2018-06-26 A New Web

I was talking to a friend who was thinking about the internet we want to have, decentralized, less silos, a bit like the nineties where it was possible to have static pages, host email, write your own CGI scripts, and it was all step by step easy and possible if that was what you wanted. And we got talking about the kind of things we need to today to get this back. Do you have reading suggestions? Blogs to read? Projects? People to follow?

I think targeting the in-serious developer is key. Kids and adults that want to tinker must see small achievable steps forward. A bit like Emacs, Smalltalk, or fiddling with autoexec.bat or whatever we did as kids.

@ajroach42 and @freakazoid seem to be talking about this, too!

Teenagers these days grow up with a phone instead of MSDOS or a C64 and how will they ever learn to tinker? How can we transition from play to programming, allowing people to create their own games, like in the old days you could play on a MUD or MUSH (I liked MUSHes better!) and from text adventure to community to programming it had everything. And I want the same thing for the web and messaging. People writing bots. People writing CGI scripts or whatever. I want it all! I want it now!

@eleanor recommended two blog posts to read:

Against Facebook has a misleading title. 0xADADA writes: «The platform takes our real authentic friendships and first commodifies them, reifies them, and then sells them back to us as an “image of friendship”, but one that is bankrupt of any genuine social value.» Capitalism at work extracting value in novel ways!

Encouraging individual sovereignty and a healthy commons was a reaction to the “Facebook Manifesto” by Mark Zuckerberg. @aral writes: “That is the world that I wake up every day to work towards. Not because it is charitable. Not because I’m a philanthropist. In fact, for no reason at all other than because that is the world that I want to live in.”

Hell Yeah!

A few replied with the suggestion that Minecraft might be the answer I was looking for and I think they are right. Specially when combined with a Raspberry Pi and the special edition of Minecraft for it which can be extended using Python (but I don’t exactly know how this works). And the barrier for a Raspberry Pi is higher than having a C64 in your bedroom, for sure.



I think your premise is wrong. The old web wasn’t easy and simple to understand and everybody could participate. This is only true for nerds like you and me. Facebook and Co “won” by actually making good on the promise of participation for all. You want the good old times back where the net was for nerds. That’s fine and I wouldn’t mind to be part of it. But thinking it to be the “solution” (to whatever you think the problem is) is rather elitist thinking.

Also don’t worry about tinkerers, geeks like us always exist. They may hack their minecraft or create apps for their phones or do whatever. They will never be the mainstream though. We never were.

Andreas Gohr 2018-06-27 15:19 UTC

I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. I think one of the points I wanted make is that the current Internet is hard, even for us. Setting up a secure mail server is hard. Setting up a content management system and keeping it up to date is hard. Perhaps it isn’t in fact hard but we’re old and tired and unwilling to put in the hours, I don’t know. But yes, I agree with the basic statement: it wasn’t easy back then and it isn’t easy now.

And I agree that going back to the old web isn’t the answer. We have learned so many things. My friend and I kept talking about email (even though I argued that Email is the New Snail Mail) and we joked about the configuration of sendmail and procmail and writing sieve filters and setting up dovecot. None of that is something we want! But we also don’t want to replace all of the Internet with Facebook. We want to have the kind of Internet where tinkerers and kids can get interested in the infrastructure through play and use and develop the necessary skills to build and make. It’s a bit like Word and Facebook and phones in general making some things very easy and at the same time making it impossible to develop from there. I don’t mind things being easy for people. I mind the impossibility of the things we use to grow with us.

Or, as @dredmorbius writes on Reddit in The Tyranny of the Minimum Viable User: we must take care such that designing for normal people doesn’t drag down the experience for others, in particular expert or experienced users.

Then again, perhaps this guy on Gopher is right: Why we don't need to rebuild the internet. The old web is still there, for those of us who want it. I’d argue that my first point still stands: once you’re outside the big silos, setting things up is still harder than necessary.


At the same time:

– Alex Schroeder 2018-06-28 07:59 UTC

Also an interesting perspective:

I find the discussions about technical matters to be liberating and self-empowering, and I identify as “non-technical”. To be sincere, it was in the slow accumulation of technical knowledge and skills that I became excited about the future again. […] This feels antithetical to how people approach the internet today, but I don’t think that’s the case for the future. The present moment is one where companies are obscuring the depth of their technical processes to quietly profit off surveillance, oppression, and depression. The future is one where technology is reclaimed by everyone; it is open and welcoming and asking to be built by hand. I want us to grow towards that future with everything we share.

The Future will be Technical

I don’t want to be techno gullible, but I like the approach with a focus on understanding and empowerment.

– Alex 2018-06-28 12:12 UTC

And yet another perspective: How to Build a Low-tech Internet (2015) talks about long range WiFi and extending the sneaker net using buses, and more. A great summary of our options.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-07-14 07:18 UTC

Nick Heer wrote The Bullshit Web.

Behind closed doors, those in the advertising and marketing industry can be pretty lucid about how much they also hate surveillance scripts and how awful they find these methods, while simultaneously encouraging their use. Meanwhile, users are increasingly taking matters into their own hands — the use of ad blockers is rising across the board, many of which also block tracking scripts and other disrespectful behaviours. Users are making that choice.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-07-31 17:22 UTC

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