Bonum Certa Men Certa

The World Wide Web is Being Confiscated From Us (Like Syndication Was Withdrawn About a Decade Ago) and We Need to Fight Back

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Sep 26, 2023

Refresh, Update,app, Icon, Social

THE first time I installed WordPress was in 2004. I did so twice that year. My friend for whom I installed it died earlier this year. He still blogged at the start of this year. Back then social control media hadn't yet become a thing. Using RSS, Technorati and various other things we all blogged and commented on each other's blog/s. The only thing resembling centralisation was Technorati and Google Search (later on Google would have "Blog Search").

Fast forward 2 decades and now people use "apps" and crapps. They're not in control of their computing and to many people a computer is just a so-called 'phone' (no, it's almost never used to place or receive actual calls).

People barely comment in blogs anymore and RSS is seldom advertised anywhere. To young people, for instance, RSS icons are like the drawing of a floppy disk in the "Save" button. "I heard of it before..." (maybe even -- gasp -- seen it!)

As eidolon explained some hours ago in IRC, "many times there is no feed icon displayed but the address can still be hoicked from the page source" (even sites that used to have such icons have removed them, not to mention Web browsers such as Firefox).

This is not good. We're worse off when fewer people promote RSS feeds and instead outsource to social control media (censorship, surveillance, manipulation). They're outsourcing their readership, i.e. the entire audience, to some untrustworthy third parry. No lessons learned from Google's burning of FeedBurner? Or the mass censorship (or 'demonetisation') in YouTube? Do we want the human experience to be centrally "managed" by these tyrannical companies? As eidolon recalls it, "even on YouTube, and in recent history Twitter et al, RSS was available but obfuscated."

"They would rather have you in the garden."

Well, originally they made something useful; it was valuable to users (syndication, pulls for notifications), but then they had remorse, seeing it's hard to push ads and manipulation when there's no "man in the middle" (middleman). eidolon says that it is "more difficult to 'foster engagement' and track the hell out of everything, etc." (when using RSS). Here in Techrights an associate calls it "emitting behaviour"; they want to measure everything with tracking URLs and JavaScript so that they can profile people and sell information focusing on what they think, feel etc.

They reckon they can successfully "monetise" all this one day, but it's just a bubble. It's wishful thinking. Lo and behold what has happened to Twitter. It's still drowning in debt and the latest "genius plan" from Elon Musk is to add a proper paywall, not just resort to walled gardens.

The way we see it, the same companies that killed RSS (it's not dead yet) also killed the Web (still dying), but they're not done.

Some of them try to herd us into "apps" (DRM etc.) or "modern" browsers that aren't even browsers anymore. It's no exaggeration to say that the WWW is actively being killed by a small handful of large, malevolent corporations, an associate explains. It's not just "apps" as they appear on the surface, it is about control of the computer. The browsers are becoming black boxes in more way than one. First they are excessively complex. Second, they are being used as highly inefficient, insecure, electricity-wasting virtual machines (VMs) over which the ostensible owner has no control but the corporations do.

This is done not just by the corporations making the browsers but even those that collaborate with those to be allowed to inject proprietary code into the browser as a VM.

This is just one of the warnings which Richard Stallman (RMS) has issued/made about the browsers since many years back. In particular, his warnings about JavaScript apply here.

RMS started the GNU project 40 years ago tomorrow (yes, tomorrow is the big day) and now more than ever we need to liberate the Web. How many people realise that the Web's creation was inspired by GNU? The pioneer behind the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, admitted this in his book. RMS was like a role model to him. It was about sharing, not spying.

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