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And for His Next Act Blogger and Twitter Co-Founder Will Fix the Internet

The New York Times: “As a co-founder of Blogger and Twitter and, more recently, as the chief executive of the digital publishing platform Medium, Mr. Williams transformed the way millions of people publish and consume information online. But as his empire grew, he started to get a gnawing feeling that something wasn’t right. High-quality publishers were losing out to sketchy clickbait factories. Users were spending tons of time on social media, but they weren’t necessarily happier or better informed. Platforms built to empower the masses were rewarding extremists and attention seekers instead. Mr. Williams has not given up on Twitter, his biggest and most influential project thus far. (He left the company in 2011, but has stayed on the board and remains a major shareholder.) He still believes that, on balance, a world with social media is better than one without. But a year ago, he began lamenting that the internet was “broken” — an observation that has been borne out by, well, basically everything that has happened since. “I think I was a little bit ahead of some people in seeing the dark side,” Mr. Williams told me recently. Much of Silicon Valley is now catching up. Early employees of Google, Facebook and other tech giants have gone public with their regrets in recent months, calling the products they helped build overly addictive and destructive to society. Industry leaders including Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief, have done their own soul searching. This week, Google’s chief, Sundar Pichai, said the company was “reflective” about its responsibilities. And New York magazine recently published a collection of interviews with conscience-stricken tech insiders, titled “The Internet Apologizes.” But while other tech leaders enter the confessional booth, Mr. Williams, 46, seems to be emerging with a new outlook — a blend of old-fashioned Silicon Valley optimism tempered with the caution of a tech veteran who has seen well-intended products hijacked by horrible people.
Last week, Mr. Williams sent me a kind of mini-manifesto — a two-page document containing his thoughts about technology’s potential, the problems with ad-supported media and the regulation of social media platforms. We followed up with a phone interview, in which he expanded on the ideas, some of which he has been thinking about and refining for years but had yet to make public. Many of Mr. Williams’s most recent thoughts have to do with how the digital advertising business, coupled with the rise of social media, has trapped publishers in a vicious competition for people’s attention. That quest, which naturally favors loud and extreme voices, has in turn driven more media organizations to publish low-quality and sensational stories…”

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