I want to clarify my position here.

I absolutely do believe there is a future for a network that plays well with the indie web. Medium is certainly an embodiment of what that could look like: a fantastic community of thought, where you can syndicate from your own website if you wish. You can imagine other networks playing well too. The indie web vision is not to eradicate networks.

I don’t think a fully-federated network is possible. Social networks are, at their heart, search engines: you’re looking for people, resources and ideas that interest you. This requires a central hub. Even the static web would be much less useful without search engines like Google, and while some work has been done on federated search, I don’t believe it will ever achieve an acceptable level of user experience. This skepticism doesn’t arise from a lack of faith in the communities involved: I think you can prove that federated search will always be less responsive, using fundamentalcomputer science principles.

On commerce: I’m bullish on the web as a marketplace, both for goods and information. I think one of the things we’ll see over the next 5–10 years is much more of a focus on subscriptions for content, and decentralized purchasing for goods, that will heavily rely on social discovery and word of mouth. It won’t need Bitcoin or real federation; just some small tweaks on top of the platforms we already use in order to allow for standard payment interfaces. Network providers like Apple and Facebook will provide the reassurances we currently get from credit card vendors like Visa. Most importantly, we’ll see less of a reliance on intrusive ads and other surveillance as a result.

Writer: of code, fiction, and strategy. Trying to work for social good.

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