Douwe Osinga's Blog: The coming Internet ice age

Saturday, July 5, 2003

Slowly but unstoppably, the Internet is freezing over. Sites that used to be changing daily with fresh content produced by professional writers broadcast the same old news anno mid 2000 over and over, with their owners only sometimes posting a little article written in their free time. It is unavoidable. The bubble pumped so much money in the Internet that the whole info-ecosystem was growing like a rainforest on steroids, like there was no tomorrow. There was.

Between the dead and frozen trees of the old days, a new and more nimble system is developing. Blogs connected through the long and thin threads of RSS have developed their own maze of complexity. Paid for content sites are growing again. Amateur communities that never where touch by the bubble frenzy, live like they did before the boom. But the great dying hasn't finished yet. The old content empires aren't all quite deserted. Some are overgrown by a myriad of pop-up, pop-under and other in-your-face advertising. It will take a while before the ice age in its full strength is up on us.

Many searches for practical information still bring you to sites from 1999-2001. Two to five years old, which is okay for a lot of purposes, but what will it look like in ten years? Will the world wide web be seen as a museum of information of the end of the twentieth century? Too many old websites will devalue the whole medium.

Then there is Google. It seems a power for the good, crawling the web searching for relevant content. But it won't save us from the coming Ice age, not the way Google works right now. Google sorts the web by linking. The more a page is linked to, the better it scores. But the old, dead websites are linked to a lot and they link to each other. Not only keeps Google directing traffic to these frozen dinosaurs, in subtle ways it helps the over icing go on.

Bloggers like to spice up their websites with links to relevant terms, but they are often too lazy to really research something, or rather they are writing about the ice age and not about the relevant term, so they don't have the time to research this term. So they look it up on Google and paste the link to the first hit, keeping a dead ecosystem popular.

Is this all bad? Maybe not. In a way it will help the new forms of information exchange and teach us that pure Internet forms just work better.