The Dark Forest and the Cozy Web

An illustrated diagram exposing the inner layers of the dark and cozy web

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 . He builds off Yancey Strickler's companion idea of 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.

“These are all spaces where depressurized conversation is possible because of their non-indexed, non-optimized, and non-gamified environments”

Yancey StricklerThe Dark Forest Theory of the Internet

Loving both of these notions, I felt compelled to bring them together into an illustrated diagram of our current social internet situation.

We create tiny underground burrows of Slack channels, Whatsapp groups, Discord chats, and Telegram streams that offer shelter and respite from the aggressively public nature of Facebook, Twitter, and every recruiter looking to connect on LinkedIn.

It's the digital realm of Gen-Z vibes. Casual, comfy, and not trying to kick up a fuss.

The cozy web works on "(human) protocol of everybody cutting-and-pasting bits of text, images, URLs, and screenshots across live streams", hopefully one day evolving "from cut-and-paste to a personal blockchain of context-permissioned, addressable, searchable, interlinked clips" as Venkat puts it.

It's since become a standard part of the Venkat Vocabulary for fellow Ribbonfarmers and Yaks, and remains one of my favourite

of this year.

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Mentions around the web

STEALThis is about kind of techie things, but the real center of this post is feelings. I can only speak for myself. I’m sharing them because I don’t think I’m particularly special, so I’m guessing bits of this will sound familiar to other people like me1. Some of this is still
I’m of two minds about it: On the one hand, there’s a self-flattering conventional wisdom about the emptiness or unoriginality of contemporary culture crudescing among my peers that seems worth resisting, or at least attending to. Why would or should yuppie parents like us be awa
mordecaiholtz 🤳🔉💻
Interesting approach to the internet, Cozy Web vs Dark Forest
Tom Parish
A brilliantly written post with a thought provoking illustration. I get it now. An illustrated diagram exposing the inner layers of the dark and cozy web. Turns out I think many of us kinda sorta hide out in our little cozy-web corners.