Twitter continues to descend into a morass of bad behaviour while simultaneously floundering in search of a viable business model that might deliver a return for the billions in capital it has consumed1. The future of Twitter does not look bright, either socially or financially. As a result, I am experimenting with other platforms for expressing my random and (inconsequential?) thoughts.
Facebook, while having a more profitable and successful business model, is still yucky for a bunch of other reasons. These are predominantly centred around the fact that all of the content is just grist for their sales model. Facebook is a classic walled garden, and the business depends on keeping you active and contained within their domain.
One of the things that got me interested in the internet in the early-to-mid 1990’s was the open-ness of it all. Anybody could publish anything, and it was all equally accessible. The Internet removed the barriers created by Bulletin Board Systems and Compuserve and delivered an open, level playing field. Since then, we have gone full circle, and now we are providing our content free of charge, directly to private companies like Twitter and Facebook (including Instagram) which they are then able to monetise for their own benefit.
Manton Reece has built an interesting alternative to these closed systems. With the help of Kickstarter funding, he created micro.blog. This is a system designed to allow the publishing of short posts, in the same style as tweets, but built upon a foundation of open access. In my instance, I can post an entry at micro.blog. Through the magic of RSS, micro.blog makes available a content feed but the material is actually being published and hosted via my own WordPress blog. For the time being, I have set up a separate page from this blog to display my micro.blog entries.
Of course, this is far from a mainstream approach. It’s not nearly as easy as setting up a new Twitter account. There is only a relatively small, pretty nerdy community using micro.blog at the moment. Of course, that’s also how Twitter started, back when it was good.
Discoverability of content becomes the challenge when working outside the established networks. For the moment, I still have my micro-blog entries cross-posting to Facebook and Twitter. If I didn’t do that, it’s likely that nobody 2 would be able to enjoy my witty repartee. While cross-posting is not ideal, at least I’m only providing those sites with links that track back to my own content – I’m not just feeding their machines. If I quit the service, or if they fail, I will still have my content in my possession, at my own hosted site.
The Open Web
This concept of my content being mine, and to have it accessible outside the walled gardens created by the Internet behemoths that are private companies with their duty to act in the interests of shareholders – not users, is the essence of the open web.
Being able to link to content with direct URLs, and to have that content able to be indexed by search engines, is part of the open web also.
Of course there are still financial transactions and business relationships involved but they are apparent. I pay a hosting company money. In exchange they provide me with storage space, access to a web server and a connection to the Internet. There is no middle-man, no other services are trying to monetise or advertise against my content. It’s pure and straightforward. The content remains mine, to do with as I wish.
Finally, of course, noodling around with all of this is also a really great hobby.