Why Did Web Gross-Out Culture Die?

2 Girls 1 Cup took the web by storm—back in summer of 2007. Goatse—the infamous picture that first gaped at us in 1999!—has been popular and not popular in waves over the years since, but the last few years? Not so much. Whatever happened to Tubgirl and Eel Girl? (If you have never seen these things, worry not!) There was also, a few years back, some website that was supposed to be the future of the Internet, devoted to tabloid play of death and destruction video. Now I can’t even remember what it’s called and can’t even Google it up.

The infamous grossout site Ogrish resolves now to the far tamer Live Leak, where today’s top story seems to be “Holy Shit! Snow comes off semi trailer traveling down highway.” Not exactly lady-on-lady coprophilia! Live Leak, to its credit, seems to get tens of million of pageviews a month? (But that looks to be down from a peak of more than double that, two years ago.) The gross-obsessed Rotten.com, as well, is sorta still grossly pottering along. But the Stile Project (oh man, now that is a website I have not thought about in literally eleven years, since it won a Webby Award in the “Weird” category in 2000) has long since become a truly inelegant little site largely composed of straightforwardly gross man-oriented hetero porn.

What happened? The Internet was great at being a foul cesspool of shock, but it looks like that’s over now.

B3ta is chugging along nicely, but it’s stock-in-trade was never straight-up foulness, more like actual fun. 4chan is 4chan, who can tell what’s going on over there, but they’re not beaming foulness out in the general direction of the Internet.

It stands to reason that the expansion of tools and ever-greater access to the Internet and ever-greater storage should, at the very least, just create more Internet, in all its forms. And certainly amateur porn is doing just fine, though the lines between amateur and professional porn are constantly being blurred. (“Amateur” porn is a fine business!)

But with the ability to access every possible person in the world who’s into, say, hardcore Nazi-inflected furry torture, and with everyone so willing to amuse and be amused, why aren’t we seeing more gross-out bubble to the surface? The obvious answer seems sort of sad: there’s no business in it.

The enjoyable and more mainstream websites that propagate meme-related stuff on the web, like Urlesque (currently most-popular: Cab Driver Does Spot-on Michael Jackson Impression) and Buzzfeed (most popular: Top 10 Crazy Texts From Parents), are actually grown-up entities and can’t and won’t handle actual shock material, as seems quite correct. (One is owned by AOL; the other is the team behind the Huffington Post.) And so there’s really no one left to identify the next famous Brazilian lesbian scat porn trailer and force it upon its non-intended audience.

I certainly didn’t actually need or even want to see another death video or extreme butt-related gross-out video. But it seems shocking that you’re not forcing it upon me by surprise. The professionalized web has its delights but it definitely lacks the element of surprise.