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September 2023

2 posts from January 2024

An Excellent Read: The Verge on how "Google shapes everything on the web"

If you want to understand how we got to the Web that we have today, I would strongly recommend reading this beautiful piece by Mia Sato at The Verge on the theme of “Google shapes everything on the Web

It is an interactive piece that explains in both text and animations why it is that search engine optimization (SEO) has driven every website to look the same… why even short articles are being broken up by headings… why author bylines are suddenly expanding into bios…  … and why the #Web is increasingly bland, useless, and untrustworthy

It also explains why increasingly people are using other search experiences (ex TikTok) - or moving content into other systems - purely because the Web is no longer working in the way it used to. It’s now gamed by so many… and filled with generative-AI spawned content farms….

Certainly some of us keep posting to our good old websites or blogs… largely because they were and are labors of love, not profit.

But those seeking profit or fame are all playing the SEO game… and we with our regular old websites will lose out on the discovery.

I thought one of the final paragraphs was on point about the paywalling of content (my emphasis added):

But no matter what happens with Search, there’s already a splintering: a web full of cheap, low-effort content and a whole world of human-first art, entertainment, and information that lives behind paywalls, in private chat rooms, and on websites that are working toward a more sustainable model. As with young people using TikTok for search, or the practice of adding “reddit” to search queries, users are signaling they want a different way to find things and feel no particular loyalty to Google.

People are looking for alternatives, and increasingly they are moving to private communities / walled gardens in large part to avoid the spam... and to avoid the blandness and overall "enshittification" of the Web.

The Rise of AI-driven “Virtual Influencers” (to no surprise)

Visit “Aitana Lopez” on Instagram. As you scroll down, the account looks like that of any of the hundreds (or thousands) of “influencer” accounts on Instagram. “Aitana” post photos from her travels, of her wearing various clothes, and making references to various brands. 

Except… it’s fake.

As described on Ars Technica, this account is a complete fabrication developed by an ad agency in Barcelona. 

Why? Because they found that regular human “influencers” were starting to charge to much.

And so they wanted a cheaper way for their customers to advertise.

And so “AI-tana” was created. To be fair, they are very open about it being AI-generated. It’s right there in “her” bio. 

But other “virtual influencers” will not be so clear. And you won’t be able to know if an account is real or virtual.

Now, let’s be honest, that can also be the case today without generative AI. You can have an Instagram account with photos that come from stock photography or some other service - or could be of someone else.

But generative AI just makes this SO much easier.

And there’s no surprise… advertisers have always been looking for ways to pay less for advertising. This is just the natural evolution.