Defining the IndieWeb

The concept of IndieWeb is something slightly different to many people and it’s ever evolving and changing, just like the internet itself.

Trying to define it is somewhat akin to trying to define America: while it has a relatively well-defined geographic border and place in time, its people, laws, philosophies, and principles, while typically very similar, can vary and change over time. What it is can be different for everyone both within it as well as outside of it. It can be different things to different people based on their place, time, and even mood. In the end maybe it’s just an idea.

A basic definition of IndieWeb

In broadest terms I would define being part of the IndieWeb as owning your own domain name and hosting some sort of website as a means of identifying yourself and attempting to communicate with others on the internet.

At its simplest, one could say they have an IndieWeb site by buying their own domain name (in my case: boffosocko.com) and connecting it to a free and flexible service like Tumblr.com or WordPress.com. Because you’ve got the ability to export your data from these services and move it to a new host or new content management system, you have a lot more freedom of choice and flexibility in what you’re doing with your content and identity and how you can interact online. By owning your domain and the ability to map your URLs, when you move, you can see and feel the benefits for yourself, but your content can still be found at the same web addresses you’ve set up instead of disappearing from the web.

If you wished, you could even purchase a new domain name and very inexpensively keep the old domain name and have it automatically forward people from your old links to all the appropriate links on your new one.

By comparison, owning your own domain name and redirecting it to your Facebook page doesn’t quite make you IndieWeb because if you moved to a different service your content might be able to go with you by export, but all of the URLs that used to point to it are now all dead and broken because they were under the control of another company that is trying to lock you into their service.

Some more nuanced definition

Going back to the analogy of America, the proverbial constitution for the IndieWeb is generally laid out on its principles page. If you like, the pre-amble to this “constitution” is declared on the IndieWeb wiki’s front page and on its why page.

Some people may choose to host the business card equivalent of a website with simply their name and contact information. Others may choose to use it as the central hub of their entire online presence and identity. In the end, what you do with your website and how you choose to use it should be up to you. What if you wanted to use your website like Twitter for short status updates or sharing links? What if you wanted to use it like Facebook to share content and photos with your friends and family? What if you want to host audio or video like Soundcloud, YouTube, or Vimeo allow?

The corporate social media revolution was a lovely and useful evolution of what the blogosphere was already doing. Thousands of companies made it incredibly easy for billions of people to be on the internet and interact with each other. But why let a corporation own and monetize your data and your ability to interact with others? More importantly, why allow them to limit what you can do? Maybe I want to post status updates of more than 280 characters? Maybe I want the ability to edit or update a post? Maybe I want more privacy? Maybe I don’t want advertising? Why should I be stuck with only the functionality that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn and thousands of others allow me to have? Why should I be limited in communicating with people who are stuck on a particular service? (Would you use your phone to only call friends who use AT&T?) Why should I have hundreds of social accounts and an online identity shattered like just so many horcruxes when I could have one that I can fully control?

By decentralizing things to the level of owning a domain and having a simple website with control of my URLs, I can move to cheaper or more innovative web hosts or service providers. I can move to more innovative content manage systems that allow me to do more and communicate better or more broadly with others online. As a side effect of empowering myself, I can help create more competition and innovation in the space to do things I might not otherwise be capable of doing solely by myself.

Web standards

Almost all of the people behind the IndieWeb movement believe in using some basic web standards as a central building block. Standards help provide some sort of guidance to allow sites to be easier to build and provide a simpler way for them to communicate and interact with each other.

Of course, because you have control of your own site, you can do anything you wish with it. (In our America analogy we could consider standards to be like speech. Then how might we define free speech in the IndieWeb?) Perhaps a group of people who want some sort of new functionality will agree on a limited set of new standards or protocols? They can build and iterate and gradually create new standards that others can follow so that the infrastructure advances and new capabilities emerge. Generally the simpler and easier these standards are to implement, the more adoption they will typically garner. Often simple standards are easier to innovate on and allow people to come up with new ways of using them that weren’t originally intended.

