There are two schools of thought operating in the net art scene right now. These groups have been distinct to me for maybe the past six months, but sometimes it's better to sit on an idea and let the internet blindly charge by, so that you can follow their tracks later. The way I've been conceptualizing this distinction has been by drawing a comparison to the East and West Coast Hippie subcultures from the 1960s. (Go ahead, roll your eyes. That's just me.)
Camp one: This is the "Timothy Leary" camp. These artists are very art historical, and emulate other media (sculpture, painting.) Lots of symbols, design heavy, texture heavy. There's a Utopian aspect as well - many of these artists look for old ideas about purity and the spiritual that have fallen through the cracks of time. They like text-to-speech and Second Life. "Art that looks like art." Illusionism. Atmosphere. The computer, and the GUI are formal inspiration sources; "scrollbar art," also big messy glitchy webpages. The net is their vehicle for dissemination, and they stand out from the online flow. Rarely do these works link outside of themselves; if hypertext is involved, it is internal to the site.
Aids-3D, ohmygod (2008?)
Camp two: If camp one is Tim Leary, camp two is Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.* These artists are net historical. They embrace gifs, visible pixels and file corruption. They are not afraid to draw from the internet's vast repositories of memes, pop culture, or shock images. Often, camp two's art reveals the medium through intentional (and not theatrical) glitching, built-in software effects, or ironically shoddy craftsmanship. Lots of this work is about juxtaposition and communication. Internet forums, obscure websites, Tumblr and Google Image Search are the sources of most of camp two's material and inspiration, regardless of legality. This camp makes art for the net on the net, and blends in to the net-social fabric.
User arielrebel, dump.fm
What matters in camp two's work - or what is emphasized by the artists - is not so much the individual artwork as the artist's oeuvre and net presence. This is one reason why these artists don't receive as much coverage - you can't pin a work down as easily. Where most camp one works are one-way in terms of links (and this appears to be a strategic move), camp two relishes hypertext and cross-platform performance. Their work spills across the social networks that the artists inhabit.
Another difficulty for curating this type of work is accreditation - as images make the rounds online, they often lose their titles and indicators of authorship. This follows the structure of the internet - the democratic recycling and distribution of information - but it defeats the typical artist->portfolio relationship that art fans/critics expect.
Closing thoughts: There are artists (among those linked) that do operate in both modes, but I think that it's clear in their work that the distinction still exists. The net art community is still learning how to discuss camp two, and I think the next few months are going to bring some very interesting work from this camp, as well as some fiery discussion in both.