The day the good internet died (2023)

next week atthe touch, in honor of the publication ofWoodstock 99: Peace, Love and Fury, we will examine the events that changed the world as we knew it, particularly those that marked the end of established eras and ushered in a then-unknown future. Some will be open and well established. Others will be less well known and perhaps more speculative. But everyone will harbor the inescapable idea that when things die, someone or something pulled the trigger. welcome tothis is the last week.

From my desk in an office building on the southern tip of Manhattan, I click, scroll, scroll, and click. Sometimes idle, looking at the clock; sometimes desperate instead of the job I know I should be doing. I flip through sweaty Getty photos on the celebrity fashion blogwalk yourselfand read the latest curated musings from Felix Salmon, a staunch Reuters blogger covering finance high and low. I read everything that is published inthe punch(Motto: "Be less stupid") and most things postedConsumer. (Encouraged by the recurring advice on this page, I decide to give up one day in the real world against one of those little "$10 card minimum" signs in a SoHo grocery store. It's not going well, and I'll never try again. ) It's 2011 and I can't get enough of the Internet.

I facethe panoramapoignant photos of deadly disasters around the world. I parse cryptic and confusingly formatted bursts of destructive drama between small but mighty Tumblr accounts run by people whose blog iterations I've followed parasocially since my college days. I read articles about ConLaw and SantaCon. I keep a poker face most of the time, but if I make a mistake and accidentally laugh or whisper "hey!" loud, I play like I'm reacting to something Jim Cramer or Maria Bartiromo just said on CNBC. With critical eye I examine minetersubrosa tumblr like someone else has it and try to imagine how my weird fascination online – jason kottkerebloguear; slideshows ofMartha Stewart takes points; to the leftmineAwkward and unpaid speeches about concepts such as "preemptive irritation" must appear in someone else's eyes.

All of this is facilitated by Google Reader, a slick working website launched in 2005 that uses pre-existing RSS feed protocols to transform Internet chaos into a pleasant stream of content. Google Reader is not the world's first RSS newsreader, nor will it be the last, and over the years many advanced Internet users will try it out.not even the best. But that was what prevailed. And using it requires little effort for tidy and satisfying rewards, like tossing spare coins and crumpled bills into an old ceramic piggy bank and finding that, in return, you've been given access to a fancy, tidy, and free Swiss bank account.

Google Reader never judges or shows anything. It goes unnoticed, with a URL that isn't blocked by my office computer system like the louder social networks like Twitter and Facebook. It has an intentionally left blank look. There are ads here and there, but far fewer. Even the black box feature, introduced in 2009, comes with an ironic charm: a user can browse sources in chronological order, or, in Google's words, "magically sort."

I resolve to see what happens if I also magically order my life and quit this career altogether.a new. None of my loved ones are surprised, even if they don't fully understand it: Most use the Internet almost exclusively for business emails, online shopping, fantasy football, and/or keeping up with their exes. They say well-intentioned things to me like "Oh, you and your blogs!" At my new job, Google Reader is becoming less of a distraction and more of an important resource. I'm adding a subcategory just for hockey blogs; I use the search function almost every day to find things I know I've some placeand I would like to quote in my work; I comment on the links shared by my colleagues. I don't know it yet, but life on the internet is better than ever.

It's 2021 and I can't get enough of the internet. That is admitting defeat. It's an acknowledgment of my worst quirk, the one where I'm in bed until 3 or 4 am. , something new.

Sometimes it's that damn "hello, are you doing doomscrolling?" A Twitter bot retweeted my feed or a growth hacking notice asking when you've beenboth youIn the past.Sometimes it's a blurry photo of a former colleague's third child with the caption "Wow, you're the third child..." or a comment thread in which a friendly neighbor repeatedly calls California Governor "Gavin Newsuck." It's usually sponsored content, and I can never tell which service offering confuses me the most: the weird Twitter ads andsponsored poststhey tend to be days old, extremely specific mid-game NBA score updates, or 15 Insane Photobombs You Have To See To Believe! While DTC's Instagram Marketing Attacks Are So Hypertargeted And Surgically Precise They Can Routinely Hitexactly the lamp made of 3D printed cornthat I always wanted in my life.

That's the duality of the internet these days: it's worse and better than ever, and it gets ever stricter as you search for personalized information hosted so limitlessly you can't find it.

Checking in is like setting yourself up for a Yogi Berra 2.0 “horrible food and such small portions!” joke. Just last week, the president of the United States and Facebook, each citing the tech company's handling of information about the pandemic, sparred publicly about, oh, justRatio of Facebook murder desire to social benefit. (In other news there is a newspace jamMovie starring an evil computer villain called "Al-G Rhythm") Online is no longer a stealthy escape or a precious exit. It's just where everyone isY: my parents, my job, my enemies, Joe Biden, my kids' preschool teachers, that damn guy who once sat next to me in a press box, introduced himself and immediately asked why I unfollowed him .

