See the entire conversation

Listening to Tim Woo on Fresh Air right now, confused by his statements that the web has gotten worse in the last five years.
269 replies and sub-replies as of Oct 28 2016

Has it? As far as I can tell, we’ve never had better, richer, proper multi-device support. It’s never been easier to reach more people.
It’s never been easier to fire up your own server, to start your own website, to launch a blog, to create a magazine.
Sites like Patreon even make it easier than ever to give people money for their work in an asynchronous way.
I think it’s dangerous to conflate silos with the web. Nothing is keeping us from doing anything we could do ten years ago.
In fact, the evolution of the web has conspired to make it easier. It’s never been easier to embrace the openness and promise of the web.
And as for who chooses to put ads on YouTube videos? It’s not an algorithm. It’s the creators. Creators choose to monetize their channels.
And if you don't like ads? You can do exactly what Tim Woo says he wishes more sites offered: Pay for YouTube Red and never see another ad!
I was screaming "Youtube RED" at my phone when he came up with that brilliant idea. Such an irritating interview.
He clearly did not know anything about how YouTube ads function — which is fine, but I wish he hadn't just said "complex algos"
Just one of a bunch of unfounded assertions. So bad. The worst kind of non-fiction writer.
I don't think it's intentionally duplicitous; a lot of what he's saying is accurate!
i was also thinking how one might think the web has gotten worse in the past five years if one weren't using an ad blocker.
it's Wu. But there is a finite amount of attention on the web, and the major platforms have a chokehold on it they're exploiting.
for example, how do you get to be a featured channel on YouTube? Or a channel on Snapchat?
I'm with Anil on this. "The web" is almost all but dead, with just a handful of social networks acting as gatekeepers.
But aren't these different issues? Social silos having attention monopolies vs the capabilities of open web?
no, because most of the recent billion users who joined the web access it through constrained gatekeepers.
so how do we break them out of the matrix?
they couln't access it at all before. DNS, hosting, HTML, gaaah! And, credit cards for monthly charge? Nope.
Attention (and thus money) is siloed. Everyone is feeling the tumbleweeds of the open web
I know a number of people (incl. me) who aren’t launching stuff bc we don’t think we can get modest interest
Do yall see podcasts as being part of the open web?
they are. You can tell because there's no good way to buy ads on them or to get rich off of them.
re: podcasts - not for long if Midroll has anything to say about it 😬😬😬
well, Scripps.
Welcome to the Slowly Boiling Frog Podcast. I’m your host, Satan.
(Note, Scripps is not Satan. My friend works there.)
they're like any other big media company.
Their end game seems more like capturing subscriptions in an app & having app-only bonus eps
Podcasts seem to have an enormously fatter long tail
not the data I've seen. And monetization is basically only a few hundred podcasts.
Not money, listeners! Money is terrible in podcasting outside of fat head
Podcasts still have a lot of social enjoyment/capital & depending on format, modest $ have
Still think if you're coming up from nothing, your chances better now than 5 years ago (if you're *individual*).
in podcasting? Or other media?
Everything. Just all the infra and services (like stripe/society6/patreon/acast) that let people just create.
create, yes. Win at distribution? I dunno.
You don't need to kill that so much as individual. Also, non-advertising $ (like younow/twitch/patreon) more efficient/profitable)
I get your other point, tho. And definitely don't ascribe to the "be so good they can't ignore you" tautology copout/rule.
for individual contributors its beer money, not rent money (podcasting and elsewhere).
Is it? Name a blogger (without $$$ behind them) who has had big success coming up from nothing recently.
How do you define success? Plenty of industries lean on bloggers, instagrammers, YouTubers, etc for "influencer" marketing
True there. But few, if any bloggers are making money.
Building a stable and growing business from your blog.
So true. I wonder, I blog but very rarely does my work come from the blog.
Fashion bloggers sit alongside editors during fashion week shows. Instagrammers get better seats than photogs
Good points. I still suspect only 0.05 of bloggers can pay their bills. I think this is a good conversation to have.
(assuming of course your friend isn't Satan.)
For now. Podcasts are headed in the exact same direction though. "Rate us on iTunes" is current gatekeeper.
it's a soft barrier for now. But yeah, can see how what happened to blogs happens there.
I hear you @mathowie, but many of us in podcasts believe in open standards & web, & see open rss as a strength @craigmod @GlennF @anildash
I don't doubt the belief, I'm just looking at the economic forces driving centralization.
