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The Yesterweb postmortem is a mess

I've had this quasi-rant stored in my files for a while, but I'm posting it in public because I don't give a fuck anymore.

Anyone who has been in "small web" spaces has probably heard of the Yesterweb. It seemed like everyone was in their webring (some people still have the defunct widget up, even), and supposedly they were very active in proseltyzing on social media because there's a cutesy infographic page on their website. (I wouldn't know, as I don't use social media.)

I thought the Yesterweb was really annoying, and I didn't agree with what they were on about. Ultimately, though, I thought they were just a harmless clique that I happened to find obnoxious, so I didn't really care.

When I saw they shut down and left a very long postmortem to remember them by, I decided to give the thing a read because I was expecting silly petty internet drama. I love internet drama! And then I ended up getting significantly more than I had mentally prepared myself for. The following is more or less a text version of a stupid Youtube reaction video, so sorry* if you were expecting an eloquent takedown or something.


Our journey begins with the YW's view of the current state of the internet:

The core web is the "default" internet experience for all human beings, largely defined by monopoly-capitalist platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, and others. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon largely provide the foundations which define the (soft but noticeable) boundaries of the core megalopolis through their search engines and hosting services. [...] The core web experience is profit-optimized, keeping individuals within their platforms and services and susceptible to their media in order to maximize advertising, sales, and data collection.
The peripheral web can be described as the outskirts of the core web, with platforms such as Mastodon, SpaceHey, Neocities, Discord and IRC chatrooms, Matrix rooms, various imageboards, and others, including various functional clones of core web applications. It is the digital countryside of the corporate megalopolis. Advertising, sales, and data collection are substantially reduced if not entirely eliminated, providing better conditions for people to socialize in and a healthier experience overall.

This is silly. The line they've drawn is basically "websites I like" vs. "websites I don't like." Sure, many of the "peripheral web" examples don't sell data to advertisers, but it's a giant leap of logic to argue that this automatically means that these platforms provide a "healthier experience."

Take Mastodon, for example. It's been put up on a pedestal as the answer to Twitter, but... it's a Twitter clone. You will still find all the same stupid bullshit that you can find on Twitter.

If you’re looking for a fight on the Fediverse, you will find one. If you want to doomscroll, the Federated feed is an inexhaustible firehose of sewage. It is still possible to be up all night staring at people posting inanity and resisting the urge to pick a fight because you think somebody is wrong on the internet.

Starbreaker: I Quit Mastodon Again

But it's healthy because it doesn't have ads? Okay. (You might argue the Yesterweb folks said healthIER, not necessarily healthy, but I genuinely do not believe Mastodon is inherently any better for one's mental state than Twitter is.)

Anyway, that's not even my biggest issue with all this, despite the ridiculous amount of space I just wasted complaining about it. Here's what really bothers me: Isn’t it weird how the “bad websites” are supposed to be the scary big cities while the “good websites” are supposed to be the nice safe countryside?

And there's more:

Efforts from peripheral inhabitants to convince core inhabitants to move to the periphery are almost entirely spontaneous and disorganized.

This is pretty anodyne by itself, but if we are to take it in the context of the clumsy metaphor they're trying to set up here...

Wasn’t there some other thing that happened in relatively recent American history with people fleeing from urban to suburban and rural areas? What was that called again?

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that The Implications were unintentional, but it's very interesting that so many people signed off on this without even one person being like, "Hey, isn't this kind of racist?"

But you'll be pleased to learn that the YW is actually very progressive despite that gaffe. Seriously!

Our overall strategy was to educate people through the progressive perspective, work to resolve problems in the progressive direction on the individual and social level, and criticize the regressive perspectives and solutions to win people over to the progressive direction.

This is a sentence that means things! We promise!

