The Great Internet Reset

You will own nothing and be happy, or so the story goes. Many dismiss the great reset as a right wing conspiracy theory, perhaps IRL, but online we’re living in it.

Shane Breslin on Twitter: "The Roman statesman, orator and writer Cicero  once wrote "Cui Bono?" It meant: "to whose benefit?". Below is a slide from World  Economic Forum a few months back.

The Open Internet

The internet has existed as a decentralized network since ARPANET in the 1970s. The first internet communities began on a system called USENET, it’s not heavily used today, imagine prehistoric reddit or internet forums.

Linus Torvalds announces the free Linux Kernel on Usenet, 1991

In 1989, the World Wide Web was invented by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee, and quickly took off, leading to the internet boom of the 1990s. The WWW is a real wild west, a real embodiment of the First Amendment.

Internet users for the United States (ITNETUSERP2USA) | FRED | St. Louis Fed
US Internet users (Source: FRED, World Bank)

Heading into the 2000s, computers were getting more powerful, bandwidth was getting greater, and discussions were migrating to Internet Forums such as Something Awful. The internet remained open at this point, but this would mark the beginning of a more centralized and controlled era.

Homepage of Something Awful

Each forum was fully independent, so if enough people disagreed with the direction of moderation, another forum could supplant an existing one. During this era, another type of website emerged, anonymous imageboards. a popular anonymous imageboard launched in 2003

Alternatives, gimmick sites, and even more liberally moderated sites such as 8chan, wizardchan, and 420chan started to emerge, keeping decentralization in check. Around this time social networks, and what would later be referred to as platforms started to emerge. Facebook started in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2008.

Owning Nothing, Happily

Heading into the 2010s, platforms became increasingly relevant, and the open web less so. Internet forums gave way to subreddits, a centralized system controlled by a single for-profit corporation, Reddit, Inc.

As an example Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency discussion initially took place on the forum Bitcoin Talk, a site that has languished, despite the surge in interest in cryptocurrency. Discussion has moved to reddit, and twitter, two centralized social media platforms.

Each price cycle had previously seen a similar surge in reddit interest and less of a surge in BitcoinTalk traffic.
Alternative rendition, Google Trends Ratio of Bitcoin Reddit to Bitcointalk

The shift is not without benefits, you only need one account for all of reddit, rather than 10 or so for the independent forums you might join. Creating a subreddit is free, creating a website is not, this site currently costs ~$40 / year to run with minimal traffic. A large site could run into the thousands.

For video content the advantage is even more profound, it would be practically impossible, even if well funded to host high quality videos online for free viewing. YouTube is an example of the economy of scale, where it is far cheaper for Google to operate such a service than an individual. The problem comes in when, being an independent neutral host, is not the most profitable outcome for any of these platforms (read: How YouTube went from a video host to a content platform).

One of the tricks used by social media platforms to keep you on site is to demote external linking content, Twitter & Reddit are much less aggressive on this front, and also are by far the least profitable platforms. YouTube & Facebook aggressively penalize offsite linking (YouTube’s session watch time), and even twitter clearly has an impact.

My account has over 13,000 followers, with generally strong engagement. I first learned of this early in my twitter journey when I was promoting exchange affiliate links, including my FTX reflink in a tweet always seemed to hurt engagement.

The tweet of my first blogpost shows this impact quite profoundly.

I find it impossible to believe that this tweet with 18 retweets and 72 likes should receive less impressions than the teaser with 1 retweet. This isn’t entirely malicious, it’s possible that some links might be spam, or irrelevant content, but it’s also because keeping users on site (or app) is far more profitable.

House on the Rock

Some of you may remember the biblical Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Builders.

Illustration of the parable, 1861 “Miss Stevenson”

Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.

Matthew 7:24-27, World English Bible (Public Domain)

I’ve been interested in writing longer form content for a while, I don’t really enjoy the day to day interaction on twitter, and often enjoyed writing threads or “tweetstorms”. While it’s possible to write a 50 tweet storm, it’s ill advised, and the platform is clearly not built for it, tweets were originally 140 characters, later upped to 280.

In posting a few tweets about this interest, some had suggested I sign up for either Substack or Medium, two popular platforms, both with the same issues I mentioned above. At one point medium did allow users to use their own domains, so in the worst case scenario, they hadn’t lost all of their work, but they disallowed that in November of 2017.

The main reason to have a twitter account is the wide potential audience, I consider it a worthwhile tradeoff for the loss of control, and ultimately a twitter account is a great place to push other content. I do not feel the tradeoff for blogging / writing platforms is a good one.

Advantages of Hosted Platforms

The largest advantage of signing up with any contained platform is that hosting is no longer your concern, rather than spending money on hosting and in some cases web design, it’s all done for you. Syndication via email, and collection of subscription fees can also be automated through these platforms.

Another advantage is that medium does offer a partner program, although unfortunately it does not offer any form of advertising. Substack allows paid subscriptions, something I am personally not interested in, but for many it could be a great oppurtunity.

Disadvantages of Hosted Platforms

The biggest drawback of any hosted solution is lack of freedom, and the potential for censorship. Not just for controversial content, sometimes major platforms make mistakes. Scaled moderation is almost always heavily automated, robots are not excellent judges of context and character.

Another huge drawback is the lack of flexibility of monetization. While Medium & Substack both provides options to make money, an independent website provides infinite choices. Neither of those sites offer the option to monetize with ads, something that provides minimal intrusion on my users, and is highly profitable for finance sites.


In Conclusion, at least for my purposes I believe building an independent site is the right decision. Currently (I will name the blog separately, ideas welcome) runs on AWS using wordpress, but that’s easily changeable if I find a better stack at some point in the future.

The basic site was configured in a few hours, more hassle than a medium sure but, I’ve spent more time writing the two articles for the site than setting it up, in the long run it’s a rounding error. Long live the open internet.

Additional Reading

Some other articles on this and similar subjects I found interesting.



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5 responses to “The Great Internet Reset”

  1. A Avatar

    Great move! Seems to me the right way forward, if running a server from your own box is not practical for whatever reasons. Just keep in a physical device a full backup ready to deploy elsewhere.

  2. Alicefollower Avatar

    Do you think Internet Computer’s alternative way of hosting websites a good alternative to AWS?

    1. Admin Istrator Avatar

      I’m not a believer in Web 3.0. There are many good hosting options, most of these new options are simply more costly and less efficient.

  3. Tomasz Michałowski Avatar

    Thanks for posting this piece of writing. I’m without doubt frustrated with struggling to search out relevant and brilliant commentary on this subject. Everybody now goes to the very far extremes to either drive home their viewpoint that either: everyone else in the planet is wrong, or two that everyone but them does not in actuality understand the situation. Many thanks for your succinct, applicable insight.

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