Can we save the open web?
June 18, 2016 5:54 AM   Subscribe

As urged by creators and luminaries of the Web at the recent Decentralized Web summit, Drupal founder Dries Buytaert asks the question, Wordpress founder (MeFi's own™) Matt Mullenweg agrees, and Twitter&Medium founder (MeFi's own™) Ev Williams mulls extensively.

(via (MeFi's own™) waxy: "the open web's fading away in favor of consolidated convenience and algorithmic relevance.")

Some further reading:

- "Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet"

- Ev Williams on similar points previously.

- "Reweaving the web"
posted by progosk (72 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
I feel like the opportunity to save the open web passed about fifteen years ago, to be honest. The writing was on the wall, even around the turn of the millenium, during the first dot-com boom. The billionaires and their corporations have spent the intervening fifteen years between the first crash and now making sure that they get this market fully locked up, and at this point they're massively entrenched and have been for a long time, even at the legislative level. Nobody has the resources or the will to undo that damage, at this point.

There is still and will always be a small-scale, open, amateur-driven community here on the web, but it will exist in the margins. And if you don't want to be 100% tied to someone else's proprietary platform, you need the privilege of time, money, and skills to make that happen. Even then, you need the platforms to publicize your work or else nobody will know you exist. So there's no escaping it, really.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:08 AM on June 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


(A last batch of links I somehow dropped from below the fold:)

- Pantheon's Zack Rosen thinks the open web "is too important, too vital and too large of an industry (at $190 billion it’s bigger than digital advertising) to wither on the vine. It’s not going away. But it does need to get better."

- For Andreas Zwinkau part of a solution is in federation.

- An Economist talk with T B-L: Can the open web survive?
posted by progosk at 6:35 AM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Today's state of the Internet (in general) and the Web (in particular) is basically the worst-case scenario my friends and I were discussing in 1994.

"You know, Billy, we blew it."
posted by entropicamericana at 7:00 AM on June 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


Podcasting is still shockingly open, and a few of the big players are fighting to keep it that way. [They probably won't win]

Ev has some soul-searching to do. He's made the web a demonstrably less-open place.

Also still not sure why Twitter is treated like a success story.
posted by schmod at 7:07 AM on June 18, 2016 [16 favorites]


The writing was on the wall the day I saw my first banner ad.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:30 AM on June 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


You do know it's quite possible to build your own Internet without ISPs? As proof-of-concept goes, I think it's quite impressive.

No, it doesn't fix the problems we're looking at here and now - but it does show that what look like unbreakable rules about how things work are not actually laws of physics. And it may be samizdat instead of 4k movie streams (although don't rule those out), but which is more worth having?

We just about have blanket wi-fi coverage - how many SSIDs can you see right now? - and it irks me that so few people think of this as a network fabric in its own right.
posted by Devonian at 7:33 AM on June 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


Making your own "internet" misses the point. The power of the internet is in the huge number of people and things that interact with it. Without billions and billions of users, you have nothing.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:46 AM on June 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


I would argue the Web has gotten way more open in the past 5 years. No more Flash. JavaScript for everything on the client side -- JavaScript that can be played with, learned from, dissected. Browsers are far, far better than they once were and it's easier to code something interesting that most people can actually see. AWS, Cloudflare, and serverless app hosting means it's cheaper and easier to start an independent web site that gets massive amounts of traffic than ever. Facebook is still around but the fear -- that Facebook pages would replace actual web pages -- has never come to pass. Sure, there are some aspects that have gotten worse, but it's far from doom and gloom.
posted by miyabo at 7:50 AM on June 18, 2016 [21 favorites]


Without billions and billions of users, you have nothing.

This is the ridiculous winner take all bullshit of the stock market and venture capitalists.

There are probably hundreds of thousands of internet based businesses that are managing comfortably on the current state.

Unless by nothing you mean less than billions of dollars.
posted by srboisvert at 7:57 AM on June 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


No more Flash...Facebook is still around but the fear -- that Facebook pages would replace actual web pages -- has never come to pass.

No more Flash??? You must be surfing an entirely different web than I do. For instance, right now, I'm watching the LeMans 24 hour race via the FoxSportsGo website. Requires Flash. Damned near every casual gaming site I frequent (usually Japanese sites) require Flash. As for Facebook...My experience has been that of an increasing number of local businesses, largely social activist groups, pubs and restaurants, use Facebook as their only web presence.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:59 AM on June 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


"My generation invented sex, and your generation is doing it wrong."

