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Notes on the “indieweb” #3: Who’s it for?

Just what is indieweb? How do you go indieweb? Who has already done it? Who’s it for?

In one way, these are easy questions to answer. Indieweb is a movement with founders, supporters and a canonical website, which provides a simple definition…

The IndieWeb is a people-focused alternative to the “corporate web”.

That sounds great! There’s also a set of principles.

But actually going indieweb is difficult, as browsing the website will soon reveal. Beneath the friendly, lingo-free home page sits a world of wikis and acronyms, which arguably serve as a barrier to entry. That raises the question: who are the people in people-focused alternative?

For most people, setting up a website with a domain name is an arcane process compared to signing up for Facebook or Twitter. Then consider basic actions such as posting a photo or a 280 word update. And that’s before you’ve got webmentions working, which will involve installing a plugin, or actually writing code.

For someone like me, who has made a living from the web for the last 13 years, this is easy – fun, even. But what about someone who’s simply concerned about Facebook or Twitter, and wants to move to something else?

In fact, the term indie is possibly offputting, evoking a world of vinyl records, comics and expensive audio kit. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this – we all have our various interests and hobbies, and the vastness of the web encourages cultural fragmentation and exploration – but it is exclusive.

This is why is important. It’s as easy to sign up for a account as it is for Twitter, and while you can tinker with your site, you don’t have to; in fact, you can use the social media network and never even think about your blog.

Posting is as frictionless, too – you can take a photo (on your iPhone, at least) and share it directly to your microblog. All the indieweb protocols, such as webmentions, are built in. No plugins or coding required.

But. I use more than Twitter now, partly because it feels like a service made for someone like me – liberal, tech-literate, fairly into “indie” in its broadest sense. And there are lots of people like me on; they’re working in web, happy tinkering with digital things, writing blogs, drinking coffee, taking photos of craft beer, talking about text editors etc. etc.

My fear is that indieweb just becomes another corner of the web, with its own lingo, rituals and protocols – albeit one I like and I’m comfortable in – rather than a movement agitating for change in how we do things. But I suspect that would take far more radical, political action, such as breaking up and nationalising the digital infrastructure of this world, such as Facebook.