True, but more podcast hosting, apps (not just iOS), publishers, & makers than ever - b/c open feeds @anildash @mathowie @craigmod @GlennF
I also fear podcasts will follow the road of blogs & bad web ads, maybe we learned something @anildash @mathowie @craigmod @GlennF
even if we learned something, it's not documented, so YC-era kids don't know it & will screw it up.
your POV on open web is killing me! Would think/hope you'd share the optimism @craigmod expressed. Internet today is still so good
it's complicated. There's what I want, and there's the big economic drivers. It's a tough balance!
New life goal: Apply to YC w/ the idea of rebuilding Technorati in React. Ask Anil to join board. Restore blogosphere to its glory
(anybody but YC tho)
why bother with the YC/other incubator route? Just start building.
And as for technorati and those yc kids, I have to believe you *can* teach new dogs old tricks
we can! We just haven't.
spatial analogy: it feels "free" much choice but it's megamalls not a diverse public market
Related analogy reality there was this a few years ago:
Urban screens & protest in "Mall of America.". OMG, the metaphors just overflow. #blacklivesmatter #moa via @EdSudden
what is (was?) the open web missing to keep these siloings from happening?
Social graph and weak networking ties?
Nuzzel to me is an amazing inversion of siloing: it mines info and feeds it to me (via an app/site)
decentralized monetization models & investors willing to fund open models.
Non-captive audiences seem less valuable.
you don't captivate audiences, you build networks.
I feel like the beginning of the end was the death of Google Reader. I know it was nerd-only tool, but...
it connected everyone together, gave a public reading platform. Loosely tied every blog into a network.
blogs also benefited for years off Google search treating them so highly (before SEO jerkbags ruined it all).
(SEO were the trolls of pre-social-media internet)
honestly we should rebuild technorati. Would have changed everything if it worked. Or trackback update pings.
Should we send up the Sifrysignal
seems cruel at this point.
Technorati, yes please.
feel like somebody could whip it up in nodejs in an afternoon now.
Integrate channels, like photography, gear, etc... lots of blogs out there.
there's a lot of things that trackback should have solved but no one saw any 'value' in it
and we had bad timing being of the last of the old, unauthenticated web formats. Fatal error.
I'm not faltng you, Anil. Timing is nothing, and it's ging to happen eventually, b/c what els is there
so why didn't it work? I don't have a lot of theories there myself
I always wonder if we overestimate this death; alternatives are plentiful, why don't they thrive?
They all add mental friction. GReader used to be one-click from a blog to your feed, part of Gmail/gCal/etc.
It was a commodity included in my other Google products. Now, I have to go to another place for that one feature
Nuzzel is my new RSS reader. Sort of.
do you open the app regularly or rely on notifications?
this stuff has a fascinating (micro) generational element. I'm same age as @craigmod & his questions match mine
im old enough to remember a (more) open web but I never made a living from it
yeah, in the end I'm thankful for how lucky I had it, that I made a living for ten years from blogs
I feel incredibly lucky to make living off a glorified blog, but it had a Twitter/fb/tumblr from day 1
I never had Howie-level success, but I derived a decent part of my living from open Web stuff.
it makes me sympathetic towards those whose labor becomes obsolete and the emotion that comes with it
Reading @kevin2kelly's The Inevitable on bit rot and feeling very similarly complex emotions
Glenn how were you making a chunk off open web work? (I've only made money off camera referrals)
OH MY, I would have to go on and on to explain that. It was never a full living, but I have had wonderful peaks and valleys.
My Wi-Fi blog at one point was pulling in $30K to $40K a year in ads when muni Fi was a big deal. is a book-price comparison site I still run. It peaked at over $100,000 in the early 2000s (but had
very high data and server costs, plus programming costs)
Bunch of other small wins, sometimes short duration.
Very cool! But also — you were a renaissance wizard! Crazy high barrier to entry for making any of that stuff I'm sure.
I’m a junk man who passed himself as a wizard. Used to pay well.
Fine line between 400 pound hacker and wizard
What’s a henway
(Honestly, I think most of us were / are bad engineers, but the rough and ready web rewarded hacky hacks of software)
That’s exactly it. I spent three weeks writing some software at Amazon in late 96 that became the basis for several years of
the site’s collapsing of books into related works display. They eventually swapped the code out. (I was only there 6 months)
I could have an idea, implement it, get it super well indexed w/o SEO strategy, and have 200,000 visitors a month…
My blog now barely gets 100 page views a day. I compare notes w/others and similar kinds of things.
Oh the urls I bought thinking I'd do weekend hack jobs and SEO to the moon ...
