A Bold Step Backwards – Idiot Wizard of the Internet

A Bold Step Backwards


A Brief Introduction

I’m Ward, a simple idiot wizard and tech dude based out of central Ohio. My relationship with central Ohio is very similar to my relationship with my dad: strained and vacillating between love and extreme frustration. I decided, some weeks ago, that with the current shift in the internet it would be a good idea to put my money where my mouth is and create a personal website with which I can convey to people my stupid thoughts in a more thorough and effective manner than a half though out toot scrawled from the toilet.

And I do think having a personal site is important, even if its just for a persona and not a person. Your identity should be your own and the best way to ensure that it is verified is by having a domain and a site hosted on it with SSL and being loud about who you are. It should be something you have as programmer to show off your work, sure, but I wholeheartedly believe in distributed, decentralized systems and I want to be a part of one.

Here’s me doing that.

I also want to make it as clear as possible why I’m doing it and where I’m coming from so I will now write a screed and there’s nothing you can do about it! Report me to the mods! I’m the mods! Who’s laughing now? Me! Hahahahaha!1

Biased Context

In 2007 some turtlenecked asshole introduced us to the concept of “Apps”. I was 17 then and half a lifetime ago I remember going to a hookah bar with my friends and all crowding around the Nick’s new iPhone. “Look, I just press this and it goes right to YouTube,” my Nick said, pawing at the slightly less responsive than we’d like device. “The maps app isn’t very good though,” he continued, waiting in dismay for streaming video to be more readily accessible over data carriers only 10 years down the road. “I hope they can add Mapquest or Google Maps instead.”

We didn’t know then but we were fawning over the death of the internet as we knew it.

At this point in my life I was a member of several PHPBB forums, which used to be the easiest way to share a community space and host discussions. Joining each of these forums was its own adventure, too. Usually, you’d be going about your business reading dumb little webcomics or playing a dumb little flash game and you’d see in the header of the page a menu that links to a forum. You’re already there, reading the dumb little comic or playing dumb little game and want to know what other people think about it so you sign up and introduce yourself. Before you know it you’re embroiled in a year long drama about who cheated at The Werewolf Game and how and a small group splinters of to make their own forum, each with its own heritage and culture from previous users.

This was a time when users owned the internet in a very literal sense.2 They owned the sites they conversed on, they owned the discourse they were engaging in, they sometimes even owned the hardware and kept it tucked away in a bedroom closet to quietly overheat. I’m trying not to sound wistful for a bygone era from my youth, but it’s hard not to.

Things changed in 2007.3 The simultaneous arrival of “The App” and the maturation of social media as a concept to look less like a toy for teens and more like Something Useful. There weren’t too many options at first but the slow trickle of new apps and social media sites became a steady stream. Twitter moved from the SMS part of your phone to its own app. Facebook moved from your desktop to an app. Every point of friction that could exist between a user and simply tapping a button on their phone to go to their favorite website had to be eroded away because the longer it took for them to get the app store the longer it took for them to see that Shakira’s new single was also on iTunes and it was only $0.99 god dammit. “There’s an app for that” became a meme before we even had widespread adoption of the term “meme”.

By 2010, smartphones had gotten cheap enough that there were a couple competitors to Apple’s dominance with iOS. Many people started to do most of their social media consumption on the phone rather than through a keyboard and mouse, and they were more likely to use social media provided to them with a single button and a monolithic userbase that all their friends were on. It was cheaper and easier to just use the standard Facebook Group or Facebook Messenger and businesses, fan clubs and neighborhood watches all migrated to these massive platforms, abandoning their previous bulletin boards for the Wall. And so we’ve been stuck, penned in by the environment we opted in to. Inefficient, cookie cutter, bland. We had made for ourselves a digital suburban hellscape.

And that’s basically where we’ve been the past decade. First MySpace and then Facebook came in like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club and decimated the internet landscape around them and certainly not for the better. Now every small business site looks exactly the same and if they don’t engage on Facebook they will lose customers simply from a lack of reach. And that reach is increasingly something that they’re having to pay for again. The cost of these centralized, monolothic services coincides with the rise of the algorithm, allowing the gestalt consciousness of YouTube decide at a whim what our political leanings should be and what kinds of food we might be interested in making for dinner.

The Blockchain Killed Web 2.0 and Web3 at the Same Time

Thankfully, the blockchain did them in. The instant these international megacorps saw the ability to sell digital ownership, they hopped on it. Unfortunately, the blockchain is nothing but a very clever way to inefficiently manage verification. The tools it use are present in other technologies that are cheaper, easier to use and nowhere near as complicated or requiring as much buy-in from the end user. Not that the suits in charge care, they just see the dollar signs. And so the biggest dumbasses of a generation went all-in on one of the most useless technologies to ever exist entirely because the financial sector couldn’t stop salivating over it. Meta is now focused on the Metaverse and is letting Facebook wither away. Twitter is now intrinsically linked with the DogeCoin guy and hemorhagging users and advertisers like rats from a sinking ship.

As we sit and watch the simultaneous demise of both Web 2.0 and Web3, I think it’s a smart idea to look backwards to what we lost by limiting ourselves to the boundaries of the App Store and its easily monetizable centralized Websites as a Service. They don’t work at scale. Flat out, it just can’t happen. There’s a reason RSS is still the podcast delivery method of choice: a protocol can’t die the same way an organization can. Has RSS been supplanted by Atom? Yes. Does the average user know or care? Not in the slightest.

This is the way.

Get It? Like From That Show!

I have a lot of thoughts about all of this, and I’m sure I’ll get further into them in later posts. I probably need to dig into some of these things a little more later on. And that’s what this is for. It’s also a place that I control. A corner to myself that I can shape and share as I please. This is what the internet should be like. Decentralized, federated, personal.

This is the way.4


  2. Or at least it felt like it. I dunno dude, look at the title of this site. ↩︎

  3. Or at least it felt like it. I dunno dude, look at the title of this site. ↩︎

  4. How obvious is it that I petered out towards the end? Leave a comment telling me I’m bad at doing something I’m doing now for the first time. ↩︎

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