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The Constant Risk of a Consolidated Internet – The Atlantic:

So the centralization began. Blogs, which once required installing software on your own server, became household services such as Blogger, Typepad, WordPress, and Tumblr. Social-media services—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and the rest—vied for user acquisition, mostly to build advertising-sales businesses to target their massive audiences. The services began designing for compulsion, because more attention makes advertising more valuable. Connections, such as friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, colleagues on LinkedIn, all became attached to those platforms rather than owned by individuals, and earlier efforts to decentralize those relationships effectively vanished. Even email, once local to ISPs or employers, became centralized in services such as Hotmail and Gmail.

In the process, people and the materials they create became the pawns of technology giants. Some of the blog platforms were acquired by larger tech companies (Blogger by Google, Tumblr by Yahoo), and with those roll-ups came more of the gatekeeping (especially for sexually explicit material) that decentralization had supposedly erased. One of the most urgent questions in today’s information wars surrounds how—not whether—Facebook should act as a gatekeeper of content across its massive, centralized global network. “Content,” in fact, might be the most instructive fossil of this age, a term that now describes anything people make online, including the how-to videos of amateur crafters, the articles that journalists write, and policy pronouncements by world leaders. Whereas one might have once been a writer or a photographer or even a pornographer, now publishing is a process of filling the empty, preformed vessels provided by giant corporations. A thousand flowers still bloom on this global network, but all of them rely on, and return spoils to, a handful of nodes, just as communications systems did before the ARPAnet.