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. There are so many opportunities for companies online that can be used to develop business. There is a great post to read for those who value their time and want to keep up with the times. 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.)

Owning your data is cool – but having your own awesome site is cooler

June 7, 2013 | Leave a comment

This post was originally published over on, my idno-powered site, where I’m hosting all of my new posts and social media updates.

There’s been a lot of news stories lately about how technology companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo! may or may not be giving your data to the NSA. They deny it, news outlets confirm it and it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t real.

Whatever your political views, or whether you think government entities should be able to snoop on your phone and electronic communications, it’s hard to argue that the sheen hasn’t come off the consumer Internet industry. As the economist Umair Haque said earlier today:

The large online services have created a world where, despite the breadth of software’s possibilities, the scope of our communications are limited. On Facebook, you can post status updates, links, photos and videos; on Google+, you can post status updates, links, photos and videos. What if you want to post a game, or an interactive multimedia presentation, or a live graph connected to real-time data?

Those things are hard for centralized services, because they’ve got to concentrate on common denominator forms of content – like status updates and photos – but they’re much easier when you control your own site. If you could install your own publishing app as easily as an app on your phone, and then add new ways of posting stuff to that site just as easily, suddenly you would be able to make your presence on the web your own. And you could let other people in – you could create online communities that fit your needs, rather than bending your communities around the limits of a Facebook group or a mailing list.

That’s what inspired me to start working on idno, and these are some of the ideas that inspired other people in a community of developers called the #indieweb to build their own sites and platforms. We don’t believe in treating people as data points; we believe in user-centered software for individuals. Software that you control.

#idno will be available to install onto your own site later this month; a turnkey hosted version will follow. In the meantime, if you’re a developer, you can check out Idno on GitHub, or some of the other IndieWeb projects out there.

Won’t you join us?

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