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OK, now think about GeoCities circa 1995.
At least that’s what Morozov’s thinking about. The early Intertube, he says, was “virgin territory, not yet colonized by governments and corporations”—it was even “romantic.” This has been lost in the microtargeted Facebook era, where there’s less room for wandering. Leaving aside the fact that this not-yet-colonized thing was invented by the Defense Department, this is a provocative and—who knows?—maybe even a lovely, sad point. When my parents installed our first modem, sometime in the 90s, I was in my teens. Nothing then seemed immediately romantic about the World Wide Web—it seemed, rather, pretty DIY (maybe charmingly so, in retrospect). Of course people wandered around—nobody knew the point of it.
It is still hard to identify what is the point of a thing like Facebook.
What killed the original flaneur? Street traffic and better lighting. So it goes with the cyberflaneur. In this analogy, Facebook is both the lighting and the roadways. There are no dark alleys to accommodate the Internet wanderer anymore. Also, I just went to GeoCities.com, to see what would happen. I was automatically redirected to a Yahoo!-owned site. It said, “Sorry, GeoCities has closed.”