An Ode to the technologies of the Open Web

I’ve been meaning to write up something about Jeffrey Zeldman’s excellent recent blog post Nothing Fails Like Success for a few weeks now. @Manton said some smart things about it (a couple of times actually) and so did @brentsimmons. I’m not sure I have too much to add, but I think it’s a really good read, and an important read.

I’ve been thinking about some of the ideas in the article for a while now. One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how much I want to see more open standards win out on the web. For example, I know that lots of folks complain about email these days, but in my opinion it’s a pretty amazing triumph that it’s still so used and that it’s a standard that’s not controlled by any one company. So far all of the supposed replacements for email I’ve seen put forward are proprietary and rely on one company or another. (I like Slack, but I don’t really feel like it fills the same place in my life that email does and I wouldn’t really want it to anyway).

Another such technology is RSS and Podcasts. So far nothing has managed to usurp the open architecture that Podcasts use, (Though it seems like a lot of folks are trying lately) and I’m really hoping all those attempts will continue to fail. I don’t ever want to find myself in a situation where I have to subscribe to a service (or even worse, several services) just to get most of the audio content I want. I don’t mind paying for things, (I’m a member and supporter of two different podcasts networks) but I don’t want everything to be locked up behind one or several proprietary services. I think the current state of things is pretty good. Some things can certainly be improved, but podcasts work as they are, and they don’t need big VC money coming in to ruin everything.

I like the idea of more technologies working on open standards that anyone can use and that allow people more control and choice over how they interact with the web. I’m really interested in all the work that’s going on with ActivityPub (the technology behind Mastodon), and I really hope more things get built on that and other open federated technologies. I want people to have a choice of what clients they like best, what companies they trust, and the ability to run things themselves (this was part of my recent thinking in moving to an email address at a domain I own if they want to. I’m tired of the same few companies running everything and keeping things within their own proprietary silos. There are lots of smaller companies trying to do things in a more open and person-centric way and I hope more and more of them catch on.

I’m excited to be using for my blog, here at my own domain, instead of relying on Facebook, or Twitter, or Medium or whatever. If I decide I don’t like anymore I can take my content and go somewhere else, and keep the same url ( so the rest of the world can just going to the same place for my blog.

Anyway, this is getting pretty long and kind of rambly so I’ll wrap it up. The bottom line is that I’ve been thinking about the open standards that underlay a lot of the stuff we use and I think that openness is underappreciated. I hope we can move more things to more open standards so we’re less reliant on the whims of a few huge companies for everything we do online. There are better ways and I for one am hopeful that more and more people will start to embrace them as they get easie

Stephen B @DrOct