I still can't wrap my ahead around what social media companies are supposed to do exactly. Remember, the existence of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter are accidents in the first place. If what people do in these services is a problem why discuss the problem in strictly a social media context instead of an internet one? (And of course, I agree the manipulation of media to exploit the emotions, viewpoints, and decisions of people through media IS a problem -- since the advent radio actually -- notice how we aren't besieged by headlines of anything being done about Fox News or CNN who have entrenched viewpoints because TV isn't the internet).
If I were a Russian psy-op agent determined to operate, I'd do it on the World Wide Web directly where I couldn't be blocked or have my account 'deleted'. I mean, of course, where social media had not already eclipsed the open web. Were I actually one as it is today, yes, social media is where I would have to operate to increase effectiveness.
I believe social media companies WANT the power that comes with falsely ascribed responsibility. They take a hit in fines and contortions to their service to meet the expectations of politicians, but at the same time, they are back-handedly made kings, which makes the inconveniences well worth it.
PCs aren't back in vogue with regular would-be web surfers at home, the people who have forgotten about the web or the internet (even as everything they do on their phones is of course directly tied to them). But the PC desktop and laptop's place in the world is settling into its optimum use cases and subsequently the PC market is stabilizing.
Put another way, personal computers look like they're going to at least survive this world where everyone imagines that everything is best done by tapping data into a smartphone.
If the "desktop web" can survive through premium users, office workers, and content generators, it is hopeful to me that its lingering presence will be enough to help keep the mediums of HTML and blogs as strong expression platforms. Strong enough at least to convince publishers that they can produce exclusively for it without building crappy-looking mobile-desktop experiences in the same presentation.
Everyone knows that you can track airlines online -- there are several websites for that. But did you know you can also track ships? Here's a website that lets you key in any port (feel free to do it by city name if your city has one) and bring up a map of all the live ship traffic.
You can click on each ship icon to bring up specific information about that ship or maritime craft. It's a nice way to kill a few minutes if you're a maritime aficionado.
Unfortunately I've yet to find one that does as equally a thorough job for trains -- though Amtrak will allow you to track its own trains specific routes in a similar way (I note that it's unclear how to actually use the Amtrak web service, but this private version of the same seems to actually work).
Could my assumption about the collapse of the WWW in the mobile era be completely wrong? It looks like Progressive Web Apps (PWA) may turn the ship around.
The concept is incredible -- and, it explains something I've never understood about Google's seemingly whimpy acquiescence to the fact that people weren't spending time on the web any more. Turns out, Google appears to have had a plan all along to fix that (or, just have a plan now ).
That plan is PWAs, web-based and web-hosted applications written in good old fashioned HTML. This guy pretty much explains it all well.
Explaining Progressive Web Apps and why everyone wants them.
The idea is that people "install" an "app" simply by visiting a website once and then in a manual or somewhat even automated process install a home screen shortcut to it. When the shortcut is tapped on moving forward it opens the PWA in such a way that it looks nothing like a web page and everything like a traditional mobile app.
Some Chrome browser engineering by Google (and in due course, Microsoft Edge) works in combination with the website to render most if not all the same functionality as a native app; a typical user cannot notice any difference although the early consensus is that PWAs are faster than native apps.
Not all smartphone hardware functionality can be replicated by a PWA but it seems most of the important and widespread ones can be, and right now we're only talking about the first generation.
PWAs don't restore the social browsing of the open WWW, people are still working one-to-one with their apps and not likely to jaunt about away from them. But Google's interest is more about keeping people on the web to keep web advertising tied to a healthy flow of web traffic. The Google Play store that you figure is a cash cow for them is evidently not as much in their financial interest as a thriving traditional WWW is.
So sure, granted, it is not about people web page hopping and clicking advertising banners like before 2008. But I see PWAs as a way to keep HTML and the concept of an open WWW alive so that publishers and more importantly, web developers, have cause to stick with the platform. If PWAs take off, the WWW isn't going anywhere.
For Microsoft, it means not being killed off by Android. In a PWA world they can continue to thrive, and, I wonder even, if PWAs were not actually on their mind when they decided to abandon Windows smartphones.
It's because of the World Wide Web's universality that makes PWAs a no-brainer. Companies don't have to front the cost of building dedicated iOS or Android applications and then suffer additional cost through endless bug and security fixes.
So, all this time perhaps, it was just trusting that the flexibility and open nature of the web would find its way into the economics of development philosophy. If all goes well the period between 2008 - 2019 will be regarded as nothing more than an era of flirtation with phone-side applications. Hallelujah!
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.
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.
A while ago I programmed my blogs in such a way that visitors who attempt to visit my blogs via mobile devices would be "blocked". Instead of reaching my blog they reached a mobile-friendly page explainer which told them that my blogs were meant to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or glass of wine while surfing the web from a home PC or laptop.
In essence I decided to give up running two production houses: One for the PC web and the other for mobile, favoring the former. In my mind the predicament boiled down to the problem that must have beset producers at the cusp of radio and television. You have a show to play but where do you play it? After all your show will not project the same on both mediums.
So I decided I would stick with the PC web and control for presentational bleed by programtically discouraging mobile visitors. And it worked. Without concerning myself with the endless perimeter of the visiting universe I was able to focus my development to produce faster and more in depth articles.
Still, I couldn't help but wonder why it was so difficult to serve both audiences comfortably on a platform that was designed specifically to remain open to all (that platform being the web which you've probably forgotten about if Facebook is getting its way).
I thought about it a long time and then realized that maybe I needed to re-think at least part of the problem. It's true that I didn't want the overhead of composing for two foundations, but what if there wasn't an overhead for the important part which is each blog entry itself?
Mobile visitors are not interested in a blog's larger presentation. They are darting out to content from their social media applications before withdrawing directly (and quickly) back. To them one's "blog" is nothing more than the single entry they focused on for all of a minute before getting back to LOLing party pictures in their newsfeeds.
On this angle and as master of my own blogging engine, I decided to alter it so that mobile-friendly output existed concurrent to the PC based output. I could not do this for the entire blogging engine which would essentially mean re-writing it from the ground up in unfamiliar code, but, I could do it using simple HTML and a "redirect" to output that drew directly from the same entry database. I just needed a separate entry rendering script that took the same text as that which appeared on the PC version and re-composed it in mobile-friendly HTML.
It took a day, but that's what I've done. And if I've done it right, you can view this very entry on a PC with no aggravating contortion to look good on "both" PC and mobile. Or, you can click on a link in your dang-nabbit "Facebook web" and find yourself looking at a clean scrollable article that looks great on your phone.
I draw a deep sigh, click "Publish", and sit back to see what happens.
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.