This type of growth can be seen in the relatively new W3C recommendation for the Webmention specification which grew out of the IndieWeb movement. Services like Facebook and Twitter have a functionality called @mentions, but they only work within their own walled gardens; they definitely don’t interoperate–you can’t @mention someone on Facebook with your Twitter account. Why not?! Why not have a simple standard that will allow one website to @mention another–not only across domain names but across multiple web servers and even content management systems? This is precisely what the Webmention standard allows. I can @mention you from my domain running WordPress and you can still receive it using your own domain running Drupal (or whatever software you choose). People within the IndieWeb community realized there was a need for such functionality, and so, over the span of several years, they slowly evolved it and turned it into a web standard that anyone (including Facebook and Twitter) could use. While it may have been initially meant as a simple notifications protocol, people have combined it with another set of web standards known as Microformats to enable cross-site conversations and a variety of other wonderous functionalities.

Some people in the IndieWeb might define it as all of the previous ideas we’ve discussed as well as the ability to support conversations via Webmentions. Some might also define an IndieWeb site as one that has the ability to support Micropub, which is a standard that allows websites to be able to accept data from a growing variety of applications that will allow you to more easily post different types of content to your site from articles and photos to what you’re drinking or reading.

Still others might want their own definition of IndieWeb to support the functionality of WebSub, MicroSub, IndieAuth, or even all of the above. Each small, free-standing piece expands the capabilities of what your personal website can do and how you can interact online. But since it’s your website and under your control, you have the power to pick and choose what and how you would like it to be able to do.

So what is the IndieWeb really?

Perhaps after exploring the concept a bit, most may not necessarily be able to define it concretely. Instead they might say–to quote United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart“But I know it when I see it […]”.

The IndieWeb can be many different things. It is:

  • a website;
  • an independent network of websites;
  • an idea;
  • a concept;
  • a set of broad-based web standards;
  • a set of principles;
  • a philosophy;
  • a group of people;
  • a support network;
  • an organization;
  • an inclusive community;
  • a movement;
  • a Utopian dream of what the decentralized, open Internet could be.

In some sense it is all of these things and many more.

In the end though, the real question is:

What do you want the IndieWeb to be?

Come help us all define it.

IndieWeb.org

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🔖 Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier

Bookmarked Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier (Henry Holt and Co.)

You might have trouble imagining life without your social media accounts, but virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier insists that we’re better off without them. In Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Lanier, who participates in no social media, offers powerful and personal reasons for all of us to leave these dangerous online platforms.

Lanier’s reasons for freeing ourselves from social media’s poisonous grip include its tendency to bring out the worst in us, to make politics terrifying, to trick us with illusions of popularity and success, to twist our relationship with the truth, to disconnect us from other people even as we are more “connected” than ever, to rob us of our free will with relentless targeted ads. How can we remain autonomous in a world where we are under continual surveillance and are constantly being prodded by algorithms run by some of the richest corporations in history that have no way of making money other than being paid to manipulate our behavior? How could the benefits of social media possibly outweigh the catastrophic losses to our personal dignity, happiness, and freedom? Lanier remains a tech optimist, so while demonstrating the evil that rules social media business models today, he also envisions a humanistic setting for social networking that can direct us toward a richer and fuller way of living and connecting with our world.

This looks like an interesting book to read for some related IndieWeb research. Perhaps something Greg McVerry could use in his proposed talk?

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👓 The Internet is going the wrong way | Scripting News

Read The Internet is going the wrong way by Dave Winer (Scripting News)

Click a link in a web browser, it should open a web page, not try to open an app which you may not have installed. This is what Apple does with podcasts and now news.#

Facebook is taking the place of blogs, but doesn't permit linking, styles. Posts can't have titles or include podcasts. As a result these essential features are falling into disuse. We're returning to AOL. Linking, especially is essential.#

Google is forcing websites to change to support HTTPS. Sounds innocuous until you realize how many millions of historic domains won't make the switch. It's as if a library decided to burn all books written before 2000, say. The web has been used as an archival medium, it isn't up to a company to decide to change that, after the fact. #

Medium, a blogging site, is gradually closing itself off to the world. People used it for years as the place-of-record. I objected when I saw them do this, because it was easy to foresee Medium pivoting, and they will pivot again. The final pivot will be when they go off the air entirely, as commercial blogging systems eventually do.

