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Innovative home grown original sites bought over by others and turned into promotion vehicles that are now virtually useless, paintings for sale on the Web for sale that were sold 3 years ago. Massive numbers of 404's that clog up search engine results. Small publishers failing to keep useful sites running cause they just can't afford it.
Most points touch on problems we discuss here broadly. the move to PPC on Search engines, decreasingly useful SERPS, duplicate content.
<start neo-Marxist rant>
It's the down side of a Web that started as a fast, lean communication medium for all, and is turning into a plaything of massive corporates - consumers be damned..
The main players don't have an interest in the Web per se - to giants like Time Warner and the publishing oligarchy investing in the Web can also be strategically a loss leader - gum up the Web so much that it becomes unusable, driving people back to these conglomerate's own world which they can control much better - the mainstream traditional vested-interest publishing world made up of the idiot box, hard copy books, magazines, journals and newspapers. It's only PART of their business portfolio - not ALL of it.
That can be controlled much better and the players are known. Their cosy little kingdom of the Information Age was threatened by the Internet - but not for much longer..
It's the same cosy world where Time (of the AOL/Time/Warner comglomerate - a leading player of this oligarchy) can make Guliiani person of the year as the "person who most influenced the world in 2001". Hmm.. really? We all know the real scumbag who made the world change in 2001 - and it wasn't Gulliani.
<end neo-Marxist rant>
It's a broad trend that is insidious and dangerous for us all. While we all in our own small way here try to make a living from the Web individually, less obvious is that the whole shebang is just becoming less useful to the average Jo we depend on for our living.
As my boss says ...Let me read yesterday's newspaper crap while sitting on the dunny anytime.... <blush>
Edited to add TV (the idiot box) to the list of communication media above. Forgot it!
However, what do you think the practical solutions are to my own personal day to day experience:
Spending at least 30 minutes each day deleting email spam,a and mistakingly delting real email at the same time?
Spending most of my time playing "bonking the beaver" arcade-style with my mouse with popunders, popups and waiting for flash advertising and advertising to load before i find a page dosent have what i was looking for anyway?
Having to spend more time on SERP's scrolling down from PPC listings at the top and trying to work out which are useful destinations and which are simply commercial spins?
I have contributed speculations of how the Web may reverse its decline before on this forum several times.. micropayments, more paypal and amazon like donates, a general move to the Web being supported by small payments rather than advertising, and the slowly growing acceptance of paying subscriptions. In our own small way, we are developing a subscription based section on our previously totally free site.
Its important to DO something, rather than just hope though. i can't see any basis for simply saying that the future looks good, apart from latter good advertising predictions and tech stock recovery.. sustainable? unless the model changes.. no...
So we havent given up, but its important i think to be aware of how the Web is changing, and how it is being controlled. That provides the background for better strategies.
My honest opinion is this has become a pretty s***** business and stress equity pays squat.
I spend most mornings deleting spam. From there I check logfiles and see which new virus attempted to infect my machine. View my error logs to see who's trying to steal what from me and my clients. If something's gone buggy, I can count on being on hold waiting for tech support to answer whatever question I may have.
From there I open a pack of cigarettes, get juiced on caffeine, and write code a few hours; interrupted now and again by which ever client just discovered FrontPage and thinks he/she can do 'this myself' now. Or, they ask why my competitors send them email telling them they can do what I do --- cheaper. (Because they're classless, clueless ***holes?)
Lately I've written so much code I've become somewhat allergic to my keyboard, and find myself taking little jaunts to WMW because I feel if I parse one more line of Perl I'll throw up. Yes -- throw up for about five acres until I can wretch no more.
I might zip out of whatever project I'm involved with to whip up some graphics for some project who's due date was last week, drink some more coffee, and go back to scripting. Check and see how my sites are ranking. Answer stupid questions about why people's email attachments didn't come through, yadda yadda.
