My friend David Pensato has been blogging about his dreams of 800 million active bloggers and has followed it up with an answer to the question of why that followed. Ironically, he had to bravely attempt to summarize a largely Twitter-based conversation on his blog to respond.
The argument is simple: social media is microblogging, with very effective means of interaction thrown in. We create content and have conversations around that content with people we know. But, you’re not actually the user of these services, you’re the free-content-generating-product. Your content is the backbone of the advertising platform these companies are selling to advertisers, so these companies are understandably unmotivated to give you real control over your content and its presentation.1
So, David thinks that the web and our place on it is far too important to abdicate to the walled microblogging gardens of social media companies. And he’s absolutely right. But there’s a lot to be done between here and there, much of which he already covered. Here’s a few of my own ideas:
Blogging is Dead. Long Live Blogging.
Things move fast on the internet, and the terminology that was fresh as little as five years ago is stale now. Blogging grew out of former conventions, and whatever the future of blogging is, it probably needs to be called something else too as it shifts to being the new hub of our digital identity and canonical location of our content. Blogging is too tied to a certain mode of content production. I don’t have any special ideas, other than maybe just “my website” or “my (web) hub.”
It’s Identity, Stupid
Social media platforms solve the problem of identity. It’s great that the internet allows for anonymity, and I don’t think that that should go away. But there should also be ways to say “this is me” through means that aren’t owned by any particular platform. This is a hard problem, and I hope that it’s something that OAuth2 is addressing. Because I want to be able to 1) find my friends and 2) have them able to find me. Social media have succeeded because they do this way better. Blogging.next needs to do this better yet.
The WordPress Hybrid Model is the Future
Despite the confusion the branding causes, WordPress.org and WordPress.com have a pretty cool symbiosis going on. WP.com is for the people who can’t be bothered with having their own servers and software, which is frankly most people. But its relationship to the WP.org project that anyone can run is hugely important. Any time you feel constricted by WP.com, you’re only a few clicks away from migrating your online presence to your own server. This relationship between hosted services and open source software you can run yourself will be critical.
Social Media Without APIs Will Die
There will continue to be a place for various social media services, but there will not be a place for walled gardens. They’ll make pretty corpses. Social media like Twitter–which only succeeded because of its robust API–will guide the way. The walled gardens like Facebook won’t last. Social media will need to be members of the interconnected web rather than making the foolish attempt to be the centre of the web. The web only works when it’s decentralized.
Those are just a few of my thoughts. Leave a comment, or post your thoughts on your own blog (while it’s still called that!). Keep the conversation rolling.