Progression of The Web with Trail Websites

Cohutta Wilderness Website

There is a lot of digital ink being spilled by whether the Web is dying, dead, or being reinvented. I think it’s a bit of all three…because it’s all happening at the same time.

All the eras of the Internet still exist at the same time. And we can each choose which one we like by using the one that we think is best.

That’s an abstract idea. So here’s my own example from when I’m researching hiking trips in Georgia.

Early Social Era – Peakbagger

Even before the Web (pre-1994), people were joining bulletin boards and posting information. It was magical because you could get details that would have never found their way into a book. But, the interface and number of users meant that it was still a supplement to books.

Visit Peakbagger.

Amateur Era – Cohutta Wilderness Hiking

Once the Web started growing, amateurs would make small websites out of a labor of love with hands-on, personal information. Visitors could add details via comments. But, due to lack of cash and expertise, the interfaces were a pain and not all the information could stay up to date without regular comments.

Visit Cohutta Wilderness Hiking.

Commercial Era – Atlanta Trails

Once ad networks and affiliate programs became established and easy to implement, there were a few individuals who could carve out a full-time or part-time business focused on a single topic. The information could be more thorough and stay updated better. But, real time information was limited and…ads.

Visit AtlantaTrails.

New Social Era – Hiking Subreddits

Reddit and Facebook figured out how to provide social networking tools at scale, so conversations moved into their tools. There was a lot more real time information, but it was sprawling, unorganized, and had comments without context.

Visit /r/campingandhiking.

App Era – AllTrails

Venture-funded companies scraped and organized all the information available and provided tools for real-time updates. It was all super-convenient…but locked away behind paywalls and subscription.

Visit AllTrails.

AI Era – Google + Meta AI Information

The biggest companies in the world scraped and organized all the information and provide it for free in conversational form…but a significant chunk of it…isn’t quite right.

Visit an example conversation.

Right Now

What’s really weird and uncertain is that all of these exist right now and are undergoing massive changes to where…they all might die or change or just continue on?

  • Early Social Era sites just don’t have new users coming in.
  • Amateur Era sites get drowned out by commercial algorithms and all the other sites for attention.
  • Commercial Era sites are getting killed by low ad rates, lack of distribution, and a general backlash against these types of sites (usually due to their aggressive ads…to make up for low ad rates).
  • New Social Era sites are getting killed by bad users, spammy users, and the commercial demands of their owners.
  • App Era sites are doing ok…but are also getting killed by heavy commercial and investment pressures. Also, advanced users are finding out that they really aren’t that great.
  • AI Era sites are probably going to keep growing…but again, are going to hit a wall where they simply don’t have good real time information. The conversation I linked to have information that isn’t crazy wrong…but isn’t right either. I mean, Jacks River Trail is full of blow downs and need of repair, so I wouldn’t recommend it for kids.

It’s a fun & weird & strange time to be online!

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