The Great Web 2.0 Slaughter of 2023.
In which in one fell swoop I delete my accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, 500px, Netflix and Hulu, to instead embrace a web3 future of federated, decentralized social networking
#leaving #migration #facebook #twitter #instagram #flickr #500px #netflix #hulu #web20 #web3 #mastodon #federation #fediverse #instances #future #corporateinfluence #EvilBillionaireSuperVillains
Well, it’s official—I’m quitting Twitter. Yeah, I know, I was just talking about this about six months ago, right? Back then, I said I was impressed and intrigued by the idea of moving permanently to the open-source, decentralized “social media as email address” movement known as Mastodon (which to be clear is the same thing from a slightly different perspective Jack Dorsey is trying to do at Bluesky), but that I wanted a greater need to actually move over to it before I fully would, and for it to have any chance of mainstream adoptability. Well, since those six months ago, we’ve now had a literal crazy evil billionaire spacecraft-owning supervillain buy Twitter; Facebook bump up now against the maximum profit it will ever make, and currently starting to take a tumble down now that Zuckerberg can’t figure out anything like VR or AR or any other magic wand that will save it; and Instagram completely collapse as it tries to chase the tail of TikTok, doing it in the usual mediocre way a giant corporation always does it when they try to pivot too quickly, pleasing neither the TikTok fans they were looking to convert nor old Instagram users like me who quickly left the service.
That’s enough to finally make Mastodon look a lot more attractive, right? So, lo and behold, that’s what I’m in the process of doing right now, and I’ve begun double-posting everything I usually do at my various “Web 2.0” social networks now to my “web3” Mastodon account, @firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re hip and in the know, you’ll know how to use that “Mastodress” to immediately add me to your own Mastodon feed; but if you’re normal like me, you can just visit the web page Mastodon.cloud outputs on my behalf so you can browse my updates in a style very similar to a page at Twitter, and click a big giant “Follow Jason” button like you already know and love. The goal is to spend the following months of autumn and into the winter getting everyone trained to follow that new, open address that anyone can follow using any Mastodon client they want; then right before New Year’s, I’m going to do a massive slaughtering of my old Web 2.0 life, by not only deactivating but actively deleting all my content and account info at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, saying goodbye (and good riddance) to those bloated, horrible old systems for good, and really embracing all of ours’ glorious web3 futures.
Well, okay, perhaps “same ol’ pictures of cats wanting cheeseburgers” is a bit too much to legitimately call “glorious,” but certainly the “receiving your pictures of cats wanting cheeseburgers at whatever destination you want” part is worth celebrating as our future, especially in light of the triple implosion recently of the former three biggest social networks in the world. See, for those who are having a hard time catching on, the tech behind Mastodon basically treats the information from a social media update in the same openly formatted way for everyone, which means that like email, it doesn’t matter who originally sent it and who eventually receives it, because it’s being sent under the same open tech standards that all the recipients understand in at least a basic way. So any organization at all who maintains their own Mastodon server (known in that community’s parlance as a “Mastodon instance”) can give it a domain name like any website has a domain name, and then anyone with the rights to do so can set up their own Mastodon address there using whatever their name is (@jasonpettus) followed by the domain name of the group hosting them (@email@example.com).
So that means, for example, that any high-schooler with a spare computer and a suburban family’s always-on internet connection could set up a Mastodon server just for their family (and in fact this is kind of the best-case scenario Mastodon utopians imagine when talking about this subject), so that I as the theoretical father of that family might be reached at @firstname.lastname@example.org. That lets me communicate with the world in the same uniquely fun and informative way that comes with tweets or other small media-rich updates, but controlling the entire thing from just an old Windows laptop that 17-year-old @email@example.com has set up in our basement, no Twitter needed, thank you very much. All of my friends are on Mastodon accounts themselves, after all, so even if others’ accounts are hosted by big giant public corporations the size and scope of Twitter at its former height, all their media-rich updates get sent to my little tiny home server effortlessly anyway, because it’s all based on an open system of standards everyone is agreeing to. In turn, it’s effortless for any other Mastodon person on the planet to subscribe to my tiny little home account being run on this spare Windows laptop in the basement, because it just has a public address like everyone else does; and thus is the system working exactly like Facebook or Twitter, only that everyone is at whatever kind of hosting situation they want to be at, whether a big public place, a smaller niche one devoted to a specific subject, or a tiny family one run off an old Windows laptop in the basement.
