The pampas of ennui

Being Leonardo Boiko's online Journal, featuring Long & Very Sporadic Essays on any Subject.

07 November 2011

Software in 2011 is so depressing. Isn’t the Google Plus +1 obviously the same thing as the Facebook Like and the Reddit upvote and the Digg digg and so on? Didn’t we learn anything with all the decades battling vendor fragmentation? Where’s the open standard for “liking” URLs? What about the one for facebook/plus/twitter/reddit/reader/tumblr “share”? And the gold star/fav/save? Why can’t I make a single operation that’s replicated (or indexed) by all these sites? Why is Plus so locked-in that it lacks even RSS feeds? Didn’t anyone notice we’re essentially reinventing RSS a few hundred times with every shiny new “2.0” site? Why +1s can make an URL rank higher on Google Search, but likes or upvotes can’t?

Free software is dead; the killer was not Windows, wasn’t even the OSI, but the centralized Web model. Today almost no “social” software lets you self-host your own data; big corporate wants very hard, and active strives to, host and own complete access to every single piece of work; and almost all of these hosting sites runs on non-free, hidden code. This model has made it natural for companies to try to force people to live inside the fences of each company’s own little turf, eroding the base feature of the web as a network—interconectedness. Hypertext as the engine of application state becomes more and more a pipe dream (want the best interface to our site? buy our Android app!). Every company becomes a verb and “the” place to host some kind of work—we don’t publish notes, videos, or pictures on our domains, we tweet, youtube, flickr. Vendor lock-in is the norm, planned obsolescence the standard, embrace-and-extend a routine operation, and no one even bats an eye at news of the latest buy-and-bury aggressive acquisition.

Every company has become Microsoft. I actually feel a little guilty for the times we used to pick on MS as “evil”; by today’s standards, its flavor of capitalism feels almost quaint.

9 comments

Comments (9)

  1. Since I’m in the mood for ranting: it’s 2011, furigana is an official HTML5 standard, it has been an HTML standard since at least 2007, and Firefox STILL doesn’t support it! (though MSIE and Chrome do).

  2. Think, for example, of a software function: say, to host images on the web to share them with friends. Flickr is definitely the best software for this at the moment. But Flickr doesn’t integrate well with Facebook or Plus or Orkut; so if all your friends are on Facebook or Plus or Orkut, you have to use the built-in picture-hosting services of these products, which are all distincly inferior to flickr. That, or you keep friends on Flickr, and restrict yourself to its distinctly inferior social functions. Because we are artifically made to live inside little fences, and because all software is non-free, each turf has to reinvent the entire Internet; Flickr has to reinvent Facebook, Facebook has to reinvent Flickr.

  3. I think it’s a question of value (like always is) if facebook made public on API for its shared links to be “more indexed” by Google, we will be losing value in itself and creating more value to google. I think that is like selling share of FB to buy google, only in a more fast way… or something like that.

  4. Yes, they fuck the public to earn even more money. That’s kind of the point :)

  5. Another example of lack of standards and vendor lock-in: notifications in that Google bar thing. If you use Google search you get Google+ notifications on the same screen. There’s no way to put Facebook or any other kind of notification in there.

  6. Related http://blog.pinboard.in/2011/11/the_social_graph_is_neither/

    In part this essay exposes some weak points of my rant: if all this information was as open, distributed and standard as I wish, it would make things easier for everyone… Including spammers. « Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers—that’s the social graph. »

  7. Ðis is why I love RMS so much: he does what he cans, which on his case is on ðe technical and political aspects of ðe ißue. But ðe community RMS has helped build has no way of competing against ðe likes of Google and Facebook, at least not yet. Diaspora and similar works come to mind, and ðe fact ðey are incipient does not matter much, as we must þink long term.

    But Diaspora and all ðe oðer alternatives to proprietary systems, such as Status.net, tend to focus on programs and servers, and our real stumbling block are protocols and file formats. For instance, we have HTML, HTTP, XML and XMPP. What can we build on ðem or to complement ðem, so as to get back our liberty?

    For example, ðere was the FoaF system, which never took off; could it be extended, fixed, done whatever it takes to become the foundation to someþing more open ðan Google+ and Facebook? Or can we build on the Google Wave protocols?

    I do not know enough to give any answers, only to question.

  8. > But Diaspora and all ðe oðer alternatives to proprietary systems, such as Status.net, tend to focus on programs and servers, and our real stumbling block are protocols and file formats. For instance, we have HTML, HTTP, XML and XMPP. What can we build on ðem or to complement ðem, so as to get back our liberty?

    At least Diaspora was focusing on having an open and distributed protocol, aren’t they? They are also focusing on programs and servers because a specification is worthless if there are no usable implementations.

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