“I think the internet is broken,” he says. He has believed this for a few years, actually. But things are getting worse. “And it’s a lot more obvious to a lot of people that it’s broken.”
.. People are using Facebook to showcase suicides, beatings and murder, in real time. Twitter is a hive of trolling and abuse that it seems unable to stop. Fake news, whether created for ideology or profit, runs rampant.
.. “I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,” Mr. Williams says. “I was wrong about that.”
.. The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.
.. Maybe it will be all car crashes, all the time. Twitter already feels like that.
.. “The notion that you’re going to succeed as a writing site simply by putting quality first is not compatible with venture capital revenue expectations,” said Bill Rosenblatt, a media technology consultant. “No one would have funded this if it weren’t by Ev Williams.”
.. If his vision was clear — get rid of the gatekeepers and let people talk
.. “He’s not C.E.O. material,”
.. A few years ago, Twitter was viewed as a tool of liberation.
.. Then the narrative turned darker, with the rise of trolling on the platform.
.. “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that,” he said finally. “If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”
.. “Ad-driven systems can only reward attention,” Mr. Williams says. “They can’t reward the right answer. Consumer-paid systems can. They can reward value. The inevitable solution: People will have to pay for quality content.”
Mr. Williams was late to arrive at this solution. The rest of the media got there long ago.
.. He suggested instead the bookstore model. Bookstores don’t commission material, but they curate it and sell it.
.. James Hong, best known for the popular rating-and-dating site Hot or Not? in the early 2000s, was an angel investor in Medium. He once told Mr. Williams that he had some new ideas about dating sites but feared that if he tackled them, “I’d be working on the same thing my whole entire life.”
.. Mr. Hong said: “It’s not a vanity project, it’s his calling. Other people calling it a vanity project actually tells me more about them than it does about Evan.”
.. “Medium feels like the perfect Obama-era platform: minimal, distinguished, self-important, elevated,” Mr. Watson says. “But as soon as the campaigns really ramped up their efforts in the primaries, we were living in a post-Obama world, metaphorically, and then literally. And that post-Obama world holds no room for minimalist, distinguished, self-important, elevated thoughtfulness.”