2022-05-21 tiny internets homepage tiny internets brief

ongoing tasks

apply the logic of coda and end-user programming to social networks. People should be able to shape the software, but they also should be able to shape the social containers and norms of their digital environments.

  • supporting hyper-specificity in an agencyful way
    • tiktok is hyper specific but they are forcing your attention rather than letting it be emergent

why am i working on this?

for all the use (utility) of the web, people still find all different ways to stretch past “intended” functionality to express themselves. anything that is connected to the internet effectively becomes a “social media”

  • google docs as a social media, finding love in the comment section,
  • amazon reviews
  • youtube comments despite being a literally connective force, we feel lonely a lot on the internet. 
  • so much of our experience is “solo” in. way that is impossible physically
  • simultaneously we never feel like we’re truly alone, there’s always a crowd “watching” us We feel dissonance often because things on the internet are so explicit. You’re either invisible or speaking to a crowd. You are someone’s “friend” or you’re not, “blocked” or not. Ephemeral things are irretrievable and permanent things are there forever. There is no natural decay or entropy that occupies the world, which forces us into explicit boxes. True or false. 1 or 0.

How can we make the web more natural, and have it shape to humans? Is “browsing” the internet what we actually want to do? How would we shape the internet and browser if we were the ones in control of it?

Parallel is cities designed around cars. The internet is designed around links and black and white boxes. What would we change about that if we could or how do we work around it / fight against it?

My experiments all approach this question from an experiential angle. I want to see if there are environments that encourage more natural behavior and am trying to take advantage of all the aspects of the internet that simulate natural, emergent behavior in the real world.

  • “websites” as places you visit. You are “new” or a “regular” or even an “owner”



During the COVID era, we saw technology flex in all sorts of ways to replace in-person interaction. Zoom became how we hung out with friends, a rigid, poor substitute for the ease of being physically together. Zoom fatigue became a norm, and in response, we saw technology evolve to try to revive the serendipity and playfulness of physical interaction. Various software tried spatial audio, cute customizable avatars, and more to simulate the real world, but they still felt forced. I think technology and software won’t accurately reproduce the live, synchronous communication until some new innovation comes our way, but it has been very good at facilitating another kind of connection—asynchronous and pseudonymous moments of intimacy.

I’m talking about how people talk with fondness about the old days of tumblr, AIM chat rooms, and random hobbyist internet forums. It’s how people now (albeit more rarely) talk about these magical moments that they find on a small subreddit, a social media post comment section, a random email from a small piece shared online (a tweet, an old blog, a random comment on Google Maps). These moments of intimacy feel so special because they connect people who most likely would’ve never encountered each other otherwise. They feel a bit like an out-of-body experience or a shared secret, like a little rift in reality that wasn’t planned.

One of the wonderful parts of the Internet is how it acts as a common borderless space for everyone with a connection to travel through and come across each other. I love these unsanctioned meetings, how they feel as magical as a serendipitous wonderful connection in the real world. It has a lot of parallels with in-person encounters, where you are in some shared space for some overlapping purpose and this simple connection blossoms into a face (or if online, some avatar or face).

I plan on pursuing a line of questioning that explores how to create conditions for these magical moments to flourish through a series of tangible experiments in different lines of inquiry.

  • What do sidewalks look like on the Internet? What would it look like to commute to websites?
    • This might materialize as a chrome extension where every time you navigate to a website there’s a waiting room or “commute” that shows the other people who are on and allows you to leave little notes or move around the furniture for future people who come in.
    • imagining a waiting room in between domain transitions.. you can leave little notes / move around objects/wave hi with your cursor? make graffiti on your favorite internet alleyways?
  • What if you could leave fingerprints on the Internet where you go?
    • This might materialize as an open-source library that allows you to overlay a drawing layer over your website, where visitors can leave little fingerprints.
  • What if you could go on a scavenger hunt on the Internet? What if you could leave behind meaningful artifacts for others to stumble upon?
    • This might materialize as a browser extension that allows you to “bury” little mementos on buried websites. It could also allow you to visualize trails of people who had visited the website in the past (anonymized by default). It might let you do the digital equivalent of sending a letter in a bottle floating in the ocean, where it’ll bury it onto a random website you’ve visited in the past.

Outside of the concrete experiments, I hope to be able to compile a comprehensive breakdown of these asynchronous moments of intimacy on the web, what kinds of conditions encourage and discourage these sorts of behavior, and what protections we can put into place to ensure that these environments are used for these beautiful intimate moments rather than for abuse.

(maybe there’s a constraint of how “deep” in a link hierarchy you need to be for it to be eligible),

what if you had to commute to websites

  • chrome extension where everytime you navigate to a website there’s a waiting room or “commute” and use yjs to have a little site where people gather
    • also test having a main server “connect” to store persistence for diff rooms?
    • button to “continue on”

actual features

  • leaving notes for people on websites
  • waiting room while navigating to websites
  • trails of people who had visited the website in the past
    • anonymized by default, can open up. maybe can open up only if last 3 trails matched??
  • leaving notes on your own website only for people with this

ambient presence