Oof this whole demise of the web is such a doozy. I don’t think it necessarily has much to do with the technology, though (though the web technology isn’t really the greatest to begin with). But the web is and has always been a social phenomenon — that’s why people got computers! They wanted computers to get on the web, and they wanted to get on the web because everyone else was getting on the web! It was novel and it was exciting and it was entertaining. It brought the world to your desk — emails, newses, games.
Computers before the web were basically relegated to whatever software you bought (from a store, usually). They could do lots of things, but it was very much a “one at a time” thing. The web comes then suddenly you’ve got endlessness in front of you. I think in many ways the web is (and has always been) a lot closer to TV than it has been to “traditional” software. The web is your “there’s 400 channels and nothin’s on” situation, except there are infinite channels and still nothing is on.
And so I think it’s really like TV because it encourages almost twitchy behaviour, via links. “Hey what’s this? and this? and that? and these?” And it’s very entertaining and stimulating (or at least minimum viable stimulation). Much like TV where when one show ends, another comes on right after it, so too is the web neverending.
And all of that is to say nothing of the content of the web! which I think has become more and more like TV lately. The links-as-channel-changers really caught on and so every website fights to keep you around. Also as bandwidth increases, photos and video become easier to use, and so now it’s easier to look at pictures and, much like TV, be entertained by video. And now you can have many videos playing at once in a feed stream and O the humanity the people making the stuff don’t really care very much so long as you’re watching it and whatever way they’re making money off it.
Reality TV and social networks feel very contemporary to me. Facebook (and really any social network) looks quite a lot like reality tv if you want it to look like reality tv. “Haha, I know Jersey Shore is stupid, I just watch it to make fun of it,” is even more compelling when it’s your idiot cousin on Facebook. It’s The Truman Show except you’re the one starring in it and everybody else you know is also starring in it and the door at the edge of the ocean is actually open but you can’t walk through it because you know you can’t watch once you’re outside. And but so now that everybody’s in this reality tv show nobody cares where the set is, if it’s on the web or if it’s on an app it makes no difference to them. They don’t see it as a democracy versus a dictatorship, they see it as VHS versus a DVD.
The good news is anyone (with enough money) can remake the web. The bad news is almost nobody cares or wants to.