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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

Web passover and freedom

posted: Apr 13, 2006 8:59:22 PM

Why is the World Wide Web different than any other "web" (e.g., the semantic web, the blogosphere, web 2.0, the microformat web, the structured blogging web, the web standards web, the tag web, the whole new Internet, etc.)? I think about this question, and feel that the answer, while not something that fits into a soundbyte (or even a blog post), is important.

So, I don't feel like getting into much punditry about this, but I've felt, first of all, the need to distance myself from some of the last-couple-years' trends that overly concentrate the web into centralize services / ownership. So, here are some trends that I've decided to eschew:

Too many people told me that we need to use Flickr to post our photos, so now, I no longer use Flickr. I don't need Flickr.

Too many people told me that we need to use to post our bookmarks, so now, I no longer use I don't need

Too many people told me that we need to have links (aka tags that link) to Technorati in our blog posts, so now, I no longer link to Technorati. I don't need Technorati.

Too many people told me that we need to use Google or Yahoo to find useful information on the web, so now, I no longer use Google or Yahoo. I don't need Google or Yahoo.


The web is built on a hierarchy of domain names and paths, and this hierarchy can be a significant liability (though, obviously, it has some positive, practical, consequences as well). This hierarchy places each domain owner in the inherent position of power over the uses within their domain.

I had wanted, with the iCite net, to introduce a content address overlay that would live on the web and allow us to route around this particular hierarchy of domains (e.g., if the same web contents can be addressed at multiple domains as the same contents, it's value isn't concentrated into / controlled under a single domain). Someone should consider doing this—it probably isn't actually that hard to do (unless you're me)!

So, the Flickr I want is the one I can at least run on any domain, completely independently of Yahoo's and other domains. (Gallery is pretty great, btw, though its social features don't match Flickr's.) And, there are already some alternatives to that can be run on any domain.

We need easy ways to mesh together multiple web resources hosted on different domains (which, given a little more faith in XML-style data than I have, could be done now, even without direct APIs or a relatively simple semantic model like RDF).

I'd also like to have 50-100 great full-web search engines to choose from (my apologies in advance to all of us who ever have to optimize sites to show up better in search engines results). Some of these search services can, as an incentive to people like me, offer more privacy (e.g., not blanketing the web with tracking beacons, and no retention of personally identifiable data).

While the concentration of power into individual domains is one thing inherent in our web that we need to counter, the ability for popular / ubiquitous web services to track and retain data about us (and then to use that data in manipulative or malicious ways, contrary to our personal needs) is something we've casually allowed to become commonplace. We need to kick our habit of turning blind eyes towards these sites / services that keep and exploit lots of data about us, and we need to stop supporting them.


I know, for a lot of people, a service like Flickr makes publishing on the web way more accessible. So, I specifically don't want to knock that aspect of these services I've mentioned.

So, it's not like I want these sites to go away. And, I also think it's great when one of these sites is brand new and really catches your fancy (e.g., Flickr was my absolute favorite site for almost a year). But, I think there should be a lot more sites and services like these, run by all kinds of people—and, most ideally, I want to see a huge increase in the means for people to post to the web along a variety of independent paths.

So, I feel I can write about this here because the few people who read this blog, like myself, are probably the ones who should not be pushing people to use these centralized services as if they are inherent parts of the web. Rather, it's probably up to us to be the people who are supporting and developing decentralized alternatives to these domain-locked services on the web.

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Comment by: Lucas ·
posted: Apr 19, 2006 6:00:19 PM

The problem has something to do with star names crowding out all the attention available in a particular category. This is incredibly annoying.

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