Are Apps The Online Equivalent Of White Flight?

AppStore_iconDoes anyone agree with Virginia Heffernan’s New York Times essay about the rise of apps being equivalent to “the online equivalent of white flight”?

The Web is a teeming commercial city. It’s haphazardly planned. Its public spaces are mobbed, and signs of urban decay abound in broken links and abandoned projects. Malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters unsafe and unsanitary. Bullies and hucksters roam the streets. An entrenched population of rowdy, polyglot rabble seems to dominate major sites.

People who find the Web distasteful — ugly, uncivilized — have nonetheless been forced to live there: it’s the place to go for jobs, resources, services, social life, the future. But now, with the purchase of an iPhone or an iPad, there’s a way out, an orderly suburb that lets you sample the Web’s opportunities without having to mix with the riffraff. This suburb is defined by apps from the glittering App Store: neat, cute homes far from the Web city center, out in pristine Applecrest Estates. In the migration of dissenters from the “open” Web to pricey and secluded apps, we’re witnessing urban decentralization, suburbanization and the online equivalent of white flight.

The parallels between what happened to cities like Chicago, Detroit and New York in the 20th century and what’s happening on the Internet since the introduction of the App Store are striking. Like the great modern American cities, the Web was founded on equal parts opportunism and idealism. Over the years, nerds, students, creeps, outlaws, rebels, moms, fans, church mice, good-time Charlies, middle managers, senior citizens, starlets, presidents and corporate predators all made their home on the Web. In spite of a growing consensus about the dangers of Web vertigo and the importance of curation, there were surprisingly few “walled gardens” online — like the one Facebook purports to (but does not really) represent.

But a kind of virtual redlining is now under way. The Webtropolis is being stratified. Even if, like most people, you still surf the Web on a desktop or laptop, you will have noticed pay walls, invitation-only clubs, subscription programs, privacy settings and other ways of creating tiers of access. All these things make spaces feel “safe” — not only from viruses, instability, unwanted light and sound, unrequested porn, sponsored links and pop-up ads, but also from crude design, wayward and unregistered commenters and the eccentric ­voices and images that make the Web constantly surprising, challenging and enlightening…

[continues in the New York Times]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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8 Comments on "Are Apps The Online Equivalent Of White Flight?"

  1. macs are for people who don't really know how to use computers. So instead of being robbed in a chaotic fashion they rather be robbed in a orderly fashion by apple. Want something need and safe use ubuntu, it has a neat software repository and guess what its free free free free. Try ubuntu my mom uses it and she is not even interested in computers that much. It makes everything run super fast!!!! Linux for the win. Macs are over priced over hyped computers. Linux is used by major money making and product making corporations. Not just by one trying to sell you their computers. Use what the big dawgs use. Use linux it has many flavors, my current favorite because of the support from its creators is ubuntu. And guess what if you learn how to program one day you can change linux to whatever you want without being sued, because well its already your a birthright you just don't know about. Linux is great for doing what computer are intended for (being a extension of you mind).

    • Wreckingball | May 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm |

      Ha Ha! I love how non-Mac users always accuse Mac users of being elitists (not that vicwiz is doing it with this post). Meanwhile it's not the Mac owners who are angry at other platform users. Get as pissed-off as you like that your O.S. doesn't get to walk down the red carpet of uber-commercialism, it matters not. Apple makes products that people want and will pay a premium for, for various reasons (exceptional graphics ['cept no Flash – WTF!!!], fewer bugs, fewer crashes, fewer virus problems, extreme convenience and – yes – aethstetic beauty. There is more to value in a computer than the fact that you got something for free – a type of sickness that many Americans seem to suffer from. Design and user experience matter, devotion to which has made Apple the tops in consumer computing.

      • Wreckingball | May 27, 2010 at 7:37 pm |

        Oh, and by the way, for what it's worth I AM an elitist!

        • you are fag fan boy. shut the fuck up. you don't even know how to use a computer. I got other stuff to buy I don't need people making me pay premium price for something i can do on my own. If you are computer retarded its not my fault. Ubuntu has premium graphics for the price of free. Learn how to program instead of sucking up to apple. Plus apple enslaves asians to make their shit. I want nothing to do with that hipster bullshit. Linux for life Linux for the love of computers. Mac is just a fancy calculator, you can draw on photoshop on any little computer if you are a good artist. You don't know what you are talking about, Mac users are not elite they are the lowest of the low, they don't even know the specs or what the computer hardware consists of, to them its just a big shinny box. Linux users are l33t!!!!!! You sir are not by far. You know nothing. Proprietary software keeps computing from evolving faster, its a god damn bottle neck. Go spend money on a pretty girl instead of trying to make your computer look like one. And by the way people that want to pay premium price for everything are insane it goes against the nature of capitalism and against the nature of freedom stop hatting freedom stop hating America. Working hard and saving people money is the model the linux conspiritors abide by and I like that and soon it will be taking over. To be a power user you have to know your computer inside out, to do what mac users do you don't need to pay premium price. if their mobile devices where not made by slave labor i would dig them but i dont want any of that. A true power use will make the most of use of a mid level machine without any problems.

        • no one ever said you were elite. get over yourself. plus elitism is not something to be proud of unless you compete in sports.

  2. In my eyes, the New York Times lost _all_ credibility after their coverage of the Duke University lacrosse team news story. Long after the evidence was clear that the lacrosse players were innocent of rape, the NYT still was being politically correct at all costs, and condemning innocent young men entitled monsters.

    To hell with the NYT.

  3. If you're looking for racism everywhere, you'll find it everywhere — but only in the same way that a 10 year old finds a sexual double entendre in every harmless daily saying. Give. Me. A. Break.

  4. no one ever said you were elite. get over yourself. plus elitism is not something to be proud of unless you compete in sports.

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