Introduction to the Indie Web

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Session Topic: Introduction to the Indieweb

Thursday 2I

Convener: Ben Werdmuller

Notes-taker: Ben Werdmuller

Tags for the session - technology discussed/ideas considered:

  1. indieweb

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

We started by discussing the current state of the social web: most of us has multiple, separate profiles on various services. We illustrated, using freemydata.co, that many of them don’t allow you to download your data.

The indieweb as a movement was founded following the federated social web summit, as a more open alternative that would concentrate on small, working solutions rather than conversations. It is based on three fundamental tenets, as described on http://indiewebcamp.com:

  • Your content is yours: everything you post on the web should belong to you
  • You are better connected: you shouldn’t be penalized for owning your content - you should still be able to use the social platforms of your choice to reach your audiences
  • You are in control: you can post anything you want, in any format you want, with no-one monitoring you.

The indieweb is tentpoled by events, IndieWebCamps, where web developers showcase what they’ve built on their own websites.

Over the last couple of years, the community has evolved a set of formats and protocols that turn the web into a full decentralized social network where each person’s own website is their social profile.

These include:

Microformats 2 (http://microformats.org/wiki/microformats-2)

A simplified microformat specification that allows HTML to be marked up as a profile, feed, post, reply, like, reshare, RSVP and more. It’s designed to be highly extensible; new standards evolve from real-life use.

Webmention (http://webmention.org)

A simple way to automatically notify any URL when you link to it on your own site. The target page checks the source and parses its microformatted HTML. If the source is marked up as a reply, for example, the target can republish it as a reply under the main content.

An extension called vouch mitigates spam by allowing webmentions to point to a trusted page that can vouch for its legitimacy.

IndieAuth (http://indieauthcom)

A method for using your own domain name for authentication, which is designed to make it as easy as possible to log in with your own website, without needing to implement complex standards like OpenID. A user’s website points to their social profiles on third-party “silo” sites (like Twitter, GitHub, etc); when they log into a resource with their website URL, they may log in with those silo accounts (by using Twitter auth, etc).

Micropub (http://indiewebcamp.com/Micropub)

The simplest possible generic API for publishing to indieweb-compatible websites. Users authenticate to a third-party tool with IndieAuth. As part of this process, their micropub endpoint is discovered. The tool may then POST microformatted content to the endpoint in order to publish new content.

General principles: each of these can be implemented very quickly, and can work either as server-to-server protocols, or simply using web forms. By using the fundamental building blocks of the web, the barrier to entry is vastly lowered, and a greater variety of platforms may be built on top. The indieweb principles only work if they are implemented via a number of projects; monocultures are to be avoided.

A number of projects have emerged from the indieweb community. Most notably:

Known (http://withknown.com)

The first indieweb startup. Known gives you a single website for all your content. Users publish to their own site, and then syndicate their content to third-party sites like Twitter and Facebook (or software like Moodle or Sharepoint). A Pro version is available, and an integrated reader is forthcoming. Known’s first market is higher education, where universities are giving each student their own domain and website, which allows them to keep their content throughout their university career.

Bridgy (http://brid.gy)

Bridgy acts as a bridge between “silo” sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram, and webmentions. Users authenticate with brid.gy using their social media accounts; any activity on their posts is then converted to webmentions that operate on the source content on their own websites. Bridgy is commonly used with Known, WordPress, Tumblr and more.

The indieweb community shuns mailing lists, believing that they promote discussion over action. Instead, it has an active IRC channel (#indiewebcamp on freenode) that attempts to be welcoming to newcomers. Lurkers can observe on the live IRC website at http://indiewebcamp.com/irc/today.

It is a community in its infancy, growing fast, that is always looking for new participants.