1. 15
  1.  

  2. 7

    The Big Web has “users” – a term Silicon Valley has borrowed from drug dealers to describe the people they addict to their services and exploit.

    On the Small Web, we do not have the concept of “users”. When we refer to people, we call them people.

    IMO this hyperbole distracts from the serious goal that the author is getting at:

    Our greatest usability challenge on the Small Web is making the ownership and control of your own web site or application as seamless as possible.

    The hyperbole is not inconsequential—it disinvites close scrutiny of the goal of turning users into sysadmins. At various times I’ve been on all sides of this issue and right now I think it’s understandable but absurd. It is impossible to reduce the complexity of operating a unique resource on the internet without either a great level of technical understanding, or placing a great deal of trust in some other party. The obvious example: why should I install follow the instructions to use site.js? How do I know they’re any more trustworthy than Google? They’re just a small band of activists vs a famous company, right? (This is only slightly tongue-in-cheek.) That’s before we get into the autonomy of cloud vs VPS vs self-hosting.

    The premise of single-tenant services is flawed when it comes to online services. You can’t make the complexity go away—you can only delegate it to somebody else. To me, community-run federated technologies offer the best balance. When I say “federated” that doesn’t necessarily mean ActivityPub. Web, email, gemini and jabber are all services that can operate with multiple users under the care of a locally-trusted administrator who takes care of the details. But community servers have their own woes (as anybody who relies on SDF for their primary email knows). In the meantime, avoiding the FAANGs of the world is a useful stepping stone until we work out good federated responses.

    1. 6

      The Big Web has “users” – a term Silicon Valley has borrowed from drug dealers to describe the people they addict to their services and exploit.

      Is this an intellectually honest statement?

      1. 1

        It’s very clearly a joke

        1. 5

          I didn’t find it very funny, only a strange distraction.

          1. 1

            I’m not so sure about that… having seen some of Aral’s talks I think he’s sincere when he uses language like “spiders”, “farming” and “users”:

            The Big Web is the centralised web; it is a web in the sense of a spider’s web. The spiders that sit at its centre waiting to suck you dry are Big Tech people farmers like Facebook, Google, etc.

            The Big Web has “users” – a term Silicon Valley has borrowed from drug dealers to describe the people they addict to their services and exploit. We farm users in server farms. On the Big Web, we can fit thousands of users into a single server and Megacorps “scale” to run thousands upon thousands of servers in their farms.

        2. 5

          While interesting, this seems more of a push to the site.js framework and the “Small Tech Foundation” idea - which is again locked to the founders/runners of the site, then being an actual big goal.

          Besides, most of what the author(s) want is to people to run their own stuff. Isn’t that what Indie web is doing for so long? Except with the authors here, you’re locking yourself in a single framework, site.js, right at the start.

          I understand that they want to enable developers. In fact:

          The first step to building the Small Web is to build tools for developers to empower them to build the Small Web.

          But hey, I already have so many tools at my disposal.

          No, wait, it’s the:

          we do not have the concept of “users”. When we refer to people, we call them people.

          Why? Because Small Web applications and sites are single tenant. That means that one server hosts one application that serves just one person: you. That doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Each person needs their own email server? Each member of my household needs their own photo storage thing? (Yes, I’ve just read the google photos sync article :)) Even technically, that doesn’t make sense. What’s wrong with nextCloud approach where you have many apps on one server? Serving all of my family or small business or whatever?

          To help out with this goal, decentralisation, I find idea like the #fediverse and #indieweb much more worked out. And then, apps like peertube or pixelfed or anfora.app cool for “personal” use (or family or group).

          Or Publii. I find quite a few features missing in this “offline CMS”. It’s basically a WYSIWYG editor that produces static websites. I’d never use it. But when my wife wanted to start a blog with kids crafts and stuff a few months ago, I was thrilled that it exists and she can do her own stuff. She can “control her home” as a total non-techy self-proclaimed math-antitalent and computer illiterate (though she isn’t it).

          So, while I get “Site.js” as a potential product in this domain, I really don’t understand what the core “Small Web” idea here is. I probably didn’t read it properly.


          A lot of people are writing something similar these days. Drew Devault’s article the other day. The MacWright article that’s on lobsters home page today. Some other articles and tweetstorms and commentaries around the internet. It’s obvious that a lot of people are feeling the change. I think that rants like in this article/idea are at least in part based on the people not liking the societal changes that the digital life has brought to the civilisation. They probably didn’t like all the industry and heavy machines and cars and all that a hundred years ago. And with just cause - this brings a lot of new challenges and everything similar. On the other hand, whereever such tech comes, kids don’t work in mines and people don’t die from measles any more. The modern web and internet is probably like that. There’s a lot of polution that we have, but I don’t have to personally go to the office or another country to make a living any more.

