The open web versus closed silos

The Internet started as an open place. It was based around the idea of openness: No matter what tools you’d use, there where some open protocols that defined how to access or exchange content.

I’m sure the web would not look the same if it was invented with big players involved, that now dictate what’s happening on the web. Every of these big players tries to keep users in it’s silo.

It’s not mine, it’s theirs

Medium (just as an example, it’s not the only one) is trying to get people started with blogging but don’t call it like that. There’s no API to get your own data out. There’s no way to pay for the service. One does by providing the data. Maybe there will be ads in the future. Who knows?

It’s the same thing with all the chat apps for mobile. Of course it is easy to change that, if one doesn’t bother keeping a history (I don’t). But still all the important people in my address book have to change to another service and many don’t want to. So I’m stuck with 4 messaging apps on my phone. If there would be a standard (Whoops, there is one), I could use my favourite app that supports that standard and everbody could use another and we could still communicate. Just like emails.

This goes on for many things on the internet today.

How to get out of the silos

An easy start is to use services that support standards. When trying to decide for a blogging platform, for example, there are alternatives like Ghost, that provide a paid hosted version and open sourced the code to run it on your own. Same thing goes for Feedbin, a RSS reader.

So when signing up for a service, try to make sure in advance, that at least the data can be exported and is compatible with other platforms. Else, it’ll be very hard to get out.

What is the open web missing?

One thing Medium is doing great is discovery of content. There should be some way to discover content which is hosted whereever as easy as on Medium. There is for example Pants, a decentralized blogging platform with a social network built in. That’s an awesome start, but I cannot use the platform of my choice.

Sharing of articles is another thing. Decentraliced networks like Diaspora never really took off. The closed competitors like Facebook and Twitter are just to big and people are to comfortable in there (I am guilty, too). The open web needs a way to share content. On the web, not on the platform one is using.

On Tumblr, there is subscribe button for each blog. What if there where an easy, one-click “Subscribe to this site” button on every blog. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not hard to subscribe to some site, but it could be a lot easier. And many people don’t want to copy-paste a URL to subscribe. One click should be enough. Fast and easy.

The web needs some open protocol for diverse decentraliced platforms to communicate with each other. Discovery should be possible, without entering a closed platform. Subscribing to a site should only be a simple one-click button away. I hope this is not some distant dream.