If I’d been smart enough, I would have registered 100 domains in 1994 (instead of a couple dozen) and retired long ago.
I used to be able to wave my hands and summon enough attention to, say, fund a Kickstarter or sell some books.
Now, it’s really hard to even hold a cup of water in my hands and make it boil, metaphorically
and without those social inputs, i wouldn't make a living off it
maybe one more example of today's broken/dying web: I never saw this post until right now.
earlyweb was too beautiful to last.individual expression is bad for business #laniergrump
actually what i meant was that it’s INCONVENIENT for business.
I'll just like my head in here and nod along.
Play Freewebbird
Me too. Team less open. @craigmod
Or, there are infinitely more interesting things, so you don't have time to see them all
brutal diss of my Medium content, man.
Filtering is tough. But only a fraction of the world population is online still...
projection is 70% of humans to have smartphones by 2020 (!!)
At some point prior to 2020 then, I should make my blog responsive... ;-) @anildash @ev @mathowie @aaronlammer @GlennF
True, and Medium continues to be evergreen so I'm sure I would have eventually found it.
Also, aren't there like way more people who make their living making shit on the net...
then back in olden times?
Not saying it's all good. Lots going the wrong direction
making a living *writing* in serious jeopardy
Tell me about it. No, wait, let me tell you about it.
But making a living being *on* Jeopardy, Glenn's got that covered
It’s been four years and I still flash back to the answer that cost me my last game.
or maybe just more opportunities and consolidation needed
yeah, this is ultimately what I came to… the "open" in open web was maybe myopic & privileged.
just the number living off of Patreon is bigger than all pro bloggers in 2003.
no question about that. was wondering if new jobs have surpassed old ones we've lost. @ev @mathowie @aaronlammer @GlennF @craigmod
as @dsearls said: “making money because of blogs, not with blogs”…
I’m with Ev and Craig - the reason it’s hard to do things on the web is competition.
A billion new people are making things in hundreds of places. Harder to be seen.
but there's literally billions of users on maybe four networks? That seems not great
I think we’d all like a more decentralized web, but this model has its advantages.
We thought the web would give us decentralization but it gave us perfect competition.
And in the end, many many people making money on the internet.
And a hell of a lot of interesting creative stuff is made by a whole ton of people
Anyway, I talk too much. I’m going to back out of this one xx
I only have anecdote, but non-major social network attention has withered.
I read a lot of photo sites (big & small), and they seem to be thriving on their own
Are they though! I have such varied impressions of what success means—for privately held companies, almost impossible to know.
Man, camera people LOVE to buy stuff, and camers stuff is expensive! How about Wirecutter?
I contracted there for a bit so I probably know just enough to not comment on that. Except look at the staff size.
(Just as a counter anecdote :) )
Medium can be a bright spot, but not consistently.
I think it's just that centralization is a prerequisite to distribution...
Web has seen 📉 in technical barriers at the cost of 📈 in gatekeeping.
no tidepools means no evolutionary diversity, though.
A sub question: How big is a meaningful audience?
yes; a collective outpouring of creativity. we need better data, though. @ev @mathowie @anildash @aaronlammer @GlennF @craigmod
the more openness, the more is created & the harder discovery becomes.
Once it was just CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS. Then FOX. HBO & AMC gilded. FX, NFLX, CW found audience. Fragments can work. @anildash
increases the need for quality.
that is, this problem is inherent to being open in the first place
(I will say it’s a less cool world if it can’t support metafilter)
more openness = more creation = lower CPMs?
1) This would make for a great discussion in the flesh
it doesn't fit in this canoe, certainly.
I'm in SF next week. Can we do an a16z podcast with @smc90 about it?
Not sure if you’re talking to me, but you know I’ll do anything for you, Mr H.
I was serious. I would love to chat with you and Ev and Benedict about this stuff.
if this happens I'd like to attend. If only to buy you all a drink.
great, let's do it! emailing/DMing you guys now to figure out when etc.
this sounds like a very good idea
I'm just gonna canoe right in here with my support for this conversation.
2) Isn't the real issue here supply and demand in the end?
harder? Yes. Still profitable and worth it. Absolutely.
also, the infrastructure is there:… so support it in silos too
Please Can You Help Me About My Account ?
it's the rare instance where someone 30/35/40 have VASTLY different experiences
yes! Feel like folks around during highway rollout in the U.S. (or electrification) had this too.
... but it was very useful. LOL. #RIP Google Reader.
Also they're not accessible. Transcribed podcasts are (or could be) open. They become social knowledge
I’m eagerly awaiting AI-based 99.5% accurate transcription which is months awag. way. Away.
