The IndieWeb as a minimum viable social web ecosystem

July 9, 2013 | 1 comment

I wrote a post as a submission for the W3C’s upcoming Workshop on Social Standards: The Future of Business.

Although there have been significant advances in the field over the last five years, there remains a need to prove the business value of decentralized web technologies. To many of us involved in both the industry and the movement, this seems silly: after all, the business value of other decentralized technologies, like email and the phone system, are hardly questioned. Nonetheless, in a world where centralized data siloes regularly receive multi-billion-dollar valuations, the onus is on those of us who are building more open technologies to demonstrate their worth. Note, it is not enough to argue their worth: we must build, ship, and actively demonstrate a profitable product or service with a business model where the decentralized social web is an inextricable component.

I believe that these compelling business models exist, and that they are most easily discoverable in the enterprise. However, belief is not demonstration: we must continue to test and iterate them. During this exploration phase, this means that, our software and underlying protocols must be easy to write, adapt and change. Ease of development is more important than sophistication; we must not create our own technical lock-in before we even ship.

I posted the whole piece on, and it also made it to the front page of Hacker News.

What is idno?

July 3, 2013 | 2 comments

I wrote a post over at about idno, the open source publishing tool I’ve been building:

You may know that I co-founded Elgg, the open source social networking engine, which is used by the likes of Oxfam, NASA, the World Bank and several national governments as a social intranet and learning platform. The original thinking around Elgg happened a decade ago. Given that, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that my original thought experiment was: What decisions would I make if I was building Elgg today, in 2013? What would I do the same way, and what would I do differently?

It’s still a relatively technical post – it’s still very much in development, after all – but go read the whole post and let me know what you think.

Decentralized comments and the IndieWeb

July 1, 2013 | Leave a comment

I just stumbled on this old thread by Marc Canter and Stephen Downes (emphasis mine):

I think that so long as we leave content on other people’s sites (or in their in-boxes) we will have the dual problems of spam and host lock-in.

The primary use of OpenID should not simply be identification, but also, to tell remote sites where to direct our actions. So – in a sense – I carry all my own home website tools with me when I travel around the web.

This is, in part, what the IndieWeb is all about – and it works today. I recorded a video demo of how these features work in idno last week:

(Reading this in an RSS reader? Here’s a direct link.) and idno

May 31, 2013 | 1 comment publishing screenI’m posting over at, a site I’ve set up based on my idno software.

I wrote a short technical introduction to the platform:

idno is a personal attempt at building a publishing platform that adheres to IndieWeb principles: own your own data, publish on your own site, use existing social websites for dissemination but not as an origin. I’ve also tried to use microformats where possible, allowing every page to contain lightweight semantic information, as well as making it skinnable, extensible, and social.

Right now I’m using it as a blog, but the intention is that it could power a whole community, or set of communities. It certainly has the back-end functionality and APIs to do so, and I’ll be writing more about those as time goes on. It’s not immediately obvious unless you’re logged in, but idno has a full plugin system, which allows anyone to write new content types, and syndicate to new sites. (For example, two existing non-core plugins push to Twitter and Facebook, depending on the Activity Streams object type of the content you’re posting.) Access permissions are also baked right into the data model, so you’ll be able to keep non-public content, and share it in a federated way.

I’m pretty excited about it – but I’m also just enjoying posting to it. It’s a breeze. I’ll be opening a community site based on the platform soon, so stay tuned – or take a peek at the GitHub repository.

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