On the history of Medium.
Something something professionalization of hobbies something something gig economy something personal branding and influencer culture something something
If an advertiser’s primary goal is to get their ad in front of people and the cost of the ad rises the more that it can be proved someone saw the ad, website makers have a strong incentive to serve ads that cover content, block content, prevent access to content temporarily, etc. Many ad-funded websites feel like they have to make a some pretty hard calculations: how much can they piss users off in order to make enough money to survive, without scaring users off completely.
I, as a web user, do not at all think many websites have calculated well. But a weird thing about the web is that because a lot of information is discovered via search engines, as long as websites can play the SEO game they will continue getting a large volume of users, and as long as those users stay on the site long enough to get some ad impressions, the site stays afloat. That is to say, even though users are pissed off at the design of the sites, the site still generates traffic because search engines are looking at the content, not the experience.
Winston Hearn on trade-offs.
Advertising is, hands down, the worst thing to ever happen to the web and that is a hot take I will die on…
On the birth and death of the semantic web.
I confess I… was kinda into the semantic web. Back In The Day, when I used a homebrew system rather than WordPress, my entire blog was even rendered in XML, styled for display to humans via XSLT transformation.1 This was back in the XHTML heyday. I always hated XHTML—it’s basically the worst of both HTML and XML and I’m glad it “lost” the standards wars—but I liked the clean separation of data and presentation as represented by the XML/XSLT combo.2
It had, of course, some obvious downsides, the main one being that it would crap itself and fail if it encountered even slightly malformed data (as opposed to HTML, which is endlessly fault tolerant). It was also very easy to machine-parse, which is both good in the sense of interoperability but, conversely, also bad in the sense of interoperability, depending on your stance on content silos, web scraping, and plagiarism.
Still. It was neat, and clean, and I do kinda miss it. Modern “alternatives” like microformats and JSON whatevers and and such and so on always seem like… pale and compromised imitations.
So while I don’t necessarily disagree with the general premise of this article about our digitally feudalistic future, I find it absolutely wild that it includes, apparently totally straight-faced, the following passage (bold added):
Google’s current egalitarian approach to tech could shift to a future tiered system of access and permissions. Families who can afford the upgrade fees and have enough tech savvy could manually unlock their systems and connect to a greater variety of devices, such as coffee makers, 3-D printers and outdoor irrigation systems. But a lower-income tier might offer families access in exchange for advertising. Those families would have a small selection of devices and appliances available, and they would come with restrictions and limited data protections.
Because, y’know. Apparently not being constantly targeted by advertising is only for rich people, but that’s totally 100% an “egalitarian” approach?
Every time I read an article like this, I’m reminded that, had the internet been like it currently is when I was fifteen, I never would’ve made my Baby’s First Website, thus never would’ve gotten into computers or technology.
Why do Kids These Days seem so weirdly technologically illiterate? Blame the increased corporatization of the web and ridiculous over-inflation of barrier to entry on even basic development tasks, I guess.1
So you. Yeah, you. Have you heard; hipsterism has come to the internet. All those thirty-somethings wanting to relive their teenage years on Geocities, making ugly beautiful again as an ultimately futile protest against our focus-tested UX overlords.
And maybe you thought all of that sounded pretty neat. Pretty swell. Maybe it would’ve even made you nostalgic—made you ready to crack out the text editor and whip-up a personal site in hache-tee-em-ell even—except, well. You missed the boat, first time ’round. Maybe you’re too young or maybe you just weren’t Extremely Online in the late ’90s/early ’00s and this Titanic is one you never managed to punch your ticket for.
Well, never fear! You’re in luck. Because I was there and, in 100% unironic ’00s style, I’m gonna write you a fuckin’ tutorial, so you can be too. Y’know. Retrospectively.
That being said, suddenly the shitty fucking code in a whole bunch of websites is making a whole bunch of sense…1