Internet Getting Smaller?

Parler being removed from the internet 1 is one of the latest incidents of the worldwide web getting smaller in many ways from the wild west and vast experience of the early web. However, like most topics, there are two sides to this debate. While the current narrative is certainly a shrinking internet, this one that is laced with agendas. What actually happening is much murkier then some are making out.

Top Trending Centralization:

Google, Facebook, Reddit, Microsoft and Twitter are the most powerful players on the global internet. 2 . Upsetting one of the big five often leads to a site or group being removed from the internet. If you want to have a discussion on the social media sites it must abide within the rules and political allowances of the site. 3 4 The numerous forums of the past web have been replaced in many ways by Reddit and Facebook groups. These have the ability to suddenly from above destroy communities without direct legal orders, merely by choice. 5

Facebook has also been a market leader in the initiative to connect more people around the world to internet services. This is especially important in the developing world. However, a notable part of this deal is that it will only provide Facebook services for free 6 . This means that in some areas of the world internet access may be viewed as just being the Facebook ecosystem. Preventing users from experiencing what else is out there. Also with the Facebook service likely to be cheaper due to the fact the users will become a direct part of the Facebook system (a nice “coincidence), it means that organic and normal internet access could be delayed from reaching those people. Both Google and Microsoft also have plans and projects. 7 8

The long term consequences of these limited internet services are unknown. It is possible that increases to service quality also will suffer. With many in the Western World concerned about claims about the monopoly in tech, there seems to be a move to build even more of an exclusive foundation with fewer companies. Many of the governments who do not mind less freedom do not mind there being less choice.

Condensing and Killing Effect:

Reddit in many ways has been the Forum killer. Communities that would have once created their own forum now just have a subreddit. A positive of this means that more communities have a subreddit, but a negative is that the independence of each subreddit is much less than the forums of old. It has proven much easier for Reddit to censor or take down communities then would have been the case if they where on their own forums. Peoples browsing habits have been reworked to head to a major site and then stay on that site. This change from people going between different sites and concentrates the power into those major sites.

When people no longer head away from major websites in a regular manner then they become less willing to. This also prevents the growth of new ideas as they are simply not adopted. Alternate tech for quite some time struggled to attract major users that would allow for more resources to be opened up to then compete against those major sites. It was also why so many tech creators accepted money to sell their product to the established major companies. There seemed to be a belief for a long time that there was a maximum number of users that could be allowed outside of the big tech space.

Alt Tech Breakout

The heavy increase in censorship has been seen as a negative infringement of peoples right to communicate in many ways. Yet for alternative tech, it has proven a lifeline and also given it the ability to grow its userbase. A flood of users from across the conservative landscape had flooded into alternative tech. This can also bring with them numerous interests in other subjects that those users have. Woodworking, Gardening and Gaming could expect a sudden surge of content as users who move due to political reasons explore the sites.

An unfortunate element of this process has been the attack on these alt tech sites that have only increased. This has not been limited to the standard reputational attacks that many have gotten used to. By focusing on the backend they have managed to find a new weak point that is essential for the platforms to function. Parler was brought low by this when Amazon no longer wanted to allow them to host and other companies appeared too intimidated to take on the company. Gab, however, demonstrates another way that is growing in popularity. By controlling all elements of the backend Gab cannot be cancelled the same way.

The future for the internet is seemingly under threat in numerous different ways. Google and other big tech are increasingly seeming to want to editorialize the web. At the same time, governments are taking more interest in what is happening. The question remains if government intervention will make things better and freer or instead bring China lite censorship to the rest of the world. Some would claim the China lite censorship is a necessary part of having access to the big internet.

Others value the freedom the internet brought to all.