Miscellaneous bits and bobs from the tech world

Democratization of Internet Content

10/23/2021, 1:03:37 PM

An interesting comment stuck out to me when I was reading a Hacker News thread about RSS:

RSS being killed is a part of the commodification/privatization of knowledge. RSS simply gives users too much freedom. (Emphasis mine)

Putting aside the defeatist nature of the statement, the part that stuck out to me was the assertion that RSS was one of the last few bastions in the fight against privatization of knowledge; that the world wide web (to use an old turn of phrase) had idealistic goals to be a worldwide repository of human knowledge.

With the advent of social media, much of the world's content has been sequestered behind virtual "walled gardens" – curated, indexed, monetized, and most importantly, hidden away from the unwashed masses of the open web.

While one cannot discount the power of the networking effect of social media, the greatest tragedy is that walled gardens cease to exist once the garden is closed. How much original content was forever lost when MySpace accidentally lost all content submitted before 2016?

The issue affects me personally because of my role as co-curator of the open-source forum software, NodeBB (or alternatively).

I spend every single day working on building out a platform that by its nature encourages its users and content to be open, and to stay open. Forum software by nature is indexable by search engines, queryable via RSS feed, and in some cases, interactive via a free and open REST API. It makes me proud to know that I'm doing my part to democratize information/content on the internet; to ensure that my software is capable of providing content that is free and accessible to all (should you want it to be.)

Nevermind the ephemerality of social media, which is a whole topic in and of itself...

It breaks my heart to think that perhaps in five, 10, or 20 years' time, we'll have left an entire chapter of the internet that we can no longer reference, because the sites themselves have disappeared – its content forever left to languish on a tape backup somewhere. Despite FAANG companies' insistence that they'll be around forever, one wonders what will happen to the millions of hours of content that will no longer be accessible – Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snap...