Anil Dash on The Web We Lost

David Weinberger shared his notes from Anil Dash’s recent talk at Berkman about social media and the (d)evolution thereof. Some really important stuff in there.

on shared values and culture:

There was a time when it was meaningful thing to say that you’re a blogger. It was distinctive. Now being introduced as a blogger “is a little bit like being introduced as an emailer.” “No one’s a Facebooker.” The idea that there was a culture with shared values has been dismantled.

on metadata and intentional sharing:

A decade ago, metadata was all the rage among the geeks. You could tag, geo-tag, or machine-tag Flickr photos. Flickr is from the old community. That’s why you can still do Creative Commons searches at Flickr. But you can’t on Instagram. They don’t care about metadata. From an end-user point of view, RSS is out of favor. The new companies are not investing in creating metadata to make their work discoverable and shareable.

on lock-in and the impact of corporate control over discourse platforms:

We have “given up on standard formats.” “Those of us who cared about this stuff…have lost,” overall. Very few apps support standard formats, with jpg and html as exceptions. Likes and follows, etc., all use undocumented proprietary formats. The most dramatic shift: we’ve lost the expectation that they would be interoperable. The Web was built out of interoperability. “This went away with almost no public discourse about the implications of it.”

on streams, and the algorithmic control of conversation flow:

Our arrogance keeps us thinking that the Web is still about pages. Nope. The percentage of time we spend online looking at streams is rapidly increasing. It is already dominant. This is important because these streams are controlled access. The host controls how we experience the content. “This is part of how they’re controlling the conversation.”

on the lack of historical context:

We count on 23 yr olds to (build websites/apps/tools), but they were in 5th grade when the environment was open.

First. Dang. That makes me feel old. But, how can we expect the people that are building the current and next generations of things to have learned from history, when they weren’t around to experience it to know how important this is, or how it can be done differently?

I’m not sure that we’ve lost the web. Yes, the open web is marginalized, and the corporate streams are predominant. But, it’s not over. Eventually, Facebook will fall – my gut says they’ll do something colossally stupid with the new Facebook Home android thing with constant tracking of users, and may (finally) attract significant attention and oversight. And then, people will likely withdraw. And eventually come back to wanting to control their own content and activities rather than unthinkingly relying on “free” corporate streams…

4 thoughts on “Anil Dash on The Web We Lost

  1. Such a great talk. I watched it this afternoon and a lot of the same things resonated with me. I loved hearing him talk about seeing patterns in how the web moves I really feel like things are starting to come to an opportune point where people are really starting to think about these things. I don’t think Dash believes we’ve lost the web for good, rather we’ve lost our way and those of us advocating for open ideals have lost the battle to the masses that demanded something simple and easy. But there’s always tomorrow and the opportunity to build something better. I agree with him it has to me more than an alternative for alternative’s sake though. Moving communities is hard work (When was the last time I logged into App Dot Net? Hmmm…). I also really loved the comment on the end comparing the current state of the web to feudal systems of old.

  2. Or Facebook will fail because something better/newer/cooler will come along, and enough people will jump on that new thing that being in Facebook will be like still using email. For the history thing, I’d like to say that my job as a historian is to make sure people don’t forget, but when we’re talking about history as the open web of 1998 I don’t have a lot of hope. The next step will be forward, not backward. I too mourn the closing of the frontier, and the off-the-charts skills needed to keep living in it.

    1. the cool thing is that off-the-charts skills aren’t needed anymore. the Hippie Hosting Co-op server was kind of an eye-opener for me. Everything can be simple and browser-based. Domain registration. Hosting config. One-click app installers. Done. No need to SSH or FTP or MySQL or anything. All transparent, easy, and individual.

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