Web Masters Episode #57: Caterina Fake


Flickr logo and symbol, meaning, history, PNG

Caterina Fake:

It’s funny that I read somewhere, like Instagram is what you get, when you have a generation of people who are raised, whose main imagery was advertising, that they had seen throughout their lives. And so, we do come from an earlier era and we do come from earlier version of reality, which was not so self-improving as today’s is. And frankly, a lot less competitive, a lot less precarious.

Your life was a little bit less dependent on appearing a certain way, or being a certain person or being from a certain background, a hyper educated background like me and Mark Zuckerberg. And so I understand why you would want to, in this world that we now live in, accentuate the positive as it were and live that way. But in many ways, it’s a diminishment of your community.

Aaron Dinin:

Strong opinions about the state of the world we live in, a world where we post photos to social media and in order to share our lives with other people. And often those photos are meant to make ourselves and our lives look better than they actually are.

But online photo sharing, wasn’t always a way of flexing to all your friends about how great your life is. The person we just heard talking about it, well, she should know because that was Caterina Fake, founder of the original photo sharing app and web 2.0 darling, Flickr. Are you ready to hear the story? Let’s get dialed in.

[INTRO]

Aaron Dinin:

Welcome to Web Masters. This is the podcast that teaches about entrepreneurship, by exploring the history of the web and talking with some of the web’s most impactful innovators. I’m your host, my name is Aaron Dinin. I’m a serial entrepreneur. I teach entrepreneurship at Duke University and I study the history of what I like to call, language technologies, which I’ll explain more about and what that actually means on this very special episode of Web Masters. But first, before doing that, I’m going to pause for a moment and thank our sponsor.

Web Master is brought to you. Thanks in part to the very generous support of our partner and sponsor, Latona’s. Latona’s is a boutique mergers and acquisitions broker that specializes in helping people buy and sell cashflow positive internet businesses, and other types of digital assets. What do I mean by that? Well, it includes eCommerce stores, SAS apps, content websites, domain portfolios, Amazon FBAs, and pretty much any other online work from home or really work from anywhere type of internet business, you can think of.

If it’s a business you can operate online, the Latona’s team can help you figure out how to sell it. They’re passionate about internet businesses and helping support internet entrepreneurs, which of course, is why they’re so incredibly supportive of this podcast and the Web Masters project. So if you are trying to sell an internet business you’ve built, or if you’re interested in buying an internet business and want to see what’s available, head on over to the Latona’s website and find out more. It’s latona.com, L-A-T-O-N-A-S .com.

Earlier, you might have heard me describe this as a very special episode of Web Masters. And maybe that description is actually more so for me and my excitement over who I was getting to interview and what we wound up talking about. You see, Caterina Fake is a very well-known name in the entrepreneurial community as a result of what she built, what she’s invested in and who she’s mentored as a long time, geeky, internet entrepreneur.

Honestly, getting a chance to speak with her was well pretty cool. I’ve been following her work for a long time. However, that same popularity made producing this podcast episode, a little challenging. You see Caterina’s story, and the story of Flickr is pretty easy to come by. In fact, I’ve even listened to multiple podcasts where Caterina shares it. So I wanted to do some thing different in my conversation with her and that’s what you’re about to hear.

We talked a lot about the internet and the web and the implications of a site like Flickr, but very little of our conversation had anything to do with the actual story of Flickr. So let me go ahead and give you that story very quickly. And honestly, if you want more detail, just Google it. Okay?

All right. The story of Flickr basically goes like this, in the early 2000s, Caterina Fake is in Vancouver, working alongside an entrepreneur named Stewart Butterfield, who at the time also happened to be her husband. If this name is familiar to you, that’s because he’d go on to become the founder of Slack. But before that, Caterina and Stewart were focused on developing a massively multiplayer online game called, Game Never Ending.

Ironically, Game Never Ending, well, never really got off the ground. However, the chat feature of the game included the ability to easily share photos. It turned out users really, really, really liked that. Ultimately, the company pivoted and started building Flickr, giving people all over the world, the ability to easily upload, store and share photos. It was at the time, revolutionary. Before Flickr, you just really didn’t post your photos online. That was crazy.

