We Need To Rewild The Internet draws analogies from Waldsterben to the Internet:

The story of German scientific forestry transmits a timeless truth: When we simplify complex systems, we destroy them, and the devastating consequences sometimes aren’t obvious until it’s too late.


The internet made the tech giants possible. Their services have scaled globally, via its open, interoperable core. But for the past decade, they’ve also worked to enclose the varied, competing and often open-source or collectively provided services the internet is built on into their proprietary domains. Although this improves their operational efficiency, it also ensures that the flourishing conditions of their own emergence aren’t repeated by potential competitors. For tech giants, the long period of open internet evolution is over. Their internet is not an ecosystem. It’s a zoo.

Yes, for a brief moment, we had something wild and verdant. Of course, the early web springs to mind, but before that there were FTP servers and WAIS and Gopher — all now distant memories of an older generation. The article mentions some of this:

Whatever we do, the internet isn’t returning to old-school then-common interfaces like FTP and Gopher, or organizations operating their own mail servers again instead of off-the-shelf solutions like G-Suite. But some of what we need is already here, especially on the web. Look at the resurgence of RSS feeds, email newsletters and blogs, as we discover (yet again) that relying on one app to host global conversations creates a single point of failure and control. New systems are growing, like the Fediverse with its federated islands, or Bluesky with algorithmic choice and composable moderation.

I, however, think it is overly optimistic. Some of the new systems mentioned have already all but gone again. The battle is up too steep a hill: this is but a corner of everything else late capitalism is doing to us and the planet. We can fight many small fights and perhaps partly succeed, for a moment, but if we do not address the root cause, there will be new ones and new ones and yet new ones.

© Henning Bertram 2024