Drag to update. Drag to update. Drag to update!!!

Internet lasts forever, Internetnever forget. And yet it's also a place where I encounter an almost unbearable number of daily reminders of its decline: broken links, abandoned blogs,applications about, tweets deleted (I always miss you,in me, trotzdem!), very cute 404 messages, missing Vines, videos whose copyright holders requested removal, missing material that the Wayback Machine never tracked down, things I know I readin some placeand I would like to quote in my work, but I can't do it like before.

Some of these losses are silly and small, but others seem more monumental and enlightening over the years. And when Google Reader disappeared in 2013, it wasn't just a story of declining user numbers, or what one engineer later described as such.a rotten code base. It was a sign that the foundation on which it was built was crumbling: the good old Internet age.

"I don't know about you, but I think Google Reader is one of the best and most important technologies in my life."a health bloggerwhom I followed through Google Reader, wrote in October 2011. "I'd give up my microwave long before I'd give up my Reader." The offering, throughout its existence from 2005 to 2013, was certainly an ideal showcase for some of the Internet's dominant strengths at the time, one of which was the rise of the blogosphere, the backbone of what might be the good internet.

Thanks to platforms like Blogger and WordPress, blogs (sorry, weblogs) are easy to set up, maintain, and run. And these people were creative and tough; amazing and full of it. Music tastemakers uploaded new MP3s every day at the same long-awaited time. Clouds of business, politics, and baseball, who have already studied the blade on forums and forums, have smoothly transitioned into their new digs, engaging in endless, pedantic, quote-filled arguments and holding grudges against each other for years. (I say this with respect: I used to love that shit.) Stoners mined YouTube for gold andblessed uswith "Highdeas" involving Leim, Al Gore, and the concept of "Breakup Camp." Young Mormon mothers wrote picture-filled dispatches about their faith and their families, then leftempires.

The web felt stubbornly decentralized, but also collaborative. Even the antagonistic types out there (particularlythe antagonistic guys!) were generous with their credits and links. Writers began to band together like irreverent Voltrons on clever, disjointed group blogs that attracted an odd, lively group of disparate commenters, many of whom began meeting on IRL dates. People even started turning professional and getting paid to blog. Picture this: getting paid to blog!

Google had already bought Blogger in 2003 andin interview withplayboyIn 2004, founder Sergey Brin outlined a vision for his company that sounded extremely blogger: "We want to get it out of Google and into the right place as quickly as possible," he said. But nothing gold can stay, and as smartphones, tablets, apps, and social media began to complement and supplant the simple text experience on a desktop computer in the early 2010s, the corporate mindset of Google continued to gravitate inward. In late 2011, the company announced that it would be phasing out things like Google Reader's handy commenting features to make room for closer integration with the company's latest target, Google+, which is soon to flounder. Decision to play with Google Reader angered online factionsfrom Iranian protesters to curious grad students, one of which started a petition that garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures and media attention, but ended up going nowhere, while other tech companies were suddenly everywhere.

A few months later, in early 2012, Facebook emerged, bought Instagram, and made a $16 billion initial public offering, a big step on the road to national and geopolitical dominance. In late 2013, Twitter also went public, formalizing the rise of another social networking service whose link-sharing (and grabbing!) capabilities had been slowly encroaching on Google Reader territory for years. At the time, however, Google Reader didn't have much leeway. It wasn't just the program's sharing features that were disabled by corporate policy. It was all that was completely shut down by its mother ship in July 2013. I hope the guy puts away the microwave.

The fact that I'm still thinking about it all these years later makes me a total cliché, an online version of the person who insists that the best music, the best sports dynasties, and the funniest episodes ofSaturday night livewere the ones that happened or happened when they were in high school. "You don't lose Google Reader",wrote Tom Fish in his substackLast fall, following reports that the trendy email newsletter service was testing a hub focused on eating style, it drew countless nostalgic comparisons to the recently defunct You Miss College site. Dude, I already have my diploma, thank you very much!

My friends: You have to let go and move on with your life.

– Matt Haughey (@mathowie)August 28, 2020

He does have a good point though, and it relates to an email sent to me by Brett Keller, that former grad student who started the petition to save Google Reader. The disappearance of Google Reader "seems to be a symptom rather than a cause of the decline," says Keller. "There's definitely been a slow move away from blogging on open platforms and linking back and forth." Services like Digg Reader sped up rapidly in the post-Google Reader vacuum, and other RSS programs had been around for years. But they didn't get the same kind of mainstream attention, in part because much of the content they were best suited for had already changed.

In fact, it was these traditional blogsrest for years, and the medium continued to lose people and places: to the profits of YouTube or Instagram, or the curmudgeonly team of Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel, or the micro-ease of Twitter or Tumblr. (Tumblr's evolution turned out to be a canary in the coal mine all on its own: Yahoo! bought the once-hot microblogging platform for more than $1 billion in 2013, in a deal in which CEO Marissa Mayer promised: "We won 't Play" and many discussions of pornography. In 2019, the operator WordPress Automattic reportedly bought what was left of Tumblr for less than $10 million). It makes sense to create content in the same place you consume it. on a separate blog when you can just post stuff on Facebook and Snapchat. Was there ever a good internet or am I just nostalgic for my youth?

