Why Muting is the next big era of the Internet

I’ll be the first to say it, the Internet can be exhausting sometimes. Everyone has an opinion, status updates from some app just keep coming…or maybe a bunch of people you follow are at a conference this week and tweeting about #whatever. Ever look at one of your social feeds and think, “Is there any way to turn off all of this stuff about CES?” We’ve all been there.

I’ve lost track of how many sites are on the Internet or how quickly we can now create the same amount of data as we created between the beginning of letter writing and 1850.

When something big is going on in the news. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that you can get tired of hearing about it.

We need to be able to Mute the Internet.

So often we refer to Twitter, or news in general, as a “firehose,” Tweetbot gives you the luxury of turning the firehose down, if just a little bit.

With Tweetbot, you can mute users, services, hashtags. It gives you the option to mute something for a period of time like a week. Or mute it forever. You can mute my tweets completely (without unfollowing, if you wish) and I’m none the wiser.

This is just the beginning.

How does muting make its way into every app?

There will be one company that builds a Muting API. The API will keep your preferences stored so that if you mute something in Tweetbot, it’s also muted elsewhere.

If I don’t want to read anything about the Yankees and I make that known in one app, every app knows.

I believe that you should be able to Mute “#CES” or “CES 2013” in Tweetbot and have Chrome, Safari or Firefox understand that you don’t want to see any content about the Consumer Electronics Show. That your RSS reader, Foursquare, Path, any app, should instantly know that preference too and filter accordingly.

This company will go and partner with some of the biggest apps to slowly introduce users to Muting. They’ll need to do a whole lot of content marketing to help the world to understand Muting - that it’s okay to turn down the Internet.

How do you build this?

Muting has to be a layer that content is filtered through before it’s displayed to the end user.

I believe that it needs to be an API that the application will hit. Send JSON, and get JSON back, which may or may not be filtered down. Then the data is rendered and displayed beautifully.

The dangers in Muting

In March 2011, Eli Pariser gave a talk on what he called “Filter Bubbles”. In his nine minute talk, Pariser spoke about the dangers of subjecting yourself to a single point of view, of not considering the opposition’s argument. He argues that we’re building more ways to enable the behavior of backing ourselves into an intellectual corner.

I certainly see the validity in Pariser’s argument. Combine the Internet with our current political landscape, for example, and notice that the vast majority of us don’t seem to be seeking out alternate points of view, just reading what reinforces our current world views.

Muting technologies making their way into applications could very easily lead to an exponential increase in the Filter Bubble effect. Though we’re already constructing these Bubbles around ourselves – just in a non-technical way, reading what we want, ignoring people and web sites that speak to the other side.

One solution I see to the danger of building Filter Bubbles is for your preferences to have an exponential decay element to them. If I Mute the 2012 Summer Olympics, I’d like to start seeing information about the last Summer Olympics by 2013 or 2014. It seems only natural. I’m overwhelmed in the moment in 2012 by the volume, but that’s not to say that I may not be interested when the firehose has diminished to a soft stream.


Muting is going to be very big and it has the potential to be very dangerous if is widely adopted and it’s not built, designed and architected correctly.

If you’re interested in discussing the idea of Muting more, email me or let’s chat over on Hacker News.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be humbled if you’d follow me on Twitter.


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