My revolt against the dominance of social media and an institutional attempt to kill off the world wide web begins today. Granted the fight is in my own comfortable way, but still, maybe I'll inspire others.
Simply put I have removed the sharing functionality to Facebook and Twitter from my Battle Blog entries. From now on, in place of where those icons would appear at the end of each article when viewed as a comment or permalink, visitors will see the following tagline:
Status quo institutions are attempting to kill the hyperlink and relegate you to social media. Resist by sharing this content's hyperlink. To share this content copy the URL below to your clipboard and paste it to the medium of your choice. Never let the world forget about the World Wide Web.
Seeing where things are going, it's safe to assume that ultimately the large browser producers will one day inhibit the easy copy/pasting of URLs as part of the appreciated effort to further stamp out the web. But for now it works, at least in Chrome. If it doesn't work for you then do it the old fashioned way by copying right from the URL bar, at least until the day URLs no longer appear in the said URL bar because, again, everyone wants the hyperlink dead and buried. It will one day be obfuscated or removed altogether.
My fight is not to kill social media. After all, the very invite to copy the URL suggests that you can then paste it to the "medium of your choice" which includes Facebook or Twitter or whatever the next big atrocity happens to be. I myself love and use Twitter and paste hyperlinks there all the time. Though, speaking of which in the context of this entry, I did recently quit Facebook as yet another stab in the fight, among other reasons.
I'm not so sure I agree with making social media networks the problem when it comes to such shannanigans as apparently played by the Russians. It's more of a manipulation of advertising services than "Facebook" when it comes to the Russians buying ads. It's more of a manipulation of the population than it is of Twitter's "user base".
Hey CBS, how many times were you played by companies manipulating people to spend money on cars and toilet paper?
Before the Internet people bought ads on TV and radio. And before Facebook and Twitter people bought display ads on the raw WWW, if they did not outright build websites themselves (for younger visitors, a "website" is similar to a "Facebook Page").
I am not sure why the drum beat is to corner Twitter and Facebook into "doing something" to somehow screen the communication of digital humanity taking place in their 'hoods unless it is purposeful pressure to apply yet a little more control and containment of free interaction in general.
The mainstream media, I've theorized for some time, is poised to begin taking pot shots at social media giants whenever it can with the hopes of bogging down their economics and reputation. Making them the focal point in the Russian propaganda campaign strikes me as just one example.
Obviously this is good for a broader and more secure web (and Google Chrome may not even be the only one doing this), but it bothers me that it also pushes up the cost of publishing an information-only website or even a single web page. Nobody is talking about the other side of the coin which is that it further diminishes the capacity for independent web publishing.
Security certificates that are responsible for making a website work with and display "https" cost about 50 dollars per year. If you're a person who just wants to show off your rock collection without any need for authentication or e-commerce activity, your little website will now spook visitors into thinking you're up to something unless you pay up.
The choice for an info-only webmaster looking to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy is to simply pay the 50 or whatever bucks and then of course engage in the sometimes complex process of making the security certificate work. They must also then be sure to keep up with its subscription (those things expire). It's basically a yearly tax expense on top of everything else an independent web publisher pays for.
But of course most will think this line of concern folly. Why wouldn't an avid rock collector eager to show off his rocks simply post them on Facebook or Instagram? After all, isn't that how people share on the web?
Yes, it's how people "share on the web" because of crap like stigmatizing and complicating open web publishing. A true purist is equally interested in controlling all rights to their exhibition as well as any data from traffic he or she may be concerned about. They don't want to put their rock collection in a place dead smack in the middle of a presentation they don't fundamentally control.
So the end result with this move is either pay more money, loosen one's attachment to independent web publishing yet more (the continued process of turning the current web into the new dark web), or shrug shoulders hoping that the fact that your website screams an ominous warning to users doesn't scare them away.
With the continued marginalization of the World Wide Web and concepts like "web surfing", the next phase for the complete eradication of the open platform is its "mystification". People will be made to fear the concept of engaging online outside social media.
This is not hard to understand. As people gradually forget about a place they could publish freely, exchange files, and start dot com revolutions in their underwear, the protocol itself will be left to its die hard evangelists who buck the trend because they are not willing to give up their online liberty to Facebook.
That number of people is (relatively) small, but they will continue sharing information between themselves, some of which will be inconvenient to governments and corporations.
What better way to pinch the holdouts by pouring negative paranoid press about that other "non-Facebook" place that people are doing things. Mostly good or neutral, but to a small highlight-able number, bad things like breaking copyright laws, planning terrorist attacks, or patronizing or trafficking child porn. Those grim things are typically characteristic of the so-called "Dark Web" today but it is trivial to drop the semantics entirely, when it is time.
Imagine the headlines of 15 years from now. "Police Find 'Web Browser' on PC of Area Man Arrested For Credit Card Fraud".
This won't happen tomorrow but in the long future, it's where we're headed. The pure web does not natively monetize, track users as precisely as closed social media networks or mobile apps, and provides a loop hole for free anonymous expression to those who still take the time for it. With everything else comfortably controlled, this makes the classic WWW a threat.