The web is, from a technical perspective, more open and accessible than it has ever been. You can spin up a server and set up a website with any one of a wide variety of vendors for pennies a day or less. Encryption is widespread and easy to deploy. There's a broader userbase than we could have imagined a decade ago. All the great weirdness of yesteryear is still thriving today. There's just a mind-blowing amount of new beatiful insanity and community on YouTube, etc. that couldn't really have grown up using the older tools and self-hosting. What's the problem?

This feels like eternal September of today: the "right people" aren't using the internet the "right way". If somebody wants to use Facebook to keep up with their family, uh, fine? It doesn't damage the rest of the web in any real way. Instead the big players help subsidize the underlying infrastructure for all.

The old web hasn't gone away, but it was deeply exclusionary (of people with less money, time, or technical training). Complaining that the old web is "fading away" really feels condescending, and it's hard to hear phrases like "original integrity and freedom of the open web" without it sounding like a dogwhistle.
posted by phooky at 8:02 AM on June 18, 2016 [46 favorites]


I remember when we'd get casual flash games here on a regular basis... That seems to have largely died off.
posted by Artw at 8:03 AM on June 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I remember when we'd get casual flash games here on a regular basis... That seems to have largely died off.

In 2016, if you're of the inclination and skill to make casual flash games, you're probably putting them on the App and/or Play stores rather than hosting them on a webpage.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:22 AM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The biggest threat to the open web is security. And your browser is trying to kill you.
posted by Slothrup at 8:24 AM on June 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Re "building your own internet" ; you don't necessarily need to build your internet, your old ISP serves you already well. It is the web, the things that happen over http protocol that have gone foul. Fundamental problem there is the centralized design, someone "owns servers" and that way "owns users" too - http protocol is only one of victims of centralized design of the 1970-era. Some problems are fixed by moving communications to platforms that are owned by users, http://katiska.org/classified-ads/ is first to come to my mind, there are others too.
posted by costello at 8:28 AM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yesterday I was filming a dance performance / healthy relationship workshop at a school in Brooklyn. The facilitator was talking about technological abuse, a new-ish category of relational control that operates on vectors of texting and GPS tracking for example. She asked who had a facebook profile and 10 or 12 of 150 students raised their hands to the tune of a few snickers. When she asked about Instagram the other 130-odd hands shot into the air.

These are the people who will decide which services are trafficked in the coming decade and they regard the experience ephemeral. Which means for all our hand-wringing about monopolized control we are looking at an ecosystem where a huge and fundamental population of users is willing and able to jump from one behemoth of a service to another at the drop of a hat if that's what's cool or interesting. And their metrics for "cool" and "interesting" have very little to do with corporate brands or big media or whatever and everything to do with each other.

As others have mentioned the overhead for doing creative things online is rapidly dipping below "obsessive savant with daily leisure time" on the accessibility measuring stick. We don't even know what it will mean yet for normal busy people to gain access to the process of honest-to-jesus application development and the necessary infrastructure to put it out there. Up until now it's been basically impossible to make something usable without a ton of skill or the time to learn, learn, learn, try, fail, learn, learn, try, fail, ...

My first internet work was geocities I think. All I could manage was a few 3D borders and some blinking red text. Was that really the golden age of expressive freedom? I want to make complex systems with real data that normal people can figure out and do surprising things with. Thanks to the hard work of a big group of talented people the tools are becoming more and more available to me and they're free and the services to host them are cheap. npm is a disaster but it's a glorious one and it harkens to a spirit of collaboration on a scale I think is fairly special.

I'm still on facebook because it's an easy way to socialize with a bunch of otherwise disparate acquaintances. But real meaningful person to person sharing of life still happens over SMS and Email and Slack and Instagram, Twitter, Skype, Drive, Dropbox, WeTransfer, Pinterest, Vimeo, Youtube, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, Trello, Spotify, LinkedIn, Kongregate, Tinder, Venmo, WhatsApp, ... there is diversity!

Diversity is empowering. But what we especially need is more acceptable tools that hobbyists can use to make cool stuff. That's where we have our work cut out for us and a lot of trials and tribulations in the rear view mirror and nowhere to go but up, sideways, down around and under.

