Monday, April 26th, 2021
Thursday, April 9th, 2020
On Monday, I linked to Tom’s latest video. It uses a clever trick whereby the title of the video is updated to match the number of views the video has had. But there’s a lot more to the video than that. Stick around and you’ll be treated to a meditation on the changing nature of APIs, from a shared open lake to a closed commercial drybed.
It reminds me of (other) Tom’s post from a couple of year’s ago called Pouring one out for the Boxmakers, wherein he talks about Twitter’s crackdown on fun bots:
Web 2.0 really, truly, is over. The public APIs, feeds to be consumed in a platform of your choice, services that had value beyond their own walls, mashups that merged content and services into new things… have all been replaced with heavyweight websites to ensure a consistent, single experience, no out-of-context content, and maximising the views of advertising. That’s it: back to single-serving websites for single-serving use cases.
A shame. A thing I had always loved about the internet was its juxtapositions, the way it supported so many use-cases all at once. At its heart, a fundamental one: it was a medium which you could both read and write to. From that flow others: it’s not only work and play that coexisted on it, but the real and the fictional; the useful and the useless; the human and the machine.
Both Toms echo the sentiment in Anil’s The Web We Lost, written back in 2012:
Five years ago, if you wanted to show content from one site or app on your own site or app, you could use a simple, documented format to do so, without requiring a business-development deal or contractual agreement between the sites. Thus, user experiences weren’t subject to the vagaries of the political battles between different companies, but instead were consistently based on the extensible architecture of the web itself.
I know, I know. We’re a bunch of old men shouting at The Cloud. But really, Anil is right:
This isn’t our web today. We’ve lost key features that we used to rely on, and worse, we’ve abandoned core values that used to be fundamental to the web world. To the credit of today’s social networks, they’ve brought in hundreds of millions of new participants to these networks, and they’ve certainly made a small number of people rich.
But they haven’t shown the web itself the respect and care it deserves, as a medium which has enabled them to succeed. And they’ve now narrowed the possibilites of the web for an entire generation of users who don’t realize how much more innovative and meaningful their experience could be.
In his video, Tom mentions Yahoo Pipes as an example of a service that has been shut down for commercial and idealogical reasons. In many ways, it was the epitome of what Anil was talking about—a sort of meta-API that allowed you to connect different services together. Kinda like IFTTT but with a visual interface that made it as empowering as something like the Scratch programming language.
There are services today that provide some of that functionality, but they’re more developer-focused. Trys pointed me to Pipedream, which looks good but you need to know how to write Node.js code and import npm packages. I’m sure it’s great if you’re into serverless Jamstack lambda thingamybobs but I don’t think it’s going to unlock the potential for non-coders to create cool stuff.
Cables is a tool for creating beautiful interactive content.
It isn’t about making mashups, but it does look something that non-coders could potentially use to make something that looks cool. It reminds me a bit of Bret Victor and his classic talk on Inventing On Principle—always worth revisting!
Monday, April 6th, 2020
Tom’s videos are so good! Did you see his excellent in-depth piece on copyright?
This one is all about APIs and the golden age of Web 2.0 when we were free to create mashups.
It pairs nicely with a piece by another Tom from a couple of years back on the joy of Twitterbots.
Monday, October 22nd, 2018
For once, Betteridge’s law of headlines is refuted.
This is a fascinating insight into the heady days of 2005 when Yahoo was the cool company snapping up all the best products like Flickr, Upcoming, and Del.icio.us. It all goes downhill from there.
There’s no mention of the surprising coda.
Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
The apparent difficulty of living in my head, freelancing, working for large organisations and then descending in to paranoia.
I have a lot of admiration for Reverend Dan Catt.
I don’t want to be in a position where I say “Hey, I’m working at Google, no no, don’t worry, the good bit of Google”, because goodness knows I did enough of that at Yahoo.
Monday, May 20th, 2013
Ben proposes an alternative to archive.org: changing the fundamental nature of DNS.
Regarding the boo-hooing of how hard companies have it maintaining unprofitable URLs, I think Ben hasn’t considered the possibility of a handover to a cooperative of users—something that might yet happen with MySpace (at least there’s a campaign to that effect; it will probably come to naught). As Ben rightly points on, domain names are leased, not bought, so the idea of handing them over to better caretakers isn’t that crazy.
