I think it’s finally safe to say that the Web is at a pivotal moment in its history. It used to be that whenever anyone started talking about history and the Internet, everybody who knew anything at all would throw a cascade of tomatoes at him for being a pedantic bastard. The word “historic” was just another piece of artillery to be trotted out when it was time to issue lofty, boring statements about how the Internet was going to change humanity forever.
But Internet punditry is a failing industry, and there aren’t many tomatoes left to throw. So here goes: The Web is at a pivotal moment in its history.
By which I mean that a whole lot of what was once the Web isn’t really there anymore. Some of it has shut down; other parts are closing themselves off from anyone but those who will pay them; and others still are cutting themselves down in an effort to stay alive.
I’m not speaking about the fabled e-commerce sites that were all set to revolutionize the way business was done (in a historic manner, I’m sure) but managed to blow it all on 30 seconds at the Super Bowl. Nobody misses Pets.com or any of its ilk. They were a novel economic idea, but they never changed anyone. They never tried to touch our inner selves.
I’m talking about sites that gave us stories. Human stories. It used to be that I could spend hours skimming across the Web, finding new and interesting things to read all the time. I had sites that were sort of my favorite uncles; I could return to them and find new stories all the time, but if I wanted to wander through the unknown in search of new words — new stories — I never failed.
It was fascinating because there were so many new stories that I wouldn’t have thought to look for before. A story’s existence no longer depended in large part upon its “newsworthiness” or “literary value.” (Beware anyone who relies on these words to judge stories. They mean almost nothing.)
Of course, it meant that there were a lot of boring, poorly-built stories out there. But that just made finding the good stuff that much tastier.
Things have changed. Many of those favorite uncles have closed up shop. It took too much money for them to give us new stories. And a lot of what’s replacing them feels like a teenager that has been locked in its room for too long: endlessly cynical, endlessly self-centered, endlessly thoughtless.
Meanwhile, Big Media plods forward. They’re getting better and better at this game. But that doesn’t change the fact that their stories come from the same factory that the ones on television do.
What makes this particular moment pivotal is that nobody really knows what happens next, where all this downward momentum will lead us. Nobody has ever really known, of course, but there are fewer signposts than ever before.
Maybe the Internet will really become a big mall, as everyone who used to use the word “historic” once warned us about. Maybe it’ll settle down and start acting like cable television. Maybe it’ll become like a toaster or any other sort of thing we’ve seen before.
I really hope not.
Crunchable.net is, in a tremendously small and possibly unimportant way, an effort to keep original, personal and peculiar stories as a central part of the Web. We’re not out to save the world. (Beware anyone who says that he is.)
But we are out to tell you our stories, a more dangerous task than you might think. We are out to show you how we see the world. And we mean to do it in completely ridiculous and patently majestic ways.
We are out to make you grin.
There’s a question that some people have been asking lately: How, with all the tumult surrounding the terrorist attacks on the U.S., can we talk of silly things? How can we write words that have nothing at all to do with airliners or anthrax?
The answer is as obvious as the moon. There have been enormous holes left behind by the terrorist acts and their aftermath. And these holes must not be filled with fear and hate — what kind of world would we live in if there was no longer any room for stories about miniature golf or lemon meringue pies?