I think we owe our future a rhetoric of possibility every bit as much as we owe our past an active role in the present.
posted by an animate objects at 8:29 AM on June 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


Of all the Internet deaths I have witnessed, the worst, perhaps, was seeing blogging change over from weirdos and visionary cranks and idealistic kids to idiots screeching about partisan politics.
posted by thelonius at 8:33 AM on June 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


miyabo: it's easier to code something interesting that most people can actually see.

I can't agree with that. Browsers are better, yes, but used to be so much easier to make your own website, and have it not look ridiculous compared to what people were used to; all you needed was a WYSIWYG editor (and they were plentiful!), or if you had some base knowledge of HTML any text editor would do... and you could just whip up some tables and things would pretty much end up where you wanted them.
Now you either need to be a programmer, or you need to use someone else's ecosystem (like Wordpress) and then you probably won't know what you are doing.

The Web has grown so complicated that it's not as easy to participate anymore. Consuming, that's easy. Playing in someone else's sandbox. But we used to be able to roll our own, and it was pretty easy to learn. Well, we can still do that, but if your site design is based on tables people in the know will laugh in your face.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:34 AM on June 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I remember a head-scratching post on Usenet about a new hypertext protocol from Cern. I couldn't see the point since we already had gopher. I am a true visionary...
posted by jim in austin at 8:39 AM on June 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


She asked who had a facebook profile and 10 or 12 of 150 students raised their hands to the tune of a few snickers. When she asked about Instagram the other 130-odd hands shot into the air.

Or to put it another way, one big web property owned by Facebook happened to be rather less popular among those students than another big web property... that is also owned by Facebook. And embeds Facebook's tracker.

Are the first adopters jumping from behemoth to behemoth nowadays? Or just from tentacle to tentacle?
posted by metaquarry at 8:49 AM on June 18, 2016 [22 favorites]


seeing blogging change over from weirdos and visionary cranks and idealistic kids to idiots screeching about partisan politics.

Hate to break this to you, but blogging's actual origin point decomposed into a shitshow of racist political vitriol over a decade and a half ago. Angry political ranting has been part and parcel of the internet from day one. that's why I comment on metafilter; to keep the ranty spirit of the internet alive. vive la ranty!
posted by phooky at 8:53 AM on June 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


phooky is 100% right. The "old web" is still out there, and it's cheaper to get a domain and set up your own website, service, all the way up to renting your own iron in a rack than ever before.

There are still people out there who hand roll their own HTML, even doing their layout with tables as often as CSS (it me). That never stopped working. What I see people whining about is that they used to have their own secret hobby where writing a URL down on a piece of paper felt like communicating in code. The fact that those places aren't well known or get much traffic doesn't matter. It's out there (and some of it is really out there, like the web has always had). It's not easy to find anymore, because the search engines feed and are fed by big money sites, but it's not dead, or dying, or even wheezing a bit.
posted by chimaera at 8:58 AM on June 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


I still love fiddling around with my own website and (seldom-updated) blog, and I definitely agree that tools for basic web development and deploying servers have gotten a lot better. But I spend a lot more time on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn than I do on my own web sites, because those platforms make it very easy to keep in touch and share photos, links, and small updates. And they're where my friends and family are! I don't think a loose collection of web sites, or even a decentralized open-source federation of Diaspora servers, is ever going to be as good for doing those things as centralized platforms backed by large, well-funded organizations.

If the Open Web is going to mean anything anymore, I think it has to mean net neutrality, privacy and data ownership regulations, and good tools for making data portable. So that when Facebook and Twitter themselves are supplanted, everyone can switch and no one needs to worry about their data being gone or owned by the old zombie platform.
posted by fencerjimmy at 9:03 AM on June 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think you misunderstood me, srboisvert. Devonian wasn't talking about rolling your own website (wich obviously doesn't need billions and billions of users to be successful) but rather about rolling your own internet, which is what I was responding to. The value of the internet is that it connects people, and the more people it connects the more powerful it gets—exponentially so, because the power is in the number of connnections rather than the number of users.

If you tried to start an entire internet over again from scratch, it would be hopeless. The value of the internet is that it's one netowork and everybody is already on it. Without that, and in competition with that, any attempt at a new internet is doomed.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:28 AM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


blogging's actual origin point

CTRL-F "justin hall"

Not Found
posted by entropicamericana at 9:35 AM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


You'd think Google would be doing all it could to keep the web open and healthy, since search and advertising is their thing (and G+ isn't a thing).

