The web is already social



When I tell people that bloggers following each other via feed readers already form a social network, they balk. "But... but... notifications! Reactions! Mentions!" That's how strongly we've been conditioned to think we need to know right away if someone is talking about us. No, you don't need to poll your newsfeeds every five minutes, and if you did, I suspect that would still use less bandwidth than your average spambot. And if someone you're not following talks about you? Check your referrals! Failing that, count on your friends to tell you. Use search engines. Aggregators. Directories.

No, it's not perfect. Doesn't have to be. Technology isn't magic.

Ironic that we need to relearn this lesson from a social networking system that bypasses websites in favor of a much simpler format. So simple, in fact, it makes Gopher seem overengineered. I'm talking about twtxt: basically just a plain text file you can read and write with a shell script. Just place it somewhere on your website (the text file, not the script), let people know about it, and bam! Instant microblog.

Yes, right now it's very technical. Definitely not for everyone. If it catches on, we should probably get around to making some graphical clients.

Except we shouldn't have to. No, really. How is this any different than updating your website and using a feed reader to see when your friends update theirs? If RSS / Atom is too complicated, then let's fix that problem! (They are, by the way, but people not bothering with them is even worse; Fraidycat shouldn't be needed.)

Of course, we still need watering holes to gather at. That's good and normal. Regular social media software like Mastodon has its place. And sure enough, twtxt already has a few of its own.

We should learn some lessons from twtxt and incorporate them into the web. Until that happens however, it's another way for me to keep in touch with like-minded people. Are you? Check out my twtxt feed. And let me know!

Edit: three weeks later, I moved my feed to a hosted service, because reasons.


Tags: social media, software