Inspired by the most recent twitter hack, Ian Bogost wrote this week in The Atlantic about the failings of decentralization. I was struck by one passage:
“Twitter isn’t just a place for memes or news, or even presidential press releases meted out in little chunks. It’s where the weather service and the bank and your kid’s school go to share moment-to-moment updates. Though seemingly inessential, it has braided itself into contemporary life in a way that also makes it vital.”
The thing is, you don’t need a central site to collect these moment-to-moment updates. RSS has been around for longer than Twitter. There used to be little RSS buttons on lots of web sites. What would our online world look like if Google hadn’t killed Google Reader and RSS had hung on.
It occurs to me that inadequate discovery tools were the hole in the decentralized internet. Google got its foot in the door of the web by solving the search problem. Once that was centralized, Google ( and then Facebook, and then Twitter) , bit by bit, centralized everything else. Was there a way to make finding things less centralized. Is there one today as we look at web alternatives like Dat or IPFS?