The Old Internet

October 12, 2020

OnlyTweets […] launched yesterday as a new way to support your favorite creators on Twitter. […] OnlyTweets helps creators monetize their content natively on Twitter through paywalled accounts.

From Product Hunt.

It’s a great idea that I wish to firmly oppose. But first, let’s defend it.

We live in an age of consolidation. Content is getting centralized in the hands of a few distribution channels: Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and, to some extent, Traditional Media. These businesses represent the shrinking window to the cultural and intellectual zeitgeist.

They are also easier systems to monetize. With fewer lanes to content, gatekeeping has become the norm via ads or subscription models, and OnlyTweets simply comes to fill a gap Twitter was sorely missing — despite some hints to the contrary.

You can argue this consolidation has supposed a massive improvement in terms of convenience for the internet consumer: few pages to visit, infinite feed of content, plenty of opportunities to get our daily fix of dopamine. Yet, I cannot help but feel a certain kind of sameness.

The Old Internet used to be a place for the Weird and the Wacky. It ain’t anymore. Traditional media bought the blogosphere, Slack replaced IRC, streaming platforms debunked P2P. Corporatization of content has come at the expense of heterogeneity. In the pursuit of our convenience we have sacrificed the natural opacity of an imperfect discovery system that allowed for the expression of unorthodox ideas.

We have also lost a certain sense of community that came from the difficulty to find content. Belonging requires exclusion, a place where everyone can get access to is not a community the same way a public square is not a community. Twitter is not a community.

A few places on the internet retain that feeling — Reddit chief amongst them — and some are trying to reclaim it ironically via paywalls — see Telegram or Clubhouse —, but for the most part we have traded novelty and community for convenience and universal access.

You might agree with this trade. I, for one, long the days of the Old Internet.

Hi there 👋, I’m Gerard, Software Engineer and aspirant polymath. I write this blog, build Factorial, and publish the best I read on Twitter.