Maybe they are.
posted by notyou at 9:37 AM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


There are still people out there who hand roll their own HTML, even doing their layout with tables as often as CSS (it me).

More than that, if you don't want to roll your own but also don't want to go the blogging software Wordpress route, there's Jekyll, which outputs static sites for your content.

Much to the chagrin of some very large companies, the open web is not dying. And a big step towards keeping it open, the upholding of Net Neturality by the courts, happened just a few days ago.

Google can still find things, although it's getting worse. (Google Reader was one of the best places to look for random web stuff unallied with Facebook and the like, so I wouldn't hold them up as a bastion of freedom.) If you know where to look (and you're on one of the better sites for that) you can still find plenty of amazing things.

The value of the internet is that it's one netowork and everybody is already on it.

Piffle! That's the criteria for building a huge social network. The internet is not Facebook. All you need is people making interesting things to read and see and hear, other people to experience and react to them, and a way for the two to reach each other. Such a thing will be useful to the people participating in it, whether they number a billion or a hundred.
posted by JHarris at 9:46 AM on June 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


The internet is not Facebook

But for a growing number of people, Facebook is the internet: Internet.org
posted by Mister Bijou at 10:15 AM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


chimaera: I think you're wrong. I was researching an obscure skill recently. The blogs were last updated in 2012, the forums were mostly dead, and all the fresh content was on youtube. Weird niche skill, weird niche people, platform and discovery by Google.
posted by Leon at 10:16 AM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


You'd think Google would be doing all it could to keep the web open and healthy, since search and advertising is their thing (and G+ isn't a thing).

I'm generally quite amenable to Google, but AMP (and whatever the Facebook equivalent is called) is fucking terrifying.
posted by Artw at 10:23 AM on June 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I know my views aren't mainstream, but I think the big reason we're all deciding which walled gardens to visit has to do with security. Even if you assume your http connections to others don't get attacked, would you really trust a random video from a site like warot.com?

I wouldn't... why should you? Your operating system trusts everything you tell it to run, completely. Your web browsers pretty much do the same thing, which means you have to trust the site, and small sites have no reputation, nor is it easy to build... which means even though everyone could connect to you, they won't... there is a significant barrier to entry, because of your Operating System.

If you had an OS that wasn't so trusting, it wouldn't matter if the browser got hacked, because it couldn't take out your system. If you're old enough, think back to the days of MS-DOS on dual floppy computer systems. Your OS disk was backed up, with an exact bootable copy, and write protected. You had nothing to lose when you tried out the latest shareware floppy disk that someone handed to you. Only when we get reasonable Operating Systems, about 10 years from now, will we once again be able to freely explore the internet.

(Why 10 years from now? Because 10 years ago I guessed it was 20 years, and now Genode exists, so progress is being made, though not in the mainstream, yet)
posted by MikeWarot at 10:34 AM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


JHarris: if you don't want to roll your own but also don't want to go the blogging software Wordpress route, there's Jekyll,

"Basic Usage
The Jekyll gem makes a jekyll executable available to you in your Terminal window."

Aaaaaand I'm out.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:37 AM on June 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is anyone else reading this thread feeling like they're watching that old parable about the blind men describing (pieces of) the elephant?
posted by gusandrews at 10:41 AM on June 18, 2016


As long as all the parts of the elephant don't join up we'll be fine!
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


The shareware scene of the 1980s was about as open and free spirited a time as I can remember with respect to computers. The hardware was slow, but the possibilities were endless. You were always finding cool new tools, and sharing them with your friends, directly... via Sneakernet.

Now we have operating systems that can't be write protected, nor backed up safely to bootable media, which means we have to worry... and that worry spreads out all the way to the sites we're willing to visit, and things we're willing to try. Replacing a compromised OS to many people means buying a new computer... which is stupid... because the OS shouldn't be so stupid... not the people.

There exist non-stupid operating systems, such as Genode, but they aren't mainstream, nor likely to be so for a long time.
posted by MikeWarot at 10:49 AM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Basic Usage
The Jekyll gem makes a jekyll executable available to you in your Terminal window."
Aaaaaand I'm out.
Which is a sure sign you don't trust your operating system.
posted by MikeWarot at 10:51 AM on June 18, 2016


I don't see why people consider the web to have a lack of freedom and openness- it's incredibly easy to anonymously harass women game developers. Thanks to TOR, you can gather together a bunch of fellow MRAs, and make someone's online life living hell. What more do people want?
posted by happyroach at 10:56 AM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


MikeWarot: Which is a sure sign you don't trust your operating system.

