The Small Web

Mon, 02 July 2023

Brief article about the state of the web

This guy is correct

But the small web is hard

Everyone has noticed this by now, right?

Over on YouTwitFace I just find someone I like/dislike and upvote/downvote/heart/retweet/like/subscrib/hitthatbellicon. Done! Opinion ingested. Emotion shared and look, I’ve interacted!

Hello, friend I haven’t spoken to in years. I see your family posted lovely photos from a vacation. likebutton

Greetings, nerd who has shared their wizard’s knowledge of the deep things. upvote

Yes I probably could search for someone on there and send them a message, but I probably won’t. I’ll probably just scroooolllll on down and tape that thumbs up to let people know I care.

I’m kindof conditioned to do that by now. Facebook came into my life in the .edu days. Before that, the minimal-effort social interaction was meals in the cafe, where the subject and participants were decided by selecting a table.

Ghosting people you didn’t like involved changing your lunch schedule or sitting wayyyy over there and just accepting the awkaward glances.

That level of social interaction used to just happen. I feel like now it requires intentional planning and effort. I only have a few friends who are willing to go to that effort. I miss the richness of those lunchtime conversations. Honestly, considering the usual subjects and rediculousness of those conversations, I can’t believe I’m saying that. Over time, we developed ‘our table’ which became ‘our region’ of the cafeteria, and one could float from vitriolic argument to gossip to nerdy conversations just by focusing on a different set of voices.

What about the web?

The web has had moments, and certainly still does in some places. You have to know where to look, but they’re out there.

Remember Xanga and Blogger? Angelfire? Maybe those weren’t good examples.

The reason I’m writing this is because of Reddit and Twitter. As of this writing you probably are not accessing Reddit using a non-official app.

Plenty of people are bemoaning the change, for very good reason. Plenty others proclaim that we have passed ‘peak reddit’ and it’s all downhill from here.

While reddit isn’t going anywhere, something has changed. I notice it on the front page, on the quality of the comments. It’s just not the same anymore. Still good, still a critical resource for many, but that wonderful feeling of “the weird web” is gone.

Suddenly, Reddit is all grown up. Its pants are ironed, it has expectations of respectability. Like the former-frat-boy selling insurance and having golf course meetings, we wonder ‘how long can this thing we assumed was always out of control stay on the rails’?

Reddit is an odd example - a behemoth, without which Google is less useful. But, on those lonely nights of isolation, someone in a niche-enough subreddit was still ready to connect with you in a way that wasn’t happening otherwise.

That was the magic of Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Xanga, and countless others before something tangibly changed.

Something something market forces…stock prices…interest rates…

What now?

I expect lots of people wonder that right now. Following the loss-of-innocence at Twitter and Reddit, where do we now find community online?

This screen in my pocket used to connect me to people using these icons, but I don’t like those icons anymore. Where is the new icon?!?

That feels like a dumb way to say it. But I remember the first lonely lunches after college, crunching sesame seeds and staring out the window at McDonalds, wondering what my friends were up to now.

This is where the hard work comes in

Something new will pop up. You’ll have a conversation where your cool in-the-know friend says ‘wait, you’re not on yet?’ and suddenly fall down a rabbit hole of possibilities.

It’s really cool to see personal blogrolls on HackerNews. It’s wonderful to see yet another surge of people on Mastodon, and out of nowhere Lemmy is now a thing. I wish one of those could be the answer. And maybe fore certain groups of people, it will be.

The problem with each of those is that they they take effort. Collecting a bunch of RSS feeds takes curation. I so badly wish the fediverse was the answer, and there’s already some wonderful community happening on there. But, if you’re using those, you know the barrier of explaining them to non-techy people is a few notches higher than ‘register, start clicking upvote’.

Maybe the future is threads (gah I hope not), or BlueSky…I kindof doubt it. Right now, I’m inclined against yet another startup / future corporate heartbreak. Does that sound crazy?

For now, I’m collecting new people blogs, cleaning up my RSS feeds, and adding new people on Mastodon. It feels similar to getting on Reddit the first time and discovering new subs. The new and unknown is exciting, but soon I’ll get tired and lazy. At that point, my thumb will find whatever app bring the easiest ‘fix’ of mind-numbing scrolling. You’ll do it too, and if critical mass happens somewhere, there’s our new app.

I guess the best thing possible would be that we all spend less time on all manner of social medias and actually talk to other humans. That’d be amazing.

Telegram / Discord do not count

I get it, there’s a bunchapeople on those, but without the user-generated content curation I can’t imagine those really filling the gap. Jump into a busy Discord after a few days away and it feels like you’re drowning.


I don’t feel like I have anything unique or important to add to the conversation on this. BUT, I like the funky, small web. I wish that was the future. And it can’t be unless people actually create content and put it out there.

Processing through feelings and sharing them online, long form, is hard work. I hope more people are willing to do it, because reading that stuff is the best part of the funky web. It’s that cool connection that we all crave, even if it’s from the crazy fringe person sharing conspiracy theories over the cafeteria table just to start a fight.

Be weird! Share it online where we can find it!

OK, that’s enough. I dunno if any of this makes sense, but I felt like typing it.