Dan Gillmor and Kevin Marks report on the Decentralized Web Summit:
Kahle framed the gathering with three key questions: How can we build a reliable decentralized web? How can we make it more private? And how do we keep it fun and evolving?
There’s something so grim about the resigned acceptance of centralisation here.
It’s in general no longer about the creativity, it’s about the business.
It is a sad and beautiful world wide web:
The technology that let people make web sites never went away. You can still set up a site as if it were 1995. But culture changes, as do expectations. It takes a certain set of skills to create your own web site, populate it with cool stuff, set up a web server, and publish your own cool-stuff web pages. I would argue that those skills should be a basic part of living in a transparent and open culture where individuals are able to communicate on an equal field of play. Some fellow nerds would argue the same. But most everyone else, statistically, just uses Facebook and plays along.
Paul Ford shines a light on the solution:
Standing against this tide of centralization is the indie web movement. Perhaps “movement” is too strong—it’s more an aesthetic of independence and decentralization. The IndieWebCamp web page states: “When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation.” You should own your information and profit from it. You should have your own servers. Your destiny, which you signed over to Facebook in order to avoid learning a few lines of code, would once again be your own.
Beautiful, beautiful writing:
We could still live in that decentralized world, if we wanted to. Despite the rise of the all-seeing database, the core of the internet remains profoundly open. I can host it from my apartment, on a machine that costs $35. You can link to me from your site. Just the two of us. This is an age of great enterprise, no time to think small. Yet whatever enormous explosion tears through our digital world next will come from exactly that: an individual recognizing the potential of the small, where others see only scale.
“The web is already decentralized,” Mr. Berners-Lee said. “The problem is the dominance of one search engine, one big social network, one Twitter for microblogging. We don’t have a technology problem, we have a social problem.”
Marco is spot on here. The New York Times article he’s responding to is filled with a weird Stockholm syndrome—the one bit of the web that’s still free of invasive tracking and surveillance is where they wish a centralised power (like Apple) would come in and lock down. Madness!
Oh, how I wish I could make it to this event!
June 8th-9th at Internet Archive, featuring Vint Cerf, Brewster Kahle, and more.
We are bringing together a diverse group of Web architects, activists, engineers, archivists, scholars, journalists, and other stakeholders to explore the technology required to build a Decentralized Web and its impact.
A really good explanation of how a peer-to-peer model for the web would differ from the current location-centric approach.
What really interests me is the idea of having both models co-exist.
You just have to think about the ways in which our location-centrism is contributing to the problems we are hitting, from the rise of Facebook, to the lack of findability of OER, to the Wikipedia Edit Wars.
The title is hyperbolic, and while I certainly think that the criticisms of HTTP here are justified, I don’t think it will be swept aside by IPFS—I imagine more of a peaceful coexistence. Still, there’s some really good thinking in here and this is well worth paying attention to.
Brewster Kahle’s short presentation at NetGain.
Aaron raises a point that I’ve discussed before in regards to the indie web (and indeed, the web in general): we don’t buy domain names; we rent them.
It strikes me that all the good things about the web are decentralised (one-way linking, no central authority required to add a node), but all the sticking points are centralised: ICANN, DNS.
Aaron also points out that we are beholden to our hosting companies, although—having moved hosts a number of times myself—that’s an issue that DNS (and URLs in general) helps alleviate. And there’s now some interesting work going on in literally owning your own website: a web server in the home.
The transcript of Maciej’s talk from Beyond Tellerrand on how the web has become more and more centralised:
The degree of centralization is remarkable. Consider that Google now makes hardware, operating systems, and a browser.
It’s not just possible, but fairly common for someone to visit a Google website from a Google device, using Google DNS servers and a Google browser on the way.
This is a level of of end-to-end control that would have caused us to riot in the streets if Microsoft had attempted it in 1999. But times have changed.
The web’s walled gardens are threatened by the decentralised power of RSS.
Google is threatened by RSS. Google is closing down Google Reader.
Twitter is threatened by RSS. Twitter has switched off all of its RSS feeds.
It will dip and diminish, but will RSS ever go away? Nah. One of RSS’s weaknesses in its early days—its chaotic decentralized weirdness—has become, in its dotage, a surprising strength. RSS doesn’t route through a single leviathan’s servers. It lacks a kill switch.
This looks like it might be worth investigating as one potential solution to the sharecropping problem: code for decentralising your data; you allow apps to access your data but you get to decide where that data lives. Intriguing.
Dave Winer is putting together technology to battle share-cropping and enable the Pembertonisation of your content: you host the canonical copy and distribute to third-party services.
Paul Mison shares his thoughts on moving towards a decentralised web of services rather than silos of data. "Now I'm wondering: is there a space for a piece of user-installable software, like Movable Type or Wordpress, that aggregates their data from sites across the web, and then presents it as a site? If there is, is it even possible to write it in a way that anyone who couldn't have written it themselves can even use it?"