The above is a video of Amber Case’s brilliant talk about the Rise of the IndieWeb, which is a loose confederation of web developers that are trying bring their data out of “silos” like Facebook and Twitter and back onto their own servers where they have control. Now being a man of very Punk Rock leanings, this is of interest to me for a variety of reasons.
The main crux of the IndieWeb argument is that you should have a central repository of your data because any third party service could shutdown or delete your access at any time. Like Geocities did in 2009, wiping out everyone’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac fan page.
They aren’t suggesting that you stop using these services, but that your site talks to and aggregates your data from all the big services from the web. Therefore, I should be able to write a post on my blog and have it cross post on Facebook and Twitter and likes from both services should show up on my blog. That way I have my original data – the post – and additional information – the likes – in one place that I control.
However, the real strength of this to me is not in preventing companies from cutting your access to your data but governments. Just last week, Turkish protesters lost their ability to connect to Twitter because the government blocked the service at the IP level. Before they were just blocking DNS, which caused people to spray paint Twitter’s DNS on walls (126.96.36.199, if you need to know.)
While this may be the most cyberpunk thing ever, I can’t help but feel that the IndieWeb could have helped these people by decentralizing the tweets to multiple web servers, thus making it impossible for anyone to cut access because there isn’t one single point of failure. Negating the need for crazy, tech graffiti.
If that’s not the best argument for the IndieWeb, I don’t know what is.
But that’s not what I found inspiring about this talk. Amber talks about the web pre 2003 when everyone and their mother had their own websites on some kind of web server. This was how the current generation of web developers learned how to code for the web. They would cut their teeth making things for themselves and sharing code with each other.
Their websites were their labs. Hell, PHP used to stand for Personal Home Page. It was a programing language that some guy cooked up because he wanted something better to code his own site with and now it’s one of the most popular web languages out there. It’s what WordPress is written in, which powers about 15% of the web. (By the way, WordPress was also developed the same way: a guy just wanted a better way to run his personal website.)
Amber laments that we’ve kind of lost that. Nobody’s running their own website on their own servers. It’s all Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. I mean, the site you’re currently reading this on isn’t under my control. It’s WordPress.com.
The fear is that people are forgetting how to create for the web. They are forgetting the joy of building things for themselves that other people could use. One of the goals of the IndieWeb is the give people a reason to create again.
Now I’m not a Web Developer, but I think I’d like to try my hand at it. I don’t need to centralize all of my data but I would like an online presence that I control. Something that I could constantly work on. Something that’s never finished. Much like the web itself.