I was ten years into a career as a user experience designer making new digital products when diabetes blew my family's life apart. The complexity and relentlessness of the burden of care that came with my youngest daughter's diagnosis at 1.5 years old, were overwhelming. I learned that people with diabetes are always 10 minutes of inattention away from a coma. Run your blood sugar too low and risk brain injury or death. Run too high and you do cumulative damage to your organs, nerves and eyes. And as a designer and hardware hacker I couldn't accept the limitations and poor User Experience I was seeing in all the tools we were given to deal with it.
Then I discovered Nightscout (a way to monitor my daughter's blood sugar in real time from anywhere in the world) and Loop (a DIY open sourced, artificial pancreas system that checks blood sugar and adjusts insulin dosing every five minutes 24/7) and the #WeAreNotWaiting community that produced them. For the first time I saw the kinds of tools I needed and true power of solutions that come from the people living with the problem. When I learned about the Tidepool's project to take Loop through FDA approval and bring it to anyone who wants to use it to give the same freedom and relief that we've experienced from it, I had to get involved. Now we are taking an open source software through regulatory approval and using real-life user data from the DIY community for our clinical trial in a process that is turning heads in the industry. We'll get into the many ways this story demonstrates ways that user driven design, open source models and a counterculturally collaborative approach with regulators are shifting the incentives and changing the landscape toward one more favorable to innovation.
Here’s the video I mentioned yesterday. Those deeply enmeshed in the IndieWeb movement and many of its subtleties will get a ringing sense of déjà vu as they watch it and realize there’s a lot of overlap with how (and why) Matt Lumpkin is working to help those with type 1 diabetes and the IndieWeb. Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned here?
Syndicated copies to:
There was an eerie and surprisingly large overlap of a lot of what Matt Lumpkin said in his talk this morning and the IndieWeb movement. If you just change the disease from Type 1 Diabetes to Social Media, there are a tremendous number of similarities between the two approaches of problems to be solved in terms of giving people agency, ownership of their data, the silo nature of the big corporations in the space, and the lack of solid inter-operability and standards.
I can’t wait for Chuck Chugumulung and the gang to get the video for this week up on YouTube so I can share it with colleagues.
Based on what I’ve heard, it might not be a completely terrible thing to class what the IndieWeb is working on fixing as a broad public health issue–but in its case a mental health one instead of a pancreas and diet related one.
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!
Managed to get a talk proposal together for WordCamp Santa Clarita on the topic of IndieWeb and WordPress (geared toward a general audience). I also submitted an idea for a lightning talk on the relatively new Micropub spec from the W3C and how it can be used in conjunction with WordPress to quickly and easily post a variety of different content types to the platform.
I can’t wait to attend this new camp just North of Los Angeles!
Now that phase one of Gutenberg has dropped the interest in #ClassicPress grows by the day. So many WordPress developers fear the loss of control they will face under the new regime of 5.0. Many just don't want to do the work of all that refactoring.
#IndieWeb and #ClassicPress should join forces.
The definitions of the blockquote and cite elements in the HTML specification have recently been updated. This article explains what the changes mean for developers.
Yes, <cite> and <blockquote> ought to be much easier and more standardized. I’ve got some crazy and extreme examples myself I’m sure. The bigger lurking trap is that cite is really a semantic thing, but the way I see it done more often implemented with CSS is as a typographic element indicating italics.
All this WordPress 5.0 Gutenberg stuff got me thinking. With WordPress it seems like the Indieweb starts making serious and cool progress and the WordPress people come along and knock the game board and pieces off the table. And it sounds like the disruption from WordPress is going to continue f...
Brad, I like and agree with your general thoughts, but I think that looking at the long term broader picture, most of what you’re describing is covered under the umbrella principle of plurality. For things to grow and thrive, we all need plurality to flourish. As a result there are several hundred projects within the broader IndieWeb which are growing and thriving. It seems far slower because a large number of the projects are single-maintainer single-user ones which are being built for personal use.
