Scripting News: Saturday, May 11, 2019

Scripting News: Saturday, May 11, 2019
— Read on scripting.com/2019/05/11.html

Dave Wiener is one of the co-creators of RSS. A technology that few understand, some have heard of, yet we all use it everyday. Facebook would not exist if it weren’t for RSS.

It should be no surprise that Dave has been blogging pretty much everyday for over 18 years. Today he is talking about how much the web would be different if Apple had opened up its networking API’s in 1985.

That year Apple started adding network connections to all of its computers. This was revolutionary and typical of their history of being well ahead of the tech industry curve.

Unfortunately, according to Dave’s article linked to above, writing software that could access the network hardware was almost impossible. Unless you knew someone on the inside or were a mad genius there was no way to write software that travelled along the network.

This was in 1985. 1985. Again 1985.

If you were over the age of two in 1985 you might remember the state of technology. There was an internet. If you were at a major university, in a basement somewhere. The term network applied to a semi popular movie about a television news room. Modem? Sorry hardly knew him.

In 1985 Apple could have taken over the Internet and built the World Wide Web 6 years before Tim Burners-Lee created HTML to handle data sharing at CERN. Dave argues that this would be a massive deviation from what we experience on the Web today.

To begin we would have had a What You See Is What You Get(WYSIWYG) from the start. WordPress wasn’t available till 2003 and took till 2019 to get a usable interface.

Dave brings us forward to today and Facebook. Facebook is a massive influence on the Internet. In some parts of the world it is the only Internet. Facebook has taken what it started on;an open and free technology used to share information with others quickly and easily, and is quickly turning it into a walled garden.

The web is based on the hyperlink. A simple snippet of hypertext that allows you to share information with anyone else on the web. When you click on a link there is no cost and no barrier. Unless the website the link is taking you to has a paywall, you can view the content for as long as you have power. You can also share this link by putting it on another website or sending via another internet protocol.

Facebook does not work this way. It hasn’t always been this way but around 2008 is when they shut off their public RSS feeds. At that point FB turned of the waterworks of content being created and shared on its platform. By doing this FB made it so that if you wanted to consume content created on FB you had to go to FB.

Then FB convinced major news publications that they should use FB to share their content and then FB would send them more traffic. At the start it was great for everyone. The publishers got a lot more traffic and FB gained prestige for being a place to lie to each other about the state of our lives and read mostly unhelpful News.

Publishers were so desperate to get traffic and ad revenue that they completely missed the giant whales mouth they were swimming into. Within a few years FB again turned off the waterworks and the publishers ad revenues dried up.

There are fewer places to make a living sharing information (journalism) than in my whole 42 years of riding this rock. The journalism that we are being left with is more mokumentury than documentary. The need to create clickbait has consumed the entire profession from print, web, radio, and TV. News has to be outrageous or we will look somewhere else. The movie Idiocracy was set some hundred years in the future where the most popular TV show is “Ow my balls”. I’m pretty sure CBS already cancelled that show for not being outrageous enough.

The web has an amazing capacity to help us help each other simply by sharing. This morning I made savory grits from an independent website operated by one person using various services to enable the amazing technology required. They were delicious and a combination I hadn’t considered. Smoked Paprika.

All I had to do was type a question into a search engine and there was a link. I clicked that link and made a delicious breakfast. It wasn’t a flashy site. The author had written a considerable amount before showing the actual recipe. I can deal with scrolling a little bit and sometimes read some of what they have written. There can be good cooking techniques shared.

Facebook is a very successful company today. Apple was a pretty successful company in 1985. If we consider how Apple’s decision to be closed with networking to how FB is acting today does it mean we have to wait 22 years for FB to hit its stride? Does it mean there is another evolution of technology that is going to be delayed 10 years until mass adoption? What if we all stopped using FB and started our own websites?

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