And that’s not all, but since this is simply a data-transfer protocol to begin with, it works remarkably similar to the old RSS protocol of Web 2.0 days; so for example, this very journal where you’re reading this at the moment has its own unique Mastodon address, which is @firstname.lastname@example.org, and there’s nothing really stopping any publication on the planet from having a Mastodon address for delivering its content as well. That way, if you don’t want to deal with all the nonsense at my main Mastodon account (the dark humor, the goofy memes, the snotty attitude, the obscure jokes about Medieval saints and the like), you can just subscribe to the blog’s feed directly, and get new issues delivered right to your home feed and nothing else besides that. So this, if widely adopted, could not only take the place of “legacy social media” like Facebook and Twitter for good, but could take the place of your RSS feed reader too. With a variety of reader formats you could design because of the open nature of its data, there’s really no telling what kinds of interesting stuff you could do with the Mastodon protocol; for example, it'd be easy enough to take the data that comes in from one and convert that HTML and CSS into an ebook format for a Kindle, for real-time newspaper updates delivered straight to the front page of your ebook device or tablet.
So yes, I’ve decided to really embrace the future possibility of Mastodon (or Bluesky, or however the “open social media” movement ends up shaking out), and to do so in a way so that I can’t come back, and that shows these companies that I’m really serious this time about leaving and never returning. I don’t want my shadow account to still be among the “3.2 billion registered members” or whatever these dwindling companies will still be crowing about as they fall apart. I want there to be at least one less when it comes to that 3.2 billion, and to delete all my old intellectual content as thoroughly as I can before doing so. And that’s why I’m also quitting Flickr at the same time, extra-sad in this case because it’s literally the oldest social network I belong to (going all the way back to 2005, which is…gasp, 17 years ago now). That poor sad company has been bought and sold for its parts several times at this point, neglected and beaten-up and not deserving the slow downfall it’s experienced; it finally ended up with some photography printing company that at first had all these high ideals it was spouting about preserving such a large chunk of internet history, but then the people with the money prevailed and said, “Yeah, you gotta start shutting down huge parts of this massive server farm Flickr has built up over the decades in the name of storing all these images.” (At its height, the company had over 6 billion images for either public or private display, all of them connected to a single pervasive search engine and graphic global map.) And I figure I might as well shut down my account at 500px as well, the newest social network I’ve joined, which was supposed to have been an alternative to Flickr, but it’s just too exclusively filled with semi-cheesy commercial photographers who commit Murder By Photoshop on nearly every overly filtered picture of a skyscraper or tree leaf they post. Chop them all out of my life, I say! Drain the swamp and et cetera and so forth!
So that then finally just left my out-of-control streaming life to deal with, because at the same time I’ve been thinking about all of the various Web 2.0 social networks scattered all over the place that I no longer enjoy visiting, I’ve also been thinking about all the money I spend to belong to so many different video streaming services. I don’t want to say that any of them have been a “waste” of my money, and indeed, that’s part of the problem, that the movie industry has fragmented into so many different streaming services now, with each having an exclusive roster of movies not seen anywhere else, you really do have to belong to five or six different services to truly have access to, like, 98 percent of what you might possibly want to watch (compared to, for example, my own youth of watching television, where simply turning the set on immediately gave you access to 100 percent of what you might possibly want to watch). But that’s simply too much money for me to be paying just to have access to 98 percent of everything in the world I would want to be watching at these streaming services, especially given that a giant part of what I in particular want to be watching these days is old and obscure movies that generally don’t run on streaming services to begin with, but that I have to rent through Google Play or torrent through The Pirate Bay. I think it’s time to pay, like 20 percent of that growing annual fee, to instead have access to…hmm, 90 percent of whatever I might want to be watching in the world of streaming these days. I can’t keep up with any of it anyway—at all five of these services, I have watchlists that are each up into the three digits apiece.