Flickr got super popular, super quickly. That created a logistical problem for the company. Hosting all those digital photos in the early 2000s was expensive. So when Yahoo came along and offered to buy Flickr for, and by the way, reports on this vary, somewhere between 20 and $30 million, Caterina and Stewart take the money and continue growing Flickr inside of Yahoo for the next few years, where it gets even bigger. Actually, a lot bigger.

At its peak, it had well over 100 million registered users and hosted billions of images. What matters most in this story, aside from, by the way, the very important entrepreneurial lesson around pivoting to focus on what users wanted, is that Flickr is basically the poster child for a pivotal moment in internet history. It ushered in the transition from what was known as web 1.0 to web 2.0.

Of course, a lot of the distinction between web 1.0 and web 2.0 was marketing driven, rather than representative of any true change in technology. The .com crash of the early 2000s left a bad taste for the web in the mouths of a lot of people and web 2.0 was a way of saying, hey, we’ve moved on to something new. That something new was represented by Flickr and sites like it.

Specifically, Flickr helped usher in the age of user generated content. Rather than site editors being responsible for everything on a website, its users could post content themselves and share it with other users. That, at the time, was considered truly revolutionary and Flickr was at the forefront of that revolution.

Okay. So now that I’ve given you the three minute version of the Flickr story, I want to spend the rest of this episode focusing on how revolutionary it was, or perhaps more precisely Flickr and web 2.0 in general, maybe aren’t actually very revolutionary at all because the funny thing of course, is that user generated content was nothing new. In fact, user generated content was popular in niche communities long before the worldwide web. And those were the communities Caterina was passionate about, even before she’d ever thought about building Flickr.

Caterina Fake:

I started out on the internet as a lover of the internet, basically, and a lover of internet communities. And I was a child of the Reagan 80s. And so I spent a lot of time on zines looking for my people and then the internet came and of course, was able to connect me to all of the other peculiar folks that I was seeking, as a somewhat nerdy kid who grew up in a football and cheerleader town.

And so I found the internet to be this wonderful place that I could actually find people. I think it’s especially important for people who feel slightly different from the people that are around them and to truly find your tribe. This has both positive and negative consequences, as we had eventually seen. But I mean, I think that in many ways, it was just this incredible world that opened up, especially if you lived in a small and somewhat sheltered town, as I did.

Aaron Dinin:

You heard Caterina reference zines and zine culture. We’ve bumped into the same phenomenon a few times here on Web Masters. For example, you might remember it from Web Masters’ episode number 40, with Stephanie Simon who created Feed Magazine, one of the first true internet publications. It came in part from her appreciation of Zines. For our purposes here, I describe zines as basically user generated print magazines for building communities around shared interests.

Contrasting them to today, if someone is a big fan of say, Star Trek, the person can launch a fan website or Facebook group to share that interest with other similarly passionate people. But pre-web, the way people accomplished the same basic thing was by publishing their own small batch, homemade mini magazines, and literally mailing them to subscribers around the world. It wasn’t the most efficient process, but it accomplished a similar goal, which was building and supporting communities of people around shared interests. And zine culture also had a huge impact on Caterina’s interests in distributed communities.

Caterina Fake:

I was a huge fan of Fact Sheet Five. Are you familiar with Fact Sheet Five?

Aaron Dinin:

Admittedly, I was not aware of Fact Sheet Five before Caterina mentioned it. I’ve since done a bit of research and can share that with you. Fact Sheet Five was kind of like a catalog of zines. Maybe let’s call it, the Google for zines. In other words, if you liked zines, how are you going to find more of them? Well, you subscribe to Fact Sheet Five and it was the connective tissue between zines, that showed you what other zines you might also like to subscribe to. Make sense? All right, back to Caterina’s explanation.