Not really. I trust my OS just fine. But I don't trust myself with a terminal: I'm a GUI person and I can only use a terminal if someone spoonfeeds me commands. There's lots of us out there.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:07 AM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


…there's Jekyll…
Alternate shudders and cheers.

My current and previous employers both used Jekyll for websites. It works, but the unfortunate tendency in both cases trended toward progressively increasing complexity via the mechanism of cool features. At previous job, this took the form of generating HTML from YAML data bags, and now there’s just one person there who understands any of it. At current job, the README for posting to the blog started with “download XCode” and moved steadily through each circle of Ruby hell down to RVM, gems, and other sadnesses.

To make this sort of thing work, you end up needing to set up a bunch of infrastructure for normals. Here’s my approach, for example.
posted by migurski at 11:11 AM on June 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hate to break this to you, but blogging's actual origin point decomposed into a shitshow of racist political vitriol over a decade and a half ago.

I know about all that, yeah.
posted by thelonius at 11:35 AM on June 18, 2016


The early web was interesting because most of the people online back then had something to say in text or images or code. Turns out most people just don't have anything interesting to say, or if they do, not in those modes. First blog posts became tweets, then just retweets, or reposts of other people's photos and memes. People are even posting less and less on Facebook these days. To the point where FB has to prompt people to post old stuff from their past, or comment on current sporting events. It isn't fear of security, or privacy. It isn't withdrawing in disgust. it's not people obsessed with collecting followers or page views. It isn't advertising or commerce. It's just plain ol' human nature. Most people just don't want to express themselves in the ways the web is optimal for. The people who do are still there, they've just been overwhelmed.
posted by spudsilo at 11:39 AM on June 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've worried a lot about the future of the Web -- and the generative tech framework for which it is a flagship. There are two pressures against it: the app ecosystem, by which information and activities are no longer represented by a url and so aren't by default shareable among people and bots; and the consolidation of servers through both market forces and regulation so that surfing the Web today is simply visiting different arms of the Amazon Web Services octopus. The latter isn't noticeable to users (unless it's that everything seems fast and reliable), but it has big implications for how readily the network (and the people on it) can be regulated.

Interesting to think that Google made its fortune through indexing the open Web, and now its flagship search means less and less, subordinated to concierge-like predictive services that seek to return an oracular answer or a direct deep link to a merchant or app-siloe'd service.

So long as there's a neutral Internet I think there's plenty of room for pleasant surprises, and the Internet of Things will be one battleground between generative and sterile.
posted by zittrain at 11:55 AM on June 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


"Millions of Facebook users have no idea they're using the internet"

From the perspective of the early web (1.0-2.0) venturing off your site (linking to other websites for content and community) was at best a circle jerk of designy oneupsmanship or at worst unorganized, gimmicky, incoherent rambling disaster. Facebook is a triumph. We couldn't imagine exactly how it would be possible, but it's no question mobile touch screen technology and fast video and music streaming are the key to closing the 'gaps' in the user experience.

As a personal design researcher I've marveled at the possibility to _use_ these ecosystems as targets for my creative output. Reverse linking to my Drupal or Wordpress site.

What's surprising is just how a few people I know still don't _care_ to venture out to different platforms and experiences on the net. All the while they moan and complain and vow to change their ways because their use of Facebook has become unhealthy.

I tell you, it's not the technology, it's the people who don't do anything and only wish to experience the more transient and transcendent aspects of community--looking for love in all the wrong places, as they say.

I haven't read the article yet and I look forward to it. But I'm sure what I will find are billionaire using their money to squash competition
posted by xtian at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like Facebook et al. definitely suck up a ton of time and attention, but it is not clear to me that the rest of the web is dying.

Also, for a small business like a bar or restaurant, I'm not so sure a standalone site is better than Facebook, especially when so many of those businesses have such unusable sites to begin with.
posted by snofoam at 1:52 PM on June 18, 2016


I tell you, it's not the technology, it's the people who don't do anything...

To an extent it is the technology. Google search points at sites that are heavily linked-to by other sites. Those sites specialize in circus and cotton-candy and minimize outward links. They learned from AOL.

