Reply to doesn’t link back by Khürt Williams

doesn’t link back by Khürt Williams (Island in the Net)
I ran my domain through IndieWebify.me. Almost all of the rel=“me” links either don’t link back or couldn’t be fetched. The following work perfectly and can be used with the IndieAuth authentication plug-in. GitHub Flickr Goodreads Twitter That’s 4 out of 43.

Khürt , The majority of them don’t link back because the silos (like Keybase, Instagram, and Medium which you mention) aren’t putting the rel=”me” microformat on the URLs in your profile like Twitter, Github, and Flicker do. If you view the page source for those silos, you’ll see that they list your URL, but don’t have rel-me’s pointing back at you. Sadly, you can’t control these, though you could file issues with the sites that don’t to encourage them to.

The indiewebify.me site has a parser that is looking at the two sites to see that they not only point at each other, but it requires that the two links have the rel=”me” microformat on them. Most don’t, but this doesn’t mean too much in practice. Whether or not they both have rel=”me”, the only way both sites could point at each other indicates that you “own” or control them both. Kevin marks has proposed/built an interesting decentralized verification service based on them. His version is certainly much better distributed than Twitter’s broken verification set up.

Other than having a stronger two-way ownership indicator, what do you get out of them? As you mention, some have the ability to be used with IndieAuth. Those that can be used with IndieAuth are relying on the service (like Twitter or Github) having a OAuth implementation for signing into their services. This allows an indie site to piggyback on another services’ OAuth implementation without having to go through the trouble to build one themselves, which can be a lot of work to do, much less do correctly (securely). Most of the services you see not linking back not only don’t add the rel=”me” tag, but they also don’t support OAuth, so you wouldn’t get too much more out of having the correct reciprocal link anyway.

Incidentally, one of the benefits the rel=”me” links do have is that they allow you to use your website to log into the IndieWeb wiki to participate directly in that part of the community. (Give it a try!)

Some services like Brid.gy get around services like Instagram or Facebook not having a physical rel=”me” microformat because they’re relying on looking at the appropriate data (usually via API) on your profile page to see if it links back (either in your website field or typically in your bio).

Don’t be overly concerned that the vast majority of sites appear not to link back even if you’ve got links on both pointing back. (And if you think your batting average is bad with only 4 of 43, just imagine how many of my 200+ sites do?!)

If you want to see an interesting tech-forward application of rel=”me” and the XFN friends network, take a peek at Ryan Barrett’s Indie Map which he unveiled over the summer:

Some of these building blocks will likely add a lot more value later on as more and more sites explicitly indicate their relationship to and from each other.

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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