Caterina Fake:

Fact Sheet Five, you should become aware of because it was the proto internet before the internet. It was the zine of zines. And there’s a guy named Mike Gunderloy, who I believe lives on a farm now in Vermont, who had actually a very early website too. But Fact Sheet Five for me and for other suburban kids was a way of finding all of these zines on all kinds of different subjects.

I was a correspondent with some comic book artists who were just photocopying their comic books. For example, Julie Doucet, who did the Dirty Plotte, now very well-known comic book artist from Montreal. She was writing entirely in French, but somehow I found her in my vine catalog. There were like 1,000 art magazines. Corey Doctorow, who was one of the early editors of Boing Boing, he was a huge proponent of the zine. And I believe he had named his original website, Crap Hound, after a clip art zine that I also loved and used to send away for, from Fact Sheet Five, which was basically just amazing clip art that somebody had assembled into a zine. And this was all proto internet in print.

Aaron Dinin:

What you’re hearing Caterina describe is an example of how people from distributed geographic areas around the world, connected with each other, based on their shared interests before the internet made that process really easy. Now you might have a Facebook feed filled with messages from different groups and communities of people all around the world, or you might spend hours browsing different subreddits related to your interests, again with people from everywhere.

But before the web, you subscribed to a zine or yeah, at least some people did. I’d be lying if I described zine culture as mainstream, but in a way that’s actually kind of the important thing to note. The power of the internet, at least from a social perspective, is its ability to make distributed communities possible in ways they simply weren’t pre-internet. Meaning, the social media driven world we currently live in is a world of zine culture scaled to an almost absurd extreme. It’s an extreme that’s become so absurd, in fact, that Caterina thinks people are at the point of wanting to reject it.

Caterina Fake:

I think a lot of this is coming full circle again. And a lot of people are resisting the lure of putting things online, where ideas get absorbed, chewed up, spat out, and then passed over on the internet, in this way that no longer allows, for example, scenius, I would call it, after Brian Eno, to happen. Scenius is this idea that a group of people and it’s a small group of people, and sometimes it’s just like 30 people in, I don’t know, the downtown lower east side of New York get together in this country, bluegrass, CBGBs dive bar and invent punk music.

Initially, it starts out as 200 people who come to these shows and start playing instruments and making music. But without that period of six months or a year or two years of incubation, these things can’t really happen anymore. And the internet tends to chew, consume, spit out and destroy these nexuses of scenius, I would call them, which I think is what we used to have in things like Fact Sheet Five and these smaller zine like contained groups.

Aaron Dinin:

Are we truly coming full circle? Or is it just that a small counter cultural community of people are looking for a different type of connective experience? Who knows? So let’s focus on the interesting thing we do know, which is that the biggest trends in history, usually begin as counter cultural phenomena, including, by the way, the internet itself.

The social internet highlighted by the worldwide web was not at all mainstream in its earliest days. And it was this counter cultural environment that Caterina was first introduced to and fell in love with because it reminded her so much of zine culture, but of course, enhanced and expanded in incredible ways.

Caterina Fake:

The way that I got onto the internet was actually, I was very fortunate to be at Vassar College, which had a mainframe computer called the Vaxsar. And what was amazing was that we had connectivity, and this is in the late 80s, early 90s, to our actual dorm rooms. And so you could plug in your MAC SE into the internet and you were suddenly on the worldwide web, as it was nascent in those days.

And I think, I graduated in 1991, and then in 1993, I was actually in a temp job at the IT department at Columbia University. And one of the guys that worked there, brought me over and he said, here’s this thing. And he showed me basically what was Mosaic Browser, which was a way of basically doing all this stuff, which I was doing line by line, like writing in Unix and just was frankly, mind blowing. It could like serve images, which was an amazing thing, without this super complicated command line stuff that you had to do previously.

