"In recent months, the signs and portents have been accumulating with
increasing speed. Google is trying to kill the 10 blue links. Twitter is being
abandoned to bots and blue ticks. There’s the junkification of Amazon and the
enshittification of TikTok. Layoffs are gutting online media. A job posting
looking for an “AI editor” expects “output of 200 to 250 articles per week.”
ChatGPT is being used to generate whole spam sites. Etsy is flooded with
“AI-generated junk.” Chatbots cite one another in a misinformation ouroboros.
LinkedIn is using AI to stimulate tired users. Snapchat and Instagram hope bots
will talk to you when your friends don’t. Redditors are staging blackouts.
Stack Overflow mods are on strike. The Internet Archive is fighting off data
scrapers, and “AI is tearing Wikipedia apart.” The old web is dying, and the
new web struggles to be born.
The web is always dying, of course; it’s been dying for years, killed by apps
that divert traffic from websites or algorithms that reward supposedly
shortening attention spans. But in 2023, it’s dying again — and, as the litany
above suggests, there’s a new catalyst at play: AI.
The problem, in extremely broad strokes, is this. Years ago, the web used to be
a place where individuals made things. They made homepages, forums, and mailing
lists, and a small bit of money with it. Then companies decided they could do
things better. They created slick and feature-rich platforms and threw their
doors open for anyone to join. They put boxes in front of us, and we filled
those boxes with text and images, and people came to see the content of those
boxes. The companies chased scale, because once enough people gather
, there’s usually a way to make money off them. But AI changes these
Given money and compute, AI systems — particularly the generative models
currently in vogue — scale effortlessly. They produce text and images in
abundance, and soon, music and video, too. Their output can potentially overrun
or outcompete the platforms we rely on for news, information, and
entertainment. But the quality of these systems is often poor, and they’re
built in a way that is parasitical on the web today. These models are trained
on strata of data laid down during the last web-age, which they recreate
imperfectly. Companies scrape information from the open web and refine it into
machine-generated content that’s cheap to generate but less reliable. This
product then competes for attention with the platforms and people that came
before them. Sites and users are reckoning with these changes, trying to decide
how to adapt and if they even can."
Via Hank G, who wrote "What if this is just the late stage capitalist vulture
capitalists just eating themselves. Consumers hate it and will seek places that
don’t have such shitty signal to noise ratio. Those could be places like the
fediverse that aren’t incentivized in the same way. It’s not a question of
ludditism. It’s the equivalent of mid-20th century food product vomit that
tried to convince us to eat everything with these shitty “time saving” products
when we wanted real food. It didn’t sink big agribusiness, unfortunately, but
they had to get back to the basics. It’d be a wonderful thing in this case it
sinks them with their shitty products too." and Kenny Chaffin.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics