"I'm bored... There's Nothing on the Internet!" The Argument for a Walled Garden

Mike Halsey MVP
Feb 13, 2011
Updated • Feb 13, 2011
Internet, Yahoo

The call "There's nothing on TV" has long been a common phrase in households around the world, but now I'm beginning hear people express disappointment with the quality and availability of good stuff on the Internet.  This has just gotta be absurd, right!?  Well, perhaps not.

There can be absolutely no doubting that the Internet is anything but boring.  There are billions of websites out there and so much fantastic content that it would be impossible to get bored.  Everything from games to videos, interactive websites, chat, education it's all there and there's so much of it.

The problem arises when you have to find this content.  How many of you, and feel free to comment below, generally tend to go to the same websites day-in day-out, week-in, week-out?  You'd probably be surprised just how many people don't experience the broader Internet.

I would include myself in this.  I have a hard-core of about 30 websites I visit on a regular basis and outside of that I tend not to explore too much for fun.

So why is this?  The problem lies in being able to find and access that content.  Back in the early days of the Internet we had services such as Yahoo! and AOL.  These companies aggregated content into portals and delivered us chunks of the Internet that were vetted, relevant to their users and interesting.  There was frequent criticism though of these services, especially AOL, just giving people access to a small walled-garden, and not to the wider world.  Eventually they fell out of favour with the general public and companies like Google stepped up to fill the gap.

Google's approach made a lot of sense to people, they would place at or near the top of their search results the websites that people used the most, that were the highest rated and linked to.  If you searched for anything on Google in the early days then you could guarantee to get the most popular websites for whatever category you wanted.

But then the Internet exploded in size and became commercialised.  Now for any search you perform you'll have to wade through a mountain of sales, price comparison, fake search and other services to find the exciting and engaging content you want.

This is where services like Bing stepped in with its decision engine.  With Bing Microsoft attempted to make search smarter by predicting what it was you were really looking for and giving you that.  It is a popular approach and one that's now often copied.  The problem with this approach though is that these heuristic search engines rarely work properly or effectively.  Whatever you search for you will still be bombarded with fake sites, search sites, price comparison and shopping sites and so on.

What the Internet needs, and needs badly, is a way to be able to aggregate the most fantastic content on the web so that you can find it quickly, efficiently and with the minimum of fuss.

To a certain extent social networking websites have stepped into the mould here and Facebook has been particularly successful at helping people to find and share engaging and interesting content.  Even Facebook now though is beginning to sag under their weight of commercialism and it's turning people away.  I've seen regular Facebookers' using the service much less than they used to as a result.

So what's the solution?  One section of society already has it.  Young children have plenty of services tailored for them where not only the most appropriate content but also the most interesting content is aggregated from across the web.  These services aren't free but they're an invaluable extra for parents who want to keep their children engaged, entertained and educated, while at the same time keeping them safe from advertising and inappropriate content.

Could a similar service work for adults?  I'd argue that yes it would, and moreover that it would be something that a great many people would be prepared to pay for.

Heuristic technologies exist today that can deliver this.  Companies can use their own computer systems and black/white lists to block inappropriate content.  They can monitor what websites and content we like and enjoy, give us more like that and ask us with questionnaires what subjects we like and what types of experiences we want online.

Is this giving up valuable information to advertisers who can deliver targeted ads to you?  Is this giving up the freedom to experience a truly independent Internet?  The answer to both questions is yes, but I'm not sure how many people would be too concerned.

Another walled garden, or a choice of them, where we could easily find and experience the best on the Internet that's relevant to us would be a very valuable service indeed.  In fact as social networking has to evolve into something I would argue that this is one distinctly possible future.

The Internet is simply too big to navigate on your own.  We'll never find all the best stuff out there and the main search engines are all letting us down in this regard.

So bring on the walled garden, make the Internet fun and engaging again and keep us busy and occupied for years to come.  It wouldn't be our only way to experience the web, just a portal website or browser plug-in that we could use.  We'd also still have Google, Bing and all the traditional ways of find our way around.  It would be an invaluable service for many however an I'd certainly pay something for that!


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  1. Clinton Reynosa said on June 22, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    lol you guys should check out http://www.Formvote.com if you’re so bored. It’s a new social network, pretty fun.

  2. J-Something said on July 25, 2011 at 5:36 am

    Yeah, unless following a bunch of sites is a person’s actual job, I dont see how anyone could reasonably follow 30 of them.

    Myself, I have a core of about 10-15 sites that I visit with maybe 7or 8 more additional that i visit rarely.
    Lets see:

    androidfurums.com (to diagnose stuff android market :-) )
    local news (kcra.com)

    — less-often:
    craigslist.com (stuff listed as free is a must)
    plus some random sites… like cnn, dogpile, yahoo, nova,…etc…

    I used to use “stumble upon”, but it kept sending me to sites that were infected, thankfully I have good realtime anti-virus software.

    But even If I do wander out of that core, it really does seem like “There’s Nothing on the Internet ! ” Its just one big ball of garbage, nothing entertaining, nothing of value, and nothing that is really useful.

    and somehow it becomes boring upon itself…… hmmm, I think I know how to alleviate my bordum, I’ll go hang out with friends and do something more productive, like go see a new movie :-)

    anyways, Peace, Yo! From:JJdaCool

  3. john said on June 8, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I think Google and Bing both fail because they’re weak. If I was in charge I would ban all junk websites and most importantlly(although this is a layman’s opinion) completely rewrite the method of search because regardless of attempts to fix the method of searching such as bing’s “decision engine” and google’s new harderned stance on SEO manipulation it fails.
    It fails because of the fundamental structure of contempary search which if I am not wrong basically displays websites based on the popularity of their links.. This structure is fundamentally flawed because it encourages and allows manipulation and is purely quantative ignoring any indicators of quality regardless of the possiblity to objectify them.
    There is no method to determine which sites actual provide useful information only the sites that excell at SEO and popularity. I read something about federated searches and an attempt years ago to search the “deep web” or websites which are essentialy hidden from search engines due to their lack of links. Instead the idea was to actively search the internet “live” to access all of the web as opposed to retreiving information from existing databases.
    Anyways maybe an expert or someone in the industry can elaborate, I think whoever finds an innovative method for effective search would provide a real threat to the Google monopoly.

