It’s easy to be cynical about the internet, and harder to remember a time when being online felt less commercial and more democratic. But there was a period when websites didn’t rely on user data for profit margins, when people still viewed the internet as a radical laboratory for freedom and liberty.
Can those ideas and values from the earliest days of the web be revived? Or is the internet a lost cause?
In my new book, “An Internet for the People,” I look at one popular website that has a lot to teach us: Craigslist. Twenty-five years after its launch, Craigslist is a reminder that the earlier, more democratic version of the internet can still thrive.
The platform has weathered the internet’s boom-and-bust cycle, with countless peers and competitors coming and going. The site looks more or less the same today as it did in the late 1990s.
Sort of like a shark that’s never had to evolve, Craigslist has remained incredibly successful without giving up values of anonymity, accessibility and transparency.
You don’t need to turn users into data