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The dark and cozy web’s inner layers exposed Illustration

    cozyweb
      Graphic for the term “The Cozy Web.”

    The cozy web is Venkatesh Rao‘s term for the private, gatekeeper-bounded spaces of the internet we have all retreated to over the last few years.

    It’s the “high-gatekeeping slum-like space comprising slacks, messaging apps, private groups, storage services like Dropbox, and of course, email.” The informal, untracked, messily human space that the bots and algorithms haven’t infiltrated yet.

    Venkat first proposed the term in one of his Breaking Smart emails on The Extended Internet Universe. He builds off Yancey Strickler’s companion idea of the Dark Forest theory of the web. The “dark forest” is a place that seems eerily quiet and devoid of life. All the living creatures within it are hiding. Because “night is when the predators come out. To survive, the animals stay silent.”

    The predators here are the advertisers, tracking bots, clickbait creators, attention-hungry influencers, reply guys, and trolls. It’s unsafe to reveal yourself to them in any authentic way. So we retreat into private spaces. We hide in the cozy web.

    Tony M.