Wednesday, October 12, 2022

A decentralized 1990s style web as an alternative to Facebook?

As an alternative to Facebook and other big providers, such as Google, there is interest in something called the "decentralized web." It's kind of like a return to earlier days of the internet, back in the 1990s, when lots of people relied on their own websites to get the word out.

I'm okay with Facebook, but I do see the problems with today's web that's become more centralized. At the same time, it's become more convenient.

Maybe some of the new decentralized technologies are more convenient than things were in the 1990s.

There is now a nostalgia for the 1990s among many who grew up then. 1960s nostalgia is not the only nostalgia.

Ironically, some folks remember AOL and the famous "you've got mail" with fondness, but AOL was a big centralized corporation. Aside from that, lots of people started creating their own websites on a wide collection of servers. Browsers were starting and browsers have the capability of "bookmarks."

I've been thinking that something like the Facebook feed could be replicated with a browser side system that pulls new content from a list of bookmarks.

These types of ideas are being explored. Folks possibly pointing us back toward a more decentralized web.

Back in the days of personal websites, the people, who had websites, did not expect privacy. The websites were mostly visible to the entire web. This was before the days of friends lists like Facebook uses. There may have been less privacy, but there was more trust and innocence, in the early days of the web.

Attempts to compete with Facebook seldom get off the ground, these days, because semi private friends networks are difficult to move from platform to platform. A new platform ends up having little momentum, or what they call the "networking effect;" I call that "momentum," or "inertia." Facebook got started early, so the momentum of the friends networks is here.

Going back to less worry about privacy would make content easier to find even when it's located on small, obscure servers. Browser bookmarks are different than friends lists. Bookmarks still limit the content one sees to what one has chosen to bookmark, but all the content, outside the bookmarks, is still available if one makes the effort to find it. Then one can bookmark it, if they wish. One doesn't necessarily need the permission of the website owner to see what's on the website. Things tended to be less proprietary back in the 1990s. Outsiders and non subscribers could still visit the websites.

Today, of course, more content, including journalism, is behind paywalls. That's a problem, but on the other hand they have figured out how to make the internet pay.

The New York Times website is, I think viable and pays the bills, but it's more behind a paywall than in the early experimental days of the web.

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