Web 2.1

Back in the 2000s “Web 2.0” was all the rage. The term heralded a different kind of internet. one where regular people were both the creators and the consumers. Putting content online used to be hard - the few produced, and the (relative) masses consumed. Web 2.0 removed technical barriers, promising a kind of democratization of content creation. Posting to the internet was born.

FoxTrot on September 22, 2006, by Bill Amend

So when is web 2.1 due out? I’d argue we’ve already arrived. Ignore the crypto fanatics who are trying to claim “Web 3.0” for the decentralized web, and consider how Internet usage has changed since the 2000s. Craigslist, Facebook and MySpace, the leading lights of Web 2.0 feel like prehistoric dinosaurs. Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok dominate. Is it easy to post to these platforms? Technically speaking, yes. Anyone can post. You don’t need to know arcane computer programming skills in order to push content to the internet. But I think we’re missing something by just focusing on the technical details. People who push content to these platforms invest insane amounts of capital into producing content - and unlike early Web 2.0 projects, content on IG, Twitter, and TikTok is public by default. One competes with a global population of content creators who are probably better than you at it because it’s literally their job.

The barrier to entry on early Facebook was low because you were competing with your friends. Most of the time, your friends were interested in what you had to say because you know, they were your friends. The barrier to entry on Twitter is high, because you are competing with Elon Musks’ latest controversy and the dozens-to-hundreds battle worn Twitter influencers who have already crafted a better incisive joke than you. Most people don’t actually care what you have to say.

Naturally, what happens is that the pre-existing power law distribution of social networks is exacerbated. A select few people end up being specialized, professional content creators. A slightly larger population tries, mostly in vain, to break into internet stardom. The vast majority lurk.

I call this influencer-centric model web 2.1. It’s Web 2.0 under the ruthless influence of the market. It’s sometimes good (influencers and content creators are usually more entertaining and interesting than my friends). It’s sometimes bad (influencers and content creators are usually more entertaining and interesting than my friends).

This blog is an effort to combat the negative side. While there’s always some kind of pressure posting publicly to the internet I can at least pretend that it’s not being automatically entered into a cutthroat global attention competition. I don’t need my writing to compete in the global content marketplace, hell, there are probably six different authors on Substack that have already written more eloquently than I have or ever will on internet content economics. Fuck it though, I’ll post because I want to write and I need someplace to organize my thoughts and an easy way to share with my friends, who I hope, will be at least politely interested.


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