It’s nice that there are mass-scale projects like WordPress, WithKnown, Get Perch, Grav, Drupal, and a few others which have one or more “IndieWeb-centric” developers working on them that allow those without the coding skills to jump in and enjoy the additional freedom and functionality. The occasional drawback is that those big-hearted developers also fit into the broader fabric of those massively distributed projects and sometimes their voices aren’t as well heard, if at all.
I’m aware of the disruption of the Gutenberg Editor within WordPress v5.0 and how it applies to those using IndieWeb technology on WordPress. I’m sure it will eventually get sorted out in a reasonable fashion. Sadly, throwing out the baby out with the bathwater as it comes to WordPress and IndieWeb may not be the best solution for many people and may actually be a painful detriment to several hundreds.
While it would be interesting to see a larger group of developers converge on building an open and broadly used IndieWeb system as you suggest, it takes a massive amount of work and community collaboration to get such a thing moving. I think this bears out if you look at the lay of the land as it already exists. Just think of the time effort and energy that the core IndieWeb community puts into the tremendous amount of resources that exist today.
Looking back on the past 4+ years of IndieWeb within the WordPress community, I’m really amazed to see exactly how far things have come and where things currently stand. There used to be a dozen or more pieces that required custom code, duct tape, and baling wire to get things working. Now it’s a handful of relatively stable and well set up pieces that—particularly for me—really makes WordPress deliver as an open source content management system and next generation social medial platform that aims to democratize publishing. In terms of building for the future, I suspect that helping to bring new people into the fold (users, developers, designers, etc.) will increase and improve the experience overall. To some degree, I feel like we’re just getting started on what is possible and recruiting new users and help will be the best thing for improving things moving forward. IndieWeb integration into large-scale projects like WordPress, Drupal, etc. are very likely to be the place that these ideas are likely to gain a foothold in the mainstream and change the tide of how the internet works.
If it helps, some of the current IndieWeb issues pale in comparison to some of the accessibility problems that Gutenberg has neglected within the WordPress community. Fortunately those a11ys are sticking with the greater fight to make things better not only for themselves, but for the broader community and the world. I suggest that, like them, we all suit up and continue the good fight.
Of course part of the genius of how IndieWeb is structured: anyone is free to start writing code, make better UI, and create something of their own. Even then they benefit from a huge amount of shared work, resources, and simple standards that are already out there.
People continued working on it. Everything you need using W3C standards like Webmention, Microformats2…give it a try? https://IndieWeb.org/WordPress/Plugins
I suspect that @chrismessina could do it quickly, but for those who’d like to leave Twitter for #WordPress with similar functionality (but greater flexibility and independence), I recorded a 2 hour video for an #IndieWeb set up/walk through with some high level discussion a few months back. If you can do the 5 minute install, hopefully most of the rest is downhill with some basic plugin installation and minor configuration. The end of the walk through includes a live demonstration of a conversation between a WordPress site on one domain and a WithKnown site running on another domain.
Post Kinds plugin (for better delineating articles, status updates (notes), replies, favorites, likes, etc. with appropriate microformats markup)
Aperture Plugin (allows you to sign into a variety of Microsub readers which also act as your stream and allow you to reply to others directly from your reading interface. This part is still a bit experimental, but the kinks are being worked out presently for a richer experience.)
For those watching this carefully, you’ll notice that I’ve replied to David Shanske’s post on his website using my own website and sent him a webmention which will allow him to display my reply (if he chooses). I’ve also automatically syndicated my response to the copy of his reply on Twitter which includes others who are following the conversation there. Both he and I have full copies of the conversation on our own site and originated our responses from our own websites. If you like, retweet, or comment on the copy of this post on Twitter, through the magic of Brid.gy and the Webmention spec, it will come back to the comment section on my original post (after moderation).
Hooray for web standards! And hooray for everyone in the IndieWeb who are helping to make this type of social interaction easier and simpler with every passing day.
