Sunday, January 08, 2006

[AoyW] Hosting Holds Web Evolution Hostage

The worldwide web is essentially a collection of centralized servers, albeit distributed at a variety of hosting sites. A tiny number of web servers are sited outside data centers. A handful of non-web online apps employ decentralized servers, mostly as a way to avoid crushing demand on a single site for audio/video.

People want to use the web for more things, like everyday work. Its info-model and ease-of-use are compelling. But its centralized architecture is only suited to certain applications, like mass-market media, whizzy mail-order catalogs, and clubs which meet in e-text; a.k.a. "content, commerce, community".

By contrast, the dominant architecture for everyday work is decentralized: the PC. Given the headaches of a certain widespread PC OS, IT managers fantasize about centralized blade servers and display terminals. The proliferation of laptops and flash drives and smartphones clearly points the other way. In short: No, Mr. McNealy, the network is not the computer.

The { web = hosted } mindset is now an obstacle to the evolution of the web. It's a modest leap of imagination to see that the web becomes an everyday work environment once implemented on a decentralized architecture: peer-to-peer. This means web servers that live on user devices (especially mobile ones), hit local screens with their apps, and synchronize with others belonging to afilliated users whenever they can access the net.

Yet I've found this concept to be challenging for people. A pocket web server sounds like a contradiction in terms; I might as well have claimed to have a self-contained internet on my keychain. Folks have trouble separating the web info-model (multi-format, interlinked pages), from the architecture on which it is now deployed (centralized servers). That very separation has to happen for the web to make a difference in everyday work.


At Monday, January 09, 2006 6:39:00 AM, Anonymous Thomas said...

I enjoy reading your blog and your views. I was recently playing with the client-side tiddly wiki and it's offspings (TiddlyDesktop, GTDTiddlyWiki). They seem to fit in your concept of web 2.5 and have the advantage of being very simple and lightweight.

At Saturday, May 20, 2006 1:23:00 PM, Blogger Jordan Weber-Flink said...

This post is spot on. I've always said to my friends in the community, we can't guarantee that the government won't interfere with the web until every citizen is a sysadmin. If the government tries to pass a law telling people which data they can and can't pass on to their fellow users, they'll get the bird from most of us.


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