014 - I'm slowly being done with Corporate Web

And I'm done with Twitter, and more recently Reddit. I thought it would be hard to kick the habbit, and it was, but then external events just made it so much easier. Can I finally kick the corporate ad habit?

For those of us that saw the start of the Internet, and what it potentially promised, I suspect we can't help thinking that it's fundamentally broken. It's less and less a place of interconnected, hyperlinked, pages, and more and more a set of silos attempting (and mostly succeeding) in locking users inside their walls.

But there are cracks in those walls. Some are escaping through, and over, them and moving to more community orientated places and participating in a way that doesn't include the corporate web.

I'm documenting here my experiences, thoughts, and the plans I have going forwards. 2023 is proving to be a pivotal year. This year I've stopped using almost all regular social media. By 'regular' I mean centralised social media such as Twit-uh-X1 (formerly Twitter), Facebook and even Reddit. The list of centralised, you-are-the-product social media platforms that I don't use has increased. I now don't use, or have never used: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, TikTok, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger. I'm still using YouTube, but I find it odd that that's a social media. It is though, when you consider that the 'algorithm' is to get you to stay on the site and watch adverts. I still spend too much time there, though. I also use uBlock Origin and a SponsorBlock, which means I'm probably going to be ejected by YouTube in the near future.

There have been a few events that have driven me away from my two main centralised social networks:

Musk bought Twitter

Elmo2 bought Twitter for $44B. The number is amusing, particularly as, at the time of writing (beginning of August, 2023) Twit-uh-X is worth about £20B. He's a genius, isn't he? The reasons for Xitter (Xi-as-in-"shi") losing so much value is extremely well documented elsewhere, so I'm not going to delve into it. However, renaming Twitter to 'X' probably isn't going to help.

I really dislike Muskrat and anything he touches. That started when he defamed a British rescuer by calling him a 'pedo'. I realised at that point that he's almost certainly a sociopath, narcissistic, and maybe even psychopathic. So, consequently, I won't use Twitter, nor buy Tesla's. I'm also not enamoured with SpaceX. Anything he touches is tainted as far as I'm concerned.

So, that was a convenient excuse to delete the app from my phone and log out from all my browser instances. I'm pretty close to just deleting my account, but now you need to be logged into Twit-uh-X just to be able to read tweets-uh-X's. So I'm not even looking at Twitter at the moment. Not a good plan, Musk.

The Reddit 3rd party app debacle

Reddit killed, or is in the process of killing, all the 3rd party apps. The Reddit CEO is being a twat, so I've stopped reading Reddit completely too. It used to be my go-to-favourite-waste-of-time, and now I don't have one. And they almost certainly did it due to 'enshitifcation'.

Enshitification of the Internet

Cory Doctorow coined the concept of Enshitification of a service. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok et al have become shit. Adverts are destroying the internet. There's no other way to put it. Have you tried watching YouTube without an adblocker and (even better) sponsor blocker? It's unbearable. Really crap adverts interrupting videos at the worst moment. I won't watch YouTube with adverts and if they permanently break adblockers then I'll just stop watching YouTube; or maybe they will just cut my viewing. Either way, I'll be out.

In fact I have whole-house adblocking at the router. And my browsers are equipped with NoScript, Ghostery, Privacy Badger, and uBlock Origin in an attempt, as much as possible, to avoid adverts, trackers, crypto-miners, zero-day exploits, and all the other nefarious things that live on the Internet.

But it wasn't supposed to be this way. This definitely isn't the Internet that Tim Berners-Lee envisaged, and it wasn't the one I wanted to participate in. Which brings me (almost) to the other Internet.

The Corporate Internet; where a few companies 'own' the whole damn thing

What we are talking about is the current trajectory of the Internet. This is the Internet that almost everybody uses, and is run by the Big 5/FAANG/Big Tech3, who provide their websites and applications. They are the Internet for most people. And at least with Google I, too, am pretty well locked in at the moment.

