How We Lost the Web
When I wrote about the web we lost a few months ago, I thought the idea that we’d strayed from some of the philosophical and cultural underpinnings of the social web’s early days would be of note to a few old-timers like me, and that most folks would sort of shrug their shoulders at this obscure concern. Instead, that piece and the conversation that have followed have gotten more of a response than almost anything else I’ve written. As a result, I found myself, astonishingly, asked to speak at Harvard’s Berkman Center earlier this week about the topic.
If you have an hour to spend on the topic and don’t mind the sound of my voice for that long, you can actually watch the entire talk, complete with my slides shown inline, here:
The Berkman page for the talk also offers downloadable formats for the talk, including a 41MB MP3 if you’re the type who listens to podcasts.
Even better, David Weinberger acted not only as an incredibly gracious host, but a shockingly complete transcriptionist, and created a detailed record of the talk, which actually includes a few improvements on my own phrasing of some of these ideas. Doc Searls also ably captured the talk in the form of an outline, and kindly took a few photos during the talk, including this moment where I went to Harvard and was throwing up the finger guns. Betsy O’Donovan also took the time to Storify many of the tweets about the talk, offering a nice window into how people were documenting the conversation at the time. Finally, the YouTube video also offers a crude transcription if you click through to the site and want to follow along in text.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with the response to this conversation about the web we lost because one of my central points is that the arrogance and insularity of the old-guard, conventional wisdom creators of social media, including myself, was one of the primary reasons we lost some important values of the early social web. Seeing this resonate with those of us responsible gives me hope that perhaps we can work to remedy our errors.
Some key links if you’d like to further explore the themes in the talk:
- The Web We Lost, offering an overview of the problem and opportunity we’re discussing.
- How to Rebuild the Web We Lost, trying to offer some hope after the initial critique.
- Captive Atria and Living in Public, exploring the idea of privately-owned public spaces which begins the talk and underpins many of its arguments.
- The History and Future of Web Protest, which examined how we can effectively politically organize to support the social web in the wake of the SOPA/PIPA battle.
- Stop Publishing Web Pages, making the case that mainstream users’ behavior on the web has shifted from traditional web pages to app-based streams, without media noticing.
- Google and Theory of Mind, showing how Google’s social shortcomings led to its corruption of links, turning hyperlinks from an editorial or artistic statement to an economic one.
- Facebook is Gaslighting the Web demonstrated how Facebook was beginning to disempower and devalue web content that wasn’t hosted within its walls.
- Facebook Makes It Official: You Have No Say, documenting Facebook’s decision to no longer accept user input to changes in its terms of service.
- My Wired column on Microsoft’s Surface tablet mentions the impact that good policy and regulation can have, where the DOJ consent decree did restore competition to the browser market.
- When the TOS become POS, my Wired column calling for organized protests by users to marshal their PR power against abusive terms of service.
- YouTube and the Million Mixer March, which contextualizes the disconnect of common YouTube behaviors from intellectual property law as a massive act of civil disobedience.