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How blackout day missed the boat

Raise your hand if you use Wikipedia on a daily basis. Okay, now raise your hand if you know what Boing Boing is. If your hand is not up, chances are you unaware that some web sites have chosen to blackout their content today in a protest to the internet censorship bills SOPA and PIPA.

The idea behind the protest is to give people a taste of what the internet would be like if these bills were to pass.

The protest probably is effective if you use these sites on a regular basis. However, Wikipedia and Boing Boing are far from the most popular sites on the internet. Arguably the most popular and useful site on the internet -- Google -- a staunch opponent of the legislation, could only muster this lame protest:
Oh the horror! What happened to the logo? Oh wait, the search bar still works...

At least Google tried. My Twitter and Facebook pages work fine. Nowhere on either page can you find any mention of the protest or of the twin harbingers of the internet apocalypse (that is, if you don't count the tweets and updates from actual members).

Can you imagine how effective the protest would have been if these companies had taken more action?

What if gmail made you wait five minutes to login? What if Twitter and Facebook randomly blacked out tweets and status updates? People would probably amass on the steps of congress and firebomb the place.

Instead I have to wait an extra day to look up the career of Roy Orbison. That's really going to set me back.

This post originally appeared on Stuff Smart People Like. Subscribe to the Podcast.


  1. Wikipedia, #6 most visited website, is "far from the most popular site on the internet"? I'd say #6 is pretty close. Twitter is only #10.

  2. Hmmm. And where do Google and Facebook sit on that list? What about Boing Boing?

  3. Danny, you should have titled your comment "How Danny Missed the Boat"

    The post was about how Google, Twitter, and Facebook missed the boat when their involvement would have made this thing epic.


  5. Jordan,
    No. Just because I didn't address the main point of the post in my comment doesn't mean I didn't get it. I agree with the overall point. I just commented on one thing I did disagree with. I don't think being website #6 is something to scoff at. It's pretty big.

    Google is #1 and Facebook is #2. Boing Boing is probably in the 80s or something. I really don't know anything about that site.

  6. On a serious note, I found it interesting that a lot of the same people that really got behind Wikipedia and Google for their protests and were declaring that facebook and other huge corporations should have done more to influence this policy position, were the same people who were appalled by the Citizens United decision. Did you guys notice that too? Isn't that weird?

  7. I understand your point. #6 doesn't sound too bad. But #6 in rank-ordering is pretty heavily dependent on the metric of popularity.

    Do the rankings say anything about the number of views/clicks each site gets? I am willing to bet that Google and FB completely dwarf numbers #3-#10 in that respect. A rank-ordering of sites might not be useful as a measure here because, the difference between #1 and #2 is likely to not be as large #5-#6, or #3-#4.

    The other thing to consider is the pure amount of time the average user spends on each site. Google has a huge suite of products (chances are if you use one you use many), including it's own browser and facebook has tons applications and other things to keep you on the page and clicking around. This is quite different from the kind of interaction that the average user has with Wikipedia.

    In those terms, these two sites would have made a much larger impact in terms of the sheer ability to affect people's day-to-day interaction with the internet.

  8. Yeah, I get that google and facebook are bigger than wikipedia. I was trying to point out that you were either wrong to draw the line where you did, or to include twitter on the big guy side of the line as it's actually smaller than wikipedia.

    One major way to measure the size/popularity of a website is by incoming links. Wikipedia is huge like that. You guys link to them all the time. Also, one sure sign that wikipedia is huge is that if you google almost anything, there's a wikipedia article in the top 3 hits or so, and usually the first one.