At its core, the internet is a portal.
This has been evident since the 1990s, when web browsers emerged as doorways to an altogether new digital realm for the world to navigate and explore. During this time, the internet was like a vast library with uncharted aisles and hidden corners where every click might lead to a new discovery.
The internet was a portal to knowledge.
As the internet evolved, so too did the portal. It became a portal to commerce, revolutionizing the way we shopped. It became a portal to news, enabling real-time updates on stories refreshed minute-by-minute. It became a portal to community, connecting us with others. Many platforms quite literally marketed themselves as portals, like AOL and Yahoo, both aiming to become the only portal you would ever need.
In the 2000s, social media transformed the portal again. It became a portal to communicate, share experiences, and shape how you presented yourself to the world. With this change came algorithms, curating what you saw based on your past actions. Because of this, the portal became far less open-ended. The internet's former essence as a library of infinite possibility had narrowed to a deliberately landscaped path directed by forces outside of our control.
Around this time, the portal shifted shape, from a gateway in your living room to one that fit in your pocket. This evolution in access and connectivity brought a new level of dependency on the portal, as people relied on it for information, communication, entertainment, and work.
The portal became all-consuming.
This is where we are today, and it's time to rethink the portal once more.
We must remember that we are not passive consumers of whatever the portal shows us, but active participants with the ability to shape our experiences. Reimagining the portal ultimately empowers us to reclaim agency over our digital lives.
Perhaps a model for a reimagined portal already exists in fledgling form: the web3 wallet. Currently focused on financial transactions, the wallet may transform into a personalized portal which curates our most valued digital possessions - artwork, writing, videos, even messages from friends.
A portal for identity.
This portal would not be an endless library or a confined pathway, but a tailored sanctuary for self-expression and human connection. While the existing internet overwhelms, this portal nurtures. It won't replace the digital world, but it could provide a powerful counterbalance.
We can transform the internet back into a space for exploration, creativity, and human connection. Portals inherently represent possibility - we need only to step through it once more.