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Neil Gaiman’s Radical Vision for the Future of the Internet

Earlier this week, Neil Gaiman was interviewed on Icelandic television. Around the twenty-five minute mark of the program, the topic turned to the author’s thoughts about the internet. “I love blogging. I blog less now in the era of microblogging,” Gaiman explained, referring to his famously long-running online journal hosted at “I miss the days of just sort of feeling like you could create a community by talking in a sane and cheerful way to the world.”

As he continues, it becomes clear that Gaiman’s affection for this more personal and independent version of online communication is more than nostalgia. As he goes on to predict:

“But it’s interesting because people are leaving (social media). You know, Twitter is over, yeah Twitter is done, Twitter’s… you stick a fork in, it’s definitely overdone. The new Twitters, like Threads and Blue sky… nothing is going to do what that thing once did. Facebook works but it doesn’t really work. So I think probably the era of blogging may return and maybe people will come and find you and find me again.”

In these quips, Gaiman is reinforcing a vision of the internet that I have been predicting and promoting in my recent writing for The New Yorker (e.g., this and this and this). Between 2012 to 2022, we came to believe that the natural structure for online interaction was for billions of people to all use the same small number of privately-owned social platforms. We’re increasingly realizing now that it was this centralization idea itself that was unnatural. The underlying architecture of the internet already provides a universal platform on which anyone can talk to anyone else about any topic. We didn’t additionally need all of these conversations to be consolidated into the same interfaces and curated by the same algorithms.

The future of the internet that most excites me is also, in many ways, a snapshot of its past. It’s a place where the Neil Gaimans of the world don’t need to feed their thoughts into an engagement engine, but can instead put out a virtual shingle on their own small patch of cyberspace and attract and build a more intimate community of like-minded travelers. This doesn’t necessitate a blog — podcasts, newsletters, and video series have emerged as equally engaging mediums for independent media production. The key is a communication landscape that is much more diverse and distributed and interesting than what we see when everyone is using the same two or three social apps.

This vision is not without its issues. The number one concern I hear about a post-social media online world is the difficulty of attracting large audiences. For content creators, by far the biggest draw to a service like Twitter or Instagram is that their algorithms could, if you played things just right, grant you viral audience growth.

Take myself as an example. Over the past fifteen years I’ve slowly built this newsletter to around 80,000 loyal subscribers who really seem to connect with what I have to say. If I had instead directed my energy during this period toward a social platform (which I somewhat infamously refused to do), I probably could have gathered ten times more followers.

I’m not sure, however, that I care. What exactly is a social media follower anyway? A couple years ago, for example, publishing houses began signing major social media influencers to book deals under the assumption that their huge follower counts would yield automatic sales. Things didn’t work out as planned. I think I’m happy with my 80,000 subscribers, many of whom I know by name, and who have been reading and commenting on my work for many years. It feels like a family while the social media influencers I know often experience their audiences more like an unruly mob that they’re struggling to pacify.

An online world in which it’s hard to be a superstar, but easier to find a real sense of community, sounds like a good tradeoff to me. I’m hoping Neil Gaiman is right that the Age of Twitter really is coming to an end, and that a return the quieter, deeper pleasures of a more homegrown social internet will soon return. I remember fondly read Gaiman’s blog during the early 2000s. There were no likes or virality, but I did feel connected to an author I liked. Can’t that be good enough?


In Other News: On the latest episode of my podcast, Deep Questions, I take a critical look at the idea of “laziness,” exploring more effective ways of thinking about struggles to get important things done. (watch | listen)

32 thoughts on “Neil Gaiman’s Radical Vision for the Future of the Internet”

    • The problem on the reader side is FINDING content. Not being left behind for lack of knowing how to connect. I’ll need to learn how without Rumble or Twitter or regrettably YouTube. I search with Brave because so much health and political content is buried or banned. Gmail is unwieldy. Feedly was an answer for a while. Thankk you for your interview with Andrew Huberman.

