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The Future of Navigating the Algorithms in Search of the Free Web by@roxanamurariu

The Future of Navigating the Algorithms in Search of the Free Web

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Roxana Murariu

Web developer writing essays about mindset, productivity, tech and others.

Currently, browsing the web without using an ad-blocker or better browsers, looks like shopping in the middle of a pandemic without a mask.

Viruses are everywhere and they take advantage of their future hosts.

Third-party tracking, collecting, sharing, or selling users’ personal information, paywalls, popups, clickbait titles, scams, all these produce a broken web experience.  

How many times did I not want to read an article only to feel trapped like the Romans in the Caudine Forks?  

"Mortal, disable your adblocker if you want to read this post. Then accept my cookies.

Close the next five modals.

Subscribe to my newsletter. 

Do not dare to close my auto-play video. 

Now, yes, about the article. 

You must make a donation.  "

And how can I forget about the 100-step process of finding a muffin recipe?  

Did you want a recipe? 

Sure, it all started with a brisk walk in the fall. 

Seeing all the vibrant hues of autumn reminded me of my 12th birthday. 

Granny used to make me this easy, delicious recipe. 

Next, I went to college. 

Of course, I could put a “jump to recipe button”, but it will not help

I will make it jump to the recipe before the actual recipe.  

What about the cognitive dissonance of some minimalism / simply living content creators?

We are being told to simplify our lives, disconnect or log off from social media.

Yet these messages are coming from content creators that tell us to like and share their content on YouTube, listen to their podcasts, subscribe to their newsletters, follow them on Instagram or Twitter, like them on Facebook...

I know I sound harsh and that creating and hosting content requires money, time and effort. Content creators also need to support themselves.

We, the public, consumed “free content” for so long, that most of us will close tabs if we must pay to read. This “free content” leads to a chase towards better ranking, gaming the rules of SEO.

Unfortunately, that means that content is no longer geared towards humans, but algorithms. Because longer-form content produces higher search ranking, that means a simple recipe for pancakes becomes a 1,000 words Proustian essay.

This better-ranking hunt led to cloning articles with click-baiting titles of “shocking title will shock you”, “you won’t believe what happened”, or “the best recipe in the whole galaxy”.

At the end of the day, there are bills to pay, mouths to feed and writing a simple, ad-free pancake recipe is no longer enough.  

There is also the extremely real danger of personalized advertising, the business model of Google or Facebook. This model brings some very dark, dark patterns.  

A Shift is Coming.

This type of third-party tracking is becoming less effective, as browsers such as Brave, Firefox or Safari already block all third-party cookies. Google will soon block them too.  

GDPR identified a very present need for data protection and privacy.

GDPR requires a website to only collect personal data from users after they have given their explicit consent to the specific purposes of its use. … Consent must be freely given, i.e. not allowed to be forced. Consents must be as easily withdrawn as they are given.

Read the docs has this manifest:  

We don’t track you, sell your data, or anything else. We simply show ads to users, based on the content of the pages you look at. We’re doing newspaper advertising, on the internet. For a hundred years, newspapers put an ad on the page, some folks would see it, and advertisers would pay for this. This is our model.

GitHub recently announced that they removed all cookie banners for their website.

Another example is from Basecamp:  

"2020 isn’t 2010. Our naiveté around data, who captures it, and what they do with it has collectively been brought to shame. Most people now sit with basic understanding that using the internet leaves behind a data trail, and quite a few people have begun to question just how deep that trail should be, and who should have the right to follow it. In this new world, it feels like an obligation to make sure we’re not aiding and abetting those who seek to exploit our data. Those who hoard every little clue in order to piece of together a puzzle that’ll ultimately reveal all our weakest points and moments, then sell that picture to the highest bidder. The internet needs to know less about us, not more. Just because it’s possible to track someone doesn’t mean we should." 

It is possible to have ads without yelling. It is possible for promotional posts to be respectful to the user.

Trust in that Creator’s Values is Paramount.

If readers trust and share that creator’s values, chances are they will use their affiliate links to make a buy they recommend. They will buy their products, subscribe to their services, or make a Patreon donation. 

There is a myriad of sites kept by hobbyists and tinkerers but search algorithms tend to ignore this kind of free-form content. For those of us that want to read such content, we might need to learn how to search for this material without using a search engine.

Some parts were previously published on my blog.

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