The Dude Abides. But The Open Internet Is Dying.

John Battelle
6 min readAug 30, 2023
The Dude abides, but Donny’s gone forever.

Every so often I get an idea for a new website or service. I imagine you do as well. Thinking about new ideas is exciting — all that promise and potential. Some of my favorite conversations open with “Wouldn’t it be cool if….”

Most of my ideas start as digital services that take advantage of the internet’s ubiquity. It’s rare I imagine something bounded in real space — a new restaurant or a retail store. I’m an internet guy, and even after decades of enshittification, I still think the internet is less than one percent developed. But a recent thought experiment made me question that assumption. As I worked through a recent “wouldn’t it be cool” moment, I realized just how moribund the internet ecosystem has become, and how deadening it is toward spontaneous experimentation.

So let’s start with the idea itself. I was watching an episode of And Just Like That… the other day with my wife. Yes, I know, but sometimes you want to turn off your brain, OK? Anyway, there’s a scene where Carrie Bradshaw scatters her husband’s ashes into the Seine. She chose the bridge where her husband “Big” professed his love, ending a series-long on again, off again affair and beginning what became an apparently blissful marriage in the years between Sex and the City and the sequel which came some 15 years later. In any case, it reminded me of several similar scenes that I’ve been a part of over the past few decades (not to mention one of the best scenes in The Big Lebowski, but I digress…).

Back in the early 1990s my best friend’s dad died, and a group of us scattered his ashes at the top of Mammoth Mountain, where all of us loved to ski. Just last year I traveled back to the Bay area to scatter my father’s ashes on San Francisco Bay. And my mother has left me instructions as to where she wants her ashes scattered — half at the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the other half interred in her family plot on Martha’s Vineyard, where a stone will mark her name forever (or as long as these stones last, which seems to be between 150 and 300 years, judging by the older headstones I’ve seen there).

It’s that “forever” designation that got me thinking. For my best friend’s father, and for mine, there’s no chance of “forever” happening. Neither has a gravestone, their memory will die with…

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John Battelle

A Founder of The Recount, NewCo, Federated Media, sovrn Holdings, Web 2 Summit, Wired, Industry Standard; writer on Media, Technology, Culture, Business