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Are we heading (back) to a more decentralized web? 🤔

·3 mins

I’m certainly not alone in noticing that something in the web is changing, things are seemingly coming “full circle” in some ways to what we have seen before.

Sooner or later, everything old is new again. — Stephen King

While the “cool kids” are hijacking the term “decentralized” nowadays to mainly refer to “web 3.0” (which is another term which I don’t necessarily agree with).

What I am referring more to is the movement that people are starting to take things away from central “hubs” for content and starting to go back to corners of the internet that they can call “their own” (this very site is one such thing!).

In the beginning, the majority of the content that people consumed on the internet was (at least somewhat) centrally curated by sources such as Yahoo, MSN, AOL and others and at least when I first got onto “the net” this is how it was.

In 1994 a little site called GeoCities was created, and that (at least for me) was what caused an explosion in user-generated content. I didn’t get onto the internet until a few years later, but by this point, creating your own “homepage” along with the requisite counter and “under construction” banner was something everyone seemed to do.

Under construction

Eventually, this went away and I think the invention of the social network was probably the cause of the migration away from user-controlled (still centrally hosted) content and instead onto places like Friendster, MySpace, Bebo and later Facebook meant that for most people the need/want/desire to have their own page went away.

In recent times we’re starting to see people move away from this model and back onto platforms where they control the content more completely, sites like Medium and Substack make it easy for you to create a nice-looking place for your own content where you can be confident that if a reader lands there it is deliberate and you can control the content they see.

I would be remiss to ignore things like WordPress and blogs which never really went away but my feeling is that while in the early days it felt somewhat a “right of passage” to have your own GeoCities (or equivalent) site the same couldn’t be said for blogs.

I still feel there is a place for social networks; these are places where you can connect with others with similar interests, friends and family, but what you can start doing is taking control of some of the content and direct traffic for those interested back into your own corner of the internet.


Note: Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.