Darren Mothersele

Software Developer

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Work in Progress: The Future of (My) Web (Part 1, Leaving Facebook)

Dec 3, 2015


I wanted to write a post about my decision to leave Facebook (again). It was in danger of turning into a treatise on how I see the future of the web. So, instead, I’ve decided to summarise my thoughts, and post this up as a “Work-in-progress”.

If this feels a bit like déjà vu, you’re right. I have posted before about my decision to leave Facebook. In fact, that was almost exactly 2 years ago.

I tried to leave. It didn’t work. Six months later I returned.

The main reason for my return was that Facebook had become the single place where my friends organised social events. I was locked in.

NB: I use the phrase “locked-in” here as a hat tip to Jaron Lanier and as a reminder to my future self to fully explain the influence his book, You are not a Gadget, has had on my “digital awakening”.

I deleted my Facebook account on 10th November 2015. This time there’s no going back.

###Why will it be different this time?

First, the community (friendship group) that prompted my return to Facebook last year has since gone way past Dunbar’s number and people around me are also starting to change the way they use Facebook. So hopefully I wont be alone in this. But, I will have to make a real concerted effort to keep up with friends, which I hope will lead to more meaningful relationships.

Secondly, I’m building a replacement. No, I’m not building a new Facebook. Let me explain…

One response I’ve had from people who disagree with my decision is that they could never live without Facebook. In particular, this tends to come from people who have family and friends scattered around the world.

But, the truth is, Facebook doesn’t allow you to do anything you couldn’t do before you got “locked in” to Facebook.

Facebook is not innovative. At least not for users. All Facebook did was popularise one single methodology for using the web. It created a template into which you put yourself.

You might have 1000 friends on Facebook. But, only if you reduce your definition of what a friend is.

You define yourself using a discrete set of options, you conform to Facebook’s “schema”, so you can be more easily packaged and sold to advertisers. I noticed Firefox put out a video on the hidden business of data yesterday. Kind of relevant.

Facebook is a monoculture and that is damaging the web. It’s built by middle class white males in their 20s and 30s. This leads to things like Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty.

The world is diverse, and the web should reflect that.

I’m getting distracted.

I was talking about building a replacement…


Earlier this year I attended the Indie Web Camp in Brighton.

The IndieWeb is a people-focused alternative to the 'corporate web'.
-- IndieWeb

Here, I found a community of people building the web that they want, Selfdogfood style.

The IndieWeb is about having your own website. I’ve pretty much always had my own website, since I started using the web in the 90s.

I wrote a post in 2013 about the importance of owning your own personal domain name.

###Web 1.0

Back in the early days of the web everyone created their own little space on the web.

You “surfed” the web. Browsed from one site to another. Each site different, each site an individual expression of creativity, each site opinionated and varied. But now we don’t have variety. (and we’re in danger of not having opinion either - if we take all our info from Wikipedia).

And, as the internet opens up to more of the world, we should be getting more diversity, not less. It should be getting more interesting, more opinionated, more personal.

###Web 2.0

After the original dot-com bubble and collapse, into 2000, things look different on the web. The “hype” of the web was over.

But, Web 2.0 rose from the ashes, and offered new opportunities, slick new designs and new business models.

The legacy of Web 2.0 is that we’re left with corporate silos and monoculture.

###Future web

The current accepted definition of Web 3.0 is related to the “Semantic Web”. It brings together ubiquitous computing, open data, and machine learning to a point where the network becomes “intelligent”.

But, any “intelligent” behaviour by the network requires us as humans to reduce what we think intelligence is.

I’d rather take an optimistic view about human potential, and then think about how the web can be used to benefit humanity.

I've always felt that the human-centered approach to computer science leads to more interesting, more exotic, more wild, and more heroic adventures than the machine-supremacy approach, where information is the highest goal.
-- Jaron Lanier

##Next Steps

So, my next steps, are to continue to eat my own dog food. That is, to keep building my own tools, that will hopefully eventually be useful to others.

Let’s move away from the “lock in” of the current dominant corporate silos, and work to offer new ways to “unlock” the benefits technology can offer society.

That means tools for communities to cocreate. Tools for collaboration. And tools where individual creativity is the default option, not conforming to a standardised template.

You can no longer follow me on Facebook, but, if you’re still interested in hearing about what I’m up to, join my “tinyletter” personal newsletter.