The Enshittification of The Web

Or how the internet as we knew it is dead...

Ok, so that title might be a little bit dramatic, but only a bit.

For those of you too young to remember the internet any other way, the Internet used to be more than just SEO spam, AI-generated articles, clickbait, ads, irrelevant search results, more ads, paywalls, ad-blocker blocked pages, redirects, Russian bot-farms, and the click-farming exercises that we all know and hate today.

And this enshittification is only a recent phenomenon as well. Only 10 years ago the internet was a much better place. A resource you could rely on for information on any given topic. Whether that information was directly relevant to your query was and always has been a hit and miss affair, but at least back then it was at least related to the information you were searching for.

Search Engines especially over the past 10 years have become increasingly useless, irrelevant and untrustworthy. With Google seemingly caring less and less about accuracy of search results, and increasingly concentrating on ad placements and their ad business as a whole, and only seemingly Bing stepping up to the plate yet falling foul of the same poor results, it feels like the earliest days of the internet again, pre-search engines, where finding relevant information was a difficult task, and most websites were passed around by word of mouth via social media (such as that was back then).

Another prime example: YouTube, yet another Google-owned project, and its infamous, unknowable Algorithm. 10 years ago it was a much better place. Searching for videos on a specific topic returned videos, you guessed it, relevant to your search terms.

Nowadays the all-powerful algorithm has turned it into a sea of hundreds of thousands of AI-generated and voiced videos created in seconds based on search trends, content creators with thumbnails that feature them in an apparently permanent state of abject shock and horror (who knew Kevin McAllister of Home Alone would be such a visionary), "Shorts" pumped at users seemingly non-stop in an effort to "increase engagement" and dumb down the feed and reduce education and information, copied lock-stock and barrel from Instagram and TikTok (sometimes literally cross-posted or worse, stolen, by "content farmers").

On a personal note, I used to have a YouTube channel, but gave up on it after a couple of years when it became apparent that actual good, well-written and produced content was getting drowned out by the above smorgasbord of garbage and algorithm-promoted drudge.

The biggest and most impactful change in the Internet and its usefulness as a resource for information?

The loss of Forums

Forums were a place where information could be categorised into various boards and topics, with information archived and easily searchable for decades to come. They fostered communities of people with specific interests that could talk, obsess, theorise, hell just plain communicate about their favourite subject.

What arose to take their place?


Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a regular Discord user and subscriber. I love it, for what it is, which is an avenue of conversational text communication, much like its predecessor, IRC, or voice comms, similar to Teamspeak or Mumble.

However too many communities over the years have conflated Discord's immediacy of communication, with being a repository of information for users, with no actual alternative. How many times have you been a regular in a discord channel for a specific topic, such as a game, and seen countless new users wander in, day after day, and ask the same question or a variation of it, over and over again?

And every time, if they're lucky, they'll get told to "check the pins", where some thoughtful admin has pinned a comment by a user that may or may not answer the actual question.

This is a far cry from forum topics, which rather than a single line or at best a paragraph of text, you could have long, detailed, thoughtfully-written guides or information on a very specific subject, sometimes with images and/or video relevant to the subject at hand.

Luckily, some communities still use Forums in addition to having an active Discord/Matrix/Telegram group. I see them mainly in use these days with Linux distro communities, such as EndeavourOS, Arch etc. Here you'll still be able to find answers to common questions that were posted back in 2009 or earlier. Postively pre-historic by modern standards, but some of that information is still as valid now as it was then.

The other big still relevant repository of information on specific topics is of course Reddit. However given recent mis-steps by its owners, there's no guarantee that it will still exist in another 10 years.

To me it seems like something happened around 2015/16, when information and data began to be drowned out by spam, mis-information (see Brexit/Trump etc), clickbait articles, auto-generated content farming for clicks etc.

Then of course over the past year or two, we lost another major source of communication in...


No, it's not gone, but it's been heavily fragmented and skewed by mis-information and bots in their hundreds of thousands. As a result, reliable users have left in droves off to other services, such as Mastodon, BlueSky, Threa.. yeah no, no-one uses Threads, let's be honest.

Communities without the backbone of a repository of information such as a forum were fragmented. Some users left certain platforms, others staunchly refused to leave the same certain platforms, things fell apart and nothing was the same since.

Twitter's enshittification in itself, thanks to Elon Musk and his cavalcade of clown car decisions, has meant democracy itself took a major pounding. If I was a cynical man I'd suggest it might've been a deliberate move to mute "left-wing" voices altogether...

But I'm not a cynical man... am I? ;)

Thankfully at least search engines have one apparent replacement on the horizon, and it's one of the very same things that led to them becoming so useless in the first place...


AI models as we call them vernacularly, are actually Large Language Models, which have farmed information from the web, and are able to sort through things in a more intelligent manner and present it in a much more approachable format.

Much like search engine results, you should approach anything you're given by these services with a pinch of salt, and judge for yourself how accurate the information you're being presented with actually is.

I know at least Google's Bard service tends to cite its sources, which is a step above Open AI's ChatGPT. Bing Chat, based on the same ChatGPT, cites sources as well sometimes, but not always. I haven't used the likes of Claude enough to render an opinion on it, but I tend to stick with Bard for the most part, as it tends to be the most accurate in terms of responses.

So while we have definitely lost a lot of what made the earlier Web experience so reliable and enjoyable to use, hopefully we're just in a transition period between Web eras. We've passed the Golden Age of Repository Information, currently drudging through the Swamp of Misinformation, and hopefully coming out the other side onto the shores of the Age of AI & LLM's.

And if we ever hit the Age of Artificial General Intelligence?

I just hope the first AGI isn't called Skynet...