What might a more humane web look like?

Written by Rachael B. - January 12, 2023

Towards the end of 2022, we ran a survey (now closed) to help us improve Website Carbon as part of our continuous improvement work. The questions were focused on the design and functionality of Website Carbon but it occurred to us that we could also explore how we can begin to work towards our longer-term priority of accelerating the creation of a more humane web.

Abstract open book with growing blooming flowers. Low poly style design. Abstract geometric background. Wireframe light connection structure. Modern 3d graphic concept. Isolated vector illustration.

The thing is, what does a humane Web actually look/feel/sound like? The answer, of course, will be different for everyone. So, in the October issue of our monthly digital sustainability newsletter, Curiously Green, we asked the question:

“If you could redesign the internet now, making it more accessible, sustainable and positive for people and planet, what would that be like? Feel free to let your imagination run wild!” 

This was a bonus question at the end of the survey, which we ran as a competition. The answers, which ranged from the practical to the poetic, were fascinating. 

How our Curiously Green readers would redesign the web

Our favourite answers (we couldn’t choose just one, so there were three winners!) came from Cody Lampman, Margrete Lodahl Rolighed and Dimiter Simov. Although all were poetic and thought-provoking in their own way, we really felt the underpinning themes and positive potential in them, to help guide our work.

“To me, the greatest part of the internet is the community aspect as well as the free-access to learning materials and just general knowledge. I would love to see an internet that leans more into these aspects rather than becoming simply a juggernaut of sales and attention-stealing applications.

My dream internet is like a library – a place of quiet respect, where you can learn about any topic that you desire, alongside people who are as passionate as you are. Things are designed in a way that facilitates communication, while being as energy-responsible as possible, and overall feel like they are built by people with a deep love for their respective subjects. The focus is more on learning and sharing information rather than marketing and pushing one’s own brand over all else. I would love to see an internet that feels deliberate, conscious, and cognisant of who it is for. An internet that encourages us to slow down and enjoy the beauty of this online community, as opposed to getting lost in it as a shallow distraction. In short, an internet where mindfulness is at the forefront of everything we do, from writing an article to developing a website.”

– Cody Lampman, UX designer.

“Politically: I would make the internet more fragmented and personal (not corporate). Think 90s Geocities vibes. I want people to have control over their own website, which includes decisions of where energy comes from and how much energy is used. 

Practically: People would have their own little servers that they take care of and cherish, kind of like a houseplant. Little local clusters and communities might sprout from this.

Poetically: I want the internet to be a digital forest made up of multiple gardens that people visit, explore and get lost in. It’s probably not super practical, but it would be a beautiful wilderness.”

Margrete Lodahl Rolighed, UX/UI Designer, Denmark

“I would redesign people, not the internet. The internet reflects who we are and what drives us. The internet is just a tool. How the tool gets used depends on the people who use it.”

Dimiter Simov, Co-Founder at Lucrat, Bulgaria

We also wanted to know the AI perspective, so we asked a version of the question – “What is the meaning of a humane internet?” of ChatGPT, which (who?) responded:

“The term “humane internet” is not a commonly used phrase, and there is no one agreed-upon definition of what it means. However, one possible interpretation is that a humane internet is a version of the internet that is designed to be kind, compassionate, and respectful of all users. In other words, it is an internet that promotes human welfare and dignity, and that protects people from harm and exploitation. This could include measures such as promoting online safety, protecting users’ privacy, and ensuring that online interactions are civil and respectful. Essentially, a humane internet is one that is designed to be a positive and beneficial force in people’s lives.”

The AI conceded that the greatest challenge in moving towards a more human web is that “the internet is a vast and complex global network, and it is difficult to regulate or control.” Of course, as Dimiter put it, fundamentally, it’s always us that needs to change, as what we create, and how we use our creations, can only ever be as humane as we collectively choose to be.

We’re still deciding what it will mean to work towards a more humane web, approaching this concept with greater intention as we begin this new year. So, we’re opening up the conversation. 

What would a more humane web be like for you? 

Please share your thoughts (and this question!) across social media (tag us @eatwholegrain), with your colleagues, friends and anyone who may find it interesting! We’ll be taking this conversation forward here and in Curiously Green (sign up here) and can’t wait to see how it progresses.