Because they are so committed to progressivism, YW will now throw the majority of their adherents under the bus:

However, Nostalgia would often lead to a regressive attitude within the space that made it difficult to achieve any sort of change. [...] This focus on nostalgia would also lead to an uncritical view of what the "old web" was. Many users would express a desire to return to an "old web" that did not exist, often with beliefs that the old web was inherently less bigoted, less consumerist, and less restrictive. While some of this is true depending on where you look, users would become hyper-focused on returning to a past that never existed rather than wanting to pursue a future that fit their values.

From an outsider's point of view, YW did a horrible job at making this distinction (assuming this really was their viewpoint and they're not just retroactively embellishing things). I mean, the entire thing is called “Yesterweb,” and it’s been actively feeding on the nostalgia thing to build its brand/following.

Speaking of throwing people under the bus, they then throw in this whopper to really drive home how woke they are:

The Yesterweb played a significant role in transforming the community and parts of the peripheral web. This has made a lot of unorganized people very upset - particularly transphobes, anti-social personalities, and general regressives - and has driven many of them away from these spaces.

Classifying everyone who disagrees or criticizes you as “transphobes, anti-social personalities, and general regressives” isn’t a good look, and that’s not even getting into the casual ableism of lumping so-called “anti-social personalities” in with transphobes and other “regressives.”

It is important now to proclaim that we no longer consider what we do as part of a web revival. [...] There is a lot of significance and impact in words and we have to be careful when we say things like "old web" and "yesterweb" and "web revival" because it obscures the fundamentally new aspects of what is going on. The fascination with the old ideals and aesthetics had a real effect on our ability to advance towards a new web.

Again, really rich to say this kind of thing when they’ve been actively encouraging “old web aesthetics” this entire time - one only needs to glance at their zine to see this.


Now time for some boring drivel about their Discord server or whatever. Hey, so much for Discord being a healthy experience, I guess!

The YW has some things to say about the people in their Discord server. First, we've got the "extremely online," which they characterize like so:

[T]he section of people who are perceived to have a severe online-offline balance and out of touch with reality. [...] We found no evidence of anyone making a decision to confine themselves indoors that wasn't severely affected by conditions outside of their control. It can be a disability, an illness, a dependency, a displacement, a remote location, a financial situation, a hostile environment, or a streak of bad luck. Being extremely online can be a temporary experience that lasts months or years - most will try to fix this imbalance if they believe in the possibility.

Characterizing disabled people as “extremely online” and “out of touch with reality” is a great and not at all terribly messed up thing to do. And hold up, what?

most will try to fix this imbalance if they believe in the possibility.

So... yeah.

Second, we have those evil adults who don't want to talk to random kids on the internet:

We can only speculate that they are afraid of being around children due to a lack of self-control in discussing inappropriate topics, or that they have a disdain for new cultures that they do not understand, or that they have an irrational prejudice toward children (even though they were once children themselves). We call for thorough self-reflections on this matter.

I work with kids for a living. I like these kids! I think they're fun to talk to! And under absolutely no circumstances would I want to chat them up on the internet. So I guess I have an irrational prejudice towards children.

Third, we've got the "socially-marginalized diasporas":

A significant part of the Yesterweb userbase was what we will call "socially-marginalized diasporas". This label includes societally marginalized groups such as LGBT + people, neurodivergent/neuroatypical people, and groups that are marginalized in more informal ways such as furries, otherkin/alterhumans, non-disordered plural systems, and more.

Isn’t it so funny how apparently nonwhite and disabled people aren’t important enough to get mentioned here, but furries and otherkin are? That’s so funny. It’s even funnier that they’ve co-opted the word “diaspora” from the original usage, which is applied to ethnic groups. So funny!

Sidebar: “Racism” and “ableism” aren’t mentioned in this document even once, but surely this phenomenon is completely unrelated to the above quote or their stance towards nonwhite and disabled people in general.

What of the socioeconomic makeup of the Yesterweb? Fortunately, they've really done their demographic research here too.

Open admission to being lower-class is almost only found on core social media platforms among the people accessing the internet from the poorer countries within Asia, Africa, or Latin America. From our social investigations across many different areas of the peripheral web and within our community, those using the internet who are genuinely lower-class do not have the time to be online as they are busy trying to survive.