And so I was on, using it, I was on Archie, Waves, all of these super early two technologies to surf around. I was on a bunch of BBSs bulletin boards. I was on Panics out of New York. Boy, was I surfing around? And then when I was at Vassar, I found this amazing Usenet group of, I was really into Borges, Jorge Luis Borges at the time. And I found this amazing group of Borges scholars, who had posted all this stuff on Borges in Aarhus, Denmark. And it was just mind blowing to me that I could connect with and read the papers of, and correspond with these people who are also interested in Borges in Denmark. And that was just phenomenal.

I was a kid who always really was interested in pen pals. I always had pen pals when I was a young girl. I had a pen pal who I corresponded with for a really long time in the Philippines and another one in Jamaica. And I just love this idea of communicating with people in very different worlds and very different cultures. And this experience with the Borges scholars in Denmark was truly mind blowing to me. So I was just hooked. After that, I was like, I love this thing.

Aaron Dinin:

If you’re going to talk about Borges, I feel like I need to at least mention The Library of Babel. It’s an essay I always have students read when they take my social marketing course. I’d love to get your thoughts on its relation to the, let’s say modern internet.

Caterina Fake:

I mean, all of his stuff was basically about containing the infinite. It was basically about endlessness, The Library of Babel, it had every possible book in it.

Aaron Dinin:

Hold on a second, I realize I should probably clarify my own question here. Turns out Caterina is a bit of a literary nerd and well, in case you haven’t figured it out, I am too. But I realized not everyone is well versed in Jorge Luis Borges, so let me provide a touch of context. Borges was an Argentinian author, essayist, and philosopher. His work is known to be, let’s say, a bit out there. He creates extreme fiction-esque scenarios meant to help readers see the world in different ways.

The example I referenced here and am discussing with Caterina is a short story called, The Library of Babel, first published in 1941. Its narrator tells of a universe consisting of a seemingly infinite number of hexagonal rooms, connected to one another and containing every version of a 410 page book, that would exist when combining the standard letters and punctuation marks of the alphabet.

In other words, the vast majority of those books would be utter gibberish, but among the billions and billions and billions of possible combinations would be for example, the complete works of Shakespeare or even technically, a perfect transcript of this podcast episode. But would you be able to find any of that based on sheer volume of content? No, you wouldn’t.

The story is an allegory of sorts, exploring the idea of the existence of infinite knowledge, but how that knowledge is concealed from us mere mortals. So anyway, that’s Borges and The Library of Babel and here again is Caterina reflecting on its relationship to the internet.

Caterina Fake:

All Of these dreams of infinite knowledge obviously preceded the actual creation of the internet. I mean, I think it’s a very powerful desire and those efforts to do this. I think librarians from Time Immemorial were seeking to build this, even in, is it The Iliad, where they have the shield of Achilles that has all of the occurrences of the world’s animated on the shield of Achilles. It just goes on and on. There’s all of these efforts to do that.

So yeah, I would say that I’m definitely an archivist and this is probably what led me to internet consumer level platform development. I mean, here I am building what was actually an infinite catalog of the world, photographic record of all things. So it kind of makes sense.

Aaron Dinin:

Interesting. So you are interested primarily in archiving, is that safe to say?

Caterina Fake:

That’s a safe assertion, like knowledge storage. If you were to see the room that I’m actually in, I just love books, so I love the archive.

Aaron Dinin:

I admit, I assumed the person who created the world’s first huge photo sharing app would be interested in well photography, but I guess, is that not the case?

Caterina Fake:

No, I’m not interested in photography in particular. I’m interested in the archive. I’m interested in the record. I love the fact that official archives, museums, NASA, would upload all of their archives actually onto Flickr. And we’re basically providing it free and searchable and allowing people to tag it and make it searchable through metadata in order to share all of that knowledge. So when you’re looking for a photo of a planet, it’s just amazing, like all of the stuff that was on there. I don’t know, like Mesopotamian tablets, it’s just an amazing. So just became this very beautiful archive of knowledge in a visual sense.

Aaron Dinin:

Well, this is one of the great ironies of the web and a site like Flickr. It creates essentially a Library of Babel, right? We think we’re creating these huge, seemingly infinite repositories of memory and storage, which makes us feel like we can know everything, but actually the opposite happens. There’s so much stuff that we actually make it harder to know things it’s obfuscation, as a result of mass collective memory.

