Jack Dorsey regrets helping create a centralized Internet

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,141   +154
Staff member
The big picture: Social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook have reshaped how information is presented and discovered on the Internet. Of course, not everyone is happy with how things turned out – even those that played a pivotal role in how we got here.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey in a recent tweet recalled the glory days of the earlier Internet, describing platforms like Usenet, IRC, the web and even e-mail (with PGP) as amazing. "Centralizing discovery and identity into corporations really damaged the Internet," Dorsey added.

He even conceded he was partially to blame and regrets it.

Dorsey co-founded Twitter in 2006 and became its first CEO, just as Myspace was nearing peak popularity and Facebook was preparing to surpass it. He relinquished the position in 2008, but returned for a second term in 2015 before stepping down again in 2021.

Dorsey's admission of regret is atypical, but since he is no longer involved with Twitter, he's free to speak his mind openly.

Arguments can be made on both sides of the aisle with regard to which version of the Internet – past or present – is "better." Proponents of the early Internet will point to its decentralized nature and the sense of wonder it presented. At times, it truly felt like anything was possible.

Today's Internet has permeated nearly every facet of modern society. It's way more accessible and capable than the Internet of yesteryear, and light years faster. This always-on, instant gratification has had some unintended consequences (privacy concerns, for example), but has also improved the quality of life for many millions of people.

Image credit Alexander Shatov

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 6,308   +7,247
Well, thanks to the state of global politics and the withdrawal of certain countries from participation, your mistake will be shortlived!

Globalism has effectively been cancelled.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,210   +4,248
Kinda rings absolutely hollow when he's doing it AGAIN except this time by trying to push Crypto as a way of rich bastards like him being able to just centralize their power and influence, except on a potentially much wider scale than just the internet if crypto bros like him have their way.

I refuse to believe he has learned nothing, on the contrary he believes he can do even better and wouldn't be surprised if these statements eventually turn into "You know what it's de-centralized right now? CRYPTO!" And just goes full into pump mode so he can dump his coins.
 

Burty117

Posts: 4,488   +2,694
Was the early Internet better than today's version?
I'd say it was yeah, far less filtering and moderating, was much easier to get to the actual truth rather than edited and filtered opinion's of "Journalists". Comedy has taken a hit as well, you watch video's from 2010 on YouTube and they can be some what edgy comedy which today would basically be blacklisted as not politically correct.

I will admit however it was way too easy to come across some gnarly sh*t on the internet back then, you did have to have your wits about you.
 

Nobina

Posts: 3,778   +4,209
I can't see a world where social media isn't created, someone is going to make it eventually and because people are the way they are it's going to be like it is now.

You can, as an individual, use social media the way it was advertised early, you know, communicate with your distant relatives and friends, promote your business, etc...Basically, ignore the "bad" parts of it. That way, you will have a much better impression of it.
 

m4a4

Posts: 2,894   +3,704
TechSpot Elite
I can't see a world where social media isn't created, someone is going to make it eventually and because people are the way they are it's going to be like it is now.

You can, as an individual, use social media the way it was advertised early, you know, communicate with your distant relatives and friends, promote your business, etc...Basically, ignore the "bad" parts of it. That way, you will have a much better impression of it.
Yup. I have stuff heavily customized on my end (particularly with FB). A lot of the BS, drama, and ads are filtered out (thanks to a plugin on PC).

Much more peaceful than the way they want you to consume social media these days...
 

Axeia

Posts: 42   +43
I'd say it was yeah, far less filtering and moderating, was much easier to get to the actual truth rather than edited and filtered opinion's of "Journalists". Comedy has taken a hit as well, you watch video's from 2010 on YouTube and they can be some what edgy comedy which today would basically be blacklisted as not politically correct.

I will admit however it was way too easy to come across some gnarly sh*t on the internet back then, you did have to have your wits about you.
Old YouTube was so much better. The music parody channels were great but they all stopped making content because companies steal their ad revenue, get their music or even the whole video removed. Hell, every youtuber now has to make sure there isn't a random 10s segment with copyrighted music or there goes all their revenue. How much of the ad revenue actually goes to the creators has also taken a massive nose dive so now every single one has a patreon, in video sponsorship or product store (or all of these). If they get by on those and want to give YouTube the finger by selecting the option not to add ads to their video YouTube nowadays doesn't respect that anymore and serves up ads anyway. Not to mention none of them dares to say a 'bad' word anymore because that means they're less likely to get suggested to other people and thus miss views. Everything is so regulated, so predictable.