  4. internetUSER said on March 1, 2011 at 8:06 am

    internet not interactive to much.. u can see facebook is limited in search for people of course u cant connected to the world except to a friend that have a linked to any of ur friend, thats bored number one, and facebook is the only most used in the world so… no forum on facebook officially so we cant talk to the world trust me thats boring for some people that have bad comunitty in his live..
    not chat room for any facebook user in the world, only messenger with a friend, thats suck number 2.. another social networking is myspace, u cant get any new friend from there trust me.. and what we need is have option to find people with the same similiar interest.. some social offer that feature but with less member lol.. this is the internet in 2011.. msn is very uninteractive, google hav less active member, orkut almost like dead town, bebo is medium and good but user is not active because some of lack feature in mobile phone.. china is blocking facebook and twitter so less people would join and any chinese is in chinese text website.. so what happen with internet www mean? not world wide web but country web or region web of course XD
    not have any good instant translator in any web and status and chat or forum so thats language barrier, we still cant tell internet is world wide web.. :D
    and u can see anyone offer find member in ur area FTW!!!
    is this a real internet? region wide web RWW.. we need human database with high protection around the world with fakes photo filtering and universal translator.. and we need social networking that include forum and chat, not only status updates and twitter is boring with their follower and following feature and 400 text oh damn what happen with this world, is there no one wanted to join cooperate to create one good social networking for internet..all is compete each other and some have this feature some not and some not same because rival is still familiar on our ears, they want to dominate all but thats makes internet lack of imagination… mobile phone is killer too for most of website thats more good than facebook, facebook and twitter is sucker and looser with so much user because mobile phone!!!!!!!!! WTH

  5. el troquelados said on February 22, 2011 at 1:40 am

    Great post. Very informative. Thanks!

  6. MRK said on February 20, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Nothing like Voluntary Censorship, and add to that the Willful Compromising of Privacy.

    Sounds like any typical Windows PC these days…

  7. kalmly said on February 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I fear that what you’re suggesting would turn out to be like one of those automated phone services where they give you a list of 20 choices – none of which fit what you’re looking for – and you choose one, only to be given another list of 20 questions – none of which fit what you’re looking for – and you choose one, only to be given another list . . . .

    OR they ask you a few questions about yourself, age, gender, where you live as if you fit into a little box. Believe me, many of us do not fit well, if at all, into the boxes designed around the answers. BUT then it’s too late. You’re stuck there forever, or until you get a new email address and do a little lying. BUT then you have to choose your lies carefully :)

  8. Mystique said on February 14, 2011 at 11:39 am

    There is a lot of great content out there but agree that over the years things have been manipulated for personal gain, google search results are a perfect example of this and its not just google.
    As far as search engines go I have been trying to use an alternative to google these days (duckduckgo) and find it a little cleaner but in general its still not as easy to find what you are after like it was in the past.
    maybe its time we be given options to our search results and be able to personally block sites that we deem rubbish… there is a lot of crap out there that are clearly abusing the search engine features to get top hits so maybe its time we be given the power to control it.
    I vaguely remember a userscript or extension that gives you this ability but it escapes me right now.

  9. Alec said on February 14, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Its good to see someone else has the same opinion. More recently the internet has had an influx of seemingly spam articles or reaggregated content. I think the main reason behind the influx is the tools for creating websites have become much easy to use. Anyone can set up a wordpress or drupal site without much experiance where as before you had to learn html, php and sql in order to make a dynamic site and that was a barrier to entry.

    personally I use reddit.com as my walled garden, and stick to sections im interested in such as r/programming/ and r/java and r/androiddev

  10. Yoav said on February 13, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    I get the feeling too.

    But I have come to the conclusion that there just really is a limited number of interesting sights and quality content. No walled garden is going to solve the problem of a lack of quality content.

    1. RichF said on February 14, 2011 at 2:13 am

      Yoav, per the article, maybe you just can’t find the quality content easily enough.

  11. Big Dan said on February 13, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    I have probably about 10 sites which I frequent. Excluding Facebook most of them are forums, some of which I own. .

    Outside of those10 there’s about 100 or sites like Ghacks that I follow via RSS. Out of a 100 I probably visit 20 daily (Local News, Lifehacker, Ghacks, Ars, TechCrunch, ProBlogger, etc) In a sense RSS is my self-curated walled garden. I don’t go outside top 10 or RSS sites often and when I do it’s normally to a linked site from my feeds.

    If I get bored I’ll pop over to Yahoo or the New York Times site and read around.

    Of course if you’re really bored with the internet you know there’s this thing called the outside world where you can interact with people in real time. :p ;)

  12. Crodol said on February 13, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    “I have a hard-core of about 30 websites I visit on a regular basis”

    Would be interesting to know which ones those are. (Actually 30 seems quite a lot… I have only about 10 and rarely get bored, more likely I am not able to check all of the out when I actually have work to do!)

  13. Tim said on February 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I can solve this problem with two words [ stumble upon ] is great for exploring the web far from boring.

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