Webpresence of Philip Kaludercic

Comments on the Modern Web

14 August, 2018

Since recently is has been popular to complain, make fun of or occasionally even criticise the web as we know it, I decided to prepare a comment from a conversation I had with a friend of mine regarding the current state of the WWW.

It has been translated from German, I clarified some points and reformatted it a bit to make it more easily readable, since it was originally a WhatsApp message (two messages to be precise).

My clarifying comments will be placed between square brackets, like this. All links have been added while re-editing this text.

The statement I am reacting to is the following:

Sites like Facebook undeniably have their issues. But isn’t the fundamental concept seem practical, doesn’t it? In the sense of having a website to communicate over.

The conversation was about the prospect of new EU copyright laws taking effect, mid 2018.


I am of the opinion that significant portions of the WWW are absolutely harmful, technologically and socially. … (the quote from above) … Ok, I can set my sets out my criticism using this example:

Technologically

In the sense of having a website to communicate over.

I would point out that the Function and the Implementation have to be conceptually held apart. Yes, modern communication is more efficient and let’s us have more dynamic conversations.

But from a purely technical perspective, there is no reason why this should be done using websites (i.e. browsers using HTTP/HTML+CSS+JS to inter operate often using additional servers.

The WWW has a historical burden and at the same time contemporary requirements. The original specification couldn’t have been fit for the task, since it’s impossible to “pre-standardize”. New developments take effect to compensate for the common “impotence”, my means of market-power (eg. Internet Explorer during the 1990’s and early 2000’s).

All of this leads to increasingly complex “standards”, which in turn are caught in a conflict between these and newer “unofficial” (but de-facto real) developments.

This is one of the reasons why web engines have and are becoming more and more complex see Wikipedia article on the topic. Additionally there is also the fact that people are denying that fact that HTML made for text Hyper Text Markup Language, instead browsers have become operating systems in their own right think of XKCD1367., with Firefox for example having to have to use custom (plural!) memory allocators, or the HTML standard having to accept “malformed” code, in order for their browsers to be usable a common example is the non-closed <p>-tag.

All these in my opinion negative developments of the WWW (albeit, not necessarily the Internet as a whole), should have to change. Tendencies like these, to abuse the WWW, are not only unpractical, but require a lot of work and time. For reasons like these I hope that the the aforementioned EU Copyright Law will at least initiate a conversation. And I say that, while not being a great friend of copyright in general. Socially

But isn’t the fundamental concept seem practical, doesn’t it?

In this case I demand something else: Intention and Reality cannot be separated from one-another. What we see with “projects” like Facebook, Twitter, etc. cannot be explained away be demonising the evil natures Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey. There is always a not negligible mechanical component to the developments of such major players painted over by the characters of the people involved and in charge.

To survive as a “Social Media Service” the size of Facebook, certain decisions have to be made to survive and especially grow. It’s also worth remembering that most Social Networks aren’t even that profitable even major networks, like Twitter.

The work that has to be invested to maintain, and this is related to the technical points from above, infrastructures that gather, analyse and use such amounts of data Facebook for example has data warehouses with 300 petabytes of data, and generates 4 new petabytes a day. is most undeniably non-trivial.

To put it this way: The fact that Facebook collects data, the way it does, the way they do it, cannot be detached from the structure of the network (centralized storing and distribution of data).

I would also like to point out, that regarding this issue, I am not as thoroughly optimistic as some are when it comes to decentralisation of internet services. The reason being that historically most networks have suffered under an inability to sustain large influxes of new users while maintaining conventions think of Eternal September or the will to stay decentralized (think of the relation of Gmx, Hotmail, Gmail to Email as a whole).

My second point is that due to the perpetual technical advances, these eg. browsers, TPC, personal computer, … have been becoming ever faster. I claim that this in turn influences human interactions.

It can be seen, in a banal way, that the structure of a network critically influences it’s inner workings like the layout of a city influences it’s inhabitants daily lifes.

WhatsApp, which uses private groups, direct chats and phone numbers has a different mode of usage than Facebook with their timelines, user-profiles, non-linear streams and public groups, which in turn operates differently that Twitter where everything is public by default, and messages as in the unit of communication are simpler.

My point is: As the speed originally “tackrate”, cycle speed of Computers and Networks increase, so does that of our societies. The effect of this is that ability to articulate oneself is increasingly diminishing. With everything happening too quickly and this isn’t necessarily even a purely recent development, people often tend to pass judgment quickly and without enough thought or uncritically accept other narratives. Thus the ability of social networks to enable communication, quickly and painlessly, ends up in misarticulation rather than being a progressive force as I assume that many early Interet-Idealist might have hoped for.

I argue that this ends up pervades all of society, from personal relationships between close friends to the political sphere.

One might at first say that this has more to do with “Social Media”, than the generic WWW. But the fact that most sites end up in the proximity of major networks and often enough don’t just adapt but get absorbed into these since they are interested in getting media attention, and that’s just where most people are, is in my eyes an argument that all of this is tied together. Especially when concidering that for many people “Facebook” isn’t on the “Internet”..