There was an interesting article over at one of the broadsheets in the past few days. I forget where I read it (I’ve searched my history and can’t find it) but, in short, it explained how the internet has become dominated by the biggest sites. The article reflected the sense I’ve been getting since I returned to regular blogging a few months ago. Not only is it very difficult to get people to move beyond their comfort zones, it’s hard to do so yourself, even when you’re actively searching to find something new that has real depth.
When I began to blog, there were hundreds of high quality competing blogs, all of which you could visit and read something new and interesting. These days, there’s next to nothing of those left. The Devil’s Kitchen has almost gone. So has Dizzythinks. Guido Fawkes has morphed into something big and more unpleasant than it was when it began. Even Iain Dale closed his (in my opinion) rather bland blog and has risen to become an equally bland radio and TV pundit. Many of the blogs I follow don’t update regularly. Others are in mothballs. The world has really moved onto Facebook and Twitter. The world has become thin.
The problem is that blogging is difficult and Twitter is easy. My favourite blog of all was Bryan Appleyard’s Thought Experiments and even that is now updated so sporadically it’s probably dead. No doubt it was a beast of an undertaking to write even a few days a week. It had depth and difficulty and both take more than 140 characters to develop. It might only my perception of things but the intellectual life isn’t quite there or, if it is, then I can’t find it. Instead I find myself watching academic conference and debates via Youtube or I search Nasa’s unhelpfully messy website for updates from scientists.
Meanwhile, myself, I get a few hits each day but that’s mainly because I have so much posted on the blog. Somebody in the world usually wants a ‘vet cartoon’ and so they might drop by. I get plenty of people searching for ‘3D porn for the Nintendo 3DS’, though, of course, there’s none to be had. Each day, I can get hundreds of visitors of this type. They’ll arrive, either like or (usually) dislike what they find and they’ll leave, never to return. One hit and they’re gone. You can’t class these people are readers.
The web feels like interstellar space and ‘space’, said Douglas Adams, ‘is big’. Like space, so much of the internet is just space. It’s no wonder that people gravitate towards the biggest and brightest points. There’s so much darkness in between that it’s becoming impossible to see or be seen.
For example: I recently had to buy a domain name for a project so I went to my favourite domain registrar and started to type in potential domain names ending in ‘.com’. It was shocking to see the results. It wasn’t shocking that every domain was taken and being used. It was shocking because nearly every domain was taken and was now on sale. So much of the internet is empty real estate where gold greedy prospectors have pitched their signs in the ground.
A ‘.com’ domain name should cost about £6 to register for a year. However, it’s rarely that easy. I defy you to find a decent name for a blog about, for example, ‘cheese’, that’s available for £6. In fact, I’ll do that as I type and I promise I won’t alter the results as they come up. Each domain is based on things that pop into my head around the word ‘cheese’ that might make a good website name.
Happycheese.com — Sold. Now parked but unused by GoDaddy who say I can buy it from them for an unspecified price. I bet it’s not £6, though.
Cheesemaker.com — Sold. Used by a cheese maker.
cheeseproducts.com — Sold. Currently parked but available to buy through a third party.
worldcheese.com — Premium domain. On sale for £2903!
happycheeseman.com — Available.
Justcheese.com — Sold but parked. Available to buy through a third party.
Cheesemaster.com — Sold. Premium domain for £9592!!!
Cheeselove.com — Sold. Parked. Available to buy through a third party
eatcheese.com — Sold. Website of The Melt.
laughingcheese.com — Sold. Blog about ecommerce. Last updated February 2012.
cheeseburp.com — Available
welovecheese.com — Sold. Parked. Available to buy through a third party.
The only two domains available to buy for £6 are ‘Happycheeseman’ and ‘cheeseburp’, both random combinations of words and not doubt too forgettable to be included in the miserable business plans of domain scalpers.
What we have, then are 10 web pages, only three of which belong to real websites. Seven out of the ten are just empty space, noise, the vacuum of web filler. Is it any wonder that people stick with the website domains that they can remember how to spell?
What makes me saddest of all is that www.thespine.com is still not available after nine years of waiting. It still shows a picture of a woman’s behind with links to osteopathy websites. Meanwhile, I have nearly ten years of genuine content on this blog, hardly any decent traffic, and I still have to use that lousy bloody hyphen… No wonder wiser people than me quit blogging a long time ago.by