Why You Should Have a Web Site

The enigmatic is at XTech to tell us Why you should have a Web site: it’s the law! (and other Web 3.0 issues). God, I hope he’s using Web 3.0 ironically.

Steven has heard many predictions in his time: that we will never have LCD screens, that digital photography could never replace film, etc. But the one he wants to talk about is Moore’s Law. People have been seeing that it hasn’t got long to go since 1977. Steven is going to assume that Moore’s Law is not going to go away in his lifetime.

In the 1980s the most powerful computers were the Crays. People used to say One day we will all have a Cray on our desk. In fact most laptops are about 120 Craysworth and mobile phones are about 35 Craysworth.

There is actually an LED correlation to Moore’s Law (brighter and cheaper faster). Steven predicts that within our lifetime all lighting will be LCDs.

Bandwidth follows a similar trend. Jakob Nielsen likes to claim this law; that bandwidth will double every year. In fact the timescale is closer to 10.5 months.

Following on from Moore’s and Nielsen’s laws, there’s Metcalfe’s Law: the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes. This is why it’s really good that there is only one email network and bad that there are so many instant messenger networks.

Let’s define the term Web 2.0 using Tim O’Reilly’s definition: sites that gain value by their users adding data to them. Note that these kinds of sites existed before the term was coined. There are some dangers to Web 2.0. When you contribute data to a web site, you are locking yourself in. You are making a commitment just like when you commit to a data format. This was actually one of the justifications for XML — data portability. But there are no standard ways of getting your data out of one Web 2.0 site and into another. What if you want to move your photos from one website to another? How do you choose which social networking sites to commit to? What about when a Web 2.0 site dies? This happened with MP3.com and Stage6. Or what about if your account gets closed down? There are documented cases of people whose Google accounts were hacked so those accounts were subsequently shut down — they lost all their data.

These are examples of Metcalfe’s law in action. What should really happen is that you keep all your data on your website and then aggregators can distribute it across the Web. Most people won’t want to write all the angle brackets but software should enable you to do this.

What do we need to realize this vision? First and foremost, we need machine-readable pages so that aggregators can identify and extract data. They can then create the added value by joining up all the data that is spread across the whole Web. Steven now pimps RDFa. It’s like microformats but it will invalidate your markup.

Once you have machine-readable semantics, a browser can do a lot more with the data. If a browser can identify something as an event, it can offer to add it to your calendar, show it on a map, look up flights and so on. (At this point, I really have to wonder… why do the RDFa examples always involve contact details or events? These are the very things that are more easily solved with microformats. If the whole point of RDFa is that it’s more extensible than microformats, then show some examples of that instead of showing examples that apply equally well to hCalendar or hCard)

So rather than putting all your data on other people’s Web sites, put all your data on your Web site and then you get the full Metcalfe value. But where can you store all this stuff? Steven is rather charmed by routers that double up as web servers, complete with FTP. For a personal site, you don’t need that much power and bandwidth. In any case, just look at all the power and bandwidth we do have.

To summarise, Web 2.0 is damaging to the Web. It divides the Web into topical sub-webs. With machine-readable pages, we don’t need those separate sites. We can reclaim our data and still get the value. Web 3.0 sites will aggregate your data (Oh God, he is using the term unironically).

Questions? Hell, yeah!

Kellan kicks off. Flickr is one of the world’s largest providers of RDFa. He also maintains his own site. Even he had to deal with open source software that got abandoned; he had to hack to ensure that his data survived. How do we stop that happening? Steven says we need agreed data formats like RDFa. So, Kellan says, first we have to decide on formats, then we have to build the software and then we have to build the aggregators? Yes, says Steven.

Dan says that Web 2.0 sites like Flickr add the social value that you just don’t get from building a site yourself. Steven points to MP3.com as a counter-example. Okay, says Dan, there are bad sites. Simon interjects, didn’t Flickr build their API to provide reassurance to people that they could get their data out? Not quite, says Kellan, it was created so that they could build the site in the first place.

