Hypnospace Outlaw. Did we let corporations kill the internet?

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Kornnugget

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I was just playing Hypnospace Outlaw which is based on a forked universe of 1999 where you are an web admin on sites as they would have looked at that time period. It made me realize how flat grey, flat and bland the internet has become. Before Yahoo smashed Geocities into the ground the internet was full of hobby and fan website organized into communities with similar interest. The websites were creative, colorful and fun. This lives on a in a way on Neocites.org if you are not sure what I am talking about. I feel like we rushed to platforms with ease of use, but in doing so we have lost the creativity of the internet and niche communities has been decimated. Also, it seems that every topic, hobby and message is somehow intertwined in politics now. Is politics interjection on purpose? Did we let corporations destroy "internet 1.0"? The internet feels corporate, bland and the only entertainment seems to be people flaming each other on the internet. Maybe I am just nostalgic and the current internet is better. I would like to know what other people think.

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bigsocrates

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#2 bigsocrates  Online

Did we "let" them destroy the Internet? I don't know what power "we" had.

This is how most media works. It starts out niche and unprofessional in ways both good and bad (the usability of much of Web 1.0 was terrible, and it had a lot of other issues) and then as the commercial value is seen it gets more polished, professional, and blander. That definitely happened to the Internet. Big corporations offered convenience, usability, and flash to draw people in and that's where the people went. You can say the same for film. Early films were wildly creative and experimental, and then over time they've become more homogenized and polished. There are still weird experimental films being made but that's not most people's experience at the theater these days. There are still wild and weird corners of the Internet too, but most people spend their time on Facebook or Instagram or whatever.

Which is better? They both have their pluses and minuses. I miss the early days of the 'Net, but I don't miss a lot of the technical issues the 'Net had back then. I don't miss how hard it was to find content.

I do kind of miss goat.se, which is weird.

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Kornnugget

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I phrased my question poorly. You makes some valid points as pop-up ads and malware start coming to mind. Your comparison to film entertainment is excellent and puts things more into prospective. Thanks.

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Gundato

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#4  Edited By Gundato

The thing to also remember is that geocities et al were the social media of their time. Some people posted their thoughts on usenet or IRC and others had colorful blogs and MAYBE a comments plugin on their geocities site.

And you still see that. Tumblr had some really cool shit before it died and, in a lot of ways, instagram and tiktok are fulfilling the same role but in video instead of text because half the god damned planet is incapable of reading a full paragraph.

Also, it seems that every topic, hobby and message is somehow intertwined in politics now. Is politics interjection on purpose?

That was always true. I remember lots of great blogs that more or less had the same conversations we are having about Rowling but with Orson Scott Card. PLENTY of folk had thoughts on Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Gore and they were not afraid to talk about them. And there were plenty of sites that looking back were TOTALLY white supremacist groups. Hell, I remember being excited to find out there were other people who liked Batman (I was a dumb kid) and then getting really confused as to why so many people hated Batgirl. Sure she was a yucky girl but she was cool.

But also, the game itself has this too. One of the very first sites you go to is the kindergarten teacher who is angry about getting DMCA'd for a project she did for her students (?) and she points out how bullshit that is. To quote its always sunny: That's politics, bitch.

You spend most of your time hanging out with the cool kids and the bands and the hackers but the "politics" area is still very much on the periphery

Also, it is very interesting you talk about corporations killing the internet. This isn't geocities, tripod (?), and the other free hosting stuff. Hypnospace is straight up future facebook. You are running an OS that is controlled by the same company that more or less controls the internet and you are part of their content moderation team. Hell, isn't the computer/headset also created by them?

As fun of a nostalgia trip (and amazing of a ride) the game is, it is also kind of exactly what Zuckerberg et al want(ed at some point): something designed to evoke the nostalgia of yesteryear while being a fully corporate owned platform for injecting ads and monetizing content.

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ShaggE

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Honestly, I'm more surprised at how much of the internet is still holding on to the wild west days of yore. Yeah, like all media, it's become more corporate over the years, but you can still find a lot of places where that 1.0 feel hasn't gone anywhere. Hell, there's a bit of that right here, solely through the fact that we're talking via an old-school forum. Granted, it's not run by some guy in his bedroom in Ohio, but I still love that forums haven't died out completely after the rise of Reddit, Twitter and Facebook.

As nostalgic as I am for the old days, I'm just holding on to what we have right now while I can. I have a sneaking suspicion that things will be far more corporate and controlled within the next 10-15 years, and we'll be saying "I miss when you could post something on the internet without having to wait 6-8 business days for the message to be vetted and/or modified by a series of companies and their advertisers".

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Onemanarmyy

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Kornnugget

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@onemanarmyy: This is great. Thanks for the link. My work is going to think I hacked my computer, but totally worth it.

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billymaysrip

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I think the thing that people miss is that the old internet is still out there. Obviously most of it is not naive and unintentionally hilarious like GeoCities, but the spirit of free information, HTML, and niche interests is still around. You just need to look past the big corporate/social media sites and find the communities that are still going strong. Will they have the same level of engagement as the mainstream sites? Evidently no. Will they have the same level of engagement as when they were the only option on the block? Evidently no. Can you still participate and meet cool and interesting people? Hell yes.