A frequently raised warning, and one that’s possibly not taken seriously enough.

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🎧 <A> | Adactio

Listened by Jeremy KeithJeremy Keith from adactio.com

The opening keynote from the inaugural HTML Special held before CSS Day 2016 in Amsterdam.

The world exploded into a whirling network of kinships, where everything pointed to everything else, everything explained everything else.
— Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

I wasn’t able to attend the original presentation, but I think it’s even more valuable to listen to it all alone rather than in what was assuredly a much larger crowd. There is a wonderful presence in this brief history of the internet, made all the more intriguing by Jeremy’s performance as if it were poetry about technology. I find that he’s even managed to give it an interesting structured format, which, in many senses, mirrors the web itself.

I hope that if you’re starting your adventure on the web, that you manage to find this as one of the first links that starts you off on your journey. It’s a great place to start.

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👓 Google Condemns the Archival Web | Doc Searls

Read Google Condemns the Archival Web by Doc Searls (doc.blog)
The archival Web—the one you see through the protocol HTTP—will soon be condemned, cordoned off behind Google's police tape, labeled "insecure" on every current Chrome browser. For some perspective on this, imagine if suddenly all the national parks in the world became forbidden zones because nature created them before they could only be seen through crypto eyeglasses. Every legacy website, nearly all of which were created with no malice, commit no fraud and distribute no malware, will become haunted houses: still there, but too scary for most people to visit. It's easy to imagine, and Google wants you to imagine it.
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👓 Federal Judge Says Embedding a Tweet Can Be Copyright Infringement | EFF

Read Federal Judge Says Embedding a Tweet Can Be Copyright Infringement (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Rejecting years of settled precedent, a federal court in New York has ruled [PDF] that you could infringe copyright simply by embedding a tweet in a web page. Even worse, the logic of the ruling applies to all in-line linking, not just embedding tweets. If adopted by other courts, this legally and...

This is an insane bit of news and could have some chilling effects on all areas of the web.

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Reply to Laying the Standards for a Blogging Renaissance by Aaron Davis

Replied to Laying the Standards for a Blogging Renaissance by Aaron Davis (Read Write Respond)
With the potential demise of social media, does this offer a possible rebirth of blogging communities and the standards they are built upon?

Aaron, some excellent thoughts and pointers.

A lot of your post also reminds me of Bryan Alexander’s relatively recent post I defy the world and to go back to RSS.

I completely get the concept of what you’re getting at with harkening back to the halcyon days of RSS. I certainly love, use, and rely on it heavily both for consumption as well as production. Of course there’s also still the competing standard of Atom still powering large parts of the web (including GNU Social networks like Mastodon). But almost no one looks back fondly on the feed format wars…

I think that while many are looking back on the “good old days” of the web, that we not forget the difficult and fraught history that has gotten us to where we are. We should learn from the mistakes made during the feed format wars and try to simplify things to not only move back, but to move forward at the same time.

Today, the easier pared-down standards that are better and simpler than either of these old and and difficult specs is simply adding Microformat classes to HTML (aka P.O.S.H) to create feeds. Unless one is relying on pre-existing infrastructure like WordPress, building and maintaining RSS feed infrastructure can be difficult at best, and updates almost never occur, particularly for specifications that support new social media related feeds including replies, likes, favorites, reposts, etc. The nice part is that if one knows how to write basic html, then one can create a simple feed by hand without having to learn the mark up or specifics of RSS. Most modern feed readers (except perhaps Feedly) support these new h-feeds as they’re known. Interestingly, some CMSes like WordPress support Microformats as part of their core functionality, though in WordPress’ case they only support a subsection of Microformats v1 instead of the more modern v2.

For those like you who are looking both backward and simultaneously forward there’s a nice chart of “Lost Infractructure” on the IndieWeb wiki which was created following a post by Anil Dash entitled The Lost Infrastructure of Social Media. Hopefully we can take back a lot of the ground the web has lost to social media and refashion it for a better and more flexible future. I’m not looking for just a “hipster-web”, but a new and demonstrably better web.