The Corporate Web is an Internet where the purpose is to sell ads so that the people that use the Corporate Web will consume products. All the algorithms are to get you to stay on the site so that you watch ads. Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, et al are all mostly supported by advertising, and have algorithms to push content at you mixed with ads. You are being manipulated. And I hate being manipulated, I hate being tracked, profiled, and content pushed at me to get me to see an advert so I'll maybe consume something from the real customers of the Corporate Web; we, the users (consumers) are actually the product. Our attention is the product, and Big Tech wants all of it to see to advertisers. Horrific isn't it.

The Other Internet

There is another Internet. The first one. The one Tim Berners-Lee original conceived. The Internet was designed, fundamentally, to route around damage. The Corporate Internet seems to essentially be damaged. Locked down apps, adverts, DRM; these are all broken concepts in a free and open web.

What do I mean by "free and open". By Open I mean: interoperable, open, standards to exchange information. Free and Open includes Net Neutrality the idea that ISPs must treat all data equally favouring none above the other.

There are dozens of Free and Open web applications that promote the idea of communities and largely exclude the concept of the ad-supported corporate web. These are often federated applications

A possible/probably future of the Internet

I'm predicting that the Internet will continue to be split, and it will get worse.

There's the internet owned by Big Tech, a walled set of gardens vying for your attention to view ads so that you'll "stop talking and buy things". And it'll get worse with locked down browsers, anti-ad-blocking, attestation (linking your identity to usage) and all the other privacy violating features that Big Tech wants so that they can profile, track and monitoring your usage as a consumer.

And then there will be the 'free web'. This will be the Fediverse, the Discourses, (most) Wordpress blogs, and other non-commercial websites. These, on the whole, won't have ads, and the people running them will front the (modest) costs because they want to have their small communities. It (generally) won't have tracking, ads, or other privacy invading tech. Essentially, the old web revisited. And that's the web that I'm going to be on.

However, this splintered web won't be all fun and games. In all likelihood, to be able to use banking, book flights and get-things-done with services, will all require a 'corporate' browser, and that'll probably be Google Chrome, requiring a Google account. Or maybe some other, not-quite-as-unsafe-as-Google, browser will be required. Or an app on a phone. It's dystopian, but it does seem to be the general trajectory of the web as we known it.

We can only stop this plan by Big Tech to lock down the Internet so they can sell us stuff by supporting open browsers and protocols and rejecting big tech sites.

My Plan

The plan basically involves:

  • Getting off Google.

That's basically it! Stopping using Google is the main barrier to getting off Big Tech for good. And that's because:

  • Gmail (and in my case, GApps for a domain).
  • Photos
  • Google Android Pixel phone
  • Google Pixel watch.

Getting out of under Google is going to be a challenge. Often called by the moniker "DeGoogle", it's the process of removing Google from your life.

Why DeGoogle? Well, mostly because "don't be evil" is now "be as evil as we can possibly get away with". Their latest plans to enshitify the Internet by blocking adblockers, DRM for websites, and a long list of tracking, invading privacy and other actions means that they are probably the biggest threat to a free (as in Libre) and open Internet. Let's face it, Google is an advertising company and they want to force you to view their ads, and watch the adverts with no way to avoid them or skip them. That's the internet they want and are actively engaged in bringing into being.

So that's this rambling post over.

  1. I can't help myself. I know it's a bit juvenile, but I get a little joy from the thinking of it as "Twitter, which is now X, and so it's Twit...er...X, or 'Twit-ah-X', as it subverts what Musk is trying to do with the brand and company-formerly-known-as-Twitter. Maybe we should call it squiggle? I wish I was original, but sadly I read it somewhere, but I can't remember where; if you are the originator, drop me a line and I'll attribute it.↩︎

  2. I know it's (again) juvenile, but I can't help but call Musk "Elmo" or "Muskrat". It just seems to fit.↩︎

  3. FAANG: Facebook (now Meta), Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google (now Alphabet). Big 5: Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Essentially, Big Tech↩︎