Manifesto For A Better Web Manifesto For A Better Web

12 Feb 2023 - by: Darkwraith Covenant

Why the social internet is unbearable now.

The way we consumed the social internet was much different when I first started learning HTML. It was a lot more democratized than it is today. It was more decentralized, and mega corporations had not yet taken over your eyes and flooded them with ads at the torrential levels they do today. Insert quote from Naomi Klein’s No Logo here.

Naomi's Klein's No Logo

As usual, companies that serve and sell ads creeped in. They became pervasive and downright malicious in their relentless quest for more engagement, clicks, buys, and revenue. They exploited our personal data. Trump was given billions in free marketing in the 2016 election cycle, in exchange for your eyes and attention, so that ads could be served to you on the channels that showed his face and his ideas during the 24 hour news cycle. And that was just legacy media on TV, what was happening with Facebook (now Meta) and Cambridge Analytica was even more alarming.

The internet used to be for us and by us - the nerds, the geeks, the punks, the outsiders. Before social media, we had webrings that linked people’s pages together. This is also why myspace was brilliant, as it supercharged this concept of content creator rings with its Top 8 feature. It fostered a sense of community that is rapidly in decline today. It was much easier to find content relevant to our interests, being served by people who actually cared about them. Mistakes were certainly made. Content moderation was poor many times where it mattered, despite most pages being static and allowing little interaction. Despite Web 1.0’s flaws, we had much better control over our content.

A lot of hateful, toxic behavior was allowed to go unchecked, with too many moderators and admins naively believing that non-meatspace interaction was not akin to real life. We’ve since made strides to protect the vulnerable and oppressed, though not without vicious backlash from those with zero interest in making the internet a better place for everyone. Much of this is due to the fact that we’ve been falsely lead to believe that we have no choice but to remain on the big social media sites. We’ve been conditioned to believe this is just the cost of doing business if you wish to interact with other humanoids on the internet. This, of course, is bullshit.

We no longer stroll down the streets in a metaphorical open world (wide web), enjoying the parks, shops, restaurants, bars, venues, and - most importantly - people along the way. Instead we have stayed in one single towering megabuilding, riding an elevator up and down to different floors which open up to contrived walled gardens. With each new floor, social media sites serve you the content they think you want to see, making you forget at once that you’re in the same building, owned by one company.

None of these multi-billion dollar juggernauts care about your mental health and well being. The fact that you go to 3-4 different buildings - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. - merely provides an illusion of choice. You are no longer walking through the proverbial town square, in a wide world of town squares, each with unique offerings. How utterly dull! Why have we allowed this to happen? It’s 202X, and Facebook still doesn’t even have markdown or rich text editing.

The world wide web used to be like
this: [][][][][][] like a scenic road,
but today it’s more like

Like a panopticon; a multi-tiered prison.

It is siloed and curated by someone else’s algorithm, desperate for your undivided attention. Just look at how instagram and tiktok serve content. It’s an endless scroll, hacking your dopaminurgic system to ultimately sell ads and keep you engaged. They won’t even let you multitask and switch to a different window or app. This addicting behavior is by design.

But there is a better way.

Like in the era of Geocities and Angelfire, it can be exactly as we construct, frame, and paint it. We can learn from previous mistakes. We can understand what went wrong, and erect a better experience for all. Or we can continue to languish in forever-scrolling hell. Customization is what makes the old web so special. We haven’t really had this kind of flexibility in “social media” - a term that exemplifies the wider problem - since the days of Myspace. With the existence of the freeweb/indieweb/yesterweb, why have we given up so easily? The phrase “you are the product” may be cliche at this point, but many don’t realize they don’t need to be for sale. It is time to crack the shackles, and remove your presence from these sites as much as possible, plank by plank if necessary.

A personal webpage is an expression of the self, a canvas in a digital art gallery, one snippet of HTML and CSS at a time. Why then, have we let someone without our best interests mind do all the heavy lifting for us? Social media sites will continue to have their place, but I think they are on the decline and we should move accordingly.

Reasons to move your art, music, and writing off of facebook

  • You won’t be banned by careless robots for breaking arbitrary, ever-changing terms of service (just don’t be a raging bigot) and won’t face censorship.
  • You control your own digital ghost, and can disappear your content on your own terms.
  • You control who interacts with your content.
  • Your data is no longer mined and abused by greedy actors.
  • No more ad creep.
  • No more “likes” and “reacts” which negatively affect mental health.
  • Freedom of movement. If you don’t like your host, go elsewhere.
  • Ultimate flexibility and customization.
  • If you aren’t ready to fully move off of social media, you can easily embed and share posts from SM on your page.

This is why I support the Yesterweb movement and by extension the communities created on neocities, which you can read more about here:

A typical neocities page.

This post is a living document, and may change.


darkwraithcoven darkwraithcovenant @josedelara5334 darkwraithcovenant#5991