Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Bridges Mark Zuckerberg Destroyed

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Bridges Mark Zuckerberg Destroyed

Article excerpt

Mark Zuckerberg appeared presidential earlier this year when he gave a speech at an annual Facebook event. He said traveling around the world has worried him: "I am starting to see people and nations turning inward--against this idea of a connected world and a global community."

He showed dismay for "fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as 'others.'" Then, like a powerful world leader, he called on everyone: "Instead of building walls, we can help people build bridges. And instead of dividing people, we can help bring people together."

That is all quite ironic to me, and I'll tell you why. In 2014, I was pardoned and released from a prison in Tehran where I spent six years over my web activism. Before I was imprisoned in 2008, all the hype and rage on the internet was found on blogs.

Blogs were the best thing that had ever happened on the internet. They democratized writing and publishing--at least in many parts of the world. They gave a voice to many silenced groups and minorities. They connected friends, families, communities, and nations around the world. They encouraged discussions and debates.

All that was made possible because of a brilliant and powerful, but simple and modest innovation: hyperlinks. Those underlined, blue bits of text that made your cursor look like a hand with an outstretched pointed finger, and took you to outside sources and material on the web. The very fact that in 2016, one needs to explain to a new generation what hyperlinks (or simply links) were is already sad enough. But acknowledging that links are now practically dead is heartbreaking to anyone who remembers those times.

The World Wide Web was founded on the links, and without links, there won't be a web. Without links the experience of being on the internet will become one of a centralized, linear, passive, inward-looking and homogeneous kind. This is happening already, and despite Zuckerberg's sermon, it is largely Facebook and Instagram who are to be blame for the demise of links, and thereby the death of the open web and all its potentials for a more peaceful world.

Zuckerberg killed links (and the web) because he has created a space that is more like the future of television rather than the internet. Unlike what he preaches, Facebook has divided us into small personal bubbles of comfort. We don't need to do anything, but to swipe with our thumbs (soon even that wouldn't be necessary with eyeball detection systems). …

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