  1. Nice to hear this. I began blogging in 2003 and am still at it. I write in the technology of manufacturing niche and probably have more readers than the magazines that are left in the space. Twitter worked for a few years, but rapidly declined years ago. LinkedIn never took the place.

    You’re right about numbers, too. I’ve monitored those for years. Engagement is better than numbers.

  2. In the fourth paragraph, “Neil Gaiman’s” does not need an apostrophe before the “s.” Because you are just making the name plural, it does not need the possessive apostrophe.

  3. I’m very excited to see your comment on Neil Gaiman. He is my recent favorite author. By the way, I’ve been reading your posts since I was a Ph.D. student back in 2014. Now, I am an assistant professor at LSE. I greatly appreciate your company throughout these years.

  4. It would be so wonderful to leave social media behind but I’m afraid it’s so ingrained in society now that it just won’t happen. Here’s hoping.

  5. The problem with blogs is that spammers ruined the old high trust blogosphere. Technorati tags ceased to be useful and then disappeared. Blogrolls went away as bloggers tried to conserve link juice. Comments became a zoo of commercials for counterfeit aphrodisiacs. The search engines went full on Matthew Effect.

    So we need some form of ID validation and some mechanism to better flag link farms in order to restore what once was.

    In the meantime, a more blog like social media platform could simulate the old blogosphere, something like this.

  6. Nice one!. For someone who grew up with a few “select” social media platforms ,the return of blogging is very much welcome. As a reader I definitely feel more connected and valued when reading a blog than a social media post.

  7. Thank you Cal! I hope we see this prediction in the future. It’s hard to beat the early days of blogging and the excitement of finding new blogs to read.

  8. Stopped reading at “Twitter is over”. No, it’s not, and in any case you have Instagram, YouTube or TikTok, which are stronger than ever. Sorry, I wish you were right, but we are not going back to the blog era. This is nostalgia talking, and the new generations are not going to follow you to a grey past they didn’t share. Either you offer them something new and better, or you are going to lose this battle.

  9. Great post but I remember that before esplosion of Social Networks, Blog’s Quality decreased exponentially respect early days. So crucial point is: “how do we absorb Quality Information” in 2023?
    Books are still primary source of quality; magazines alas disappeared; quality blogs (like this) are few; maybe videos/podcast still contains gems; rest is noise.
    Community where do you seek quality Information?

  10. From your lips to God’s ears. Frankly, I don’t care about everyone being together in one place—I’d rather follow all the disparate people and things I’m interested in, piecemeal. Do I sound like someone who misses Google Reader? I do miss it.

  11. I would wholeheartedly welcome a return to this kind of internet. Like you write and like many are starting to recognize, the social media-driven internet is on its way out. I hope that this comes sooner rather than later, but I fear that it’s going to linger for some time.

  12. Yes, indeed! Let’s return to having our own websites with our own personalized style.

    I make my living teaching people how to fish, and 100% of that effort is done online.

    Like many, I was sucked into the black hole of social media but, before that, had my own website.

    Social media had it’s value, but that was lost with the shorter attention spans created by algorithm….well, you know and so does everyone else here.

    Now, my new (and effective) content creation strategy is making content on my own website, rather than for someone else’s attention factory.

    It feels good, produces less anxiety, makes better content for my audience and, just as important, creates a steady revenue.

    Excellent blog post and thank you for writing it!

  13. I’m hoping blogging will return, and the more in-depth kind, not the “10 Things You’re Doing Wrong” garbage. I’m a fiction writer, and the changes have me struggling to figure out how to continue building my mailing list with a declining social media. Another writer who had a huge following on Twitter reported having to go to one of the others (maybe Threads), but she didn’t have nearly the same following as on Twitter, so she’d lost some of her reach. I’ve never been much about marketing on social media (a necessarily evil, and I never quite understand how it would translate into book sales other than “everyone says.”), Will be interesting to see where this goes.

  14. Hey Cal, this is a really insightful article. What do you think about Substack? It’s a platform with an active audience but it doesn’t really feel as much like social media, probably because it’s just for writers.