To an extent, people don't do anything. Time is short, bandwidth is short, promotion is expensive. Thoughtful, analytical, historical, educational sites languish.

It's not at all clear to me how 'decentralizing the web' is going to change that, and I scanned several hours of that video ... pretty much a waste of time. I'm reminded of 'Occupy': clearly there are complaints, but noone's really articulating the desired outcome.
posted by Twang at 2:14 PM on June 18, 2016


I think people are missing the point. It isn't that it is hard to make websites, sure it is probably almost as easy as in the 90s, though I don't know if Frontpage is still around. The problem is that people go on facebook, and only see what the algorithem wants you to see. They don't go to blogs and read what is there, though they are still around. They don't go listen to podcasts if they aren't on iTunes, since iTunes is easy.

The problem is not the technology, it is that people are lazy. They can go out into the ocean of the internet, or stay in Facebook, Google, Twitter's nice safe archipelago, despite the face this limits how you use content and does a lot to destroy our collective memory. I can find websites I read in high school if I remember a distinctive enough phrase or name. There are, however, lots of Facebook, twitter, etc posts that are gone forever, or buried in archives so deep you can't find them if you want to in a sane amount of time, while, at the same time, being archived forever so anything you've said can be brought back against you for the rest of your life.
posted by Canageek at 2:29 PM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Canageek: The problem is not the technology, it is that people are lazy. They can go out into the ocean of the internet, or stay in Facebook, Google, Twitter's nice safe archipelago, despite the face this limits how you use content and does a lot to destroy our collective memory.

True, but I think that these 'sandboxes' are also made in a way that stimulates that. It's not just laziness, people are also actively encouraged to stay on these sites. And yes, that very much limits the way they see the world.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:35 PM on June 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


nytimes writeup:* "Today, the World Wide Web has become a system that is often subject to control by governments and corporations. Countries like China can block certain web pages from their citizens, and cloud services like Amazon Web Services hold powerful sway. So what might happen, the computer scientists posited, if they could harness newer technologies — like the software used for digital currencies, or the technology of peer-to-peer music sharing — to create a more decentralized web with more privacy, less government and corporate control, and a level of permanence and reliability?"

IPFS/(IPDB)? "IPFS is the Distributed Web: The InterPlanetary File System is a next-generation web transport protocol to make the Web faster, safer, decentralized, and permanent. It is based on git, bittorrent, and other p2p systems. Content-addressed and signed hyperlinks allow web content and apps to be distributed peer-to-peer, to work without an origin server, to be encrypted end-to-end, to be censorship resistant, to work while offline, and more."
posted by kliuless at 2:40 PM on June 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


As people have noted there is something of a paradox in that the walled web is in many ways more accessible than the "open web" was. Maybe the problem should be reframed as "how can we provide easy access to the kind of multimedia web content people are used to without reliance on corporate mega-platforms?"
posted by atoxyl at 3:44 PM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The old web hasn't gone away, but it was deeply exclusionary (of people with less money, time, or technical training).

Sonewhat to the contrary of this I think one thing that people are actually lamenting is not the consolidation of platforms but the professionalization of building the web. It used to require a little technical skill to build your web presence but with a very low ceiling. There was a barrier to entry but beyond the barrier it was pretty egalitarian. Now a lot of the stuff that people get excited about you can't do without being a full-fledged software developer.
posted by atoxyl at 3:58 PM on June 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's interesting that nobody's mentioning Wikipedia. Facebook may have hoovered up all the opinion content, but Wikipedia made so many factual sites redundant... that, to me, is more harmful to an open web.
posted by Leon at 4:23 PM on June 18, 2016


Thorzdad: "The writing was on the wall the day I saw my first banner ad."

The writing was on the wall when I saw my first TV Ad with a URL listed on it.

(I'm 90% positive that it was the UPS, because that was one of those things that burn in your brain like WOAH!)
posted by symbioid at 5:18 PM on June 18, 2016


It used to require a little technical skill to build your web presence but with a very low ceiling.

So how do you define web presence? Do things like Instagram feeds, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels count?
posted by effbot at 5:27 PM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


As the web became as universal as previous mass media, a lot of that attention has gone to big companies and crappy content, but would it be reasonable to expect anything different?
posted by snofoam at 6:03 PM on June 18, 2016


I wish I understood these threads. The blind men and the elephant indeed. There's nostalgia for changes I can never quite recognize, nor falsify or dismiss. Wikipedia is a threat because no two webpages can have the same subject, discuss??

