It's not that uncommon to find a Facebook user who filters photos on Instagram, tweets constantly, and even dabbles in the occasional “snapchat.” But what have we lost from the rise of massive-scale social networks and trendy mobile apps?
Anil Dash, an entrepreneur who currently leads the non-profit tech incubator Expert Labs, thinks that the losses have been significant. He wrote this week:
This isn't our web today. To the credit of today's social networks, they've brought in hundreds of millions of new participants to these networks, and they've certainly made a small number of people rich. But they haven't shown the web itself the respect and care it deserves, as a medium, which has enabled them to succeed.
Not only have key features of the web have disappeared, but also the values that came with these features, Dash says. Here are five aspects of the web Dash explains are now “lost”:
1. Social photos for public use. “Five years ago, most social photos were uploaded to Flickr, where they could be tagged by humans or even by apps and services, using machine tags,” Dash says. “And the photos people uploaded could easily be licensed… allowing remixing and reuse in all manner of creative ways by artists, businesses, and individuals.”
2. Links purely for expression or editorializing. Once Google AdWords and Adsense gained prominence, the need to generate revenue from links did too, Dash says. “By 2007, it was clear that Google had changed the web forever…by corrupting links.”
3. Your own identity on your own website. Dash says that today’s online users can maintain their own identity, but only if it comes “tacked on to the end of a huge company’s site” or several sites.
4. The benefit of keeping your own data. “In the early part of this century, if you made a service that let users create or share content, the expectation was that they could easily download a full-fidelity copy of their data, or import that data…with no restrictions,” Dash says.
5. Peace between web companies. Before photo filter battles and burned bridges between social networks, Dash says tech companies didn’t need to sign business-development deals or contractual agreements to share content between different websites or apps. “User experiences weren't subject to the vagaries of the political battles between different companies, but instead were consistently based on the extensible architecture of the web itself,” Dash says.