American cities used to be interesting.
Walk down Broadway in downtown Los Angeles and, hidden behind atrocious swap-meet-like stores, you’ll see facades of unique and astonishing architecture. Neighborhoods used to have their own character. Their local grocery store, book store and tailor. Now everything is Starbucks, Old Navy and Pizza Hut. Wash, rinse and repeat. I could be in Dallas, Boston or Los Angeles. Everything looks the same. Just the palm trees tell me I’m in Los Angeles.
I fear the same is happening to the Web. Strip Malls make sense. They scale nicely. Companies love scale. It makes businesses predictable. And more effective. Meaning: more profit.
Problem is, Strip Malls are de-humanizing. They don’t add anything to the neighborhood, they just add to the consumption culture. And they are an annoying eyesore.
And while we add ‘Like’ and ‘Twitter’ buttons to everything, retweet another link to the echo chamber, we should ask ourselves if we are committing the crime to change the Web to another Strip Mall. Boring, predictable and very much scalable. What’s in it for us?
Personally, I’d rather have the Wild West on the Web and not another outpost of scalability. Maybe that’s just me.