the open web is dead, long live the open web

LLMs are going to bring back the open web. OK, wait, hear me out. Look around the internet sometime, just do a random Google search and poke it with your finger– it is LOADED with shit. Just pure, hot shit, bulging with it, and it’s also the slickest shit you’ve ever seen: Perfect front-end design, stock photos with beautiful people, and paragraphs of flawless nonsense that repeat your search terms like mantras. “Fuck this shit,” you might say, but that’s fine because you’re not actually supposed to look at it. It wasn’t made for humans, it was made for algorithms.

Even when a website is for a real business or publisher, it HAS to be loaded with SEO shit to get Google to put it in front of a human to sell them a thing, show them an ad, or collect a piece of data, but whether the human (you) actually reads the writing on the website or looks at the images is mostly irrelevant. Even the media sites that are trying to communicate something to the public are so gummed up with popups and popovers it feels like 2003.

How are LLMs going to fix this? They aren’t lol, they are going to make it VASTLY worse, infinitely worse. The technology makes it so easy to produce algorithm-hacking shit that it will bury everything, which is maybe why Google is flop-sweating right now: finding real information on the open web is changing from a needle-in-a-haystack problem to a needle-in-a-needlestack problem. And it’s not just search that is going to have this problem– it’s every platform that sorts content using algorithms.

My contention is that, paradoxically, this will make human-made internet content very valuable. This is why Reddit is trying to lock down its content, and why Wirecutter does good business behind a paywall. Increasingly, as search engines are overwhelmed with the digital equivalent of cheap injection-molded plastic, wood grain and jade stone become more desirable, but to find them, you have to know a guy.

I don’t know the future, but I remember the past, before algorithms filtered the internet, and back then there were still lots of ways to find the good stuff. There were portals, web rings, aggregators, message boards, and chat rooms, as well as blogs, RSS, and word of mouth. Today, we also have the ActivityPub protocol, podcasts, e-mail newsletters, and probably a bunch of stuff I’m forgetting.

Algorithmic search marked the beginning of the end of the open web, and now LLMs will finish putting it in its grave. But I prefer to think of it as planting a seed.

One response to “the open web is dead, long live the open web”

  1. […] feel like I was just saying this the other day. People don’t write websites or blogs for human readers anymore: They write them for the […]

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