Friday, July 17, 2015

Is the Web dying?

Illustration by Tim McDonagh
Every now and then you read an absolute gem online that says exactly what you have been thinking but don’t have the words to express.

An article by Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, published in Matter, is a case in point.

Is the web showing “a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet?” he wonders, adding:  “We seem to have gone from a non-linear mode of communication — nodes and networks and links — toward a linear one, with centralization and hierarchies.

“The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

His article, written after an absence of seven years in jail, gives a perspective on the web that we might have lost sight of in our daily interactions.

Yes, there was excitement about writing a blog all those technology years ago. Now it is a rush to post a photo of the food you are going to eat, the selfie, the cat… and the visual has taken over.

But Derakhshan says it much better:

“Maybe it’s that text itself is disappearing. After all, the first visitors to the web spent their time online reading web magazines. Then came blogs, then Facebook, then Twitter. Now it’s Facebook videos and Instagram and SnapChat that most people spend their time on. There’s less and less text to read on social networks, and more and more video to watch, more and more images to look at. Are we witnessing a decline of reading on the web in favor of watching and listening?” he writes.

“But the Stream, mobile applications, and moving images: They all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet…”

“This is not the future of the web. This future is television,” Derakhshan notes.

“I miss when people took time to be exposed to different opinions, and bothered to read more than a paragraph or 140 characters. I miss the days when I could write something on my own blog, publish on my own domain, without taking an equal time to promote it on numerous social networks; when nobody cared about likes and reshares.

“That’s the web I remember before jail. That’s the web we have to save.”

Derakhshan’s article is a real gem and can be read in full here: The Web We Have to Save.