Caterina Fake:

Whenever I lose something, like my keys or something, or gosh, where is my scarf? The answer is not to buy another scarf. The answer is actually to throw away five things, actually. You know what I’m saying? Get rid of more things so that you have less things to search through, in order to find the thing that you’re looking for. So I think that there’s a similar phenomenon at work actually. If you can’t find something, it’s because you have too many of the things.

Aaron Dinin:

It reminds me a lot of the, let’s call it, fear mongering about the internet in the early 2000s. A lot of people were saying the internet represented this huge paradigm shift for humans, because of course, historically storage systems like books and archives were really expensive to create and maintain. So human culture was built around the ability to basically forget things, but the internet gave us infinite memory and we’d have to learn to live in a world where for example, the things we posted on social media in high school, would still haunt us when we’re 70. To some extent, we see examples of this, but on the whole, this doesn’t seem to be the result, at least not to me. The internet hasn’t really led to perfect memory. Right?

Caterina Fake:

I had this long conversation once. I was being interviewed, I think it was after the Yahoo acquisition of Flickr by Quentin Hardy. And I don’t know if you know who he is, but he’s a technology journalist and he was writing for the New York Times at the time. He’s switched and gone to various publications over time. But we were having this conversation and I was talking about memory. I was talking about the archive basically, and how Flickr behaves as an archive. And I said, there’s this Chinese saying, and it says, “The palest ink is better than the strongest memory.” That if you can record something, it’s much easier to remember it, but that’s only one aspect of memory and what we were seeking for actually, which I think in some ways people are trying to replicate with like, here’s the thing that happened in 2015 to you.

And they show you your photographs again from that era is more of a proustian memory, an evocative kind of memory, a buried memory, the things that you have actually forgotten or lost spirit that the world used to contain for you, which it no longer does. And so that is another completely different way of looking at memory. And there probably should be different names for it, but that kind of memory is incredibly difficult to build into software. Just the way that software works, the way it is designed. And so I do think that this is, is the ideal and the unachievable ideal of these kinds of archives, is to somehow replicate and/or stimulate in people, the proustian form of memory.

Aaron Dinin:

Are you familiar with the book, Archive Fever by Derrida?

Caterina Fake:

Yeah. Yeah. I have that right here.

Aaron Dinin:

All right. Caterina has her copy of archive fever handy, but just in case you don’t, let me explain. Archive Fever is a book by another philosopher. This one, a French philosopher named Jacques Derrida. It was published in 1995. And to vastly over simplify, it’s about how archiving, storing lots and lots and lots of information, is this strategy humans use in our universal struggle against what famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud calls the death drive.

The death drive is basically the absolute certainty that on some time scale, everything any of us ever do in this universe will ultimately amount to absolutely nothing. It will all be destroyed, it’ll all die, kind of depressing, huh? But anyway, Archive Fever and archiving information is how humans cope. We store all the things that are important to us and that we learn, in order to pass all that knowledge along to future generations. So even though we all eventually die, human culture at a broader scale remains, or as Caterina puts it-

Caterina Fake:

Cheat death, you’re trying to cheat death. And frankly, it can’t be cheated.

Aaron Dinin:

No, death can’t be cheated, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. And that’s why I asked Caterina if she was familiar with Archive Fever. And that’s why I’m talking with you about it too. You see, this podcast is ostensibly a podcast asked about the internet and the worldwide web. They are digital technologies that among other things, help humans communicate with each other in order to share vital and in plenty of cases, not so vital cultural information. In other words, the kind of stuff that helps us preserve human culture across generations.

That’s a really important job of the internet. And it’s a really important part of what sites like Flickr have helped people do. And here’s the thing, they are by no means the first technologies to address this particular problem. Before the worldwide web, we had books and before books, we had chiseled language on clay tablets, and before even written language, we had oral poetry, and before oral poetry, we had grunts and growls and gnarls and other types of proto language for communicating and conveying information. And that’s actually the point I’m trying to make.

