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by Brian Schrader

The Web as a Social Network

Posted on Fri, 02 Feb 2018 at 12:12 PM

Brent Simmons on Micro.blog

Twitter and Facebook are convenient, sure, but so are fossil fuels, and the cost was similarly unknown for a long time. But now we have some idea just how bad these things are for the world....

[With Micro.Blog] your posts are just a normal, everyday part of the open web. At this writing, mine appear on micro.inessential.com — but it’s on my to-do list to have those appear on my main blog (this blog) instead. (Probably won’t happen until after I ship the app I’m currently working on.)

And this is how it used to be, and how it never should have stopped being: my blog is me on the web. I own my blog: I own me.

Here's where I'd normally write something like this:

Brent is right. Blogs and microblogs can and are the future of social networks. They allow you to keep control of your content, and protect you from huge, often nefarious corporate whims...

But any reader of this site will already know my feelings on the Open Web and Social Networking. So this time I've decided to make this post a retrospective on what I've said before, and how my opinions, and the web has changed over the last few years.

The Open Web Series Collection

My first post about the Open Web was from July 2014, when this blog was still in it's infancy. Since then I've basically written about this subject whenever it's come up in the circles I travel in. At first I was just concerned with preserving my site and my thoughts for the future, but over time I morphed into the Open Web loving nerd you see before you today.

How much history is lost by those who live it not writing it down. With the internet, we have the ability (assuming storage is cheap) to preserve everything we ever say, think, write, or post. That's really powerful, and possible accountability and privacy issues aside, its probably the most important use of an invention in the history of man.

I've retweeted this tweet multiple times, mostly because it's hilarious, but every time I want to do so, even though I have it saved in Instapaper and favorited on Twitter, its easier to google the text of the tweet (as close as I can remember) and let Google do the work.

After a while I got it into my head that RSS could be used for a new (old?) kind of social network, and I've been rolling with that idea ever since.

What would it mean to have a social network (like Dispora) that is decentralized, and independent of corporate ties? Could such a thing exist?

Then I was (am still) mad at Twitter for a while, which just stoked the Open Web flames.

Could it be that the time for new social networks is past us? I hope not. RSS succeeded as an open standard, and so did email (though email had an early start). The podcasting industry is growing, powered by RSS... RSS use floundered after Google Reader shutdown, but RSS is still with us. That's important.

Create systems that are ambivalent about the open or closed web. If I create a tool that's good at posting content to Facebook and Twitter, it should also post to RSS feeds...

I tried making a standard once, but putting something on GitHub in a README doesn't make it a standard.

A few weeks ago I began drafting a new standard for open, platform independent communication service. You can think of it as Twitter meets RSS...

One of the critiques of RSS feeds in a world dominated by Facebook and Twitter is that RSS just isn't fast enough. You can't hope to achieve what Twitter calls "in-the-moment updates" and "watch events unfold" if your client is polling each web site's RSS feed once an hour for new microblog posts...

After a while I started noticing that a lot of creators and bloggers I followed were moving back to open, platform-less distribution methods (like CGP Grey and his RSS feeds and email lists).

[Social Media Platforms] have to do this to make money. It just sucks that how they make money is by compromising the people that made the service what it is (cough Twitter cough).

I was still mad at Twitter.

Twitter is a complementary medium to blogging, but it's not a replacement...

By knocking down a few walls and moving some furniture around, blogging is preparing for a comeback, and we'll all be better off for it.

More recently though I've gotten more realistic and still more optimistic about the future of social networks and openness. Facebook and Google's Algorithms still loom high and mighty, but I started to see a resistence forming, and then Manton Reece released Micro.blog

I've long heard people say that we've lost video, music, and messaging to the walled worlds of YouTube, iTunes, and WhatsApp/Facebook/Twitter respectively, and while I believe that is the current state of the web, I don't believe it's the end-state.

If we're going to allow... algorithms to be such a huge part of our lives, which I don't believe is necessarily a bad thing, then they should at least be subject to some sort oversight.

I've written lots of stuff about services like Manton's, and the Open Web in general. It's really important that we preserve not just the way the Web used to work, but as Manton says: the way it should work.

The future looks bright for the open web and social networking, but the fight is ongoing.

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