Things have sure moved fast, haven't they? I'm not that old and I remember the Internet as a network of information and communication, unique websites lovingly coded, tied together in a gossamer of webrings and link exchanges - but then, as so often happens with good things, the corporations smelt money and muscled their way into our beautiful, messy project of conversation and unity.
Today, the Web is an amorphous mass of massive corporately owned websites churning out endless streams of Content, the constant stimulation driving our primate brains only to find ever more content, more, constant, unending. The soul is steadily hollowed out as we doom-scroll across the social web, find ever new sources of ad-supported outrage and let autoplay algorithms play our hearts like so many out-of-tune pianos.
But whence this waking nightmare? And what now?
With the coming of the corporations who bought up so much online real estate, The Web became inoculated with a deadly though venerated disease: the marketplace of ideas. The marketplace, so goes the thinking, will provide a platform for good ideas and creative output and deny one to nonsense - but the truth is that whoever gets attention, gets ad clicks, gets more attention. Fascist and feline are equals in the eye of the market, so long as they get the same number of clicks. As a result, we have been left with a spoilt Net infested with foul ideologies and greedy grifters.
And while all our time is occupied fighting and grifting to get by where once we signed guestbooks and shared recipes, we forget to ask: is this what we are supposed to want? A massive, worldwide network that destroys any potential for human harmony by thriving on our most hated differences, where value is measured in engagement and mouseclicks rather than creativity or morality or any kind of benefit to the human condition?
Think about it for a while, dear reader - I did too. For my part, finally, I couldn't help thinking that the Net may not be so different from those quaint and antiquated formats, television and radio. Their peculiarities, their ads and nine o'clock newses, recede into the past to be replaced with better forms while what good they produced lives on in other ways... why not the same, but for the Net? Is it perhaps high time to overturn the tables and the benches of this marketplace of ideas?
The Internet as it is today has built itself into our lives by massive content-generating websites that beg us to look at their nonsense and their irritating ads - but it isn't our job to jump through hoops to use the Internet in a way that pleases the corporate nightmare.
It isn't our duty to keep this thing afloat - and you know what's so great about this Internet of money and revenue streams?
We can kill it without ever taking up the sword.
All it takes is ad blocking software. If we all started using it right now, if we all used the Internet the way we want in stead of the way its illegitimate stewards demand, the Web would crash and burn tomorrow.
And I say: let it burn, long and hot. Let's all get up on the roof together and look out over the Internet as all those who have been reduced to gibbering aggregators and content-gatherers and blatherers and clickbaiters die screaming in a glorious sea of flames and then, when the last desperate embers have died down, let's sweep the ashes and see what remains.
I don't know what will happen when the Internet as it is now collapses, and something rises from what remains. I don't know what it will look like, but I know it will fulfill needs, and until it gets ruined by whatever comes after advertising, it will be good, and it will be ours.
You needn't be the one to light the fire, dear reader, though I'd be the last one to stop you. But consider doing your part by using ad blocking software. Ads suck, and you don't want to see them. If it hastens the demise of something that rewards only attention and punishes true, unfettered creativity, good on you, you're part of the solution.