Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn: Semi-closed networks have grown to capture most “social” interactions on the Web as well as a lot of content, and they own many people’s online identities. There’s an emerging trend in the software developer community to move out of these “walled gardens” or “silos” – for lots of good reasons (see the IndieWebCamp “Why” page and the xkcd “Instagram” comic): Freedom, ownership, control, longevity, avoiding censorship. (And “harder to spy on by hosting in Switzerland”, since the NSA/Snowden revelations.)
To get started, read Klint Finley’s Wired.com article Meet the Hackers Who Want to Jailbreak the Internet. You can also listen to Tantek Çelik talking about the Rise of the Indie Web (45 minutes audio).
The IndieWebCamp site seems to be the most comprehensive collection of resources on the topic. (“IndieWeb”, the Independent Web, is the term many people are using. As of today, there’s not even a Wikipedia entry for it…)
POSSE (Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere) is a cornerstone of this movement. You’ll usually need new or extended software that runs on your own server and elegantly connects with other Web sites (the protocols for these interactions are still evolving). MediaGoblin is an interesting small DAM system built on IndieWeb principles, idno a self-hosted social network platform, storytlr a micro-blogging tool. The Indie Web Camp has a list of software projects. See also: unhosted Web apps and PRISM BREAK.
And here’s some articles worth reading:
Bastian Allgeier – Let’s build a better web: “We need to make it easy, convincing and enjoyable to move our personal data away from the big players. We need great self-hosted applications, which we can use to manage our emails, personal pictures, documents, private messages with friends, blog posts, etc..”
Tantek Çelik – On Silos vs an Open Social Web [#indieweb]: “All the silos are pressured to clutter and corrupt their UX with ads, "stickiness", "engagement", and all kinds of other garbage in a never-ending hamster-wheel chase of ever more page views. You don't have that problem. Take their best stuff and make it simpler, more elegant by cutting out all that crap. And then iterate.”
Ben Werdmuller – The #indieweb as a minimum viable social web ecosystem: “Many of the prevalent models for social software are hostile to the needs of both businesses and individual users. The IndieWeb aligns software developers with their users, while providing simpler tools for development, and encouraging both wider participation and more experimentation.”
Aral Balkan – Codename Prometheus: “We need open alternatives that are beautiful holistic experiences. Beautiful experiences that happen to be open and private; where you happen to own your own data. Beautiful experiences that you can hack if you so want to.”
Anil Dash – Rebuilding the Web we lost: “Privately-owned public spaces aren't real public spaces. They don't allow for the play and the chaos and the creativity and brilliance that only arise in spaces that don't exist purely to generate profit. And they're susceptible to being gradually gaslighted by the companies that own them.”
Shane Becker – No More Sharecropping!: “Then as we published all of our content on other services, we became dependent on them. We became digital sharecroppers.”
Marco Arment – Own your identity: “If you care about your online presence, you must own it. I do, and that’s why my email address has always been at my own domain, not the domain of any employer or webmail service. […] I’ve always built my personal blog’s content and reputation at its own domain, completely under my control.”
Jon Udell – Networks of first-class peers: “It is possible for various of our avatars — our websites, our blogs, our calendars — to represent us as first-class peers. That means: They use domain names that we own, they converse with other peers in ways that we enable and can control, they store data in systems that we authorize and can manage. Your Twitter and Facebook avatars are not first-class peers on the network in these ways.”
Will Norris – No one cares about your URLs (so buy a domain): “The only way for you to ensure the integrity and longevity of your content is for you to take ownership of how it is accessed. Do yourself a favor and go buy a domain that you use for publishing your content.”
Julien Genestoux – Independence day on the web: “This starts with owning your presence online: a domain name is cheaper than a phone number, easier to remember and will stay with you for as long as you renew it.”
Laurent Eschenauer – What the hell happened to Federated Social Networks?: “The idea is simple: get your own domain, host your site there, and slowly work towards federating with others. […] You get immediate value out of it (you got a blog) and you make exciting progress with a community of likeminded folks.”
Update: Matthias Pfefferle has also written a nice post – The rise of the IndieWeb [in German].
Update (2017-05-05): Matthias Ott – Going Indie. Step 2: Reclaiming Content.
Update (2018-04-20): Anil Dash – The Missing Building Blocks of the Web