I like the example of podcasts. Simple open technology. Somehow confusing, and if it's not in the Apple store then it practically doesn't exist. Though we have a standard, and alternative podcast directories.

What would it mean to "fix" (or "save") podcasts? How do we know if this convenient provider has too much control, that it could redefine the concept to suit its interests only?
posted by sourcejedi at 6:42 PM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


So how do you define web presence? Do things like Instagram feeds, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels count?

Yes. My point is that while it's now easier to establish a presence on the web than ever, if you want to customize your little corner beyond the framework provided by your platform you find yourself encountering a great deal of complexity and competing with developers who have massive advantages in resources and training. Whereas "back in the day" you did have to clear a certain bar to get in at all but if you did everybody else was an amateur too. I'm not making a value judgement one way or another - I'm just suggesting that it's this atmosphere which people are nostalgic for.
posted by atoxyl at 6:46 PM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wikipedia is a threat because no two webpages can have the same subject, discuss??

If a website isn't on the first page of Google, and nobody visits it, does it make a sound?
posted by Leon at 6:57 PM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


To me, the "web" feels differently now mainly because of Google. This is not to say it actually is different, or that anything fundamental has actually changed, let alone for the worse. But purely as a matter of nostalgia, in the old days, much of my web browsing was lateral -- link to link to link. That rarely happens now. I go to various locations (including Facebook) which of course have links outward that I follow, but rarely do I now go two steps in any journey. Even free-form exploration just changes the central location from Facebook or Metafilter or whatever to Google. It's just a bunch of hubs and spokes, and not actually a web anymore, in my subjective experience of moving through it. Many of these hubs are large corporations, and some try to keep you in (Facebook) while others link out much more extensively (Google), but the experience still has the same basic topology, even down to indie sites like this one. I've actually been trying to Google a bit less, when doing recreational browsing, in an attempt to recapture some of that old serendipity -- the links, after all, are still out there. But even so, it's hard when you hit even the mildest stumbling block not to turn to God and ask where you should actually go.
posted by chortly at 10:03 PM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I agree that an "open web" is a great ideal, and it's still there, it's just less visible. But maybe that's a good thing. I kind of like it that way. One phenomenon that has largely been ignored by social-media-guru types are internet forums. These are still a major deal, used by people from all walks of life for all purposes. They are usually independently run, and for some reason they are completely ignored as a form of "social media".

I get dismayed, sometimes, when I see people wistfully talk about IRC in the past-tense. I still use IRC every day, in multiple channels, on multiple servers.

But you know what? Sometimes sites like Facebook can be amazing. My wife found a lost dog on the highway today, and bought it back to our place. We posted on Facebook. Within 20 minutes, we found the owner - someone we didn't know, in a town 10 kilometers away. Dog an owner happily reunited within an hour. I can't see how that could have happened without these kind of big sites that everyone is on. It's quite stunning.
posted by Jimbob at 1:37 AM on June 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Hey, slightly non-germane: I mixed the sound at the Distributed Web conference, and Sir Tim came over and ate lunch with me! BIG fun.
posted by ergomatic at 8:22 AM on June 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ctrl-F "indieweb"
nothing

tl;dr: The new cool thing is implementing a more Twitter-like experience (notes, replies, likes, reposts) on personal websites using Webmention (which recently became a W3C Candidate Recommendation!) and microformats. It's possible to integrate your website with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. so you can still talk to your friends on those sites.

Fancy decentralized tech like IPFS and Namecoin is cool, but we should first build this experience on what *everyone* has access to — that is, ICANN domains, normal DNS and servers on the public Internet.
posted by floatboth at 8:52 AM on June 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


  "indieweb"
How can I join the IndieWeb? Join the IRC Channel and say hello! We're friendly. :)
Uh, no. If you need IRC — the perpetually hard to use annoyingly real-time thing — to be friendly, you're not doing it right.
Link to your various social profiles on your home page
What's so indie about trying to present and link unified corporate IDs? If you're randomly visiting my site, I may not wish to have anything to do with you on twitter.
posted by scruss at 12:53 PM on June 19, 2016


I was researching an obscure skill recently. The blogs were last updated in 2012, the forums were mostly dead, and all the fresh content was on youtube.

