Why Micro.blog is Not Another App.net

We could be excused for thinking that Micro.blog is like App.net — a Twitter alternative greeted with enthusiasm but that eventually closed.

It’s not the same thing, though, and I’ll explain why.

Micro.blog is not an alternative silo: instead, it’s what you build when you believe that the web itself is the great social network.

That’s the important part: even if Micro.blog doesn’t last (though I believe it will), the idea — that the web itself is where we are and where we talk to each other — will continue.

And: Micro.blog could be just one of thousands of similar services. And those services would all work together, because they’re made of web-stuff.

The Dream of 1999

Pick your year. I like 2003, since that was when I released NetNewsWire 1.0, an early Mac RSS reader. You might prefer 2000 (nice round number) or 2005 (things were a bit more advanced).

But if you think of the years 1995-2005, you remember when the web was our social network: blogs, comments on blogs, feed readers, and services such as Flickr, Technorati, and BlogBridge to glue things together. Those were great years — but then a few tragedies happened: Google Reader came out, and then, almost worse, it went away. Worse still was the rise of Twitter and Facebook, when we decided it would be okay to give up ownership and let just a couple companies own our communication.

Even if those companies had the public interest in mind — and they most definitely do not — they hold far too much power over something too fundamental to give up: our own human voices.

Twitter and Facebook are convenient, sure, but so are fossil fuels, and the cost was similarly unknown for a long time. But now we have some idea just how bad these things are for the world.

Micro.blog rewinds us to 2005 (or pick your year) — but, also, it has learned the lesson that people really like a timeline of short posts. People like being able to write and reply easily to other people. Good to know!

Blogs

When you post to Micro.blog, you’re posting to an actual blog with an RSS feed and everything. The blog might be hosted by Micro.blog, or it might be some other blog somewhere else. (Could be a WordPress blog, for instance.)

Your posts are just a normal, everyday part of the open web. At this writing, mine appear on micro.inessential.com — but it’s on my to-do list to have those appear on my main blog (this blog) instead. (Probably won’t happen until after I ship the app I’m currently working on.)

And this is how it used to be, and how it never should have stopped being: my blog is me on the web. I own my blog: I own me.

And so everyone who follows me on Micro.blog sees my blog posts, and I see theirs. Simple.

And anyone who wants to could just read my blog in an RSS reader instead. All good, all open.

Replies

Replies are a little trickier. (Micro.blog is not a finished thing — the-web-as-social-network is not a finished thing, and, we hope, never will be. That’s totally fine.)

Replies don’t appear on your blog (though this could become an option, I suppose) — but they are sent as a WebMention when possible, which means even replies are part of the open web. You can read more about replies and @-mentions on the help site.

I expect this area to get more work in the future, especially as it’s part of the key to making Micro.blog part of the great social network but not the great social network (the web itself).

The app in your pocket

If you’re running the Micro.blog app on your iPhone or Mac, it really does look like a slimmed-down Twitter. This is by design. But don’t let that deceive you.

If the web is a river, Micro.blog is water, where Twitter and Facebook are dams.

What about my Uncle Joe?

You might think this is too difficult for normal people, that it’s all too nerdy, and that it won’t make headway against Twitter, so who cares.

My reply: it’s okay if this is a work in progress and isn’t ready for everybody yet. It’s okay if it takes time. We don’t know how it will all work in the end.

We’re discovering the future as we build it.

01 Feb 2018

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