As self-publishing on the web matures Independent Media Center gropes for relevance 

G-20 will be convening in Toronto later this month. This will be an anniversary of sorts for the Independent Media Center as it marks roughly 11 years since protests of epic proportions upstaged the World Trade Organization's Seattle discussions in 1999. It was at this time that Indymedia was born — a light in the midst of the arguably shadowy coverage given to the protests. These independent voices made a real name for themselves that year, and their message spread around the world, taking root in other Independent Media Centers.

Now, over a decade later, this light has mostly died. As the G-20 approaches, a plethora of other self-publishing sites will serve as the base camp for protesters and believers in the cause looking to follow what happens in Toronto.

In 1999, Indymedia had the potential to ride this wave of popularity, and to be the credible, edgy alternative to the so-called corporate media. Their drastic downfall begs the question: What happened?

Primarily, the technology evolved, and with it changed the way people got their news. HuffingtonPost now claims almost sixteen thousand people with access to write on their site. How many Wordpress or blogspot blogs could you build in an hour? Suddenly, Indymedia was no longer the only place to get alternative news online. In fact, this type of news now saturates the web. And Indymedia, which has remained relatively unchanged in it's 11 years, has been lost in the shuffle.

The site prides itself on the option of complete anonymity for contributors and administrators alike. Additionally, they do not keep logs of visitors' and contributors' IP addresses. This concept appeals to the principle of the protection of the freedom of speech, as does it appeal to radical activists with a chip on their shoulders looking for a platform for their diatribes.

But in today's limitless self-publishing Web 2.0 world, this model may have been a nail in Indymedia's coffin.

Such thorough anonymity may have worked in Indymedia's early years when it had a unique role in the earliest era of liberal aggregate media sites. However, there is more than enough of those to go around today. Most can offer a significantly more credible and transparent system.

"[It] sounds little more than a public bathroom where people scrawl their rants on the wall," Senior Editor of Capitol Research Center Matthew Vadum said.

That may still satisfy the spasmodic urges of a few purebred protesters, but its role today seems unclear and more or less relegated to a glorified events page for upcoming protests. For those who want an alternative to corporate media, the options are now limitless. For those wanting to be heard, anyone could start their own blog, leave a comment or send their story to a small-scale online publication, or start one. Unless their desired audience only consists of radicals who consider interviews with protesters "breaking news," frankly, Indymedia is now one of the last places to go, to be heard.

Indymedia never responded to multiple attempts to contact them at multiple locations.

It seems ironic that the true revolutionaries in our era are the technologist and social media tool makers (even the corporate ones) and not radical political activists.

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Casey Cheney

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