Imagine Not Living in a Big Tech World

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Imagine Not Living in a Big Tech World

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here . is a collection of last column,

I want to tell you about the rise and fall of the once popular storytelling website Upworthy. This is one of a billion examples of the power of Facebook and other technology superstars to make or break the dreams of other companies.

I recently spoke to Eli Pariser, one of Upworthy’s co-founders, about the company’s history. It’s relevant because nearly a decade after it started, we’re still grappling with the risks and rewards of a handful of technology companies serving as gates to online success.

Pariser is now part of a project that has compelling but hard-to-imagine ideas for breaking out of this trap.

Upworthy’s story isn’t new or particularly unusual, and that’s it. Just about everyone trying to make a living on the Internet or in the real world knows the potential pitfalls of relying on Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple. But there is almost no way around these giants.

When Upworthy started in 2012, its mission was to get people to focus on what it is socially meaningful and to uplift the topics that grab us on Facebook with the headline written – “Move Over , Barbie – You’re Obsolete” and “This wonderful kid got to enjoy 19 wonderful years on this planet. What he left is amazing.”

At the peak of its popularity in late 2013, Upworthy’s website was visited by approximately 90 million people each month. According to comScore, roughly the same number of Americans visit Yelp at least once a month.

Others consistently copied Upworthy’s strategy, and the result was a sea of ​​sensation on Facebook. “You’ll never believe what happened next!” What turned out to be a funny description of a Facebook post that promised a lucrative payoff and clicked you, but often didn’t deliver.

Facebook made several changes in 2014 to broadcast fewer posts that the company considered “click bait”. The upright click was far from the worst pusher of the bat, but was caught in the throes of getting it out. The company still exists, but it is a shadow of its former self.

Pariser acknowledged that Facebook was not the only one to blame for Upworthy’s troubles. Online news publishers often shine in the pan. But Pariser said that Upworthy’s intention was to accomplish things that were important to Facebook — and then Facebook changed what it wanted.

Tech giants may have good motivation behind changes that sometimes hurt small businesses, as if stamping out deceptive click bait on Facebook was a worthy goal. (Though clicking bait on Facebook is still a thing. It’s just different.)

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Upworthy’s stellar rise and fall made it one of many companies that have both benefited and hurt from the influence of America’s tech superpowers. Technology giants love to brag about the ways they help small businesses — and they certainly do. But they say it’s an aberration when smaller companies suffer. This. This is the flip side of their influence and reach.

It is part of the legacy of our digital lives in which certain technological superpowers have a huge impact on what we read, what we buy, and how we inform and entertain.

Pariser is now co-director with Talia Stroud of a group called New Public, which seeks to create a healthier online life by being a more palatable alternative to the tech giant.

He and others, including researchers at the Aspen Institute, envision more small websites and apps that are managed for goals other than the same benefits as public parks, schools and libraries. Pariser cites the example of Front Porch Forum, an independent local message board in Vermont. (You can read about its research and ideas in a new public presentation here.)

We’re used to the internet that we have right now, and I know it’s hard to imagine what a different path might look like or how it could be. The Front Porch Forum is notable partly because it is so rare.

But it’s worth thinking about ways to shake up the structure of the Internet as it exists. The thing is, you have more options so that your neighbors who want to create an online group have options other than Facebook or Nextdoor, companies like Upworthy don’t have to rely on Facebook and Textbook sellers have opportunities beyond Amazon,

“We live in a world where everyone is eating from some fast food store,” Pariser said. “I think a restaurant scene is going to be more fruitful and nutritious as well as more enjoyable.”

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  • “People are desperate so they believe anything.” My colleagues write about how misinformation on social media, particularly on Facebook, has misled people into believing they can immigrate to the EU via Belarus.

  • The pros and cons of technology to keep an eye on aging loved ones: The Washington Post looks to technologies like Amazon’s Alexa devices to check in elderly people with video feeds or app updates. Done right, those technologies can empower older people to live independently. Or they can be aggressive and a poor substitute for a true support system. (A subscription may be required.)

  • “Seriously, just give everyone a free e-bike.” Jay Caspian Kang, a New York Times Opinion writer, is an e-bike convert. He envisions that city governments could give them to any resident who closes some roads to most cars to improve the environment, reconsider public space use, and save taxpayer money on road repairs. .

Writer Rebecca Makkai challenges her Twitter followers “Come back with the most amazing picture of a hat you can find.” ns tiny little cowboy hat on a cat could be my favourite. or maybe aretha,

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