An Audacious Plan to Halt the Internet’s Enshittification and Throw It Into Reverse

My Defcon 31 speech, delivered August 12 in Las Vegas.

A photograph of me speaking on stage at Defcon 31.
Ken Nichols, used with permission

I have a confession to make: I am old. I turned 52 last month, the full deck of cards. I have two artificial hips. I have cataracts in both eyes. I’m old as dirt.

You may know that the AARP has a squad junk-mail ninjas that track you down on your 50th birthday to try to sell you a membership. Less well known is that the AARP also issues every 50 year old with a license to complain about how much worse things are today than they used to be in my day

I know that complaint is trite, but I think it’s true when it comes to the internet. I think the internet used to be better, back before it turned into what the Kiwi hacker Tom Eastman calls “five giant websites filled with screenshots of text from the other four.”

I miss the old, good internet. But this isn’t a talk about bringing the old good internet back. It’s a talk about what a new good web could be.

And why we don’t have it.

And how we’ll get it.
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Enshitternet

The old, good internet deserves a new, good internet

A trio of public toilet stalls, each fitted with a pay toilet coin-op lock. The middle lock’s mechanism has been replaced with the menacing, staring red eye of HAL 9000 from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ The space around and beneath the stalls is filled with a ‘Code Rain’ effect from the credit sequences of the Wachowksis’ ‘The Matrix.’
Cryteria/CC BY 3.0 (modified)

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers. –Socrates

Nostalgia is a toxic impulse. –Judge John Hodgman

I’m an official Old Person (I turned 52 last month). According to the AARP, that means that I am now officially entitled to complain that back in my day, things used to be better.

I am suspicious of this impulse! When I started dialing BBSes in the early 1980s, the Old Hands there told me that it was all downhill after acoustic couplers and that modems were degrading the noosphere into a fallen paradise.

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