“Genuinely lower class” reads very “starving children in Africa” here. Also, there are still poor countries in Europe? And there are very much “genuinely lower class” people in wealthier countries.

Here is what they have to say about the rest of us who are not "genuinely lower class":

Those who are openly, proudly, middle-class belong near-exclusively to the regressive section of the peripheral web: they have either never engaged with our community or have been discovered speaking negatively about the community on remote platforms.

This is an incredibly odd take, considering *by their own logic* most people in the YW are middle-class. Unless only being "openly" middle-class is what makes you a regressive? What is the solution here?

There is more weird nonsense drivel about “lower class” and “middle class” mentalities that I’m not going to include here because it’s nonsense. And there's some more weird generalizations about tech workers that even had me rolling my eyes, and I love to make fun of tech workers.


At this point, we are in full finger-pointing mode regarding the downfall of the Discord server. This is where a lot of the internet drama-type stuff is, but it's written so poorly and pretentiously that my eyes glazed over. Nonetheless, there are a few gems in this section as well.

As the community space grew at a rapidly-accelerating pace, we saw an increase in opportunistic behavior among those artists and game devs who viewed the space as another place to increase their visibility and their business. Several artists would join and only contribute by sharing their portfolio and links to their pages that advertised for commissions, sometimes putting in effort to briefly feign interest in the rest of the community. Game devs, though a much smaller group in comparison, operated in a similar manner. Like a chain reaction, marketing activity would trigger more marketing activity up to a point where artists would buy labor from web developers within the community to work on their websites.
Once we were made aware that a potential grifting had taken place, we took a risky decision to experiment with the suppression of bourgeois rights: we banned all commercial market transactions within the space. Many of our members were trying to escape from the marketing hellscape that pervades the entirety of our lives and we did not wish for our own space to become just another extension of the digital marketplace; it was killing the vibe.

Are you an artist or other freelance creative? Have you ever advertised your commissions? Then get the fuck out of here, bourgeoisie scum! Sure, you might have bills to pay, but have you considered that what you're doing is “grifting” and apparently indistinguishable from the “marketing hellscape” and corporate ads?

I find it hard to believe that every single artist advertising commissions was supposedly “feigning interest” in the community, considering how many artists there are in the personal website space. Also, “killing the vibe” in such a pompous and self-important article is the funniest thing ever.

We often struggled with americentrism [sic] in our community spaces. We have noticed that it is common to refer to "internet culture" as a universal entity which really refers only to the English-speaking, middle-class and often American internet. Americentrism, as we experienced it, is characterized by: […] A general disregard for members whose second language was English. This was expressed by an overreliance on slang in discussion, making no attempt to ensure all users could understand their messages.

This entire document has been full of pretentious, confusing nonsense, but suddenly we care about secondary English speakers when it comes to "slang." We're talking about AAVE, but we think people don't know that the word “slang” is used to criticize AAVE in a nice and nonpolitical way. And we've done it in a way that makes us sound so cool and progressive for caring about "Americentrism!"

Out of every hundred community members, one will show up with a rigid, unchanging character. While not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes these characters carry within them toxic traits that slowly (and oftentimes subtly) poison the well-being of others within the community. This often but not always takes the form of attention-seeking or space-dominating behaviors.

At this point I’m finding it a bit hard to believe that these “characters” are as "toxic" as they're making them out to be here.


And so our rollercoaster ride has concluded, but not without one last bout of finger-pointing:

Because our goals transformed over time, some of our messaging on the website and other publicly-facing places became outdated. It was an oversight that was only corrected when it was pointed out to us by community members, sometimes months too late. This resulted not only from burnout but also from the failure to consolidate into a stronger organization.

Maybe you shouldn't have tried to make your stupid web clique into an "activist" organization that cares more about white gays and furries than the groups who have actually been, and continue to be, wronged by internet culture. But what do I know!


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