I've recently read numerous articles about bringing people back to the open web or about finding ways to grow it. This is a worthy challenge that can enable a more competitive landscape while distributing more of, well, everything.
There are three important problems that need to be solved to make the open web more successful. These three important problems that aren't getting enough attention.
Who will pay for operating and development of a more widespread web? What do the financing models look like?
When we look at Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the other major hubs on the Internet we can see the major funding model is advertising and data brokering. The mass end users get something out of these services while being the product that earns money to pay for it.
There are many financing questions such as:
- What other financing models can people use and how do they work?
- If someone is going to use ads, is there a way to do ads that enables the open web? For example, is there a way to do ads that doesn't go through one of the existing central hubs?
- How do these models work when we're talking about Africa, South America, and the ends of the Earth. It's one thing to look at models in Silicon Valley. It's another story to go everywhere else.
Ease of Use
Technologists will often talk about open specifications such ActivityPub and OStatus. Some specifications have been around for a long time, such as WebDAV. Yet, how often do we end up with easy to use products and projects that leverage these standards? I'm not just talking about easy to use for end users but also for the people who have to operate them.
This isn't about standards, which are important. This is about a simple and easy user experience for the people involved.
If the solutions are targeted at English speaking technologists we have a small group of people who are working to enable the open web. If we are talking about easy to use solutions that go beyond technologists we have a much larger group who is making the open web happen.
If you read about persuading people, such as in books like Talk Like TED, you'll learn that stories impact people far more than data does. Stories are needed to help get people behind the open web instead of using central hubs like Facebook.
To illustrate this, here are a few examples on the impact of stories:
- It shows people you can be successful. Seeing people be successful gives others courage to try.
- Success stories share a bit of a playbook on how to be successful. Open web proponents can help share knowledge on how to pull off success.
- There are many interesting projects, such as Mastodon. Success stories share how these projects impact people in positive ways.
Keep The Open Web Times Rolling
As a supporter of the open web I'd like to see more open standards use of standards and a broader distribution of everything. It's going to take time for the pendulum to swing in the open web direction. Enabling it will require more than technology. It will require focusing on people.