Landing : Athabascau University

We still need to unlock the web

This is a bit of brainstorming by the ever wonderful and utterly brilliant Ben Werdmüller von Elgg (one of the originators of the Elgg social media framework that sits under the Landing) on methods and standards for setting up payments for social media content (specifically through RSS feeds), and thus to re-decentralize the Web, removing the gatekeeper roles and grip on advertisers exerted by large tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Microsoft.

The idea seems plausible: it's a pragmatic solution relying on mostly existing standards to a problem that - as Ted Nelson (inventor of the term 'hypertext' and one of the early pioneers) has mentioned countless times - should never have occurred in the first place, if Tim Berners-Lee had foreseen how the Web would grow into a dominant commercial platform. Ted Nelson's Xanadu, a much more sophisticated networked hypertext specification invented in 1960 (though not fully implemented in software until the late 90s, much too late to challenge HTTP/HTML), had micropayments built into its very fabric. Ben's idea is not to use micropayments but subscriptions, managed through whatever client we wish to use, using a set of open standards that allow flexibility at both ends of the transaction. Many of the standards already exist in some form, so this is far from pie in the sky. It could be done.

I've been following Ben's work for about 15 years now (I know him personally) and this is a continuation of an evolving theme that he has sporadically been working on for most of his interesting career. Ben is a serial social media innovator with a very strong ethic of making the world a better, kinder place, who probably knows more about distributed and decentralized standards than almost anyone in the industry, who knows how to make projects happen, and who has the technical nous to achieve them. This idea could work.


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