Posted on October 5, 2023 in Technology

Pros and Cons of Having Five Big Websites Instead of Many Small Ones

The amalgamation of smaller websites’ features into bigger websites comes with ups and downs.

The Pros

1) Hardiness

The way that servers used to work, individual clicks counted towards fractions of pennies of hosting costs, and bigger websites that had bigger requirements got better rates because they paid more overall. If a smaller website got linked to from somewhere bigger, and the ordinary traffic quintupled, the website’s owner could be out of a lot of money. The other option was to simply let the traffic take the website offline temporarily, which was also ugly: it made DDoSing smaller websites for political or social reasons pretty easy. Big websites with big servers and lots of through-flow don’t have to worry about that. DDoSing Facebook, for example, would be almost impossible, and would cost a ton of money in equipment and electricity to even try.

2) Family of Services

Amazon’s numerous smart home devices are undeniably convenient (although it comes with many trades). You can simply ask Alexa to turn on your Smart lights, add frozen onions to your shopping list, ask it what a new air fryer would cost from Amazon dot com, and ask it to order it for you all without getting out of bed. None of that would be possible if Amazon were not a sprawling mass of other, smaller services purchased or created for the sole purpose of supporting Amazon.

3) Ease of Communication

While smaller websites alongside websites that allow for small, closed groups to communicate (like Mastodon and Discord) have an easier time controlling their user culture, bigger sites like Reddit, Twitter, MySpace, etc. can connect people with what they’re looking for much easier. Crowdsourcing an answer to questions that don’t exist anywhere else is something that forum sites excel at.

Additionally, social media is so common that some businesses extended their official helplines down into Twitter or Facebook to make it easier for customers to reach them wherever they can be found online.

The Cons

1) Tangled Services

The new Facebook (Meta) app Threads requires an Instagram account to log in. Threads demands a lot of info about you. If you made an account, saw some bad news about Threads, and wanted to leave, you wouldn’t be able to do so without deleting your Instagram account. Threads is holding that account hostage.

When big websites buy smaller websites, the services can become entangled, or watered down for profit-making reasons. If there’s no substitute, then tough luck – you’ll put up with the downsides or you’ll leave.

2) Being Presentable

Trying to bring up a site to meet censorship requirements held by giant access chokepoints like app stores or parent websites can make a purchased website stop working. For example, trying to make Tumblr fit into the Apple App Store’s standards crushed it: Tumblr’s NSFW ban caught plenty of art and random unrelated pictures in the crossfire thanks to an open-sourced, poorly trained algorithm being deployed to moderate, and a big portion of the userbase left never to return. Is the website better now? Not really, but it meets the App Store’s standards.

Similarly, if a web services vendor the size of Amazon decides they don’t like a website and won’t be supporting it any longer due to content concerns, that website may simply vanish as a result. Whether that’s fair or not, giving one big company the power to decide what is acceptable behavior starts getting ethically tricky.

3) Standards for Banning

Being banned on some sites means being banned from their entire family of services. Meta in particular holds a lot of enforcement power because of the vast array of products it has (Instagram, Facebook, VR services, etc.) and some cost money. Unknowingly violating the ToS of a site could result in being kicked from multiple other places.

This also creates the problem of restricting access to ‘official channels’ of businesses or the government. As said above, some businesses want people to be able to reach them on social media. Oftentimes tweeting at a company gets them to respond quicker. Getting banned for something unrelated restricts access to help.  

4) Genuine Conspiracies

Conspiracies about everything from Flat Earth and Indigo Children to Cambridge Analytica and 9/11 Trutherism riddle social media. Cults can recruit through Facebook now! On an even larger scale, misinformation campaigns designed to undermine elections or start fearmongering also target the people on Facebook.

Big sites make a better target for the big, organized attacks using deliberate misinformation, although small sites are not immune to it – on a forum like Reddit, where everyone is a stranger and everyone is on the same standing, arguing something insane but confidently can sway people who’d never agree with someone who was standing right in front of them, saying the same thing.

5) Trends In Site Design

You may have noticed that Instagram and Tumblr both became more video-focused after the success of TikTok. Facebook launched Threads after it started to look like Elon Musk’s “X” (formerly Twitter) might stop holding the average Twitter user’s attention. Most major social media works with the same handful of advertisers, and most have similar, but not identical, designs. 

When something is trending and working for another big website, the other big websites want to hop on and do the same, whether their original userbase wanted that or not.