William Gibson in 1996: The Web is Larval, a City

In 1996, in those early days of the Web, William Gibson penned a wonderful op-ed for The New York Times oddly titled “The Net is a Waste of Time”:

I stay in. Hooked. Is this leisure — this browsing, randomly linking my way through these small patches of virtual real-estate — or do I somehow imagine that I am performing some more dynamic function? The content of the Web aspires to absolute variety. One might find anything there. It is like rummaging in the forefront of the collective global mind. Somewhere, surely, there is a site that contains . . . everything we have lost?

The finest and most secret pleasure afforded new users of the Web rests in submitting to the search engine of Alta Vista the names of people we may not have spoken aloud in years. Will she be here? Has he survived unto this age? (She isn’t there. Someone with his name has recently posted to a news group concerned with gossip about soap stars.) What is this casting of the nets of identity? Do we engage here in something of a tragic seriousness?

The best part is this, and I would venture to say the Web is still developing:

The Web is new, and our response to it has not yet hardened. That is a large part of its appeal. It is something half-formed, growing. Larval. It is not what it was six months ago; in another six months it will be something else again. It was not planned; it simply happened, is happening. It is happening the way cities happened. It is a city.

Read the entire thing.

And if you don’t know who William Gibson is, I think Neuromancer is a good place to start. You can also follow him on Twitter.

On Burning Out on the Web

A good piece in The New York Times on Brian Lam, writer for Wired and Gizmodo who called it quits and founded something less stressful:

Brian Lam was both a prince and a casualty of that realm. After interning at Wired, he became the editor of Gizmodo,Gawker Media’s gadget blog. A trained Thai boxer, he focused his aggression on cranking out enough copy to increase the site’s traffic, to a peak of 180 million page views from 13 million in the five years he was there.

He and his writers broke news, sent shrapnel into many subject areas with provocative, opinionated copy and was part of the notorious pilfered iPhone 4 story that had law enforcement officials breaking down doors on Apple’s behalf. I saw Mr. Lam on occasional trips to San Francisco, and he crackled with jumpy digital energy.

And then, he burned out at age 34. He loved the ocean, but his frantic digital existence meant his surfboard was gathering cobwebs. “I came to hate the Web, hated chasing the next post or rewriting other people’s posts just for the traffic,” he told me. “People shouldn’t live like robots.”

So he quit Gizmodo, and though he had several lucrative offers, he decided to do exactly nothing. He sold his car, rented out his house, took time to mull things over and eventually moved to Hawaii because he loves surfing.