The Lost Infrastructure of the Web from the IndieWeb Wiki (CC0)

Some of the desire to go back to RSS is built into the problems we’re looking at with respect to algorithmic filtering of our streams (we’re looking at you Facebook.) While algorithms might help to filter out some of the cruft we’re not looking for, we’ve been ceding too much control to third parties like Facebook who have different motivations in presenting us material to read. I’d rather my feeds were closer to the model of fine dining rather than the junk food that the-McDonald’s-of-the-internet Facebook is providing. As I’m reading Cathy O’Neil’s book Weapons of Math Distraction, I’m also reminded that the black box that Facebook’s algorithm is is causing scale and visibility/transparency problems like the Russian ad buys which could have potentially heavily influenced the 2017 election in the United States. The fact that we can’t see or influence the algorithm is both painful and potentially destructive. If I could have access to tweaking a third-party transparent algorithm, I think it would provide me a lot more value.

As for OPML, it’s amazing what kind of power it has to help one find and subscribe to all sorts of content, particularly when it’s been hand curated and is continually self-dogfooded. One of my favorite tools are readers that allow one to subscribe to the OPML feeds of others, that way if a person adds new feeds to an interesting collection, the changes propagate to everyone following that feed. With this kind of simple technology those who are interested in curating things for particular topics (like the newsletter crowd) or even creating master feeds for class material in a planet-like fashion can easily do so. I can also see some worthwhile uses for this in journalism for newspapers and magazines. As an example, imagine if one could subscribe not only to 100 people writing about #edtech, but to only their bookmarked articles that have the tag edtech (thus filtering out their personal posts, or things not having to do with edtech). I don’t believe that Feedly supports subscribing to OPML (though it does support importing OPML files, which is subtly different), but other readers like Inoreader do.

I’m hoping to finish up some work on my own available OPML feeds to make subscribing to interesting curated content a bit easier within WordPress (over the built in, but now deprecated link manager functionality.) Since you mentioned it, I tried checking out the OPML file on your blog hoping for something interesting in the #edtech space. Alas… 😉 Perhaps something in the future?

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👓 Why We Terminated Daily Stormer | Cloudflare

Read Why We Terminated Daily Stormer by Matthew Prince (Cloudflare)
Earlier today, Cloudflare terminated the account of the Daily Stormer. We've stopped proxying their traffic and stopped answering DNS requests for their sites. We've taken measures to ensure that they cannot sign up for Cloudflare's services ever again. Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology. Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare. Now, having made that decision, let me explain why it's so dangerous.

Some interesting implications for how the internet works as a result of this piece.

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I’m apparently the king of the microformat rel=”me”

More important however is the reason why I hold the title!

Today, at the IndieWeb Summit 2017, Ryan Barrett, while giving a presentation on some data research he’s been doing on the larger Indieweb community, called me out for a ridiculous number of rel-me’s on a single page. His example cited me as having 177 of them on a single page! I tracked it down and it was actually an archive page that included the following post How many social media related accounts can one person have on the web?!.

What is a rel=”me”?

Rel=”me” is a microformat tag put on hyperlinks that indicates that the paged linked to is another representation of the person who controls the site/page you’re currently looking at. Thus on my home page the Facebook bug has a link to my facebook account which is another representation of me on the web, thus it has a rel=”me” tag on it.

His data is a bit old as I now maintain a page entitled Social Media Accounts and Links with some (but far from all) of my disparate and diverse social media accounts. That page currently has 190 rel=”me”s on it! While there was one other example that had rel-mes pointing to every other internal page on the site (at 221, if I recall), I’m proud to say, without gaming the system in such a quirky way, that each and every one of the rel=”me” URLs is indeed a full legitimate use of the tag.

I’m proud to be at the far end of the Zipf tail for this. And even more proud to be tagged as such during the week in which Microformats celebrates its 12th birthday. But for those doing research or who need edge cases of rel-me use, I’m also happy to serve as a unique test case. (If I’m not mistaken, I think my Google+ page broke one of Ryan’s web crawlers/tools in the past for a similar use-case a year or two ago).