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Heartbreaking and angry-making.
Saturday, March 2nd, 2013
What an Orwellian title for a blog post announcing the wholesale destruction of user’s content. Oh, Yahoo, you sound so proud of your cavalier attitude towards the collective culture that you have harvested.
Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
A heartbreaking article about just how badly Yahoo fucked up with Flickr. It’s particularly sad coming out right as the Flickr devs roll out an improved uploader and a more liquid photo page …but it seems like band-aid development at this point.
Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
Jason’s rip-roaring presentation from Defcon last year.
Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
A superb scathing piece by Andy, who has a personal perspective on Yahoo’s massively dick move in deploying the patent nuclear option against Facebook.
Monday, September 26th, 2011
This is quite beautiful. An interactive piece that allows you to dig through the ruins of Geocities like an archeologist.
Such wanton destruction! I’ll never forgive those twunts at Yahoo.
Sunday, December 26th, 2010
A viciously accurate assessment of Yahoo’s scorched earth policy towards our online collective culture:
All I can say, looking back, is that when history takes a look at the lives of Jerry Yang and David Filo, this is what it will probably say: Two graduate students, intrigued by a growing wealth of material on the Internet, built a huge fucking lobster trap, absorbed as much of human history and creativity as they could, and destroyed all of it.
Monday, July 26th, 2010
The website of the Yahoo accessibility team.
Monday, October 26th, 2009
Tears in the rain
When I first heard that Yahoo were planning to bulldoze Geocities, I was livid. After I blogged in anger, I was taken to task for jumping the gun.
Give ‘em a chance, I was told.
They may yet do something to save all that history.
They did fuck all. They told Archive.org what URLs to spider and left it up to them to do the best they could with preserving internet history. Meanwhile, Jason Scott continued his crusade to save as much as he could:
This is fifteen years and decades of man-hours of work that you’re destroying, blowing away because it looks better on the bottom line.
We are losing a piece of internet history. We are losing the destinations of millions of inbound links. But most importantly we are losing people’s dreams and memories.
Geocities dies today. This is a bad day for the internet. This is a bad day for our collective culture. In my opinion, this is also a bad day for Yahoo. I, for one, will find it a lot harder to trust a company that finds this to be acceptable behaviour …despite the very cool and powerful APIs produced by the very smart and passionate developers within the same company.
I hope that my friends who work at Yahoo understand that when I pour vitriol upon their company, I am not aiming at them. Yahoo has no shortage of clever people. But clearly they are down in the trenches doing development, not in the upper echelons making the decision to butcher Geocities. It’s those people, the decision makers, that I refer to as twunts. Fuckwits. Cockbadgers. Pisstards.
Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
Good news, everyone. Yahoo aren't shutting down the term extractor API. Happy developer is happy. Now if only they save GeoCities...
Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
Crap. The very powerful term extractor API from Yahoo is being closed down. Sad developer is sad.
Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
Archive.org is indexing Geocities sites (as it always has). Yahoo are going to fuck all about their users data/dreams/memories and Yahoo are going to do fuck all about the URLs.
Monday, May 25th, 2009
We have some new location-centric toys to play with. Let the hacking commence.
Flickr has released its shapefiles dataset for free (as in beer, as in it would be nice if you mentioned where you got the free beer). These shapefiles are bounding boxes that have been generated by the action of humans correcting suggested place names for geotagged photos. Tom put this data to good use with his neighbourhood boundaries app.
Speaking of excellent location-driven creations by Tom, be sure to check out Clarke; a little OS X app that updates your FireEagle location every five minutes by triangulating your position with Skyhook.
Slowly but surely we’re heading towards a future where everything is geotagged.
Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
Phil Gyford on why he will miss Geocities. "It’s only thanks to the efforts of people like the Internet Archive and Archive Team that we’ll have a record of what people, rather than companies, published in the past. As companies like Yahoo! switch off swathes of our online universe little fragments of our collective history disappear. They might be ugly and neglected fragments of our history but they’re still what got us where we are today."