  15. Hi Cal,

    Great post. I recently reset up my blog and want to start semi-regularly writing posts. As a software engineer (I am fresh out of school so I may be wrong), it seems like blogging has never left for online tech folks. Some of the best and most informative content I can find are in personal blogs – which is awesome in my opinion! That is my main motivation to try and give back to sphere of content I consume. Hacker news’ ( top daily posts have a large percentage of them being from personal blogs.

    A key thing that makes blogs work, in my opinion, is feed aggregators (RSS, Atom). I commented on a post before about it, but, Cal, your blog/newsletter still does not have RSS/Atom support! I think to make this future work individuals need to add this old, yet faithful, technology to their personal websites so consumers of it can easily aggregate their and others content in a place of their choosing (from the terminal for nerds like me, or plenty of GUI’s like


  16. Love your work and will continue to support it! I’ve been a fan since I read DW in Nov 2016 and a God send for that era, I quit social media other than LinkedIn at time. I’ve curated my Internet to only view the people that really have interesting and unique insights, not folks propagating memes, quick rich schemes, here is how you become an expert in an hour, let me sell you a course, and the like trash. Crossing my fingers for the “influencer” era of shallow/garbage content dying out of the Internet. A dinosaur millennial can hope.

    • Totally agree that there is so much shallow content made by social media influencers. How did you find the higher quality content and people with interesting ideas?

  17. It was nice to taste all the dopamine over 10 years, but we are saying it is enough! But why? Your 80k subscriber is probably very niche minority of humanity, and you still have option to have personal e-mail listing. People, missing those days, are actually still reading blog post by e-mail.
    I have an interesting estimation about the future of social media. I think main problem is not social media addiction of humanity or having a centralized system for all the contents. Problem is giving that power to private companies, at least on the paper. By the way, who owns the internet? The obvious and quick answer is still America. Who owns the social media? American companies. What if USA decided to nationalize all the big social media companies? Or are they already did it?
    America speaking: You have too much data about my people and too much power over my nation. And you became too rich as well. We can solve the richness problem, but others are too crucial. That is my privilege and only mine to have these power. Even the word statistics is coming from the state, as they said. Therefore, I am making a decision to reclaim this power and transfer its oversight to the state, representing the public interest.
    Social Media Owner replied: “But, senator! We run ads!”

  18. I had already mostly quit social media, so I found So Good They Can’t Ignore You on Goodreads and then found your podcast on Spotify and have been hooked ever since. It’s definitely not necessary to have a social media presence to grow your followers or for other people to find who they’re looking for.

    Zach Lowe is my favorite NBA writer and probably a good example of this. His twitter is obviously just mandated posts about when he posts a new article or podcast, but his content is so good that I return to it often.

    I think I have room in my life for a couple additional people to follow on the topics I like most, do you have any tips on finding high quality content creators for topics we enjoy and want to learn more about, without letting algorithms decide for us?

  19. Yeah that’s pretty rad. I’m focusing on my own website right now and creating a blog on it and other forms of media that don’t include social media and it’s very nice. Have an email list of like people from 10 years ago were eagerly waiting to join my new blog so yeah. Neil is one of my favorites.

  20. I’m concerned that while Twitter might be done or even “overdone”, something even more mindless is taking over, i.e. short form videos. Flashing images and sounds that just create a quick impression and a random thought bubble in your mind, without delivering any lasting meaning or value. Perfect for wasting time. I won’t be so sure that when people stop reading short form text they will go to long form text, they may go to short form video instead and fry their attention even more!

  21. This reflection on Neil Gaiman’s vision for the future of the internet, emphasizing a return to more personal and community-driven platforms, is both intriguing and timely. Gaiman’s perspective, along with the author’s own experiences, highlights a growing sentiment for a digital space that values depth over breadth. It’s interesting to consider a shift from the vast, often impersonal realms of major social media platforms to more intimate, content-rich environments where genuine connections and meaningful interactions are prioritized. This could foster a digital landscape where quality and community engagement outweigh the sheer numbers of followers or likes, potentially leading to a more fulfilling and authentic online experience.


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