Ben Evans in The End Of Beginning — Andreessen Horowitz’s annual tech conference talk held last month — nailed down perfectly: we are shifting from search and social, e-commerce and advertising to everything else. Like machine learning and crypto.
Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures in last week’s Centralization vs Decentralization stated:
If you are a student of tech history, you will not be surprised that decentralization is also the right technology arriving at the right time to solve some of the most challenging policy problems facing the tech sector right now.
He also pointed out decentralization happens through open source.
The two shared a common technology in their forecast: crypto. Not in the sense of the coin hype but a way to open up data jailed today in search, social, e-commerce and advertising silos — yes, you’ve guessed, by Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
This week WordPress, the king of blogging and publishing, from the same batch of monopolists like the companies mentioned above — rolled out a decentralized way of writing blog posts.
Instead of an unstructured flow of text now one can decompose an article into small parts like paragraphs, quotes, images and more — opening up monolithic content into it’s building blocks.
Up until now a blog post was a single entity now it is a collection of sub-parts which can be even re-used. Content, in some way, is transformed into data.
Last week I’ve created a quick overview of IndieWeb, an implementation of the Semantic Web, which is a theoretical layer upon the World Wide Web aiming to offer a better web experience by transforming content into data.
They go beyond WordPress with Gutenberg blocks and say:
- Every piece of content created must have a verified author.
- Content should be annotated with metadata to make it understandable for machines not just humans.
- Content should freely circulate over the internet where it can grow, attach value to itself, and return it to its author.
This concept is as old as the web itself. Everybody knows information wants to be free but forgets the second part of the quote — information in the same time wants to be expensive.
On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.
Stewart Brand, back in 1984
Perhaps you’ve heard lately that the father of web, Sir Tim Berners Lee is working on a new project to reshape the web. Yes, he is, by shifting it’s state up to value creators instead of incumbent silos.
Ten years ago everything went around the LAMP stack. Facebook, WordPress was built with. On Linux — an operating system, Apache — a server, MySQL — a centralized database, and PHP — an oldschool programming language. No wonder the end result was monolithic, controlled from infrastructure to user experience by a vertical solution, or company.
Sites and applications built with JAMStack are decentralized, they open up data and let it freely circulate.
You fire up a Visual Content editor as known as Headless CMS. It can be the new WordPress / Gutenberg or the dozens of the new emerging ones available today.
You design your content by mashing together simple blocks / components: titles, paragraphs, quotes, images, lists, galleries. Each of them have lot’s of metadata and tweakable properties attached — they already act as pieces of data, annotated content chunks.
When using a quote the visual editor automatically notifies it’s source. When adding an image from an external source the image metadata will be updated with this new usage information on the image author’s dashboard. When write a paragraph you are sure it will be automatically tweetable, quotable, re-usable by others in a way you’ll be immediately notified and your credits will be given.
As your content grows you’ll grow together with it.
When you publish magic happens. The new blog post appears in all your channels — on your blog, on your social network feeds, to your direct email and feed subscribers, on the dashboard of the authors whom content you’ve reused.
Syndication and re-syndication. Federated content acting as data. As your tweets and posts and grams today but now working for you instead of others. Likes and shares goes back to you, you access your followers directly, from all networks, without the networks.
Total freedom and capitalization of knowledge. If you are good you grow, not the silo hosting your creativity and selling your character for adtech.
Remember, advertising is the way we grant power to the machine. Perhaps we want to empower ourselves first.
No. It can be done today. In various ways. With a little hacking. For WordPress fans this is a way, among many others:
- You add content blocks via WordPress Gutenberg.
- You write a WordPress plugin for Tim Berners Lee’s Solid to: a.) Identify yourself universally as an author. b.) Annotate your blocks with metadata which lets the machine to spread it to where it can grow. c.) Get back the growth results inside your editor.
- You write / use a plugin to equip your blocks with Like, Share, Comment capabilities which are reported back to you.
- Create a new Gatsby / React / React Native theme which collects all your data from 1., 2. and 3. into an unified layer you can easily display, on the web and even as a mobile app.
Estimated time? A few months work for a single designer & developer and you’ve entered the future.