The Web We Lost

I remember being vaguely aware late last year/early this year about a series of posts Anil Dash had done on the open web, but I didn’t honestly pay them much attention at the time. (See The Web We Lost, Rebuilding the Web We Lost, and Captive Atria and Living in Public). Then I saw he was speaking at the Berkman Center, and though I still couldn’t actually attend, I was able to grab the video, which sat around in my “to watch later” folder for a few months.

I finally watched it this weekend, and it is well worth your time. It’s over an hour, so you may want to download it from the Berkman archive and watch it on a larger screen, or hit full screen and lean back:

I really like the framing in terms of privately owned public spaces like Zucotti Park, and how much our current social web resembles those spaces. I love his willingness to consider where open web advocates failed, and to consider how we could still rebuild the culture and community that showed so much promise.

Of course now I’m reading Dash via Marco Armeni’s excellent piece Lockdown, which connects the death of Google Reader to the larger shift away from open standards and interoperability (note Dash’s slide on the paucity of metadata in modern services like instagram):

The bigger problem is that they’ve abandoned interoperability. RSS, semantic markup, microformats, and open APIs all enable interoperability, but the big players don’t want that — they want to lock you in, shut out competitors, and make a service so proprietary that even if you could get your data out, it would be either useless (no alternatives to import into) or cripplingly lonely (empty social networks).

I’m also considering Dash’s points in the context of Jeremy Keith’s Battle for the Planet of the APIs, which concludes:

It might be that RSS is the canary in the coal mine for my data on the web.

All these threads are on to a gradual sea-change going on around us, in which the open interoperable web shifts in the direction of controlled silos in exchange for some kind of enhanced user experience for content consumption, but one in which you lose some control.

I was inspired to go try out ThinkUp, which is one of the apps Dash has been working on (along with Gina Trapani of Lifehacker), which I haven’t looked at since an early version of 1.0. It’s now available in 2.0 beta 8 (github), and looks very slick. With some minimal setup (if you’re used to installing web apps and creating API clients) it collects your data (using the published APIs) from Faceook, Foursquare, Google+, and Twitter, which lets you then have an archive of your data (periodically updated as you use those services) and can also do some interesting analysis across those multiple sites in terms of your interactions, reach, etc. You can also sign up to try the beta as an end user if you don’t want to install it on your own server.

Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 6.07.29 PM

I found on installing it that the “activate your account” email it sends when you setup a user was being flagged as spam by Gmail – so you may need to look in your spam folder. So far though it seems to be running well. Looking forward to new plugins in the works for LinkedIn, YouTube, and other services.