The core technology we should care about, isn’t the internet. The core technology is language. Sure, most of us don’t think about language as a technology, but that’s what it is. Language is a technology for storing and transmitting information across generations. We just tend to forget that because humans have been using the technology and developing it for thousands of years. Instead, we focus on things like the web or the printing press or manuscripts or stone tablets or whatever.

But those are just tools that make the dissemination of language more efficient. At least that’s what I believe. And that’s what interests me about a site like Flickr specifically and more broadly about the transition it represents in the larger context of human history. When web 2.0 became a thing, when Flickr catalyzed the trend of people posting their own content online, it fundamentally changed archiving.

Instead of archiving being done by a small number of people, people like librarians, in this digital world dominated by user generated content, everyone has become sort of archivist. So what does that mean for the world? How does the world change when everyone can digitally remember anything?

Caterina Fake:

I lost a laptop, a laptop hard drive crashed, and this was way before the cloud solved this quote, unquote solved this problem. And I lost all of 1999 and 2000, I think, of my life, my digital life, right? All my emails, all my photos, everything that had been on there. And after my initial sense of loss and grief, I actually felt quite liberated from it. And it’s funny because obviously for many years I’ve been up with things to Flickr as well. And I do not think that if I were to turn it off, I would be particularly sad about it because I do believe in the virtues of forgetting. And I do believe in the virtues of a [inaudible 00:28:42] memory. And I do believe in the limit of photography as a trigger to memory.

Aaron Dinin:

So it sounds like you’re saying, digital memory, isn’t really the same as real memory. If that’s true, what are we posting online, if not preserving real memories?

Caterina Fake:

Well, I mean, one of the things actually that I think is a significant part of the Flickr story is that it had originally started off as a form of communication. A photograph was a form of communication and Flickr emerged from, it was a completely separate property, but we had been designing a game and then the game had this chat feature and you could drop photographs into this conversation.

So we actually took this idea of this chat in which you could drop photos into, which at the time, you couldn’t really do in ICQ or AIM or any of the predominant chat products. And so this wasn’t a thing that you could do, but you could actually communicate with other people using photographs. So it was like a form of connection. It was what my partner would call a social object. It was a thing that you could exchange. And it was like another form of communication.

In many ways, it was easy to communicate things through a visual language. And so I think that this was one of the reasons for, and means behind like, you know what I’m saying? This is one of the motivations behind building Flickr, was that it was more communicative rather than archival. Archival was incidental. Because after you put a series of these communications, so to speak, onto Flickr, then it becomes an archive just by its very nature, by staying there, by not being erased. And so I think that that was secondary. I think the primer thing was actually contained in that somewhat yucky word, photo sharing.

Aaron Dinin:

Then the problem isn’t so much memory, right? It sounds like the problem is the sharing of memories. Is that the issue?

Caterina Fake:

I mean, I think there’s a kind of a tragic aspect. I really dislike this actually. I wrote a blog post once about this, I call it social peacocking. It’s all presentation and self presentation. I hate that. And I’m an amateur [inaudible 00:30:48] and people are basically erasing their shadow and doesn’t anybody realize what a dangerous thing that is to do. And frankly, a horrid way that is to live your life as this half of a human being.

There’s a really wonderful essay actually, by Ursula Le Guin called, The Shadow, about the Hans Christian Anderson book. If you haven’t read that, you need to read that. It’s so great. And it’s basically Instagram. I think that in many ways, Flickr was very different from Instagram, in that we didn’t have filters. You couldn’t improve yourself, yourself, warts and all. It wasn’t necessarily a place for beautification and self presentation and the highlights real of your life, which is eventually what those websites became.

And it’s funny that I read somewhere, like Instagram is what you get when you have a generation of people who are raised, whose main imagery was advertising, they have seen throughout their lives. And so, we do come from an earlier era and we do come from an earlier version of reality, which was not so self-improving as today’s is. And frankly, a lot less competitive, a lot less precarious.

