Medium, Twitter, Facebook and others are edge services for your content … Your platform is the origin.
Here’s the talk I gave at Mozilla’s View Source event. I really enjoyed talking about the indie web, both from the big-picture view and the nitty gritty.
In these times of centralised services like Facebook, Twitter, and Medium, having your own website is downright disruptive. If you care about the longevity of your online presence, independent publishing is the way to go. But how can you get all the benefits of those third-party services while still owning your own data? By using the building blocks of the Indie Web, that’s how!
When Aaron talks, I listen. This time he’s talking about digital (and analogue) preservation, and how that can clash with licensing rules.
It is time for the sector to pick a fight with artists, and artist’s estates and even your donors. It is time for the sector to pick a fight with anyone that is preventing you from being allowed to have a greater — and I want to stress greater, not total — license of interpretation over the works which you are charged with nurturing and caring for.
It is time to pick a fight because, at least on bad days, I might even suggest that the sector has been played. We all want to outlast the present, and this is especially true of artists. Museums and libraries and archives are a pretty good bet if that’s your goal.
Whereas before content used to be spread out on numerous domains in numerous ways, content now mostly makes its home on the three domains that are most hostile to thoughtful human discussion: Twitter, Medium, and Facebook.
So what? you may ask..
Think about how many times you’ve tweeted. Or written or commented on a Facebook post. Or started a Medium draft. These are all our words, locked in proprietary platforms that controls not only how our message is displayed, but how we write it, and even more worrying, how we think about it.
Fortunately there’s a back-up on the Internet Archive, but this tale of Google’s overnight destruction of fourteen years of writing is truly infuriating.
When we use their services, we trust that companies like Google will preserve some of the most personal things we have to share. They trust that we will not read the fine print.
When you pitch your tent in someone else’s walled garden, they can tear down your home whenever they want.
Two weeks ago, writer and artist Dennis Cooper was checking his Gmail when something peculiar happened: the page was refreshed and he was notified that his account had been deactivated – along with the blog that he’d maintained for 14 years.
This is why the Indie Web exists.
His advice to other artists who work predominantly online is to maintain your own domain and back everything up.
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?
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.
Jeffrey’s right. Instagram’s new deal with developers is openly hostile. It probably means the end of OwnYourGram in its current form …a service whose existence is frankly the only reason I’m able to use Instagram at all.
Why Get on the Indie Web?
In a word, autonomy.
- What is the Indie Web?
- How Can You Get on the Indie Web?,
- Where is the Indie Web? and
- Who is the Indie Web?
The Indie Web is made of people. It’s made by me. It can be made by you too. There’s no gatekeeper. You can join anytime without anyone’s permission. The Indie Web is made by everyone.
Shane gave a talk recently where he outlined his reasons for publishing on the indie web:
Most people reading this will probably have an account at most or all of these sites: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Tumblr, Wordpress. Many also had accounts at Friendster, Tribe, MySpace, Delicious, Magnolia, Gowalla, Geocities. But no one has an account at any of those (on the second list) anymore. And all of the content that we created on those sites is gone.
All of those super emo feeling you posted to MySpace, they’re all gone. Some of the great web designers of our generation got started on Geocities. That stuff is gone forever. And sure, it was sparkling animated GIFs and neon colors. But that’s important history. Yahoo bought it, left it alone for a while, and then decided one day to turn it off.
Honestly, if you value the content you create and put online, then you need to be in control of your own stuff.
A fascinating discussion on sharecropping vs. homesteading. Josh Miller from Branch freely admits that he’s only ever known a web where your content is held by somone else. Gina Trapani’s response is spot-on:
For me, publishing on a platform I have some ownership and control over is a matter of future-proofing my work. If I’m going to spend time making something I really care about on the web—even if it’s a tweet, brevity doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful—I don’t want to do it somewhere that will make it inaccessible after a certain amount of time, or somewhere that might go away, get acquired, or change unrecognizably.
When you get old and your memory is long and you lose parents and start having kids, you value your own and others’ personal archive much more.
Fred touches on the same issues that Frank highlighted in his dConstruct talk last year: what do we do with all of this wealth of material we’ve been collecting/ffffinding/scrobbling/liking/favouriting/plus-one-ing.
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.
Yet another reason to host your own content instead of sharecropping; danah boyd wakes up one morning to find her Tumblr account has been moved to a different URL.
A great piece about the changing nature of content ownership and distribution. And now I share it with you, validating its central premise.