The Moral of the Story

The take away from this seemingly crazy and obviously laughable example is simply just how fragmented one’s online identity can become by using social silos. Even more interesting for some is the number of sites on that page which either no longer have links or which are crossed out indicating that they no longer resolve. This means those sites and thousands more are now gone from the internet and along with them all of the data that they contained not only for me but thousands or even millions of other users.

This is one of the primary reasons that I’m a member of the Indieweb, have my own domain, and try to own all of my own data.

While it seemed embarrassing for a moment (yes, I could hear the laughter even in the live stream folks!), I’m glad Ryan drew attention to my rel-me edge case in part because it highlights some of the best reasons for being in the Indieweb.

(And by the way Ryan, thanks for a great presentation! I hope everyone watches the full video and checks out the new site/tool!)

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Live Q&A: ownCloud contributors create Nextcloud

Watched Live Q&A: ownCloud contributors create Nextcloud from YouTube
Ask questions in a live Nextcloud Q&A Hangout with Frank Karlitschek and Jos Poortvliet, moderated by Bryan Lunduke at 18:00 PM Berlin/Amsterdam/Paris time, 10:00 AM Pacific time on June 2nd, 2016.

Nextcloud Q&A Hangout with Frank Karlitschek and Jos Poortvliet, moderated by Bryan Lunduke at 18:00 PM Berlin/Amsterdam/Paris time, 10:00 AM Pacific time on June 2nd, 2016.

I invented the web. Here are three things we need to change to save it | Tim Berners-Lee | Technology | The Guardian

Read I invented the web. Here are three things we need to change to save it (the Guardian)
It has taken all of us to build the web we have, and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want – for everyone

Continue reading “I invented the web. Here are three things we need to change to save it | Tim Berners-Lee | Technology | The Guardian”

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A brief analogy of food culture and the internet

food:McDonalds:obesity :: internet:Facebook:intellectual laziness

tantek [10:07 AM]
I made a minor cassis.js auto_link bug fix that is unlikely to affect folks (involves a parameter to explicitly turn off embeds)
(revealed by my own posting UI, so selfdogfooding FTW)
selfdogfood++

tantek [10:10 AM]
/me realizes his upcoming events on his home page are out of date, again. manual hurts.

Tantek’s thoughts and the reference to selfdogfooding, while I’m thinking about food, makes me think that there’s kind of an analogy between food and people who choose to eat at restaurants versus those who cook at home and websites/content on the internet.

The IndieWeb is made of people who are “cooking” their websites at home. In some sense I hope we’re happier, healthier, and better/smarter communicators as a result, but it also makes me think about people who can’t afford to eat or afford internet access.

Are silos the equivalent of fast food? Are too many people consuming content that isn’t good for them and becoming intellectually obese? Would there be more thought and intention if there were more home chefs making and consuming content in smaller batches? Would it be more nutritious and mentally valuable?

I think there’s some value hiding in extending this comparison.

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The Web Cryptography API is a W3C Recommendation | W3C News

Bookmarked The Web Cryptography API is a W3C Recommendation (W3C News)
The Web Cryptography Working Group has published a W3C Recommendation of the Web Cryptography API. This specification describes a JavaScript API for performing basic cryptographic operations in web applications, such as hashing, signature generation and verification, and encryption and decryption. Additionally, it describes an API for applications to generate and/or manage the keying material necessary to perform these operations. Uses for this API range from user or service authentication, document or code signing, and the confidentiality and integrity of communications.

h/t

Stop Publishing Web Pages | Anil Dash

Read Stop Publishing Web Pages (anildash.com)
Most users on the web spend most of their time in apps. The most popular of those apps, like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Tumblr and others, are primarily focused on a single, simple stream that offers a river of news which users can easily scroll through, skim over, and click on to read in more depth. Most media companies on the web spend all of their effort putting content into content management systems which publish pages. These pages work essentially the same way that pages have worked since the beginning of the web, with a single article or post living at...

Continue reading “Stop Publishing Web Pages | Anil Dash”