gentrification of the web

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gentrification of the web refers to a variety of different changes happening (or expected) in the web that are sometimes well-intended, yet may be undesirable, or threatening to the web itself.


This usage seems most aptly comparable to real world chain stores buying out (or out-bidding on leases) long established neighborhood shops and shutting them down.

Design homogeneity

open source community

2015-11-15 Gentrification of the Drupal Community Drupal has come a long way from its early days of political activism, NGOs, and charities that kick started Drupal's massive success.

silo filtering of user posts

And it’s not just email lists. We have about half a million Facebook fans, but when we post something funny, Facebook says, “Mmmm, maybe we could show this to… three thousand people. Unless you want to pay.” They’re like the mob. “Pretty nice page you have here, it would be shame if anything happened to it.” Twitter too, they’re switching to a filtered timeline, so you’ll have to pay if you want all your followers to see your tweets. My friend Charles Adler, the co-founder of Kickstarter, calls this “the gentrification of the Internet.”

silo sanitization

2015-05-31 The Gentrification of the Web
As social networks work to create a more personalized, gentrified version of life, we’re going to lose the unpredictability of our online experience. With each brand you choose to follow, each friend request we reject, each troll policed, we’re building a wall to keep unconventional ideas and people out.

silo made vs user created

Silo produced vs user generated content:

2015-04-27 Strange lineup: The gentrification of the web
Basically, as the nicer stuff becomes more available, the weirder stuff becomes harder to find. It’s the gentrification of entertainment on a digital level.

exclusive TLDs

2015-02-20 Gentrifying the Web

But soon enough, the wide-open plains of .nyc will be filled with towering digital skyscrapers, and we locals will have to pay extravagantly just to claim a piece.

The good news, though, is that this virtual gentrification presents us with alternatives, as well. Once we’re priced out of our home cities, we can move on. .Moscow sounds cold and depressing, though. .London is expensive, too. .Berlin is always an affordable option, but I hear once a site starts up there it just tends to stall.

2010 App stores

The 2010-05-21 NYT article The Death of the Open Web led to some brief handwringing about “Apple's gentrification of the web” on Twitter.

Apps sparkle like sapphires and emeralds for people bored by the junky nondesign of monster sites like Yahoo, Google, Craigslist, eBay, YouTube and PayPal. That sparkle is worth money. Even to the most committed populist there’s something rejuvenating about being away from an address bar and ads and links and prompts — those constant reminders that the Web is an overcrowded and often maddening metropolis and that you’re not special there.

2006 website redesign

2006-05-21 Bobulate: The Gentrification of the Web
Think, if you can, about the last time one of the sites you visit daily was redesigned. Sure, the site may have looked cleaner; maybe it was actually easier to use. But, if you’re like me, you might have felt left out. You no longer had to click three times to reach search results or wait for the flight choices to slowly load, but those workarounds seemed comfortable. It was an experience you learned and knew, and it is no longer there. Your website has been gentrified.

2004 more civilized

2004-05-12 WIRED article The Unfolding Saga of the Web has a throw-away comment without much explanation:

It is amazing to me how bohemian neighborhoods continue to coexist so nicely with the rapid gentrification of the Web. But as society increases its dependence on the Web, it will have to get more serious, more civilized.

2000 XML

2000-09-13 article Gentrifying the Web quoting Molly Holzschlag on the defunct (and apparently offline) "XHTML mailing list":

There's also an intriguing argument to be made that the move to XML applications is in effect a gentrification of the Web -- making it the domain of programmers. While that may seem attractive in terms of well-built technology, there's the paradox that the Web of the people, by the people, will no longer be as an accessible reality, something that breaks my poor grass-roots heart.

Fortunately that “move to XML applications” pretty much completely failed on the Web (note that the phrase “XML applications” means something very different to XML people than you might think an “XML” “application” is (hint: it’s not something you as a user install or run).


Other uses of gentrification as related to technology, but not specifically about the web.

hacker ethos

2015-08-10 The hacker hacked
The hacker ethos is wild and anarchic, indifferent to the trappings of success. Or it was, until the gentrifiers moved in
Gentrification is an enabler of doublethink, a means by which people in positions of relative power can, without contradiction, embrace practices that were formed in resistance to the very things they themselves represent.
  • I think the author is missing the point, which is that while the term "hacker" is being more widely (self-)adopted, it inevitably retains its rebellious edginess (due to mainstream media's continued fear-mongering, as cited in the article), and thus has the effect of spreading the very idea of dissent, both as more everpresent, and as something socially acceptable to identify with. Is it the hacker being hacked, or are we seeing merely signs of a long hack to spread independent thinking, questioning, and creativity among traditionally hierarchical, homogeneous, and consumption-centric cultures worldwide? Tantek 07:16, 8 March 2016 (PST)
    • Note: there is evidence that hackers themselves are nurturing this so-called "gentrification" of the hacker ethos, e.g. the deliberately planted hacker images. Is it the hacker ethos being gentrified, or rather is it mainstream society being hacktified? Who is colonizing who? Tantek 07:22, 8 March 2016 (PST)

See Also