If you asked me to name the best living blogger in the world, I would do it in a heartbeat.alex beams, whose agile and self-referential blogThe little fall, the big riseis a widely recognized good internet canon along withthe punch, the website he co-founded with Choire Sicha. And none other than Balk has fought his way through several impregnable Internet laws over the years. One is that "everything you hate about the Internet is really everything you hate about people." Another reason is that the worst thing about the internet is “knowing what everyone thinks of everything”.

The last one is almost terrifying considering all we've been through since he wrote it in 2015. "Now if you think the internet sucks."kept writingthe punch, in the tone of an ER nurse who really has seen it all: “Wait a minute. The moment you were in right now was the best it could be. The stuff you're nodding your head for right now is going to feel like fucking Shakespeare in 2016."

Dave Winer, one of the early creators of RSS, also rejected the idea that the demise of Google Reader doomed the good old internet. In early 2020 in response to an article on the subject inthe new republic,ele twittouthat if the Internet really did exist, and if it really were dead, then it would stand to reason that "the billion people who use Facebook are possessed by demons and nothing but pure evil happens there." On the one hand:he admits it! On the other hand, it helps to see the idea of ​​the good internet less as a literal value judgment and more as a nickname for, say, an architectural style: recognizable, influential, a combination of structure and aesthetics, sometimes fresh and sometimes old-fashioned. .

Which means he's always open to criticism.many of these old blogsthey were, objectively, cheesy as hell! - as well as rebirth. In 2017, ousted Gawker blog parent Nick Denton predicted on South by Southwest that "the good old internet will rise again." And in some places it already is: Matt Levine's Bloomberg newsletters are the Platonic ideal of form. Podcasts, another technology that got an early boost from RSS, have that mix of camaraderie and conflict that once made blogs so readable. Slack and Discord conversations carry the DNA of '90s IRC chat rooms and '00s comment sections. Want raw independent voices? Hello Substack! Are you looking for a crazy collaboration? We live in a golden age ofDo it yourself Ratatouille-Musicals!!! It's easy to look back at the smoking ruins of sites past, or to feel overwhelmed by where we find ourselves in the exaggerated and volatile digital present. But there are also many people, many qualified,different, scandalous people, for whom the online experience is a great advance. Maybe some of those talented teens on TikTok still have a lot of good stuff on the internet to share.

It's 2001 and I can't get enough of the Internet. Ever since my family got our first modem in the mid-1990s, I've devoted all my energies to exploring this strange new cyberspace, with the giddy abandon of a child running through every room in a new house, but also with the stealth looming. of a shark sniffing out cracks and weak spots in its enclosure. Prodigy, AOL and eWorld records? I installed them all! My dad's credit card number? Baby memorized! It got to the point where much of my human existence revolved around my weird and occasionally mysterious life online.

I was hired by a dot com chat room startup and it shows herework week, and traveled to MacWorld Expo several times and in various cities, basically following Steve Jobs as if he were the lead singer of a band. I won stock options that triggered before expiring to no value; I have complied with child labor laws that govern the number of hours I can be paid as a mod. I bought bootleg copies of jam band concerts on Usenet and won auctions for NHL light switch covers on eBay. I havelied about my age and living conditions- although not my name - in forums and chat rooms; I got to the point of meeting men from the internet under these false pretenses. I lied to my best friends in real life about all of this, mostly by default. I am 17 and 18 years old, I am in my last year of high school.

I got my first cell phone, a baby blue Nokia, as a graduation/birthday present. All university dormitories are equipped with the latest Ethernet port technology. Wikipedia is new. Facebook and YouTube don't exist yet, but both will exist when I graduate. In 2004, during the summer financial analyst internship that will become my first job, I'll watch CNBC cover the news of Google going public for nearly $2 billion. For several years now, I'll be using my company's mail baskets to return my Netflix DVD red envelopes and I'll be a little surprised, a little silly.this is the future, every time the system works.

My roommate sits using my computer to search Facebook for one or two weird crushes one night and then taunts me when my Internet browser automatically opens about a dozen tabs to all my favorite sports, politics, and social media sites. entertainment. Ah, me and my blogs! Looking for a better system, I will find Google Reader. Over the years, some of the most formative of my life, I'll use it, click and scroll, scroll and click. It strikes me how much there is always that I have not read, the way I feel when I enter or look at a bookstore.New Yorkeris stacked at home. I scroll until I'm sure I've reached the end of the internet, like Jim Carrey at the end ofshow the truman, crashing against the edge of my world.

At some point over the years, Google Reader will ask me if I want to magically rank. I do, and I'm going to click yes. Years later, I'm still chasing that magic, though I wonder if it ever existed.

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