What is this?
This is my personal homepage. Yes, I know that sounds a bit like 1998, and with good reason: back in 1998, it was common practice for individuals to build their own (crude) websites (geocities anybody?) and share their deepest thoughts and most garish color schemes. When social media giants like Facebook and Twitter appeared, most folks started using those services as their “homepage.”
These services are a great way to share updates, photos, videos, stay in touch, and find out what is happening. I use many of them! That said, there are some issues:
- Frequently, whatever a user creates on these services becomes the property of the service (i.e. Facebook owns your status updates and can do with them whatever it likes, Google can use your YouTube videos in commercials without credit or payment, etc.)
- It’s not always easy to get your content out
- …which means if the service disables your account, goes down, or completely disappears (it’s happened, and happens all the time!!), all that content is gone for good
- User data is thoroughly collected, organized, sold, and used to build profiles which are in turn used for advertising purposes, as well as potentially more nefarious purposes. If a service is a free, chances are you are the product.
I recently stumbled upon the IndieWeb. Definitions range wildly, but in my own interpretation the IndieWeb is a movement to decentralize the internet and give power back to individuals. It’s the internet as we know it today – cat videos, introspective posts, emojis, location check-ins – but controlled by the people instead of giant corporations. It’s personal websites that run on open-source software that use open standards to communicate with each other.
If you run your own website, the only person who can disable your account or censor your posts is you. You don’t need to export your painstakingly-created status updates because you already have them on your own server. You need not be restricted by arbitrary post length restrictions, content types, or some corporation’s idea of what your page should look like.
The experiment is to use this website as the source of as much of my online activity as possible. This is a website running WordPress augmented with a handful of cutting-edge plugins that give it futuristic IndieWeb powers. This site supports
- Webmentions – Comments, shares, and likes on other sites are brought back here and saved with the original post. I write here and share to social media, you read on social media and comment, your comment appears on my website underneath the original post. It’s not magic, but it’s like magic. Check this post to see what it looks like
- Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere (POSSE) – Instead of sharing the same link, status, or picture on multiple social media sites, I just share it here. Fancy web machinery running on my site automatically blast that out to any number of social media sites. The original copy of everything lives here first.
- Micropub – “an open API standard (W3C Recommendation) that is used to create, update, and delete posts on one’s own domain using third-party clients.” In simpler terms: just like you can use Outlook, Apple Mail, or Thunderbird to write and read emails, you can use any number of different micropub clients to compose posts on a website that supports micropub.
This is a highly technical project. It’s taken a lot of reading, experimenting, learning, and troubleshooting to get up and running with all this fancy stuff. On top of that, I run my own home server, I own my own domain name, and I have the technical skills to hack it all together; this whole IndieWeb/personal social stream thing is not an off-the-shelf solution. I know most folks don’t have the time or inclination to figure this out right now.
I think it’s cutting-edge, it’s the future of the internet! I wholly support its ideals, and although the barrier for entry is still quite high, perhaps we can make it lower by doing it and sharing with others.
I can imagine a future where most everybody has their own webserver running their own website, where they aren’t beholden to the needs of advertising companies or multinational corporations, where they own the content they create and can easily interact with other individuals, where the stranglehold of Google and Facebook has lessened and people have more power over their online identities.
This is just a small step in that direction. As I learn more, I hope to help other folks and help make the world wide web a bit more open and free. In the meantime, you can just keep being my Facebook friend or Twitter follower and I’ll keep posting from here.