So, I’m going with HBO Max, because it has the best ratio of classic old movies to blockbuster modern ones and interesting unique content. And because Netflix has just been wearing out its welcome with me more and more with just the endless parade of crap they’ve been putting out there in recent years, while reducing their content of anything else made by Hollywood more and more to make room for it all. If you want to be primarily a content company, Netflix, you better start putting out some better freaking content and do it soon, because this whole “creativity through algorithm” nonsense ain’t cutting it for you anymore, and you’re driving away people like me in droves who have been longtime customers since all the way back in the DVD days. If I’m only to deliberately pay to belong to one streaming company, which is my goal for 2023, it’s going to be HBO Max, because it literally and quite simply has more stuff I want to watch. When the Netflix original content is good, it’s always popular enough that I can easily find it at The Pirate Bay. If I can’t find it there easily, most likely I wasn’t going to want to watch it in the first place. Meanwhile, there’s not too terribly much other a reason anymore to actually subscribe there.
Meanwhile, then, I’ll pair up my HBO Max account with my Amazon Prime Video one, which I get “for free” as a bonus to the Amazon Prime membership I pay for each year, which primarily and mostly (I can’t emphasize this enough) is so I get free two-day shipping all year, often free one-day shipping, sometimes literally free overnight shipping for the next morning, or of course free shipping at any time to the Amazon lockers just a two-block walk from my apartment. Amazon Prime Video ain’t great, but I get it for free as part of all this free shipping, and it especially always has a nice back selection of strange older titles worth visiting again or sometimes for the first time. And then ironically enough, one of my favorite streaming services of all is actually a completely free one from the get-go, in return for advertising; it’s a place called Tubi, which has essentially taken the place of the cheesy low-budget syndicated UHF channels that used to snowily populate the “weird dial” of old analog television sets of my Mid-Century Modernist early childhood of the early 1970s. It has all the strange, forgotten stuff from the ‘60s through ‘90s that always made it fun to sit back on a Saturday on your couch with a bag of Cheetos and watch three movies in a row on Channel 30, where a big part of the enjoyment was just seeing what random strange shit got plopped in your lap that particular Saturday.
Cutting way down to just one paid streaming account, then combined with the collapse of all my old Web 2.0 destinations to instead bring them all to one open-source feed at Mastodon, while outputting all my creative work next year at my various blogs at my Write.as Pro account, feels like a very good direction to be going here on what feels like a very momentous time right now for the history and development of this so-called “web3” movement for freer, more open, less commercial online interactions. This, right this moment, is really feeling like a right time to finally quit these companies for good that it hasn’t felt like in the past, and really embrace the idea instead of social media now being just another common way we all communicate, and that there deserves to be a way to share these social media updates as easily as we currently swap emails back and forth to each other, or texts on each other’s phones. I look forward to joining you all in the coming months over at mastodon.cloud/@jasonpettus , as we all hopefully put these increasingly icky Web 2.0 projects behind us for good.
But hey, don’t forget, I’m doing a free newsletter about being a book editor over at jasonpettus.substack.com these days! Yeehaw, getting almost a thousand pieces of engagement with each new issue over there these days! I’m just doing what I always do over there, talk with interesting literary people, share my opinions of recent books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched, and share interesting little lectures or tutorials on grammar issues or sometimes editing issues, sometimes self-publishing marketing and sometimes the history of an American idiom. I’m really grateful that the newsletter has taken off in a way that I wasn’t expecting, and I invite you to take the journey with the rest of us there if you’re a literary person yourself, especially someone who’s self-publishing or part of an indie-press community. And, phew, I got so much else that I need to get started with or over with or more often with or more adept with—Cities: Skylines, Amtrak trips soon to quaint little towns in the Midwest, my possible NaNoWriMo political thriller I’ll possibly be writing possibly this November, and just all kinds of other stuff too—so I will hopefully get more on the ball about getting more up to speed on this journal and regular updates of it. I’ve been paying for a Pro account here for almost a year at this point, so I think it’s finally time to get it set up, and to create a new set of HTML and CSS for displaying the blog contents you’re currently looking at. All of that coming soon, and of course the shutdown of all my old social media accounts, so I hope you’ll continue following along for all the latest.