Basically, if experts want to tell me what I already know, I'll file that away under, "Stating the obvious pays better than what (I'm) doing if you become syndicated".
Notice these experts and doomsayers are hard-pressed to offer a solution? No, that's our job. We'll fit that in between various tasks we perform during the day.
Left to my own devices, I am forming my own strategy to deal with the current state of internet affairs. It (my plan) might not be perfect, but that's the path I've decided to take.
But as to whether or not the Web is dying. TV was supposed to kill radio, everyone knows video killed the radio star, and the Internet was supposed to kill everything.... until now. Now it's supposed to kill itself. I wouldn't doubt that when writing was invented, it was hailed as the downfall of memory.
The web as you describe it, chiyo, will not die. It cannot die until the day AOL/M$/et. al. own every single webhost on the planet, and HTML is run into obsolescence by some proprietary programming language. And if that happens (tho I highly doubt it could), someone will miraculously remember how to run an old-fashioned BBS. Remember when the telephone plugged into the Commodore 64?
The wild-n-wooly free, informative, quirky web may sneak back into the shadows behind the lumbering blubbery commercial behemoths who own everything else, but "way back when" the web was new and wild and wonderful, wasn't it in the shadows of the regular media? We (the little guys) are the future of the web... I'm sure of it. If only for one reason: We know that a thriving network of a couple dozen websites can be run in the livingroom of one sleep-deprived wacko who knows how to live comfortably on considerably less than a six-figure income. The blubbery behemoths of which I speak can't seem to run one portal site without massive, constant cash flow that nobody (especially their fickle "advertiser base") could support for long.
We're crazy enough to keep it alive, aren't we?
We're crazy enough to keep it alive, aren't we?
right on mivox!
Yet I'm sticking to my story that the Web (or at least the web browser) is at it's highest level of influence right now. Yes it will reinvent, and us "crazies" have to prove that the Web can be useful for sure.. But my feeling is that wireless and the internet for mobile devices may be where the excitement is in future as well as different ways to access content than the common clumsy browser as we know it. Specific applications for specific tasks.
Forget about broadband, people dont want to get faster access so they can just download a concomittantly higher proportion of crap faster.
Do they really want to video on a computer? Give me a good old fasioned theatre with popcorn, surround sound, freinds around me and an ol' grandma playing the organ at interval anytime. ...Im betting that's a spin by companies investing in broadband and the networks that support it.
People want leaner, faster, and highly targeted. Broadband by itself doesn't cut it.
Communication techniques always evolve, so we have to be ahead when something renders the web browser obsolete, as the browser as we know it know itself did to Archie, Jughead, wais, veronica, Bulletin Boards and Gopher not too long ago..
OK im bowing out of this discussion now Ive become tiresome!
In response to your initial outburst and given the preponderance of old, outdated information on the Web, we're in a better position than most to learn from history.
Remember the wild and woolly days of myriad engines and directories? Like Dvorak's art sites, they're gone. Followed by most small sites, the corporates are being bundled lock, stock and smoking barrel into the MSN, .Net, Hailstorm, AOL trunk.
It serves them right. They're being locked in and there's no escape. Let them burn. If we don't learn from their mistakes, we deserve to repeat them.
OK, so the detritus of several horribly flawed models are going to be with us for some time to come but I reckon we'll survive it.
From what I've seen, the future is beginning to take shape on the blogs. email, usenet, and listservs remain some of the Internet's most useful tools and blogs are premised on the same immediacy, relevance, and meaningful content. However, blogs have a way to go before they offer a viable alternative to the Web site as we know it. But, being about content, content, and more content, they'll get there.
Forget Time and other dishrags serving the same function once left to Pravda. It's a business without a future. So is CNN and most of the rubbish touting itself as a news source. The mainstream, gutter media chase only the bottom line and the lowest common denominator. It has lost any attraction it might have once held for a vaguely intelligent reader / viewership.
