The Curated Internet

I’m in the minority that welcomed Flickr’s decision to limit free accounts to 1,000 photos. This decision hits all the things that the internet needs to become in order to avoid being a cesspool of low-quality content and even lower quality ads.

  1. Data hoarding is just as much as a sickness as physical hoarders. Don’t dump your garbage on the world.
  2. Free services that allow almost unlimited usage aren’t sustainable. You’re either taking advantage of paying users or drowning in ads.
  3. Human curation, careful editing and strong moderation make for great communities.

Curating

When you only have a thousand picture to work with, you can’t post a snapshot of every meal. You have to go through some filtering process and select pictures that will still mean something in a few months down the road. That’s not to say there isn’t garbage on Flickr, but you get a lot less fluff than randomly scrolling through Instagram.

Facebook’s algorithms feed you an ever increasing crescendo of hysteria, outrage and downright fake stories. Human curation tends to do the exact opposite. Medium’s become another corner of the internet that’s more noise than signal. I can hardly stomach all the inspirational whatever and massive stock photos.

Compare the non-curated internet to focused blogs and well-run communities such as Hacker News. The difference is striking. The lack of human curation is why we’re devoting so many resources to distributing and archiving bullshit.

A tale of two internets

It was naïve, even arrogant, to assume that the everybody would use the same internet. There’s not much overlap in readership between the Daily Mail and the Economist, and that’s how I see the internet evolving.

The Facebook and Instagram du jour are going to be heavily monetized swamps stuffed to the gills with self promotion, ads and sensationalism. Let the dead bury their dead.

For the rest of us, a far more rewarding internet is reemerging from the shadows. I follow some great blogs via RSS (good writers that post once a month or so without monetization), subscribe to a few telegram channels and read high quality news. A handful of forums and subreddits provide decent discussion. I rarely open websites and read everything via ReadKit. I basically never see ads or fluff unless I go to the ‘regular’ internet because I have to for work.

We’ve already come to accept that the internet is compartmentalized between the Chinese internet and the rest of the world. Within the non-Chinese net there are growing divisions between Russian, EU and other internets. The vision of a unified internet connecting the world is a utopian fantasy that’s already long dead.

It’s time to embrace class division within the internet. We’re not going to convert Daily Mail readers to the Guardian or Economist—let them keep their Instagram as long as I get my own bullshit free web.