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.. and you could argue it always was, and I would agree!
It's just that right now, I am really feeling it.
There are always concerns to have, and it is tiring.
The one-person-shows we rely on for the small web or some niche solutions like plugins, mods, packages etc. can just disappear one day. They might not be passionate about it anymore, they might get sick, die.
The sites you like can be changed into something unrecognizable or the tone and culture can shift into something you can no longer support. Platforms you like can become so popular their original purpose and structure might become diluted. The people you like leave and you wish they'd come back. Newbies come in and drive out seasoned users. Leadership decisions might be out of touch and result in a worse quality of information on the site. They can go bankrupt or sell out to bigger companies who change the platform based on capitalist interests.
How do I react if the smaller spaces I frequent shut down or get bought up? How do I deal with not wanting to support Reddit anymore, when search results have become so trashy and filled with paid promotions and ads and the only way to find real experiences and recommendations have been to add site:www.reddit.com to the search query? How do I protect myself against seemingly random site deletions on Neocities? How can friends and artists protect themselves from random deletions, restrictions or demonetization on other sites who increasingly just operate on bots and have no functioning customer support anymore, even though they affect the livelihood of their creators with these automated decisions?
How do we move forward with preserving and accessing knowledge when the Internet Archive is half broken and under attack, search engines become shittier, Wikipedia is partially censored and gotten unsuitable for laypeople, old forums continue to die out, and a lot is organized and gathered in Facebook groups or Discord servers which both cannot be searched from the outside? How do we deal with monumental sites with tons of knowledge radically changing, potentially going down, or at least having inaccessible content due to being locked out of protest? How do we deal with certain sites and their owners having such a monopoly on information? How do we deal with waves of users protesting and deleting their decades old accounts after deleting and/or editing all their posts and comments, losing their expertise and a fragment of time?
How do I deal with the fragility of hosts and domain providers? Where would I go after Neocities, are there alternatives I like? Do I buy a domain and then have to deal with potentially losing it after 1-5 years, resulting in link rot if it is linked somewhere and not updated? I've heard so many horror stories about unreliable domain providers. What about the very awful decisions of ISPs all over the world, and governments' effect on the internet access? The effects of war on connectivity and information?
Centralized internet is fragile for many of these reasons, but decentralized, federated content can feel as fragile to me too. There is a lot of trust I need to put into people who host the instances. They could also radically change, power trip, or get sick, or die. What happens with your data then? They also might not have a good track record with privacy and user data. They might abuse their position as the instance host. You might have to migrate again and again, like we always migrated to the next bigger and better thing since before myspace. Information management and searching can be hard. Instances can choose to defederate. Is it harder or easier to hold individuals accountable for data protection violations and platforming hatespeech or bullying than big companies leading the big, centralized socials?
At least for me, it is just fun: having a fun personal website, sharing thoughts for fun, engaging in forums for fun, creating little things for fun. Researching stuff to learn in my freetime. My hassle only lies in having to transfer some content or being sad that something I am pouring time and energy into will probably not exist in 10 years and the things I did might not be recoverable. It is saddening to think that I cannot look up a certain exchange I had in a few years because things go down all the time or are barely searchable. Others have it much worse.
I feel for anyone who relies on the internet to make money. Always new content bans, always new restrictions, always new guidelines. Always increasing false reports, false deletions and restrictions that you have to fight for weeks to get reversed, if at all. Always new decisions of the platform owners that could drive users away, users that are not only their customers, but also yours. Always new adjustments to the feed and algorithm that affect your visitors, sales and other engagement. Always feeling like you have to be ready to be booted off and lose the money. Always ready to find out that the content you post isn't allowed anymore. Always having to put in time to decipher the newest ToS update and what it really means, and putting in the additional energy to be compliant. Because it is not simply "for fun" for you.
I wish I could put something out there that survives no matter what, that is still there to be read and accessed in 20 years at the same spot it always was and looks more or less like it always did, but it just seems impossible. I have stopped bothering with social media a long time ago, but some of this transcends the socials and is a thing any website on the net has to deal with. It occasionally has me in the mood of "why do I even bother when it's not gonna be there?". Don't get me wrong, the fragility of things isn't just a burden, it can be a feature; fleeting, vulnerable things can be special and affect how we treat it, how we interact. But something about it saddens me; we have always lost so much throughout human history, but still a lot of it seemed much more survivable and tangible than what we put on the net.
If I make a nice little ceramic vase, it can be a family heirloom, a gift to be passed on, it still exists when it gets stolen or breaks, and there is can be evidence of it. It leaves a trail we can collect and see too; the pottery supplies, the bill for the class, the pictures we took, stains, the empty space where it stood, the imprint it left in the earth, and how it affected other projects. With many things I leave online, I don't feel like it has a lasting impact, or is in any way leaving a trail of evidence, or can be saved and passed on. It feels temporary and a little unreal, like it can just be taken from me on a whim unexpectedly in a manner that makes me question if I even truly had it at all. It can completely cease to exist like it was never there at all. It really is an exercise in non-ownership, isn't it?
I am envying the older generations in what huge amount of staple items they were able to pass on and always rely on over decades as the evidence of a lived life; picture albums, 50 year old electronics, jewelry, furniture, newspaper snippets, their physical craft pieces, diaries, letters, games, very old books.. but nowadays, we lose so much of anything through digital reliance, bans, licensing instead of owning, disappearing platforms and devices, closed e-shops, broken harddrives with no backup, corrupted files, cloud failures, cheap materials, deleted DMs and autodeleting mails after 30 days, incomplete archiving, bugs, deprecated file types and accidental deletions. So much of our life is digital but it is barely possible to capture it in a way the physical, analog things have captured and accompanied the generations before us, and it saddens me. How many migrations, losses, profiles, rebuilds and so on will we have gone through before our 60th? What will we have left of our life on the net?
𓇽 ° . ༻ 𓈒 ꒪ ๋ ° .𓏲⠀ ๋࣭ ♡ ͘ ࣭⠀⸰ ⋆ ֗ ִ ᨒ .⋆ﾟ. ͘ ࣭⠀⸰ ♡ 𓂂 ◌ 𓇽 ° . ๋ 𓂂 ⠀✼ 𓇽