From time to time I grouse about how transglobal corporations stifle competition and fair trade to maintain their economic dominance. It’s an old story that will most assuredly never end. But, in this post, I want to specifically write about the death of the open web, how I fight back, and why you should too.
Facebook As One Example
I gripe about the fact that Facebook censors content that is not favorable to its advertisers. I moan about how they make money off of the content their users post*. But these are all things we know and accept when we sign up for our Facebook accounts—when we participate in the closed, corporate-owned, for-profit web.
Have you also noticed that when you click on a link to, say, a YouTube video, or a news article—anything that was not originally posted on Facebook, you still view that content inside of Facebook? You never leave Facebook. Facebook doesn’t want you to ever leave Facebook. Why? Because the longer you are on Facebook, their closed web, the more information they gather from you (to sell) and the more advertising dollars you generate for them.
Facebook is not the only closed web that does this. Google (Google+, YouTube, etc.) is another example. These mega, transglobal corporations make vast amounts of money from their users by keeping their users inside their walled garden. Twitter is yet another example. Apple does the very same thing in a different way with hardware (their Apple ecosystem).
Because we all find value in being able to keep up with our friends’ lives through our Facebook accounts, we accept this mistreatment. We tolerate living in the closed, corporate-owned web. We keep our accounts and grow to rather enjoy them, not realizing what we are losing1.
It wasn’t always this way. But, on the internet, with its firehose of information gushing at us, we quickly forget. There once was the time of personal blogs that didn’t require “a membership.” Free, open web blogging systems, like Blogger, abounded. But then corporations began buying them up, with Google purchasing Blogger and renaming it Blogspot. Google bought YouTube, which had been part of the open web. No more. I’m impressed with the speed with which the corporations privatized, for their own profit, the open web. Instagram…
But, because we love having quick and easy and “free” access to our friends’ status updates, their video and photo uploads, their location-identified tweets, we put up with this. However, you can fight back. You can try to keep the web open for a little longer.
Fighting Back: A Strategy
I have consciously employed a strategy I see others are using as well. I publish to my own, open source, free blog: timtyson.us. My blog is part of the open web. By my own choice, I’m not making any money off of my blog. Google makes a little bit off of me when they serve up, dozens of times each day, links to my blog from people’s web searches. But that’s not something I can or want to prevent.
I use Google+, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter to syndicate my blog posts through those corporate-owned, closed-web, profit centers. In this way, all of my friends and colleagues who choose to participate in those ecosystems can still see the content I share. Regrettably, the aforementioned corporations make money off of my posts being in their walled garden.
You could choose to subscribe to the RSS feed for my blog and never have to view it inside Facebook, or Tumblr, etc. One day I should post a “how to” video on this very topic! It’s easy to set up and use.
When my friends participate in the open web, with a blog of their own, I subscribe to their blog’s RSS feed. Every day for me begins with my reading hundreds and hundreds of posts from all of the RSS feeds to which I subscribe. My RSS aggregator is my 21st century morning newspaper.
Fighting Back: A Solution
My blog uses the open source blogging software system WordPress. WordPress offers 2 different products: one that they host for you (easier to use as there is very little setup, and it’s simple to do) and one that you host yourself (more powerful as you set it up and have complete control of it). I host my own WordPress blog.
I’m deliberately migrating as far away from closed, for-huge-profit-off-of-your-content, personal-information-gathering-and-selling*, corporate-owned web networks like Facebook. My goal is to stop checking them at all by the end of the year—sort of a slow weening off period. I’ll let you how successful I am in my efforts.
I encourage all of my friends to set up your own free blogs through WordPress (or whatever system you choose to use outside of corporate-owned, closed web systems). When you do, email me [tim at tim tyson dot us] your web address so I can subscribe to it through my RSS aggregator.
I encourage you to stop participating in the closed web. Support the open web. Let’s keep the internet more democratic, less censored, and free for as long as we can.
Here’s an aside: Did you know that when you use your Facebook account as your login credentials to another web service, you are providing that web service with all of this information about you and all of your friends? You do know this, right???!
Source: Tweet by The Bakery London: “And Here’s What a Brand Knows About You When You Login Via Facebook”
At some time in the future I will post more on this topic. ↩