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"The Web is Boring"

[written March 30, 2002]

A couple days ago, I was looking through the regular list of news sites, and came across a New York Times article that quoted, as an example, Glenn Davis, founder of Cool Site of the Day and Project Cool, as saying the web is now boring.

Jesus, that's one of the few interesting things I've read this year! A former Internet celebrity declaring the web as dead!

Later, after viewing the quality sites, I checked out the blogs. I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that they all cited it, and all declared it as a stupid, boneheaded article. Oh yes, plenty of clichéd phrases like "I can't believe they would print this tripe" and "If you can't find anything interesting, you aren't looking hard enough" and discrediting the author of the article. These blogger fans should read this Soapbox for a little dose of reality. =)

Derek Powazek somewhat surprisingly turned on the article and knocked it hard, and those who commented on his post agreed with him. Powazek noted that he thinks he's seen far more interesting projects now than he used to in the past. Those who commented defended themselves poorly, posting lots of rather old links that really weren't very interesting at all even when they were fresh, and for the most part are just sites with some cute little gizmo to play with.

Powazek said that the gold-digging commercial companies have now come and gone and now the Internet is run by freaks and geeks once again. He is on crack. Obviously he thinks that just because his little clique of blogs reposts a lot of links from other blogs, provides the same crap commentary on the same crap stories, that the whole Internet is less scammy than it used to be. Maybe he missed the increasing number of fucking subscription sites, the fucking 100 spam e-mails a day, the fucking 20 popup and popunder ads on all sites, the replacing of information with promotional advertising, huge Macromedia Flash ads, clickthrough ad pages, and the deaths of prominent social gathering places including slashdot (yay, pay us to poorly report insignificant news), suck.com, and Cool Site of the Day. What about the commercialized paralysis that struck adcritic, siliconinvestor, wired, epinions, gamespy, IGN, pricewatch, and others?

I guess these bloggers think that sites with scanned images of cats, or google (the universally loved search engine, which is just the latest in a fast-born, fast-dying line of favorite search engines like infoseek [way back when], then alta vista, etc.), or amazon and ebay (which were around back when the web was exciting, so why bring it up, idiots?) make the web worthwhile these days. From some of the comments, they make it sound like what made the web fascinating years ago was that browsers were so buggy that people could do neat little HTML tricks!

Fucking absurd! It's as though these people never really enjoyed using the web! Or the internet for that matter! As much as I hate blogging, and as much as I believe I really should just ignore it and not write about it, they just don't understand that they are on the tail-end of a wave that has long since crested and broken apart.

And that's all that Glenn Davis was trying to say, as far as I could tell from the NYT article. He said, "We lost our sense of wonder. The Web is old hat." The article closed with him saying, "I'm a frontiersperson, and the Web is not a frontier anymore. It is simply a place."

And people jumped all over his back for this! Of COURSE the web is no longer a frontier! I see it like the dotcom bubble. At the beginning, you had the people with enough foresight, intelligence, and ingenuity to figure out what was going on and get onto the web and either create companies to fill niches or invest in those that did. Glenn Davis was part of this crowd. His CSotD site was hugely popular, and anyone who said they never thought it was a big deal must have been in a fog. If you doubt his talent, then you didn't notice that CSotD totally sucked after he left it to start a new site, Project Cool, which not only selected cool sites as well, but also was a nice site for info on how to make good web sites. He contributed a lot to the design community. And of course, the bloggers, who are the latecomers to the party, the bagholders who got stuck holding their 1,000 shares of RedHat at $200/share, turn on him and rip him and the author of the NYT article a new one. Figures.

If you want to know how cool the Internet and the Web used to be, then you'd have had to have been there when we were doing exciting things like playing Doom deathmatch and later, huge 16 person Quake multiplayer games. You'd have to have participated in the huge clan tournaments that eventually turned into huge 16 on 16 and even 32 on 32 multiplayer games. You'd have to have scoured the deal sites to get the cheapest prices on computer components and other gadgets. You'd have to have been involved in shit like the buy.com mispricing of 19" computer monitors. You'd have to have been daytrading on IRC and using the brand new online brokers while watching CNBC report huge gains on the day in between commercial breaks with the AmeriTrade Stewart and Discover kid with the helicopter. You'd have to have been downloading the first songs to be converted to MP3. You'd have to have downloaded whole games over your shitty 33.6k modem. You'd have to have used newsgroups to some degree. Or known some of the first stylish web designers. You'd have to have played on MUDs over the first SLIP/PPP connections. Or used thelist.com to find a new ISP because yours disappeared from the face of the earth. Or been blown away by the first .vcd's, first napster logins, or first CSS'd/Javascripted pages.

The plain and simple matter is that none of this exists anymore. Exploiting the new companies on the web isn't possible anymore because they've all grown up and learned from their mistakes. The communities are so fragmented because everyone's attention is divided among so many sites now. Web design has long since been stagnant. Improvements in sound and video encoding are incremental at best. Most of the links passed around now are just funny photoshopped images or ridiculous news stories from Bumblefuck, Somewhereville. Projects like bugzilla, mozilla, and so on are only technically interesting.

Even gaming, as cool as some new games are, is so fractured online that there really isn't much point to playing multiplayer unless it's a massive game like EverQuest or Diablo II. Console gaming hasn't quite gone online but it's trying. I think console gaming will become one of the hot things for the future. Imagine going to the arcade and battling against arcade players all over the world! And Final Fantasy multiplayer will kick balls. And of course since most onliners are so anti-console (it's for kids! it costs too much! consoles suck compared to PCs!) they will miss that revolution too, catching only the tail-end of it. =P

Other things that could be cool online in the future: GPS tracking of friends and family, gaming built around using wireless internet connectivity and GPS in real-world activities, the rise of AI agents online, 3D representation of space (i.e. virtual reality universe)... The bloggers will miss the formative stages of these cool new things, and then years after their inception, will praise them as being the future. I can fucking see it now. Not a creative or original bone in their bodies.

Meanwhile, the bloggers snap out at anyone who comes close to them. They have a tight clique and they all have their own domains but contribute absolutely ZILCH about themselves. Many don't even have autobiographies about themselves. You go to a page full of links and flimsy commentary about recent news. Not all that different from popup ads, truthfully. Companies spend millions on trying to make their interaction with individuals more personal, and yet when it comes to bloggers, who might have interesting stories to tell, hide everything about themselves and secretly wish they were accredited journalists! Even if they do talk about themselves, it's the most mundane details, like finding a new coffee shop down a sidestreet near their apartment! Well, you keep exploring, VESPUCCI! The whole thing is fucking sad!

And then I noticed some site called DLog wrote about what I wrote recently about bloggers, and then accused me of being guilty of the same thing without really proving it or explaining it. Linking to my autobio that is all about me and stuff that happened to make me me, and comparing it to bloggers who incestuously regurgitate each others' info and links, makes no sense to me. If he's accusing me of whining or being boring or whatever else, that may be true, but I never claimed to be any different. But I do try to be honest about who I am and contribute my own content, and try to be personal in doing so. That's the best thing I, as an individual working on a personal site, can do.

I remember the online days when the question individual site owners asked was not, "why don't people respect bloggers as journalists or revolutionaries?" but instead, "how much will what I HAVE to write about my life offend those close to me?"

And THAT'S what made the old days interesting. The envelope has already been pushed. Only the leeches still dispute it. And it will take something really bold and brazen, and a group of people daring enough to try it, for this to change.


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