I for one definitely miss the unregulated internet where 90% of videos on YouTube wasn't people shilling products but just passionate people doing their thing.
 
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shark975

Posts: 80   +97
Disclaimer: as a right winger I hate the censorship of the big tech corpo-fascists. THAT SAID.

This sounds to me like typical nostalgia, we imagine the past as much, much better than it actually was. Great example of this for me is NES or other old school retro games. So fun as a child, so many memories, but if I'm honest today those old school games just...arent actually very fun to play (as opposed to nostalgia trip around) lol.

Also strikes me this is a VERY narrow young white, technically inclined male centric view (again, that's coming coming from a white male right winger LOL). Your grandma or young daughter was NOT a big fan of "usenet", I promise.

But sure, I can agree with the general sentiment that the vapid, often far leftist, conformity and amalgamating of facebook, IG, twitter users etc kinda sucks.
 

Vanderlinde

Posts: 141   +101
I quit using social media. That is Twitter and Facebook. They are only consuming energy from me while being subjected to daily feeds that really add no beneficial, and it's only the opposite of being productive.

Since I quit I have far more energy for things that either matter or should be done.
 

Aaron Fox

Posts: 153   +90
Great example of this for me is NES or other old school retro games. So fun as a child, so many memories, but if I'm honest today those old school games just...arent actually very fun to play.
Those games were designed for children. Take children from today who have never played video games and let them play those NES games. They'd love them (the good ones, at least).

It's also helpful to have those games on CRTs with the composite interface, to avoid input lag and overly-saturated colour.
 

Aaron Fox

Posts: 153   +90
It's funny to read comments about Youtube in the context of the early Internet. Youtube is late Internet. (Google's big bait and switch was something I totally expected. Get everyone used to using the site and then monetize/corporatize more and more and more. So many fell for the trick.)

The early Internet wasn't all that great, I'd say. There was a lot less content, browsers were very unstable, operating systems were unstable, connection speeds were slow and connections unreliable, search was more difficult (Google, for its many bad sides did make search a lot more accurate), et cetera. I was briefly famous, though, for my site having the only listing for a particular subject in Yahoo — which was once a very big deal in terms of finding things. At that time, curated subject-based searching was considered a real alternative to keyword searching.

I am very pleased to not have to use Netscape 1.1N–3.0 again, on Macs that freeze at the drop of a hat, Windows 95 machines that constantly drop you back to the desktop, and Windows NT machines that slow to a crawl. My first run-in with the Internet was via a 286 running Windows 3.1. The word slow doesn't even begin to describe it, and that was with the school's broadband connection.

If you had had to use the Internet via a 14.4 modem on a Mac Performa with Netscape 2.02 (because it didn't have enough RAM to run Netscape 3) you'd never want those days back. (Netscape was superior to the later IE through version 4.71 or so — when it stopped moving forward because of MS' tactics.)

One early Internet thing I did like, though, was Gopher. It was pleasing to use because it had no images and no colour. Everything was text, so the mind could really be free of annoyances. The main drawback was that it wasn't easy to navigate. It would have also been better with monochrome (1-bit) graphical ability for things like charts. There really is no substitute for a good set of charts in most journal articles and in some other contexts.

The only reason I would want to go back, aside from being able to found some famous sites (like Ebay) in order to cash in and have them made the way I'd want them to work, would be to build the Internet around actual user security — including e-mail. That is a missed opportunity but I am sure those in power wouldn't have allowed it. An insecure net is one that is obviously vastly easier to monitor and mine. They knew about security in those days, too.

IRC and Telnet aren't things I miss at all. Newsgroups were also clunky.

Some things about the current evolution are seriously annoying, though — like sites demanding cellular numbers. Twitter, for example, pretended that it didn't require it but in order to be granted rights to actually use the site you had to cough it up. Governments also keep demanding very sensitive information to be typed into insecure sites. Medical information continues to be put more and more on the Internet, despite the inability of even huge firms to prevent leakage. The next step is for all of our biometric data to be constantly uploaded. Oh wait... there's Apple already on that.

