A Web of Extraction

Most websites are just plain ugly. Crowded. Tasteless. Flashing display ads. Heavy graphics, leading to painfully slow load times. Many can’t load on mobile. We still largely have to hunt and peck, poke and scavenge, to find the kernel of the information we want. That is inefficient. Each website, controlled by a landlord, often wastes the tenant’s time, a rent exacted that is starting to rile a small user base.

Why is Pinterest taking off? Many reasons, of course, but one of them is because users are taking images and “extracting” them from sites and organizing them according to their own framework, file system, or board setup. They go to a page, they want a picture, and they don’t want all the other crap. Pin it. Take it. Leave the page. So long. Move on.

I’ve been noticing the same action going on with my use of Pocket, though I realize this is on a much smaller scale. I read a lot. I need to. It’s vital to my survival. And, I need to do it quickly. I constantly drop things into my “Pocket” to read on my iPhone or iPad. I pull articles from the web (Pocket via Chrome extension) and mostly integrate through my Twitter. Pocket does so much work for me. Pocket visits these sites, “extracts” only the relevant information I want by crawling the site, and gives me an entirely new house or apartment to view it from, freeing me from website slumlords and increasing my rights as a tenant of the web.

The view of the web is decidedly more interesting from Pinterest, or for me, from Pocket. It’s the web I want, the information I need. I’m not bothered with someone else’s interstitial ads, or pop-ups, or heavy plug-ins. I’m not sure if the web world will move in this direction. Perhaps content-sites will stop others from crawling over their property — some already have. Perhaps most will be satisfied going to the Huffington Post and trying to read with all that garbage everywhere on the page. Not me. I can’t focus to read it. This is what I refer to as “The Web of Extraction,” where creators build tools for people like me to go and remake the web that suits me best.