Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Net is a forest. It has fires.

Whatever RSS (Atom, etc) was intended to be, it became the standard plumbing for subscription and notification. When In Our Time has a new podcast available, Google Reader's use of RSS tells me to get it. When Emily adds a new event to her calendar, RSS lets me know about it.

These are useful tools, but most of all RSS is the plumbing that enables Google Reader to track the hundreds of publishing sources I follow. Some of them publish dozens of stories a day, some publish 2-5 times, a day, and some publish every few weeks. RSS and Google Reader means I can follow them all. Without it the NYT would still be interesting -- I'd just visit it less often. I would give up on those infrequent publishers though, even the ones I love.

Many of those infrequent publishers are "amateur" writers who use blogs. RSS is the democratizing force that put them and the New York Times on an equal footing -- much to the NYT's chagrin. RSS is one of the things that makes blogs work -- esp. the blogs I love.

Since RSS has been pretty important to blogs, and since Google Reader has been the dominant RSS client for years, it's worth seeing what the major blog platforms are saying about the end of Reader

We'll start with Blogger. That's a huge platform, they must have had a lot to say ...


Ok. That's weird. Let's take a look at another biggie - Tumblr, home of 100 million blogs.

<single cricket>

Wow. Spooky. Ok, let's go to the real core. The home of WordPress, the world's dominant professional blogging platform...

<intergalactic space>

As Bond says "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action."

Something is happening. It feels like a fire is coming to the Net. Again.

The first fire I remember was the end of Usenet. Yeah, I know it's technically still running, but it's a faint shadow of the days when I posted about Mosaic for Windows in WinOS2. The Usenet archive nearly vanished when DejaNews failed, but Google rescued it. That was a different Google that the one we know now.

The next fire took out GeoCities. GeoCities was once the third most valuable property on the Net; thirty-eight million web pages died when Yahoo closed it. (Did you know is still around and that it still hosts Tripod? I was shocked.)

Yes, maybe 90% of those pages were junk, but that leaves about 4 million pages of people writing about things they were passionate about. Apple's termination of MobileMe .mac web sharing destroyed a much smaller amount of content, but even now I come across reference to great .Mac content that's gone. Not just moved somewhere else, gone.

The end of GeoCities and .Mac was matched by the end of applications like FrontPage and iWeb. Those apps let geeky amateur's publish to their (web) "hosting" services. Most of that content is lost now -- millions of pages.

No wonder it's hard to find things I read on the net in the 90s. The fires took it all.

Today its feels like the fire is coming again, and once again amateur content will be purged.

I wonder if it will return again.

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