By choosing images over links, and by restricting markup, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are hostile to HTML. This is leading to the plague of infographics crowding out text, and of video used to convey minimal information.
The rise of so-called infographics has been out of control this year, though the term was unknown a couple of years ago. I attribute this to the favourable presentation that image links get within Facebook, followed by Twitter and Google plus, and of course though other referral sites like Reddit. By showing a preview of the image, the item is given extra weight over a textual link; indeed even for a url link, Facebook and G+ will show an image preview by default.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I read Megan McCardle's Ending the Infographic Plague on The Atlantic a few days ago. Someone had said it at last! As useful as a really well-produced infographic can be, there's some real dross out there and it's time we talked about the problem.
Something called Webmentions – which looks remarkably like the old WordPress pingbacks, once popular in the late 2000s – is grinding through the machinery of the mighty, and slow-moving, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
But don’t be deceived. Lurking behind that unassuming name lies something that might eventually offer users a way of ditching not just Facebook and Twitter but also those other massive corporations straddling the web.
An awfully inflamatory headline and opening, but the rest was not so up-in-arms and seemed relatively measured. Was it intended to try to be link bait?
Editor’s note: This is a copy of an article that was originally published on A List Apart.
Over 1 million Webmentions will have been sent across the internet since the specification was made a full Recommendation by the W3C—the standards body that guides the direction of the web—in early January 2017. That number is rising rapidly, and in the last few weeks I’ve seen a growing volume of chatter on social media and the blogosphere about these new “mentions” and the people implementing them.
So what are Webmentions and why should we care?
While the technical specification published by the W3C may seem incomprehensible to most, it’s actually a straightforward and extremely useful concept with a relatively simple implementation. Webmentions help to break down some of the artificial walls being built within the internet and so help create a more open and decentralized web. There is also an expanding list of major web platforms already supporting Webmentions either natively or with easy-to-use plugins (more on this later).
Put simply, Webmention is a (now) standardized protocol that enables one website address (URL) to notify another website address that the former contains a reference to the latter. It also allows the latter to verify the authenticity of the reference and include its own corresponding reference in a reciprocal way. In order to understand what a big step forward this is, a little history is needed.
The rise of @mentions
By now most people are familiar with the ubiquitous use of the “@” symbol in front of a username, which originated on Twitter and became known as @mentions and @replies (read “at mentions” and “at replies”). For the vast majority, this is the way that one user communicates with other users on the platform, and over the past decade these @mentions, with their corresponding notification to the receiver, have become a relatively standard way of communicating on the internet.
Many other services also use this type of internal notification to indicate to other users that they have been referenced directly or tagged in a post or photograph. Facebook allows it, so does Instagram. Google+ has a variant that uses + instead of @, and even the long-form article platform Medium, whose founder Ev Williams also co-founded Twitter, quickly joined the @mentions party.
The biggest communications problem on the internet
If you use Twitter, your friend Alice only uses Facebook, your friend Bob only uses his blog on WordPress, and your pal Chuck is over on Medium, it’s impossible for any one of you to @mention another. You’re all on different and competing platforms, none of which interoperate to send these mentions or notifications of them. The only way to communicate in this way is if you all join the same social media platforms, resulting in the average person being signed up to multiple services just to stay in touch with all their friends and acquaintances.
Given the issues of privacy and identity protection, different use cases, the burden of additional usernames and passwords, and the time involved, many people don’t want to do this. Possibly worst of all, your personal identity on the internet can end up fragmented like a Horcrux across multiple websites over which you have little, if any, control.
Imagine if AT&T customers could only speak to other AT&T customers and needed a separate phone, account, and phone number to speak to friends and family on Verizon. And still another to talk to friends on Sprint or T-Mobile. The massive benefit of the telephone system is that if you have a telephone and service (from any one of hundreds or even thousands of providers worldwide), you can potentially reach anyone else using the network. Surely, with a basic architecture based on simple standards, links, and interconnections, the same should apply to the internet?
The solution? Enter Webmentions!