The established media pander to those who need to be told what to think, i.e. most of us. For those in need of a dripfeed of relevant information and a meaningful interpretation of it, there are alternatives.
The recent past saw unprecedented traffic spikes at sites like Al-Jazeera, Debkafiles, and publications emanating from the Asian subcontinent. Journalism listservs hit their targets with far greater regularity than any smart bomb guided to its target by a Pentagon bureaucrat.
Perhaps it's a good thing the media moguls haven't latched on to their value as yet.
I'm not saying all mainstream publications suck. There were many that gave us good insight into 9-11, i.e. why it came about and what its long-term implications are. However, they were, in the main, publications with small, informed readerships. Most are not American and most were vilified for deviating from the asinine propagandist line followed by the herd.
I don't know it for sure, but I think the surfeit of Military-Industrial Complex claptrap spewed by the so-called bastions of journalistic excellence showed millions, once and for all, just where their allegiances lie. In guns, oil, pharmaceuticals and tech stocks they trust.
But who really cares what they think? Smart bombs can't read the writing on the wall. We can. Time's choice of POTY highlights just how effective UBL has been and that should serve as a warning in itself.
If the Web's in trouble, it's never really been out of it and that's a good thing. It's fighting its way to the future. Fighting for every yard.
1) Many have never been through hard financial times before.
2) Most are too young to have experienced major change in their lives.
3) Some have been riding high on the internet since its inception and many people were under the misconception that the wave would steadily carry them into a wealthy retirement without too much effort.
What has been termed the ".com demise" is mainly due to lack of rudimentary business skills and planning. No "provision for bad debt", nothing put away for a rainy day. No plan "B".
<Beginning of Sermon>
In another recent thread, I was not entirely surprised to read the disdain for those who are somewhat "internet challenged". Some referred to their parents, others referred to their customers. The point was that they had no time or patience for those in the upper age brackets who are not internet or computer savy. (Wait 'til your kids grow up and begin to treat you the same way!)
It is exactly that kind of thinking which will shrink the web instead of growing it. When we, as a community, discount half the world's population (the half with money by the way) when designing web pages, who is to blame when internet sales decrease?
If we fail to put ourselves in the customers' shoes when trying to sell our products or services on the web, then we will be responsible for our own, ever diminishing bottom line. Anyone unable to adapt to the rapidly changing internet landscape will quickly find themselves in the .com trash heap.
That is not to say that every major change is here to stay though and we don't all have to jump on the PPC bandwagon just because its there. It only means we have to write a new business plan in order to deal with the changes. Diversify! Roll with the punches. Don't stand in the middle of the road like a deer caught in a car's headlights ... waiting for the car to run you down!
If, like myself, you don't like the PPC schemes and choose not to take part, optimize for Google and Fast and think about using (GASP ... dare I say it) conventional print advertising or other media to reach the consumer.
The internet is not the be all and end all that many tunnel vision impaired, internet based business owners think it is. The net is just a selling tool, but it is not the "only" selling tool. There IS a real world out there beyond cyberspace.
The good old days are done. Get over it and move on with planning new business strategies using the internet for your benefit wherever possible and other media where necessary.
Who says an SEO specialist can't be a marketing specialist too. If you understand advertising and understand what the consumer wants and needs, then go for it! Diversify your knowledge base and combine all possible avenues of advertising to pick up the slack. Grow your business sideways.
I have no doubt that the internet will rebound from the current PPC invasion and search engine metamorphasis. It is just part of every day life. Things change! If we don't keep up and change with it ... well you know the rest.
Is the web dying? No ... but keep up and diversify if you want to survive!
<End of Sermon>
Note: When and if you venture into print advertising or other media, don't be surprised if you are met with a certain amount of disdain from those who have little patience for your lack of knowledge or experience in the area ... they might be around your parents' age. ;)
(edited by: Liane at 10:02 am (gmt) on Jan. 4, 2002)
thanks for the sympathy.. (seriously!)
