A lost web

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

Photo by Petr Kratochvil 

Whilst I have disagreed with Anil Dash in the past, he does maintain an excellent blog. His recent post, “The web we lost“, is a great round-up of where we came from on the web and some possible failings in the web today.

Below is a small snippet, which, although out of context, sums up the feeling of the post. I do recommend reading the original though.

This isn’t our web today. We’ve lost key features that we used to rely on, and worse, we’ve abandoned core values that used to be fundamental to the web world. To the credit of today’s social networks, they’ve brought in hundreds of millions of new participants to these networks, and they’ve certainly made a small number of people rich.

But they haven’t shown the web itself the respect and care it deserves, as a medium which has enabled them to succeed. And they’ve now narrowed the possibilities of the web for an entire generation of users who don’t realize how much more innovative and meaningful their experience could be.

Many of the points he makes resonate with me and certainly were in my mind when I created this blog. The concept of owning my data is important to me and I’ve looked at various ways to circumvent the lure of placing all my content into commercially owned social networks. It’s not easy though and I can’t deny that I constantly slip back into this pattern.

Of course it’s more complex than just the posting of data somewhere that you lose control of that data – it’s also about federated content, the ownership of identity, and many other issues.

Anil Dash, discussing the faults within the dominant social networks, puts it thus:

The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.

My own experience

At the moment it’s difficult, it’s difficult to control your own sociality on the internet – primarily due to the implicit lack of federation and interoperability between these networks. A system like Diaspora offers the concept of a federated social network – yet I have not gone out and installed it. Ultimately I know that the difficulty will be getting my real-life friends to embrace another technological platform when one or another already occupies all that they are willing to commit.

I do like the functionality offered by Google+, but I also worry about the implicit nature of it all, even if it offers convenience and controls that I appreciate. On both Facebook and Google+ I have taken the step to set up a “page” for this blog, and I share content to those platforms so that people ‘over there’ can see what I’m babbling about. These ‘pages’ were also set up to give people choice on how to receive the things I post instead of just auto-posting to every network and potentially bombarding the person who is connected to me on Twitter, G+, Facebook and has subscribed to my RSS feed or email newsletter..!

Beyond that it gets more complex when you consider comments and discussion, and you’re left with disconnected thoughts wafting around in space, lonely.

Still, this is the best I have thus far managed. When I find myself writing more than just a dull snippet into Google+ I try to remember to cut & paste and bring that data over here.

Overall, there’s a huge amount of things to consider in this topic and I don’t have the time to properly parse them out, but I do thank Anil Dash for the reminder.

One day those networks might have tumbled, but this blog is mine, there are many others like it, but this is mine. The only thing that will delete this blog is me 1.

Some final words

  • Open standards are very important.
  • An open web will almost certainly need a bit of extra work – but it’s worth it.
  • The internet is inspirational and has connected the world. The internet has given us the means to learn and discover in a way never possible. Let’s keep it that way.
  • It’s not just the data that we have to watch out for, but the means of accessing that data. Keep in mind your country’s regulations about internet access, censorship, and the potential dangers to net neutrality that could result in you being locked out of certain data for commercial reasons. Let your local representatives, family and friends know about your concerns.

I also recommend reading the following:

  1. or a very determined hacker, something apocalyptic, or some massive solar magnetic pulse that wipes out all my data and all the backups