As mentioned earlier, Webmentions allow notifications between web addresses. If both sites are set up to send and receive them, the system works like this:
Alice has a website where she writes an article about her rocket engine hobby.
Bob has his own website where he writes a reply to Alice’s article. Within his reply, Bob includes the permalink URL of Alice’s article.
When Bob publishes his reply, his publishing software automatically notifies Alice’s server that her post has been linked to by the URL of Bob’s reply.
Alice’s publishing software verifies that Bob’s post actually contains a link to her post and then (optionally) includes information about Bob’s post on her site; for example, displaying it as a comment.
A Webmention is simply an @mention that works from one website to another!
If she chooses, Alice can include the full text of Bob’s reply—along with his name, photo, and his article’s URL (presuming he’s made these available)—as a comment on her original post. Any new readers of Alice’s article can then see Bob’s reply underneath it. Each can carry on a full conversation from their own websites and in both cases display (if they wish) the full context and content.
Using Webmentions, both sides can carry on a conversation where each is able to own a copy of the content and provide richer context.
User behaviors with Webmentions are a little different than they are with @mentions on Twitter and the like in that they work between websites in addition to within a particular website. They enable authors (of both the original content and the responses) to own the content, allowing them to keep a record on the web page where it originated, whether that’s a website they own or the third-party platform from which they chose to send it.
Interaction examples with Webmention
Webmentions certainly aren’t limited to creating or displaying “traditional” comments or replies. With the use of simple semantic microformats classes and a variety of parsers written in numerous languages, one can explicitly post bookmarks, likes, favorites, RSVPs, check-ins, listens, follows, reads, reviews, issues, edits, and even purchases. The result? Richer connections and interactions with other content on the web and a genuine two-way conversation instead of a mass of unidirectional links. We’ll take a look at some examples, but you can find more on the IndieWeb wiki page for Webmention alongside some other useful resources.
With Webmention support, one could architect a site to allow inline marginalia and highlighting similar to Medium.com’s relatively well-known functionality. With the clever use of URL fragments, which are well supported in major browsers, there are already examples of people who use Webmentions to display word-, sentence-, or paragraph-level marginalia on their sites. After all, aren’t inline annotations just a more targeted version of comments?
As another example, and something that could profoundly impact the online news business, I might post a link on my website indicating I’ve read a particular article on, say, The New York Times. My site sends a “read” Webmention to the article, where a facepile or counter showing the number of read Webmentions received could be implemented. Because of the simplified two-way link between the two web pages, there is now auditable proof of interaction with the content. This could similarly work with microinteractions such as likes, favorites, bookmarks, and reposts, resulting in a clearer representation of the particular types of interaction a piece of content has received. Compared to an array of nebulous social media mini-badges that provide only basic counters, this is a potentially more valuable indicator of a post’s popularity, reach, and ultimate impact.
Building on the idea of using reads, one could extend Webmentions to the podcasting or online music sectors. Many platforms are reasonably good at providing download numbers for podcasts, but it is far more difficult to track the number of actual listens. This can have a profound effect on the advertising market that supports many podcasts. People can post about what they’re actively listening to (either on their personal websites or via podcast apps that could report the percentage of the episode listened to) and send “listen” Webmentions to pages for podcasts or other audio content. These could then be aggregated for demographics on the back end or even shown on the particular episode’s page as social proof of the podcast’s popularity.
SoundCloud allows users to insert inline comments that dovetail with specific portions of audio.
Websites selling products or services could also accept review-based Webmentions that include star-based ratings scales as well as written comments with photos, audio, or even video. Because Webmentions are a two-way protocol, the reverse link to the original provides an auditable path to the reviewer and the opportunity to assess how trustworthy their review may be. Of course, third-party trusted sites might also accept these reviews, so that the receiving sites can’t easily cherry-pick only positive reviews for display. And because the Webmention specification includes the functionality for editing or deletion, the original author has the option to update or remove their reviews at any time.
