Sunday, January 31, 2016

shake it up

Much has happened on the web in the last two and a half years, and of course I've been too wrapped up in it to say anything here.

It's time to change that.

A little over a year ago I returned to my roots.  I've always had my sights set on teaching, and it's fantastic to be back in a place so dedicated to education.  We need to alter the Web's course and the best place for me to contribute to this goal is by preparing our future software designers and entrepreneurs to lead the charge.

I'll admit that I got a bit tired of trying to change the Web.  It's exhausting working on an initiative that has the whole force of online marketing against you.  Skeptics and those who rely on the opacity of data trading alike are a powerful force.

But I haven't stopped caring.  Admittedly I backed off, but some (with more stamina than I) haven't.  On January 20, Andreas Gal posted his thoughts with a very optimistic headline: "Brendan is back to save the web".  He does a great job of making a point that I've been trying to articulate for years: the economic incentives online are stuck and we need a new player to emerge with new incentives and a fresh look at how to make the Web an economy again instead of a giant data mine.  Andreas makes a clear case that all the current web browsers cost money to produce, but nobody pays for them directly; instead they are indirectly kept aloft by whatever makes the Web go round.

Right now that's almost exclusively advertisements.

Somehow the web has found itself in an advertising monoculture where advertising is frequently aggravating and at best an unnecessary bloat in an ecosystem that should not be bogged down by distractions from generative content.  The web should be a place vibrant with commerce and innovation: clear of distractions and rich with creativity.  People should not be sold on what they want, they should instead be able to make what they want.

But the question remains: how do we get the web from where it is to where it should be?

We need economic incentives that encourage Web sites without this bloat.  We need content that is a generative "makers" platform.  The Web should be an ecosystem where businesses get rewarded for their content and not the willingness to plaster solicitations all over their digital presence.  This is what Brendan wants to do.

Brave is his attempt to steer the web in the right direction.  His vision is to make a web browser that is a true user agent again, and not a self-serving or web-serving agent.  People should be molding the web instead of the web molding its people.

I agree with Brendan that the web should not be an ad-blocking fight, it should be a place for novel and generative things, but we can't just turn our backs on ads.  I'm intrigued by Brave's new approach and excited to see where Brendan and his team take us.