The vast wasteland of Internet television

In September 2005, it took a funny film editor named Robert Ryang The brilliant and put together a new trailer for it, making the axe-driven horror movie look like a sweet family movie. Youtube he wasn’t out of beta yet, so Ryang posted his humorous gem in a private quarter of his employer’s website and provided a few friends with a dotmov link. One of them posted the link to his blog and Ryang was an overnight sensation.

The New York Times he noticed, remarking in awe, “Your secret site got 12,000 hits.” Ryang also achieved mankind’s highest goal of the 20th century: she started receiving calls from Hollywood. HELLO, WE ARE HOLLYWOOD.

I was a television critic at the time, and when I first saw Ryang’s masterpiece…dab, dab—I wasn’t sure I was fit to review it. Was this digital object a show, a film, an advertisement, maybe a web page? While mulling over the question, I created a folder called “Internet Television”.

Months passed and YouTube was officially launched. It could be? The almost erotic fantasy of “convergence”—the moment when the Internet and television finally merged into some sort of mundane Singularity—had arrived. In June 2006, I blogged that people finally seemed “ready to accept video on computers.” Four months later, Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion. The original World Wide Web, a static, low-bandwidth word system of hyperlinks, was finished.

since then, “internet television,” a phrase I tried in vain to realize, has pitched its tent everywhere. Video defined the so-called Web 2.0, the only internet that many of us have ever known. And now it accounts for about 82% of online traffic. It’s not just YouTube, Instagram, and Snap; even verbal apps, where the stock in commerce is still words, from jokes (Twitter) to marketing chatter (LinkedIn), are ablaze with video.

But an app has never quite handled moving images: Facebook. The company acquired Instagram in 2012, the same year it went public, and seemed to believe its image and video bases were covered.

Early on, Facebook had differentiated itself from MySpace and then Tumblr—emo, image-heavy sites that could lean toward porn—by responding to lower-bandwidth, more serious word consumers. Its users had a strong incentive to keep things clean and to reveal real names, real biographies, real birthplaces, real jobs.

Facebook’s foundational commitment to text has helped it spread its monstrous empire to populations underserved by broadband. (People without big data plans still have trouble seeing images on Facebook’s mobile app.) The app’s text interface also sealed its rep as a site for simple facts and granny-friendly content.

These world domination strategies have had a devastating, if unintended, consequence: They have left a population of hundreds of millions, and ultimately 2.9 billion, vulnerable to deception. People whose first and main contact with the internet was Facebook weren’t ready when the platform was hijacked by particularly consequential misinformation in 2015. They were easily duped. They had come to accept what they saw there as fact, as empirical as a name and number on an employee directory or a college… facebook.

The users themselves were also easy targets for malice editing when Facebook done start pushing video with Facebook Watch and other streaming products and partnerships. (If I had first seen the Ryang trailer posted by an aunt on Facebook, I swear I could have taken the record straight, decided I had always misunderstood The brilliantand torn off at “Solsbury Hill.”)