideas are correct. That kind of behavior leads into problems like ones facing the current national Republican Party. As communities start to meld, innovation takes off. The New York Times is going extinct because they have created a public persona that only the sycophants can believe in. Dissolve.com did not last past two years because The A.V. Club had already captured the "I like it because it is not popular" film crowd. Reddit created a wall by being where all the awful people can go and be unfiltered. When Reddit tried to take that wall down, their image was forever tainted. A new and better Reddit is being incubated right now to takes it place. Facebook created a community in the old internet and crushed the more free MySpace. In the new internet Facebook has brought down its walls and has become something that looks a lot like the free world of MySpace. VanDerWerff even points out that BuzzFeed may be disposable viral content, but they also produce insightful journalism. That is why BuzzFeed's community is one of the largest on all the internet.
We have the ability to radically remake global society into something grand. The grad student of yesterday would study Dunbar's number. The world at large can get a easier explanation through the Cracked article on The Monkey Sphere. The cult television show of yesterday would be lucky to last one season. Now Yahoo is not just a search engine, you can watch the latest season of Community. Expanding and dissolving communities is how we innovate. The new internet will bring more knowledge, culture, and freedom to the entire world.
Standing on your island and you will only see the water. Standing on a continent and you can touch all of society. The internet does not need to be special for a few. The internet needs to be useful for all.
RD is the creator and Head Editor for SeedSing. If any big websites are watching us for content, Hi there. Drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org