Ah! sheez.. i promised to bow out... but your stuff is too good to ignore without a thankyou.
I guess what many are saying if we continue what we are doing well, we can carve a niche for independent, non-traditional and niche content. I am sure that in the whole thats was what the original designers of the WWW meant it for, but now we have to claim it!
Thanks for the inspiration Pagecount and all..
and Viva la little man's revolution!
"In another recent thread [webmasterworld.com]..."
"Our visitors may act dumb but I don't think it means we can assume they're stupid."
Yup, I've been there too - if that's the one, Liane and what you say is Bang On (time and again)...
In fact, I admitted in that thread to a degree of selective cognitive overload on my part. This does not mean an inability to comprehend what is new, it implies eclectic choice...
Rants and sermons, rock on :).
Erm, thanks chiyo, but then you've always been "one of them", haven't you? :)
All the bad things outlined here are really good things.
The internet popped up out of nowehere, it was rapid and as a result of its sudden boom everyone panicked and jumped on the old bandwagon.
There were no rights or wrongs just ways to make a quick buck, people don't know how to tame this wild stallion known as the world wide web and many got thrown clear. Some riders just don't understand how to control the beast and try all sorts of tricks to bring it under thier power.
Most fail but some actually manage to control it and then other people say wait a minute this beast isnt that hard to tame it just takes a little patience and a calm and steady approach.
New approaches are born and people learn that there are ways to approach the horse so that even if you do get thrown off you don't hurt yourself that much.
Its great that people are getting chucked off the horse because they will either learn from thier mistakes or find another place to go.
Eventually we will have riders that know how to treat the horse and how to get the most out of them.
"buy something when everyone else hates it"
I think that could apply to the web. If you are willing to "invest" in the web right now, you will eventually be rewarded.
Some truth here:
The "dot-com demise" was largely a financial demise brought about by greedy stock underwriters and a gullible public, It really had nothing to do with the underlying vibrancy of internet use and growth.
I think one thing brought out by the discussion on the end user is that being Net focused professionals we are used to the high learning curves and rapid change. Take a look back on things you've learned the last 6 months. The general public is not used to the steep learning curve and will not catch on as fast as we would like. I was in a friendly lunch meeting yesterday with a person just out of college who was schooled in computer science and his friend who was 50+ years old but also from the college (sports medicine). In talking about search engines and terms people use to find things it was night and day comparing the two generations. The web is not dying but rather we've been caught in this learning lag. The older generation hasn't kept up with the pace that we introduce technology, but right now the older generation is a large portion of the general public. As the younger generation moves up in the corporate world and increase their share of the consumer market the landscape of the web will change. This has happened in every generation through history. It is just more pronounced now because at the rapid rate that technology makes the differences in generations visible.
I was talking to a law school student at a holiday party and she said all of her research was done on the web, and a big part of her final grades will be based on her participation in online discussion groups.
I asked her how many of her peers are not wired to the web and she said "none". She also said she couldn't understand how anyone could use books for researching case law.
Web entropy? Nah
websites can be run in the livingroom of one sleep-deprived wacko who knows how to live comfortably on considerably less than a six-figure income.- Mivox
Ok Mivox, you’ve been peeking in my window. ;) Well, actually I’m in the kitchen and the coffeepot is an arm length behind me. I can certainly relate to the rest of the comment though, especially “sleep-deprived wacko”.
I think what is scary about the internet is how much different it is than what people assume it is. We’ve got brick and mortar folks trying to press their way of doing business on a far from brick and mortar industry. Their ideas fail and the scream loudly that the whole system is failing. Have you read a magazine or watched television lately? Do you listen to the radio at all? Clutter. It’s so much clutter and that’s what that whole industry of marketers have been busy doing on the web.
We need to look outside the box.
