With, first Twitter and later Facebook, suddenly you didn’t need Google to find stuff on the Web. Suddenly a little obscure website could become famous without or in spite of Google. If you really sit down and think about it, that is no small thing.
The silos did help mainstream users form communities. This is still useful—carriers of rare diseases can organize on Facebook, stuff like the ‘TomNod’ group that coordinates to scan satellite photos. On Twitter, humor and art (pixel art, for instance) communities formed that can be casually observed by other Twitter users—bolstering their exposure.
But even all this traffic has become a bad thing! For instance, there is no ‘surfing’ any more (in the mainstream). For the most part, traffic just shows up. You don’t have to look for blogs because Facebook and Twitter stuff you with whatever they please all day.
My relationship is a lot healthier with blogs that I visit when I please. This is another criticism I have with RSS as well—I don’t want my favorite music blog sending me updates every day, always in my face. I just want to go there when I am ready to listen to something new. (I also hope readers to my blog just stop by when they feel like obsessing over the Web with me.)
Google is a silo too. And I can tell you Google is part of what sucked all the fun out of Web 1.0. Facebook and Twitter were not even around. It was Google. And living under Google dominance is no fun.
This isn’t completely true—mailing lists and forums were a big source of real blog readers. Like Usenet before them. Google was a source of poor, transient traffic. In those days, you could share your writings/findings with fans of a certain band or movie director (if that was your topic) by posting on their forum, just as you would with Reddit. (And links were shared on forums and mailing lists.) However, now you can get algorithmed to death. Your link can get lost in the feed before anyone sees it.
I think the best thing the silos brought was simply the ability to be notified of a reply without needing to check your server logs.
But I appreciate your perspective, Brad. I wish I agreed more on this one! Maybe in time.
RSS: I see your point and you are making me rethink how I “follow” other blogs, especially since my feed reader is getting overwhelmed. I may have to use my blogroll more to click through to the actual blog to actually poke around rather than helicoptering in on RSS. hmm.
Google: search engines in general but Google in particular: they have warped the way we build websites, many websites used to have a splash or landing page first: “You have reached the Gates of Marlborodor” (complete with MIDI music) and a big Enter button. Search engines decided they didn’t like that so word spread to get rid of them. Rumors spread that large link pages (for surfing) might be considered “link farms” (and yes on SEO sites they were but these things eventually trickle down to little personal site webmasters too) so these started to be phased out. Then the worry was Blogrolls might be considered link farms so they slowly started to be phased out. Then the biggie: when Google deliberately filtered out all the free hosted sites from the SERP’s (they were not removed completely just sent back to page 10 or so of the Google SERP’s) and traffic to Tripod and Geocities plummeted. Why? Because they were taking up space in the first 20 organic returns knocking out corporate and commercial sites and the sites likely to become paying customers were complaining. Then ads. Google started telling sites that had sold their own ads long before Google was ever around that they had to nofollow those ads or risk a penalty. Of course Google is also by this time an ad network. So they are telling small single site competitors how they can display their ads or else. The whole ad thing runs deeper but I don’t have time to go through it. And the list goes on. Yes there were other SE’s in there but from 2001 Google was leader of the pack. And yes maybe getting rid of the Gates of Marlborodor was a good thing but if it was that webmaster’s choice to stick us with it so be it. Google isn’t moral or immoral it is amoral like most corporations. They look out for themselves, and to bad for you if you get in their way. Not everything they did was bad, some was good, but they are a silo. They have complete control over their own index and and the way you link and if you want in you obey. (Sorry if I’m not dispassionate about this, I’ve been PR0’ed by Google just for being on the wrong host. That’s another story but I know what being carpet bombed by them feels like, first hand.) 😉
Forums: I still like them. I’m still a member of a couple. You can have an in depth nuanced conversation in a forum that you cannot have in social networks and is difficult in webmentions. I just wish they were not so darn hard to get established.
All good points Kicks, we can’t agree all the time or we’d bore each other to death!
Holy smokes—didn’t realize this was actually how this played out. I now see more what you mean by ‘sucking the fun’ out of Web1. Thankyou for spelling that out. Haha, now I am angry!!
So, is getting rid of the ‘Gates of Marlborodor’ good? I think it’s similar to my feelings about Yahoo!—I don’t miss having to click down seven levels to get to the ‘smoothies’ topic. (Or not finding it in the hierarchy at all!)
The trouble is: only a human can say if the ‘Gates of Marlborodor’ was useful to them. Google may not be able to tell the difference between a link farm and a link boutique, but a human can—and humans are the ones we’re trying to connect here, not the Baidubots!
One interesting thing to me: as I have been digging and scraping around for sites, using all the search engines and feeds I can find, there is one that I am finding surprisingly useful. The search on Pinboard—which is a bookmarking site, the heir to Del.icio.us. If you type in ‘smoothies’ there, you are going to get much more interesting results.
And it strikes me: I think it’s the closest thing we have to a human-edited search engine! Think of that.
Very interesting read; I too didn't realise quite how effectively Google sucked all the fun out of the web, even though I was there at the time. Pure serendipity to read your comment about Pinboard and reread this talk from Maclej on the same day. http://idlewords.com/talks/fan_is_a_tool_using_animal.htm
Great talk! Reminds me of some of Brad’s comments about the sci-fi/horror directories he’s worked. I’m sorry for the delay in responding (and your Webmention showing up here)—my blog has been broken for a week.
Enjoy your conference. “Food and Communication”—wild! You should write about it…