Death of the Hyperlink


Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan

On Day 3 Hossein Derakhshan, one of Iran’s leading bloggers, spoke at re:publica TEN’ Stage 1 about the slow death of the intellectual internet. In his talk "The post-Web internet: Is the (the future of) television?" he blames the social networks.

The internet that Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan appreciated before his 6-year imprisonment, no longer exists after his release in November 2014. “His” internet was an internet of hyperlinks, “the blue underlined text passages in blog posts which transport one through means of a click to new websites, to new worlds.” With the help of hyperlinks, bloggers could challenge each other, exchange opinions and create a debating culture, according to Derakhshan.

The “new” internet, however, is dominated by social networks. Bloggers and authors now use Facebook, to distribute their texts. The problem: Facebook doesn’t like links to other pages – all content should be available on one single platform, namely Facebook. Derakhshan fears: The internet is in danger of becoming a closed, linear, and centralized platform.

Facebook’s algorithm regarding the evaluation of information is only interested in two aspects: How new they are, how many “likes” they generate, meaning how popular they are. The network neglects or ignores all other information, which is why images are becoming more important than texts. The former library-internet is turning into a tv-internet.

The “preliminary selection” based on likes has ramifications, according to Derakhshan: Firstly, users only see stars and starlets, not, however, the difficulties which older people or minorities are facing. Further, users are no longer confronted with less popular views.

People are looking at issues one-sidedly and are becoming fanatics. With them, politics are becoming radicalized, which we can very well see on the example of Donald Trump and his popularity in the US. Purposefully exaggerating, Derakhshan declares that this change means everyone who can read more than 140 characters now counts as literate.

For this reason, Hossein Derakhshan demands that social networks be modified. The internet of links, the internet as a library, must be revived. In times like these, he says, the internet should not function as a means to “sooth” the people but to surprise and challenge them.

Photo credit: re:publica/Jan Zappner (CC BY 2.0)