Someone says they are having trouble envisioning Steven’s vision. Steven says I’m not saying there won’t be a Flickr — they’ll just be based on aggregation.

Someone else says that far from being worried about losing their data on Flickr, they use Flickr for backup. They can suck down their data at regular intervals (having written a script on hearing of the Microsoft bid on Yahoo). But what Flickr owns is the URI space.

Gavin Starks asks about the metrics of energy usage increases. No, it drops, says Steven.

Ian says that Steven hit on a bug in social websites: people never read the terms of service. If we encouraged best practices in EULAs we could avoid worst-case scenarios.

Someone else says that our focusing on Flickr is missing the point of Steven’s presentation.

Someone else agrees. The issue here is where the normative copy of your data exists. So instead of the normative copy living on Flickr, it lives on your own server. Flickr can still have a copy though. Steven nods his head. He says that the point is that it should be easy to move data around.

Time’s up. That was certainly a provocative and contentious talk for this crowd.

Have you published a response to this? :



Be on the lookout, distruption could be around the corner

Elisa of queekd.com recently challenging me about my thoughts on online dating, especially after watching my TedXManchester talk about the same subject. I concluded that the dating industry needed a serious kick up the backside and the only way this is going to happen is if you change the model. I then mentioned what P2P protocols did to media sharing. Instead of centralisation, you can have a more decentralised and even a distributed approach to online dating.

Easily said, but what do I mean?

I was trying to find examples of what I meant but it’s very difficult googling for them as they get lost in a sea of other stuff, some of it very weird.

There was a period when a whole bunch of sites with domain names like…

youshoulddatejo.com, smartandhandsomeian.com and samwantstodateyou.com etc… (not real sites of course) Were the rage for a short while, they would pop up now and then. These people without knowing it could have changed the dating field. They all seemed to contain similar elements and it wouldn’t take long for someone or myself to modify microformat hresume into a hDating microformat (I’m not going to talk about Microdata or RDF/A as its outside the scope of this post, but yes to both). semantically rich data published on the web as way to bring a distribution model to online dating.

Why you should have a website

I am always reminded of Steven Pemberton‘s XTech 2008 talk, Why you should have a Web Site.

The nice man from the BBC filmed it and put it online. “Provocative and contentious” said one reviewer, who later said “I should never have doubted Steven Pemberton” and “Steven Pemberton was right”. Another said “The crowd completely disagreed. In hindsight he could not have been more correct.” and “grows more relevant with each passing year”. Text of the talk here.

Steven was talking about the advantages of machine-readable Web Pages and his point knocks right at door of the walled gardens of the social networks. Swap social networks of facebook, instagram, etc for Match.com, EHarmony, OkCupid, etc’s walled gardens… and you got the same problem and same solutions?

Online dating has taken all its bad habits from social networks and to be fair most of the social networks have learned from online dating in the same way. I once talked about dataportability in online dating and to be fair everybody laughed.

But imagine if profiles were part of the public internet? When I mean public, I mean not hidden away behind a walled garden (hidden/private web). Because really what are you paying for, if you are paying at all?

I can hear you panic or even laugh… Here’s questions which might be crossing your mind