If you care to stave any of this off, learn HTML, blog outside social media networks (and link to other blogs and bloggers), and refer to the "web" not "Facebook" when talking about web things.
I posted an open lament to Reddit that maybe we should concede the death of the WWW to social networks and phone apps. There's only so much digital energy in people day to day and they aren't expending it through a web browser on a computer unless they have to.
What I suggested was the continued maintenance of a "laptop" web by enthusiasts who "got" the point of the web and could continue to develop for it, living with the constraint that their output was no longer part of a (relative) mass media. My WWW site would be designed and posted for other WWW enthusiasts, and that would be fine.
I've realized since that unpopular post (largely downvoted and mocked by the web design audience whose gravy is HTML) that what I really meant should not be spun as a "laptop" web or a "WWW" web, but rather, a web surfers web .
After all, I'm not talking about just the tools of web browsing (e.g., a web browser, HTML) but the habits and techniques engaged in by people who web browse.
Phone apps and closed garden social media sites eliminate the hopping (read: surfing) behavior so characteristic of people using the original web. Then, web authors unabashedly linked to other authors and people followed these links for the sheer enjoyment of it.
To most people the web, now, is a feed and the behavior is more akin to web "darting". People dart out to individual web pages containing stories or still other feeds, based on social prompts by linked social media contacts. After they have finished consuming their content, they dart straight back to their feed.
I could still be very well talking about the preservation of a laptop or PC WWW by synonymous effect, but from now on I'm going to call it more precisely the preservation of the web surfing culture. And I for one am going to concentrate on providing for that culture.
It got me thinking, what if Trump isn't actually avoiding journalists? What if social media is the actual way that Trump intends to connect with the public, like, forever? And if that is true then it is fair to say that he's not really "avoiding" the media -- after all, the TV networks and newspapers are all free to report on his tweets and You Tube videos right? He's just not directly relying on them to dispense himself.
Who needs the traditional networks when you can broadcast yourself?
I think we are experiencing an interesting change in the relationship between politicians and the traditional press with Trump leading the way. Trump so far has been quite content and clearly effective at producing authentic communication between himself and the public on Twitter.
And when I say authentic I mean authentic . Many politicians are using social media to get their messages out but most of those I know of rely on posi-spin miniaturized "press release" formats. Carefully crafted communication that is contorted smoothly to avoid offending or making the office holder somehow vulnerable.
Trump's tweets, however ill-advised, are like one-on-one declarations. If imperfect in original form, they can be corrected in a follow up. The impulsive nature of his Twitter posts make it feel like he's talking to you directly.
As near as I can tell Trump can sail the next four years without ever having to meet a journalist in person. I suspect there is a bevy of reasons this is not a good idea for him or anyone of high public office to take advantage of, but it would be interesting for him to try by lark so that we could see how effective it is and to find out what some of the bad reasons actually wind up being. Maybe they aren't so bad whatever they are.
I am still compelled to tail my posts on Trump with a reminder I did not vote for him over his threats to repeal Obamacare, and because I did not like a certain faction of his followers. But I do appreciate his embrace of social media and his dare to self-manage his outward presence in a way that leaves the "old press" on the sidelines.
What I've come to understand about the collapse of the web is that web users never existed in the first place. They "existed" insofar as they did only because for a time the web as hosted by a person's personal computer was the only instrument to connect electronically. Nobody wanted to be a publisher. It's just that once they were there, they did publish.
Using CB radio of the 70s as an analogy, people wanted a new way to communicate while on the road or just for the wild fun of it. CB radio was the one instrument that allowed for that so when people discovered it they amassed themselves on the open airwaves by the millions. As a side effect everyone became a broadcaster yet nobody actually wanted to broadcast, they only wanted to communicate. When cell phones came along CB radio use plummeted. Nobody hung on to being a broadcaster because "broadcasting was just so cool" or something.
People did enjoy putting up home pages, having their own domains, their own art and presentations, their own sense of hyperlink power, and their own place of expression, but this was all incidental. The computer with an Internet connection was mainly about getting work done. While a few stayed behind, like yours truly, to continue enjoying that power, most happily ceded it all when mobile apps and Facebook allowed for the more efficient and focused functionality of the online things they really needed to do.
Otherwise, nobody was in love with being a powerful far-reaching publisher. Nobody cared or thought much about who owned or controlled their online content whether it was themselves or some guy called Zuck.
If Facebook allows for easier interaction between people or the posting of posts ... like this very one ... nobody cares that every interaction is monetized, or that, as a single system of place that everyone agrees on, it is easier to control and censor communication. Ask the average citizen in China if their own Facebook Firewall - the "Great Firewall of China", state run rather than privately run, bothers their day to day online activities and I'd gamble hardly.
It is no longer right to say that people forgot about the freedom of the open web. Rather, it is more absolute to say most people never appreciated it in the first place.