The Internet is becoming much like a boa constrictor — impossible to escape and slowly squeezing every drop of privacy out (that's privacy you think is under your control, like typing in sensitive information and logging into sites to view your medical information — the actual privacy is already long long gone via the hidden machinations of the corporate–government complex).
 

Burty117

Posts: 4,488   +2,694
It's funny to read comments about Youtube in the context of the early Internet.
I think it's more, there was a "golden" moment for the internet. You're absolutely right, early internet was a bit rubbish, browsers sucked, websites were simple, AOL was everywhere.

There was a period though where a lot of that got sorted AND there was far less moderation. It only lasted a few years but (at least for me) that's the era I refer to.
 

Mithan

Posts: 131   +146
Kinda rings absolutely hollow when he's doing it AGAIN except this time by trying to push Crypto as a way of rich bastards like him being able to just centralize their power and influence, except on a potentially much wider scale than just the internet if crypto bros like him have their way.

I refuse to believe he has learned nothing, on the contrary he believes he can do even better and wouldn't be surprised if these statements eventually turn into "You know what it's de-centralized right now? CRYPTO!" And just goes full into pump mode so he can dump his coins.

Crypto crashes when digital currencies for actual countries happens.

Anyways, the problem with the internet is that it now requires apps. WWW is the best way to go. No doubt they will try to cancel the URL in the future.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,210   +4,248
Crypto crashes when digital currencies for actual countries happens.

Anyways, the problem with the internet is that it now requires apps. WWW is the best way to go. No doubt they will try to cancel the URL in the future.
Yes this is a big issue. Paraphrasing something I've seen recently is the idea that once businesses got involved in the .net boom of the late 90s then the expectation was to add in complexity for complexity's sake: This wasn't necessarily features people absolutely needed but features big corporations demanded to set themselves apart.

This is how we had complexity escalate out of reach for most people and then coding frameworks, platforms and services for people like web apps got started. But outside of database sizes for mega sites like Facebook it could conceivable work on just html itself: people literally just want to publish pictures and text 99% of the time and used to do this on self built or at worst wordpress blogs before social networks captured that space.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 2,373   +2,885
TechSpot Elite
Yeah, he says he regrets it but probably not enough to trade the millions of dollars he was probably paid to do it. That's like a petrochemical company CEO saying that he regrets having helped to destroy the environment from his villa in Spain.
 

Axeia

Posts: 42   +43
Yes this is a big issue. Paraphrasing something I've seen recently is the idea that once businesses got involved in the .net boom of the late 90s then the expectation was to add in complexity for complexity's sake: This wasn't necessarily features people absolutely needed but features big corporations demanded to set themselves apart.

This is how we had complexity escalate out of reach for most people and then coding frameworks, platforms and services for people like web apps got started. But outside of database sizes for mega sites like Facebook it could conceivable work on just html itself: people literally just want to publish pictures and text 99% of the time and used to do this on self built or at worst wordpress blogs before social networks captured that space.
It's because apps have more permissions than a website. The big companies want access to your contact list, see what files you're keeping, spam you with notifications so you stay engaged etc etc. Stuff like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit need an app as much this site does (they don't). But Reddit for example makes their site so annoying to use with install the app overlays that their site becomes a nuisance to use. It seems the early vision of Google etc was websites so flexible they'd work on both desktop and mobile and could feel like a native app. But the immense success of the Apple app store showed that people are willing to install lots of apps, blindly give them permissions and even pay for simple features.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,210   +4,248
It's because apps have more permissions than a website. The big companies want access to your contact list, see what files you're keeping, spam you with notifications so you stay engaged etc etc. Stuff like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit need an app as much this site does (they don't). But Reddit for example makes their site so annoying to use with install the app overlays that their site becomes a nuisance to use. It seems the early vision of Google etc was websites so flexible they'd work on both desktop and mobile and could feel like a native app. But the immense success of the Apple app store showed that people are willing to install lots of apps, blindly give them permissions and even pay for simple features.
Not sure I can dispute that: it is possible that the permissions and data mining were the objective all along specially for how much sites like Facebook have been able to capitalize on that and data mine to hell and back while offering back an entry level blogging platform to people to just share content at the cost of well, most of their privacy and definitively all of their data.