Siri doesn't know my name yet. I am the .5%
Siri is kind of crappy.
I think you said “ahoy telephone”
“Ahoy Dingus!”
It appears you are trying to send a Tweet. Would you like help with that?
no because you need directories to be discovered and APIs for influence living on the back of networks
Curious about 2 things: 1) how do you define modest interest? 2) does interest matter more than monetization or are they coupled?
1) very very loose definition. I and others I know who used to be able to get some interest in a project get none.
So that might be page views, people participating (in comments or a project), pledges or purchases. If it were just me, Id’ think
it had to do with what I’m doing. But I talk to folks about this widely, and everyone has seen less meaningful participation, say.
2) some stuff, I don’t mind if I’m “speaking” to an empty auditorium; other, time commitment requires $$$ to come in.
Next time I'm in Seattle would love to grab coffee. So many things I want to reply with. Painful reminder of Twitter's limitations
Interested in understanding how Internet can inspire/fuel/support creativity vs stifle it. I feel sad not being able to think of how
I think some current cycles have to end and new things be re-born. It’ll happen.
And individual sites like @kottke @daringfireball @theloop. I never go to FB, etc., but straight to the source
I'd bet good money most if not all three examples won't exist in a few yrs
Noooooooooo! I don’t want to live in that world.
we already do, it's just unevenly distributed.
Well until they actually go away I turn off my adblockers & hit them up daily
I should have added @TPM which is indispensable.
agree plus only so many browsers too. The open web ceded to a closed app economy. And will bots liberate us?
this is a fascinating look at the silo phenomenon
exactly. Tim is a critical voice, gets it. Scale + data footprint = 90% of revenue growth = two gatekeepers to open web.
Thank you for this.
I think that’s a very privileged view of what it’s like to be on the web now v 5 yo
sorry for the slow reply...Because harassment is an even bigger issue for women and POC queer folk online
Well....the spread of closed-source hurts. Social monocultures and reduced trust for Google hurts discovery of new sites.
*social media platform monocultures
isn't the challenging attracting a meaningful audience without a substantial budget? #openweb
no, the challenge is that advertising-supported media has defined 'a meaningful audience' poorly
I'm not sure I agree. Not everyone can sell subscriptions as ad alternative and still have rent to pay.
It's easier to get in the game, but the field is littered with a lot of crap.
Also, I think we should admit a sad truth: our audiences are less sophisticated than ever.
earning a living from your site (directly or indirectly) still requires a relatively substantial audience.
that is a separate question from the quality of the web though. The web is still a huge diverse panoply.
absolutely and I am a big proponent of the #openweb. It just isn't as easy as it used to be for an indie blogger ...
... for an indie blogger to make a living from his/her blog. Crowded field with a strong focus on social networks now.
Even with platforms like Patreon? How did indie bloggers make their living ten years ago?
I'm sure back then (and even before), bloggers made their money with ads and/or sponsorships.
There were some ad networks, but they all felt very good 'ole boy, impossibly high barrier to entry
There are probably more ways to earn money online today but the space is a lot busier and it's harder to stand out.
Look at what people think the "creative industry" is and how people think they can only afford to be creative if they're being paid for it.
well that's one analogy I won't forget any time soon! 😂 @craigmod @girlziplocked
sad prediction: decentralization will result in silos as well, much smaller & less well maintained but still private silos.
producerism. I talk about this in my book. Still, certain companies provide those tools and keep a lot of the data.
but how are you found? Easy to start, harder to be discovered.
@ message someone, email someone you respect and tell them about your posts, snail mail things to people, etc
Discovery has *always* been hard and required a lot of elbow grease
you are right and everyone else is confusing their dotage with the web's demise.
A part of me longs for the pre-mobile experimental Flash era. Those were the web’s more creative years.
onceuponaforest, — fun times!
oh the days of Praystation...
Yeah, apologize for that. Was "transcribing" off the radio; no edit on Twitter; I John Woo'd him.
when I get depressed about Twitter it's great to see a convo like this! Thanks for starting it.
🙇 Only wish there was a better way to point to it / collate it ... 🤔
I subject being overlooked is the taste of the audience. WE all want great content, but most people are happy with crap.
(Apologies to Tim Wu for misspelling his name; would edit but, you know, Twitter.)
A fascinating discussion about open web by some of the web's greats, started by @craigmod. Well worth a read.
Listening to Tim Woo on Fresh Air right now, confused by his statements that the web has gotten worse in the last five years.