Link-rot: Internet and incentives

The Internet’s Takeover of Vices: Legacy Media and Institutional Rot


Over the past decade, the Internet has transformed the way we access information, connect with others, and consume media. While it has brought numerous benefits, it has also inherited some of the vices traditionally associated with legacy media and institutional rot. This essay explores how the Internet, once hailed as a beacon of democratization and knowledge, has experienced a decline in quality, characterized by deteriorating search experiences, intrusive advertisements, platform controversies, rampant linkrot, and other manifestations of institutional decay.

Decline in Search Quality:

One of the most noticeable changes in the Internet landscape is the deterioration of search quality. As the sheer volume of online content has exploded, search engines struggle to deliver relevant and reliable results. Search algorithms have become vulnerable to manipulation, resulting in biased and misleading information ranking prominently. The prioritization of clickbait articles and sensationalism has contributed to the erosion of trust in online sources. Users often find themselves wading through a sea of irrelevant or low-quality content, diminishing the value of the Internet as an information resource.

Intrusive Advertisements and Monetization:

The proliferation of intrusive advertisements is another detrimental aspect of the Internet’s evolution. Websites, in their quest for revenue generation, have inundated users with pop-ups, auto-playing videos, and invasive tracking mechanisms. The user experience has been sacrificed in favor of maximizing advertising revenue, leading to frustration, slower page loading times, and decreased user satisfaction. Additionally, the rise of ad-blockers as a necessary defense mechanism further exemplifies the negative impact of monetization on the Internet’s integrity.

Platform Controversies and Manipulation:

Social media platforms, once hailed as catalysts for free expression and connectivity, have become embroiled in controversies and deliberate manipulation. These platforms often struggle to strike a balance between fostering open dialogue and curbing misinformation, hate speech, and harassment. As a result, they face criticism for amplifying toxic behaviors and contributing to societal divisions. Moreover, the centralized control exerted by a few powerful entities has raised concerns over censorship, bias, and the erosion of democratic ideals in the online space.

Rampant Linkrot and Digital Decay:

Another symptom of the Internet’s decline is the prevalence of linkrot and digital decay. Many hyperlinks in older online content no longer lead to the intended destination, as websites are constantly redesigned, restructured, or abandoned. The loss of this interconnected web of knowledge disrupts the continuity of information, making it increasingly difficult to access and verify historical online sources. The erosion of digital preservation efforts further contributes to the decay of the Internet’s collective knowledge.

Title: Misaligned Incentives: Impeding Solutions to Internet’s Problems:

The decline of the Internet’s quality, including issues such as deteriorating search experiences, intrusive advertisements, platform controversies, and rampant linkrot, stems from a fundamental problem: misaligned incentives.

1. Search Engines and Content Providers:

Search engines and content providers are driven by revenue models that rely heavily on advertising. As a result, the emphasis often shifts towards maximizing ad impressions and user engagement, rather than prioritizing accurate, reliable, and relevant information. This misalignment disincentivizes investments in improving search algorithms or filtering out low-quality content, impeding progress in search quality.

2. Advertisers and Websites:

For advertisers and websites, maximizing advertising revenue is a primary goal. This has led to the proliferation of intrusive and aggressive advertising tactics, negatively impacting the user experience. However, as long as these practices continue to generate revenue, the incentives to change are minimal. Advertisers and websites are reluctant to forgo short-term gains in favor of user satisfaction and long-term sustainability.

3. Social Media Platforms:

Social media platforms face a delicate balancing act between freedom of expression, user engagement, and the responsibility to curb misinformation and toxic behavior. Striking the right balance is challenging, as these platforms rely on user-generated content to drive engagement and ad revenue. Heavy-handed moderation can lead to accusations of bias and censorship, while leniency risks perpetuating harmful narratives. The complexity of this dilemma makes it difficult to incentivize platforms to effectively address these issues.

4. Digital Preservation Efforts:

The preservation of online content and combatting linkrot require significant resources and dedicated efforts. However, the lack of financial incentives for website owners and content creators to invest in long-term archiving and maintenance hampers these preservation initiatives. Consequently, valuable online resources decay and disappear, eroding the collective knowledge available on the Internet.


The Internet’s problems, ranging from declining search quality to intrusive advertisements, platform controversies, and rampant linkrot, persist due to the misalignment of incentives within the current internet ecosystem. Stakeholders driven by profit motives often prioritize short-term gains over long-term sustainability and user satisfaction. Addressing these issues necessitates aligning incentives to promote quality content, user-centric experiences, and responsible platform governance.

To foster change, stakeholders should collectively prioritize the following actions:

1. Develop alternative revenue models that reward quality content and user satisfaction, rather than solely relying on advertising revenue.

2. Encourage responsible advertising practices that respect user experience and prioritize engagement over intrusive tactics.

3. Promote transparency and accountability in social media platforms to strike a balance between free expression and responsible content moderation.

4. Support initiatives and incentives for digital preservation to combat linkrot and preserve online knowledge for future generations.

By aligning incentives to emphasize long-term sustainability, user satisfaction, and the preservation of valuable information, we can overcome the challenges that currently impede effective solutions to the Internet’s problems. Only through collaborative efforts can we create an online ecosystem that truly serves the best interests of users, content creators, and society as a whole.

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