I agree Chyio that we’re nowhere near the end of the rainbow yet in new innovations.
wireless and the internet for mobile devices may be where the excitement is in future as well as different ways to access content - Chyio
One thing that has come out over the past year or so is the idea of finding your niche, whatever that may be, and becoming very good at that. I’m moving in the direction of organizing content because that feels right to me. Others too will find their way. As long as we remember that the growth and expansion of this web is not stagnant but ever striving for new outlets of expression, and that to reach success we must stay fluid and again, think outside the box.
Because you are seeing the future Chyio and are perhaps several steps beyond the 75,000 or so new net users who are entering each day, your statement about folks not wanting broadband may be a bit ahead of it’s time. There are many fine web folks here who dream of the luxury of a DSL line. While many future seekers are leaps beyond the rest and pulling us quickly into the future, there are many more still thinking about getting their first computer. Such is the beauty of this forum we call the web.
And PageCount, that was such a good post.
The Dvorak article and my comments on were it were not refering to the "dot com bust" and the reasons for it, which is I agree is an issue we all know too well, but the general decline in the ability of the Web specifically to serve up useful content to users.
Nothing to do with "dot com gloom" or graveyards, but the functionality of the Web as only one (albeit the major) protocol in accessing the Internet.
dwedeking is quite right about technology. It appears and disappears so fast that the average person (who is not glued to a computer day and night) rarely even knows (or cares) it ever existed.
God forbid that technological advances should slow down. I haven't always known why things work, but as long as new technology presents a valuable use, I embrace it and try to learn how to make it work. I was the first person I knew (way back when) who bought a VCR (beta version) when they first came out. I spent about two hours reading the booklet and testing things out. It came easily to me. 20+ years later, some people still can't set the clock! Who's fault is that? Is it their fault because they can't be bothered spending two hours reading the booklet ... or is the fault of the industry for not making it more "user friendly"?
If you design something which is so technologically advanced that your target audience can't make use of it ... then you have a wonderful thing-a-ma-jig which your mother will boast about and her friends will admire you for, but will rarely (if ever) use.
We (the post WWW2 baby boomers) are split in our ability and willingness to learn about all the new technologies available in our society. Some do have both the ability and willingness and some don't. Its a shame ... but its a fact. People are (as a rule) lazy and lack curiousity.
You're no idiot (idiotgirl) if you have taken a step back and reassessed the direction you want to take. I admire you for that.
Technology and its uses are wonderful, but if anyone has read Atlas Shrugged (an oldie but goodie) you may recall the premiss of the novel revolved around an engine which operated on static electricity. The working model was abandoned and left to rust in a defunct factory. Nobody could see its value or uses ... or even figure out exactly what it was.
That's how I view the web and, I imagine, I am not unlike millions (if not billions) of others. If I can figure out how to use it ... great. If I can't, then for me, it just becomes another thing-a-ma-jig, regardless of how brilliant the premiss may be.
The real brilliance in designing ANYTHING is to make the technology work for you by making it useful, appealing to the masses and easily understood. That's the challenge and that's where the money's at. If you can manage that ... its very impressive!
<End of Sermon 2>
Just housekeeping, I think this year in particular will see a lot of 404's, the good "stuff" is here to stay though.
>fast, lean communication medium for all
Nothings changed, it is still the quickest, easiest and most cost effective medium for the "micro guy's" to get their message across.
>The main players don't have an interest in the Web per se
Change "interest in" to "understanding of" and we'll agree.
Decline or Utility?
Switch a light on, what do you think?
Is it coal mines, trains, power stations, generators, cables, pylon's; or do you not think about it at all, it is just there?
Same is happening with the www [imho] it is becoming a utility, gone are the days of awestruck wonder at a communication system that encompasses the world in [almost] real time. It is interwoven with daily life, it has almost become real. :) Turn on the tap you get water, turn on the www you get empowerment.
From a search engine's point of view it does present some difficulties, instinct must lead them to favour older pages whereas reality should look to the "Fresh!" stuff, either way there are interesting times ahead.