So many instructional type things have moved from text to video. It's very frustrating, because video can make it easier to show what you mean rather than having to describe it, but text is fantastic because you don't have to do things in the exact same order and it's easy to search and jump around. Finding the exact part you need out of a video on youtube is an exercise in pain.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:35 PM on June 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I like the example of podcasts.

'podcasts' exemplify the problem. 'podcast' is not a 'technology', it's a fucking file distributed via the network. some self-serving asshole at Apple called it a 'podcast' and all the people went "ooooooooooh". this 'podcast' requires nothing with 'pod' in the name and does not one thing more than a gazillion other services do 24/7. delivering files is what the damn internet DOES.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 2:20 PM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


(see historical rants about the 'inventor' of the 'permalink')
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 2:22 PM on June 19, 2016


Is this where we complain about the fact that everything is now called an app?
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:41 PM on June 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


some self-serving asshole at Apple called it a 'podcast' and all the people went "ooooooooooh".

This is not how I remember it. Someone not at Apple called it a Podcast, created software that allowed you to sync them onto your iPod while bypassing iTunes (naughty naughty) and then worried that Apple would sue them because they used the word "Pod" in what they were doing.

Apple only later added Podcast as a built-in capability of iTunes, and decided to be reasonable and not sue anyone for trademark infringement.
posted by Jimbob at 4:38 PM on June 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


i stand corrected. now i gonna go podcast me some permalinks.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:41 PM on June 19, 2016


Ahh, found it.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:08 AM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that it needs saving! It's still every bit as easy -- easier, in fact -- to create a site and get your information out there as it was in 1999. But it's not as easy as clicking the Like button on Facebook.

There's a particularly relevant quote. "The power of the press is limited to those who have one."

It still takes time and effort to learn how to create a site. Some people just can't be bothered, hence the popularity of various walled gardens. It's easy to get a "press" nowadays, but you still have to bother to do so.

As is often the case, I suspect there's no conspiracy, just apathy.
posted by -1 at 9:19 AM on June 20, 2016


This feels like eternal September of today: the "right people" aren't using the internet the "right way". If somebody wants to use Facebook to keep up with their family, uh, fine? It doesn't damage the rest of the web in any real way.

You're kidding, right? The following just in the past year:

The New York Times wanted an Ars Technica opinion on Facebook - "In short, Facebook is no longer a democratizing force in journalism. It has become a pay-to-play printing press, which offers little to journalists other than the prospect of a large audience—but only for stories published on Facebook rather than independent news sites."

Facebook’s facial recognition will one day find you, even while facing away - "New research that incorporates info about clothing, hair style adds to confidence."

Report: Facebook tracks all visitors, even if you’re not a user and opted out - "In the EU, where free and informed prior consent is required, there could be an issue."

Surveillance-based manipulation: How Facebook or Google could tilt elections - "In 2012, Facebook ran an experiment in control. It selectively manipulated the newsfeeds of 680,000 users, showing them either happier or sadder status updates. Because Facebook constantly monitors its users—that’s how it turns its users into advertising revenue—it was easy to monitor the experimental subjects and collect the results. It found that people who saw happier posts tended to write happier posts, and vice versa. I don’t want to make too much of this result. Facebook only did this for a week, and the effect was small. But once sites like Facebook figure out how to do this effectively, the effects will be profitable."
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:59 AM on June 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


'podcasts' exemplify the problem. 'podcast' is not a 'technology', it's a fucking file distributed via the network. some self-serving asshole at Apple called it a 'podcast' and all the people went "ooooooooooh". this 'podcast' requires nothing with 'pod' in the name and does not one thing more than a gazillion other services do 24/7. delivering files is what the damn internet DOES.

A podcast isn't any old file distributed via the internet. It is the combination of a file and an RSS feed that allows each new episode to be automatically downloaded, and no, there wasn't the same thing before that. Quirks and Quarks, a CBC radio show, has had it's episodes online in various formats since the 90s. However, you had to go and download each one.

Then Adam Curry, in collaboration with Dave Winer, mixed this with RSS feeds so that software on your computer would automatically download each episode (and in some cases, put it on your mp3 play automatically). They didn't work with Apple, for Apple, or anything else. Really, Podcast was a terrible name, as it made people think you needed an iPod in the early days, and now makes people think any online show is a podcast.
posted by Canageek at 12:38 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


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