          Edit: formatting is hard.

          1. 3

            I’m all for the “small web” or “indie web”, but it’s worth considering that the intersect between “people with their own servers” and “people lacking the technical knowledge to self-host a website” is quite small.

            Am I misunderstanding the goal of this project/foundation? Is it not targeting the two, arguably non-intersecting groups above?

            1. 3

              I think there’s a reason most people don’t have their own website with their own posts/articles/whatever on it. You have to have some know-how to set that up and some interest in continuing to shout into the void to some extent.

              Let me put it another way. If I tell my mom (who is not on any social media that I know of as it is) “hey, you can run your own personal site where you can say what you want and no one will steal your data” she may think “ok, let’s do that.” But when it comes to me saying “ok all you need to do is purchase a VPS for $2.50/mo–” I’m getting cut off for her to say “I’m not paying for that.”

              But let’s assume she’s ok with the nominal fee of $30/year to say whatever she wants. She says “yes, I’m on board! How do I start?” I say “oh just go to this page and copy this stuff into your terminal” – she’s not going to know what that means. Even if she can copy it, she’s not going to know what terminal even is to paste it into.

              But let’s assume she got past that point. Now she wants to start adding a page about herself. Simple enough, right? It’s just one page. I mean, that’s what my own personal site is, so how hard can it be? “You need to write some HTML–” oh we’re getting cut off again. “I don’t know what that is or how to write it.”

              But let’s assume she got past that and now has her own page that says things about her, where she grew up, what she likes. Now she wants to add some blog posts. “You can use Hugo for that. It’s a static site generator–” “What is a static site?” “It’s what we’re writing here.” “Why do I need to use something else for it?” Now we’re in the rabbit hole of learning what it is, why it exists, and how she can use it.

              But let’s assume she gets that working and wants to add a poll to one of her posts. “That’s not a problem, we can add some dynamic content.” “I just want to add a poll.” “Yeah, I get that. We need to add a database for your question and results, but since this is small we can just use sqlite.” “I just want a poll though.” “Right, yeah, but you need to store data somewhere. We also need to write some code to display the poll and results after they submit their answer.”

              I think you see where this is going. But even assuming they get past all of that stuff, now they want people to be able to see it. What do you tell them? “Share your link with everyone you know!” And who is going to go around clicking everyone’s individual profile? This is why “Big Web” social media stuff works. It’s one place to get a centralized view without having to go to a billion individual sites. And you don’t need to know how to code or what a VPS is or why you’d want a database to store poll results. You don’t have to open terminal or even know what it is.

              The people who know how to do this and have any desire to do so have already done it. I don’t understand the point of having a foundation to try to effectively resurrect the mid-90s internet. I don’t use social media for various reasons, but I do have a personal site (and a bunch of other random ones). The amount of visits is so small that when I update my site, the only spike in traffic I get is me looking at it in various devices to make sure it looks ok. My blog is read by nearly no one. If I were on Facebook, I’d immediately get far more exposure in 10 minutes than I have ever gotten in the 15+ years of having my own personal sites.

              1. 2

                Ignoring the fact that people (nerds) have been self-hosting for decades. I swear, there are dozens of us!

                Something rubs me the wrong way, again, he’s always posting about a mix of good ideas and things that should be common sense, followed by a project that won’t get enough traction. Good effort usually, but after the whole ind.ie-phone thing I’m extra cautious.

                1. 1

                  This makes much sense to me. I prefer the term “small tech”. But seeing the other comments it is seems clear now why it is still called “small web”

                  1. 3

                    If you don’t know much about this, take a look at the Indie Web Principles . You can read their base idea naively as “host your own blogs and pics, don’t give those things to FAANG”, kind of like Aral’s article. But if you look deeper, it’s giving a lot of good principles on top of that idea. Like, not just “host your own blog”. But actually host it so that you’ll still be able to read it, use it, edit it in 30 years, take it to another site, server, service, federate it, nurture it, compose it. Just look at the Getting started. They don’t start by saying “here, use site.js to escape .” They even include links to Blogger - it’s not about the tools but about the principles. They think about [Building Blocks] with which you can compose all the things you create and publish.

                    Another interesting thing in this area, if you’re not yet familiar with it, is the “fediverse”. It’s similar in that that you can host your own servers and services, but it’s actually meant to be shared with others. Mastodon - basically distributed twitter. Yes, you can join Mastodon Technology, but you can also host your own server. Or Pixelfed for pictures. Or… well, many things. The focus here is not “let’s build internet 16.0” or not even “host your own”. But it’s still close to “let’s decentralise the web”.