The question is, entropy or not, could you function without it?
I think you've made some very important points. Everyone is going to adapt in their own ways. For me it's more of a personalized focus - more flexibility - but that may already be some else's strong suit. I think many people will have to reassess what they're doing and how they're doing it. Chances are a lot of people in the trenches have been adapting very well all the while, and this is why they'll succeed and another person will fail.
This is one of the primary reasons I think this board is a tool to see what's going on outside my biased little world. (That, and it keeps me from going criminally insane while writing code.)
How would I have known twenty years ago I would be working in SEO online instead of the people service work I'd done for over a decade?
There is no "traditional" career when it comes to the Web. What was the norm in job security when I was growing up is no more. My kids are online and computer savvy just by contact from home and school influences. Then I remember how as kids we thought color TV and TV dinners were amazing. ;)
I think if you look at survival on the Web, it will come down to people taking a step back (well said previously) and being willing to adapt and change course.
It's certainly never dull, that's for sure.
It's a constantly evolving environment and I guess it's kind of in its adolescence now. There are some that are hoping to tame it altogether and make it safely commercial and harmless, but I have great hope that that will prove impossible to do totally.
It's easy for us to be fed up with the Internet, we're here all the time. We need to step back and realize just how empowering it can be (and is).
As for the corporate big guys owning or controlling the Web, let's just hope that AOL Time Warner doesn't buy Google. Without an honest, high-quality, editorially independent search engine to send them traffic, the independent Web sites of the world could easily disappear from view.
Still, let's assume for the moment that Google does remain honest, or that a successor comes along to take its place. Under that scenario, the outlook for mom-and-pop Web sites looks fairly bright. Independent sites typically have low overhead and can afford to provide quality content in their niches (something that's increasingly hard for the big sites to do).
I'll use my own site as an example. It has some 2,500 pages of editorial content on European travel. I update the information and links regularly, and I also write new articles. I can afford to do this because I'm investing my own "sweat equity" and working out out of a home office with minimal overhead. Now let's say, just for the sake of discussion, that I manage to build revenues to an average of $7,000 or $8,000 a month over the next couple of years. For me (a freelance writer), that kind of income would be a delight. For a corporation, it probably wouldn't cover the office rent, let alone staff salaries.
Bottom line: The Web still offers more opportunities for the little guy than any other form of publishing does. The cost of entry is low, the cost of distribution is minimal, and entrepreneurs who find the right niches (and who focus on quality, not just the corporate bottom line) have a decent chance of being rewarded for their efforts.
(Unfortunately there's probably 12 year old Romanian kids that could accomplish more if they spent a week on a palm pilot!)
<added>no that's a slam on Romanians - I used it as an example of someone who may not use the English language daily</added>
Spam is increasingly becoming easier to filter with more advanced technologies appearing daily. With harvester blocking, finding addresses are even more difficult. The number of dead web pages linking to dead email addresses added to the fact that internet consumers are getting more savvy will continue to drive down the profits for spam. Increasing regulation calculated as a risk cost will continue to increase the costs of spam. Spam can't really survive in the volume it has found today.
Dead sites will slowly be removed from links, old domains purchased and linked to porn and casinos will slowly lose traffic potential to the point where the renewals cost more than the ROI.
If I remember Atlas Shrugged was about 2 classes of people with an exaggerated distinction between them. The first class was those who expected to earn what they recieved and the second were people who thought that they should recieve things as their natural right. The web isn't nor has it ever been any easier than an B&M store after a certain size. It still means hard work or money to buy someone else's hard work. Nothing has changed that and I doubt anything ever will.
But there still is social entropy in the web and in the real world. Driving continues to take longer every day. Computers no longer find users who want the latest and greatest. The last killer app was probably quake. Wireless internet devices are great, but they are just smaller more mobile wired devices. The internet has turned the world on its head and we can never go back to not having it, but the question remains - what's next?