The Myth of Fragmentation
The Internet promoted centralization from the start
Old media was the big three networks, centralization, and gatekeeping. New media is websites, fragmentation, and freedom of entry. That was what we believed, back when we were litigating bloggers vs journalists at the turn of the 21st century. No one can deny the point about freedom of entry; after blogs and other “web 2.0” technologies, essentially anyone capable of writing their own name could create a website, potentially viewable by anyone else in the world with an Internet connection. This is rather different from the small press or amateur zines of old, which were limited by the number of copies they could make and the extent of their distribution infrastructure. While the typical online equivalent may not see much more of an audience in practice, the potential audience available free of charge is enormous.
But fragmentation? In your dreams. As soon as mass adoption of the Internet began, so did centralization of a sort that was unfathomable in a less connected world. The laughable myths of a decentralized early web paper over very obvious examples of centralization. By 1999, for example, 39 percent of Americans’ online time was spent in AOL’s walled garden. Hardly what I would call “community-governed” with “no value accrual to the network.”
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