Welcome everyone to AltPlatform, a non-profit tech blog devoted to Open Web technologies.
What do we mean by “Open Web”? Firstly, we want to experiment with open source (like this WordPress.org blog) and open standards (like RSS). We’re also using the word open to signify a wider, boundary-less view of the Web. In other words, we want to look for opportunities beyond the Walled Gardens – proprietary platforms like Facebook and Twitter where you don’t own your own data, you have little control over your news feeds, and you have to live by certain rules.
Our desire to explore the Open Web explains why we’ve created a new blog, rather than simply start a Facebook Page or sign up to Medium. We’re a group blog because we want to create thoughtful, inspiring posts that link liberally to others. We want a proper archive of content, which isn’t possible on Facebook or Medium. We want our feed of content to flow across the Web using RSS. Heck, we might even resurrect trackbacks.
Another goal of AltPlatform is to reignite the sense of experimentation and community that existed on the Web about a decade ago. As many of you will recall, in 2006-07 a big trend called ‘Web 2.0’ was in full bloom. So-called “social software” services like Flickr, YouTube and Facebook had recently sprouted up, and were making the Web easier to contribute to. It was a wonderfully creative time on the Web, since for the first time people could easily upload and share their photos and videos, and new forms of expression were being enabled by Facebook and (from 2007) Twitter. Sure, these were all commercial companies and they fully intended to make money from all this content sharing. But these services were also undeniably making the Web a more fun, more populated place. It seemed like a win-win: entrepreneurs will make money, and everyone gets to create media and make friends on the Web.
So why do we need an Open Web now?
Sadly, over the past decade we’ve slowly lost that spirit of openness and experimentation. We’re now living in an Internet era dominated by Walled Gardens. What’s worse, they’re controlled by just five companies: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times calls them “the frightful five” – and for good reason, because the prospect of the World Wide Web dominated by just five companies is frightening. It goes against everything Sir Tim Berners-Lee believed in when he invented the Web twenty-eight years ago. As Sir Tim put it in a recent guest article in The Guardian, “I imagined the web as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.”
There’s also the cultural implications of living in a world dominated by Walled Gardens. Like many of you, I’ve been frustrated about Twitter’s lack of innovation in recent years and the way Facebook subtly controls us (e.g. its lack of a decent archives or search functionality). It’s also frustrating that social media, as we know it today, is inherently a selfish thing. We’re losing our sense of a collective mission. One could argue, for example, that the Occupy movement failed because it didn’t have a clear, coherent message. Partly that’s because social media encourages us to cater to our egos, not find solutions to pressing problems.
All that said, our intention isn’t to fight against the incumbents. We like using Facebook, for keeping in touch with our families and non-techie friends. We like the day-to-day chatter on Twitter. And let’s be realistic: those platforms are where people go to on the Internet. So we’re fine with that.
Our modus operandi
What we do want to do on AltPlatform is explore alternative ways for the Web to reach its potential as a two-way, collaborative, social medium. We don’t think the Big Five have all the solutions. As just one example: what would Twitter be like today if it hadn’t turned its back on external developers? Most agree that an open version of Twitter would be amazing, and much better than the corporate, closed-off version we currently have.
There will also be opportunities for the Open Web in newer, still emerging industries – like blockchain, VR/AR, and AI. Emre outlined some of these possibilities in his introductory post.
So our modus operandi will be to experiment with new, open web technologies. When we find them, we’ll write about them and discuss them. We’ll advocate for them. Who knows, one of them might take off – just like a little service called Twitter did in 2007.
Who’s our target audience? We hope our posts are highly relevant to entrepreneurs, developers and early adopters who want to explore alternatives to Walled Gardens.
Who we are
As of launch date, AltPlatform has five founding members:
- Richard MacManus: founder of tech blog ReadWriteWeb & CEO from 2003-2012. Currently an author & tech columnist.
- Emre Sokullu: founder and CEO of San Jose based social software company, Grou.ps Inc.
- Dominik Grolimund: founder of Refind and previously founded Caleido, Wuala, and Silp; studied computer science at ETH Zurich.
- Brian Hendrickson: a founder and high-res website screenshot engineer at WebImageCapture, and Excel-mapping enthusiast at BatchGeo.
- Zach Beauvais: digital strategist and sometime tech writer who helps build online communities.
We’d love if AltPlatform grew into a hub for Open Web advocates – or at least becomes a community of Web fans with the indie spirit. My previous blog, ReadWriteWeb, managed to do that about a decade ago. At that point ReadWriteWeb had a small group of regular contributors, including Emre and Zach. What we had in common was a passion for building or experimenting with Open Web technologies, such as RSS (which was hitting its stride around then) and wikis.
There is one key difference between AltPlatform and the ReadWriteWeb of ten years ago: AltPlatform is non-profit. We’re not doing this to make money or build our own little Walled Garden. We want AltPlatform to be as open as possible. We’re a blog collective and we extend an open invitation to anyone who wants to join us.
If you’re a sympathetic soul, subscribe to our RSS feed and follow our progress on the blog. And if you have something to say, well then we have the perfect platform for you! Leave a comment here or contact us via email (richard AT altplatform.org).