If you’re working with WordPress, there’s a simple Webmention plugin that will allow you to begin using Webmentions—just download and activate it. (For additional functionality when displaying Webmentions, there’s also the recommended Semantic Linkbacks plugin.) Other CMSs like Drupal, ProcessWire, Elgg, Nucleus CMS, Craft, Django, and Kirby also have plugins that support the standard. A wide variety of static site generators, like Hugo and Jekyll, have solutions for Webmention technology as well. More are certainly coming.
A weak form of Webmention support can be bootstrapped for Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, and Medium with help from the free Bridgy service, but the user interface and display would obviously be better if they were supported fully and natively.
As a last resort, if you’re using Tumblr, WordPress.com, Wix, Squarespace, Ghost, Joomla, Magento, or any of the other systems without Webmention, file tickets asking them to support the standard. It only takes a few days of work for a reasonably experienced developer to build support, and it substantially improves the value of the platform for its users. It also makes them first-class decentralized internet citizens.
Webmentions for developers
If you’re a developer or a company able to hire a developer, it is relatively straightforward to build Webmentions into your CMS or project, even potentially open-sourcing the solution as a plugin for others. For anyone familiar with the old specifications for pingback or trackback, you can think of Webmentions as a major iteration of those systems, but with easier implementation and testing, improved performance and display capabilities, and decreased spam vulnerabilities. Because the specification supports editing and deleting Webmentions, it provides individuals with more direct control of their data, which is important in light of new laws like GDPR.
In addition to reading the specification, as mentioned previously, there are multiple open source implementations already written in a variety of languages that you can use directly, or as examples. There are also a test suite and pre-built services like Webmention.io, Telegraph, mention-tech, and webmention.herokuapp.com that can be quickly leveraged.
Maybe your company allows employees to spend 20% of their time on non-specific projects, as Google does. If so, I’d encourage you to take the opportunity to fbuild Webmentions support for one or more platforms—let’s spread the love and democratize communication on the web as fast as we can!
And if you already have a major social platform but don’t want to completely open up to sending and receiving Webmentions, consider using Webmention functionality as a simple post API. I could easily see services like Twitter, Mastodon, or Google+ supporting the receiving of Webmentions, combined with a simple parsing mechanism to allow Webmention senders to publish syndicated content on their platform. There are already several services like IndieNews, with Hacker News-like functionality, that allow posting to them via Webmention.
If you have problems or questions, I’d recommend joining the IndieWeb chat room online via IRC, web interface, Slack, or Matrix to gain access to further hints, pointers, and resources for implementing a particular Webmention solution.
The expansion of Webmentions
The big question many will now have is Will the traditional social media walled gardens like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like support the Webmention specification?
At present, they don’t, and many may never do so. After all, locking you into their services is enabling them to leverage your content and your interactions to generate income. However, I suspect that if one of the major social platforms enabled sending/receiving Webmentions, it would dramatically disrupt the entire social space.
In the meantime, if your site already has Webmentions enabled, then congratulations on joining the next revolution in web communication! Just make sure you advertise the fact by using a button or badge. You can download a copy here.
About the Author
Chris Aldrich is developer and researcher who lives in Los Angeles. When not working on the abstract mathematics of digital communication, he tinkers on the web. An active member of the IndieWeb community, he enjoys replacing his dependency on social silos with his website which doubles as his commonplace book.
I’ve had refbacks on the brain for the past couple of months after having read Why Refback Still Matters, so I figured since I’ve already got the pingbacks, trackbacks, and webmentions enabled, what’s one more way to communicate with my website from the outside? So as of this evening, just for fun, I’m now accepting refbacks too.
Besides earlier this week I joined my first webring in over a decade as well. It can’t be any more embarrassing to support old web tech can it? #everythingoldisnewagain
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.
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:
an independent network of websites;
a set of broad-based web standards;
a set of principles;
a group of people;
a support network;
an inclusive community;
a Utopian dream of what the decentralized, open Internet could be.
In some sense it is all of these things and many more.