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regularassmilk

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I think the internet is still weird, niche, and exciting--but that part of the web isn't as front-facing as it was 15 or 20 years ago. I think the biggest thing that has changed the way people use the internet has been smartphones, and more specifically the way iPhones influenced the way consumers interact with the net. Steve Jobs was absolutely correct when he called the iPhone a "breakthrough internet communications device" at its initial reveal event.

The pre-corporate internet was charming in some ways that almost no modern website is, but I think we traded that for usability, which has never been better.

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zoofame

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#11  Edited By zoofame

Hypnospace is what AOL would look like if Google hadn't replaced them as the portal to the web + email in the early 2000s. The sites you browse in the game are the punk, original web though. Those sites still exist even today. There is more, and better content to read / watch / listen to than ever if you're willing to look for it. It's just not on social media because the algorithm for social media is set up to funnel attention and money up to the platform and its shareholders, not to serve you.

I'm not too worried about that web disappearing. It existed long before the Today show's infamous "what is internet anyway?". The drive to create and share is simply human nature.

I think it's too facile to blame it all on corporate control, though. For example, Reddit started out as a place to find that interesting content. Its popularity spawned out of the infamous Digg 4.0 revamp that ceded control to advertisers and power users. Back then aggregator sites were a dime a dozen. Refreshing the front page was like a breath of fresh air of cool stuff every day. The audience was small enough that the cream rose to the top. But inevitably the social dynamics that killed Digg came for Reddit, too. They added comments. Then subreddits where those power users could abuse their tiny lever of control to hoard attention. Then image macros. The interesting links were replaced by the lowest effort, easily digested memes because the sheer velocity of that content had 1000x the upvote potential of a long-form article. The death of Reddit was from the bottom-up, not top-down.

To be clear, this was also the era where platform owners pretended their unwillingness to pay for moderators was some noble crusade for free speech. Subreddits dedicated to bigotry were protected by the highest level admins; it wasn't all sunshine and roses. The techno-libertarianism of that era brought hate out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

Anyway, the point is the web is what you make of it. As much as it's the fault of shareholders killing everything you care about, it's also the mass-market replacing quality with quantity.

Even here on giant bomb there isn't much discussion. Chat is just people copy-pasting twitter and mashing the same meme buttons a thousand times. Listening to the Bombcast from different eras it's stark how much it's changed. The opening segment went from extended discussion about what they found interesting that week to just regurgitating whatever is trending on twitter with the appropriate "extremely online" references to show how up to the second they are. The news is poorly summarizing what other sites have already reported plus twitter rumors and reacting to twitter. Even the games discussion is mostly about what other people are saying about the game, not about their firsthand experiences.

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whitegreyblack

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Kornnugget

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@zoofame: You make some great points and there is a lot for me to digest there. Actually I am surprised by the all the well thought out comments to my post. It gives me a different prospective and also points out that I may be looking in the wrong place for what I want.

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ToughShed

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Hate to be that guy but we live in a Capitalist country.

And also how the internet has changed has been really weird. The fact that we much more rarely go to web pages for example. I don't think anyone could see that stuff coming.

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zoofame

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@kornnugget: You gave a really good prompt for conversation. It gave me a chance to dig into some of the ideas that were kicking around my mind when Hypnospace came out. Finding that kind of personal blog web experience is definitely more work than passively scrolling through feeds but it's no contest as to which is more rewarding.

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fisk0

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#17 fisk0  Moderator

I think the most interesting aspect is how corporations have tricked us into believing we can't have an internet presense without them. Back in the 90s, people were hosting servers at home from their closets, and today a simple Raspberry Pi is exponentially more powerful than a 90s PC, but yet we're told we need to rent cloud servers for the simplest things, that we need multi-million user social networks instead of a webring among friends.

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Kornnugget

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#18  Edited By Kornnugget

@fisk0: You make a good point. I am sure I can host a site on my QNAP. This might be a good project that I can do with my son.

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Gundato

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@fisk0: While there is definitely a lot of "Just use our stuff" there are also a lot of good reasons for that

Without a dedicated IP you need some form of service to map dns servers to your IP of the day. There are different approaches to that but pretty much all involve an organization of some form

Once you get them to your IP you now have to make sure that people can access the parts of your network you want them to and not the parts you don't. And it is a LOT easier to learn/download "hacking" skills now than it ever was back in the day. And we all tend to have a lot more on our networks than a copy of doom 2 we totally paid for.

But even if you get all the security and access aspects handled, you now have hardware. A raspberry pi is a LOT more powerful than a server back in the day. But we also tend to have MUCH more complicated websites than a static html page. A pi is still fine to handle that but it starts resulting in a lot more stress on something that is explicitly not designed for resilience and durability.

So now you want to have a proper home server like all the cool kids do. Assuming you have somewhere to store it where it won't be too loud for you to live in your home/get something with low enough heat generation as to not need a big chonk of a fan, you now have another constant drain on your electric bill. And even that will fall over if your site gets posted to reddit or hackernews.

It is like car maintenance. Folk like to say that ever since things went electronic nobody has been able to maintain their own cars. And yeah, it got harder. But it is still very doable and plenty of people do. The bigger factor is that cars are a LOT less finicky and can put up with a LOT more incompetent ownership and it is a lot harder to be an old school scumbag mechanic because folk will check the internet.

And using a hosting service or even just spinning up some VMs in The Cloud are a lot easier, a lot safer, and honestly cheaper in a LOT of use cases.