Indie web manifesto

A call for individuals to take back rights and control from the corporate web

The internet was not always as it is now. Things were better in its heyday, and not just in hindsight. Like with a lot of other things in life, corporations monopolised the internet when they realised it presented new opprtunities to make money. Unlike a lot of other things, this monopoly was only in perception: the corporate web of today has not fundamentally altered the foundations of the internet, merely drawn our attention away from it and to that flashy portion of the Web where corporations weild control over visuals, narratives and monies.

In effect, even if not by rule, the web has been centralised around the whims of corporations. It is high time we decentralised it and brought it back to what it was, to that property of the web that made it work so well and gave it so much potential. But this was never the vision for the Web, and it is important that individuals take back control of the internet to have it work the way we desire; to create on the web an atmosphere that resonates with us as individuals in which large, faceless corporations are merely participants no different from us. The indie web is poised to play a huge, impactful role in bringing about this shift in the power structure.

The IndieWeb movement

What it stands for

Founded as series of conferences (the still active IndieWebCamp) by Tantek Çelik, Amber Case, Aaron Parecki, Crystal Beasley and Kevin Marks, the IndieWeb movement is centred around ten principles:

  1. Own your data
  2. Use and publish visible data for humans first, machines second
  3. Make what you need
  4. Use what you make
  5. Document your stuff
  6. Open source your stuff
  7. UX and design is more important than protocols, formats, data models, schema etc.
  8. Modularity
  9. Longevity
  10. Plurality

This author neither believes in nor follows all of these but backs the IndieWeb movement as a whole.

About this website

How we keep pace

On this website I believe in certain aspects of the IndieWeb movement but question others. Work has been done to realise some aspects while it remains to be done for some others. I stand by the three basic statements of the movement viz. “Your content is yours”, “You(r works) are better connected”, and “You are in control.”

The IndieWeb movement relies on the basic structure of the web: that content can be put up in one place and linked to that place from everywhere else. This works because simple hyperlinks are the threads that make this ‘web’. I have always referred to this website as my corner of the Web and that is precisely what this movement embraces. It also rightly means I am in control of my works, the way they are seen, how people consume them and how I can answer for them.

The trouble is in the POSSE aspects of the IndieWeb—an idea that stands for “Publish On Site, Syndicate Elsewhere”—that requires us to publish everything, even a tweet, on our own site first and then ‘syndicate’ that (link to it legitimately as non-duplicate content) everywher else, such as on Twitter itself. This is a great idea on paper, at least for now, because we lack the Web infrastructure to make this a frictionless process (see below).

I absolutely back the IndieWeb movement but it is important to strengthen the movement by recognising where it is currently lacking. We have, for example, normalised the idea that some idea or text we put out on, say, Twitter, is “my” tweet. But in reality Twitter owns that piece of content now. Should we not be the cotinued owners of it instead? Shoul “my” tweet not remain mine regardless of its merit? Only if it first gets published on my website can it forever be recognised as “my” content rather than a morsel on an enormous plate handled by a corporation.

The idea of content ownership returning to individuals threatens corporations and their current, beneficial status quo. This is why most large websites have checks in place that drown or otherwise discourage content syndication. They want your content and ideas directly on their platform under their ownership.

The trouble with POSSE

Not a bunch of cowboys

Simply put, there is currently no frictionless method of running POSSE that can compete with the ease of firing away a tweet or Mastodon post or something like that. Part of the reason is that Twitter, Instagram or some other big corporation does not want it to be easy to link away from them and that is the central idea of POSSE. While Twitter ranks external links lower, Instagram simply prohibits external links on posts.

POSSE currently has some help in the form of services like Brid.gy which connect to and crawl websites to variously format tweets or toots, as appropriate, and syndicate website posts on linked social media platforms (mainly Mastodon and BlueSky in my case). But the trouble remains that popular platforms also happen to be run by large corporations and they are conspicuously absent here. There is no Twitter or Instagram, but—probably because the fediverse is in the roadmap of Threads—we surprisingly have Facebook.

The POSSE model cannot hope to succeed on demands of substantial shifts in usage pattern from the public. Such models rarely work in practice. As Mickey Mellen puts it, “Continuing to share on social media ... helps keep things easier on your readers. While I’d love to see a world where everyone uses RSS to handle their media consumption, I realize that isn’t going to happen.” It is clear, in other words, that the responsibility of seeing POSSE through should fall entirely on the indie website owner.

For now, no matter how huge a role POSSE plays in the IndieWeb, I cannot justify implementing it in any form in my workflow.