Think FoaF for dating

  • I don’t want my profile to be public! This is fine, I understand some rather not be so open about their status. It doesn’t have to be connected with the rest of your online profiles by the way (this is down to you)It doesn’t necessarily need your name or even a public photo of you (there are many ways to verify someone without such information, think about what PGP, GPGP Escrow services, Ebay, Airbnb, etc do). Also like FoaF you can even hash or encrypt parts to avoid spam, catfishers, stalkers, etc. Maybe hide parts of your dating identity till its required. Theres endless possibilities, which I haven’t even explored.
  • How do I message or email someone, and what happens if things go south?South meaning, things start breaking up or you want to stop them messaging you. This is a partly solved problem. There no need to have you’re real email address. Services can step in and provide emails or instant messaging solutions which expire or forward on transparency. It could also be done with a standard protocol and encrypted for further privacy. Off the Record already does this, for goodness sake lets not build new protocols (badly or jokey) to do already solved stuff! (Yes this is what most dating sites are doing now)
  • How do I trust what I am seeing or reading? The same is true of most dating sites now, how do you know the picture isn’t a catfish, they really are the body shape they say or show? How do you know the picture isn’t 10 years ago? All the dating site/service is really offering you is access to single people (not that is always true of course) This is where the idea of a blockchain for online dating could come in quite useful, to verify with reputation, but if you don’t trust the technology. You can opt for something else… or even build your own! You only have to look at the people who have hacked OkCupid (Amy Webb and Chris McKinlay’s). Imagine what they could do if not restricted to the wall garden and the systems they could write for the rest of us.
  • But its easier to pay the money and sit safely within the closed garden?Safely…? Total illusions. But yes its easier, but you are limited by how much you are willing to pay. The open way you can have access to many more profiles, better ways to filter them and theoretically better solutions which you can share with friends. This way also puts more emphasis on you to do work, but I can imagine systems and services like wordpress, medium, squarespace, etc doing the heavy lifting for you.
  • How would I search? You don’t think some startup will jump into this arena? If not one of the big search giants?! The beauty is if you feel one is better than the other, you can easily switch. No rubbish claims, which can’t be verified. Just imagine when gocompare/money supermarket get involved to show you the best sites to find what you seek. Or imagine crowd sourcing this all.
  • But dating site x’s algorithm is great Don’t worry there will be multiple services jumping over each other for your money, data or other things to prove they are the one you should use. Some will be highly manual, some will be heavily automated. Currently there is no urgency to fix, innovate or try something different. Its not all bad news for dating services, they can run their magic algorithms on the public data set.
  • But my dating service offers X, Y and Z. Thats nice but have you thought how effective X, Y and Z actually are? Are they a distraction or actually making dating life better? Regardless… there is the perfect opportunity to have a ecosystems of services blossom and offer unique services on top of the open, machine readable profile network.
Distributed models are sustainable?

Think about the way search engines innovated on the structured data and offered better matches as a result. The important part is, if you don’t like what a certain service is doing or how they treat you, you can just move elsewhere without the fear of loosing access to that person still.

Interestingly OkCupid allows you to make your profile public (very few do), so you could see it without logging in. For example, https://www2.okcupid.com/profile/beach-s?cf=regular. I have considered making my profile public before but theres not quite enough benefit to me currently. OkCupid use it as a marketing tool and there’s little you can do once you view it. Its clear OkCupid was setup to break some of the legacy behind online dating but when they sold to the Match group, that drive to change things changed focus.


What I’m suggesting is similar but on your terms. There are other advantages such as having access to the biggest market of daters, personalised choice, better tools than one dating site can/want to create, bespoke advice and guidance from people who really give crap. This could issue in a new era in the art of match making!

But it doesn’t stop there, oh I’ve just scratched the surface. I feel a lot of the endemic corruption in online dating is due the centralised model.

Imagine if you could aggregate that profile into the legacy dating services. Almost a IFTTT recipe or Atomkeep? to update parts of your legacy profile on a schedule or manual push.

You could allow tinder to use one photo, OkCupid to upload 4-6 photos and a deeper description, Match.com only my photos marked professional and the deeper description.

What I’m talking about is Vender relationship management applied directly on to online dating, putting the users in control.

All is possible if you rethink the current setup. unfortunately the controlling companies (MATCH group currently own 27% plus of the online dating market and they own, OkCupid, POF, Tinder and many more) have zero interest in changing much. On top of that daters seem quite lazy and less interested in working for dates?

As you can imagine, there isn’t much in this area but I did find fermat. Its a p2p matching platform. I have yet to really look and see if its doing things how I would imagine

Related Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.