Your life was a little bit less dependent on appearing a certain way, or being a certain person, or being from a certain background, like hyper educated background, like me and Mark Zuckerberg. And so I understand why you would want to, in this world that we now live in, accentuate the positive as it were and live that way. But in many ways it’s a diminishment of your humanity.

Aaron Dinin:

As someone who helped give millions of people, the ability to easily post and share their photos, their memories online, did Flickr the cause this diminishment of our humanity?

Caterina Fake:

I do not think that it really had it in it. There was no liking, you could favorite things and save them, but it was more of a bookmarking function, to save it for later. Because on Instagram, what do you do? You go to the notifications tab and look at how many people have liked it. Those likes are very intoxicating and they’re designed that way. I mean, they’re designed to convey attention towards yourself, all these unintended consequences come out of that.

Aaron Dinin:

So then it’s not the sharing of content that’s problematic, so much as, I guess you’d say, the reward mechanisms around what’s being shared. Are you arguing that the rewards on social media and the gamifying elements, things Flickr didn’t have, are the things creating the wrong motivations and popularizing the wrong kinds of content?

Caterina Fake:

Definitely, definitely. It’s interesting because I came from a hatred of television, is actually how I became interested in the internet because I hated it. I hated it because only the stupidest things were on television. And I hated the fact that when I was growing up, there was only White Snake. Only the very crappiest music was available to you on television, on TV or wherever it was. In general, someone else was choosing for you.

And so this idea of this emergent media, you could dial into wherever it was that you wanted to be, that you could not be beholden to some media mogul’s vision of what it was that you should be watching or listening to, was extremely liberating. And this democratization of media, et cetera, et cetera, all of those things that we believed in those days, were extremely utopian and did not end up coming to pass.

But I do think that you have to be an incredibly disciplined internet user to replicate it, but you could. You could go back to the independent web as it was originally created and just live there. It would take an extreme amount of effort to shut out everything else, all of the platformization and algorithmic recommendations and all the hashtagification and all of the social memification. You would have to resist all of that and be a pure being. It would be like almost a religious practice to exclude all of the noise and the morass of nothing that is surrounding you. It would have to be a monastic kind of internet usage, but you could get back there. It’d be amazing. It’d be great.

Aaron Dinin:

An internet that didn’t curate for you, imagine that. An internet that just gave you access to everything and let you explore whatever and wherever you were interested in exploring. I admit it seems compelling, but I also find myself wondering if you’d ever be able to find anything truly valuable. On one hand, whatever you did find might be meaningful because the discovery was organic. On the other hand, without all the algorithms and gamification curating content for all of us, I wonder if you would’ve ever found well, this podcast episode.

I’m guessing you wouldn’t have just randomly stumbled onto it in the vast sea of online content. And at least to me, that’s a bad thing. I hope you agree and if you do, I hope you’ll consider sharing this episode and the entire Web Masters series with a friend, so you can help other people find us too.

I want to thank Caterina Fake for taking the time to speak with us and share, not so much the story of Flickr, but her thoughts about the internet and digital culture at large. I hope you found the conversation as interesting and fascinating as me. If you did, and you’d like to know what she’s up to these days, be sure to find her on Twitter. She’s @Caterina.

This podcast is on Twitter too at Web Masters pod. Feel free to send us any thoughts or comments you’ve got about the episode or reach out to me directly. I’m @AaronDinin. That’s A-A-R-O-N, D-I-N-I-N. You can also find lots more content about startups in entrepreneurship over on my website. It’s aarondinin.com. A quick thanks to our audio engineer, Ryan Higgs, for pulling together the episode and another thanks to our sponsor Latona’s for their support.

If you’re interested in buying or selling an internet business, the best way to start the process is by pointing your browser to latonas.com. Similarly, the best way to get more great episodes of Web Masters is to point your podcasting app toward the Web Master’s page and press the big old subscribe button. That’s going to make sure you get the next episode we’ve got coming for you soon. Until then, it’s time for me to sign off. Goodbye.