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Computers

IndieWeb

In which I heap praise upon the IndieWeb, while not using it myself.

As the tech giants attempt to consolidate control of everything from logins, services and the way we communicate, small pockets of resistance have emerged. Tools like WordPress, Jekyll and other blogging platforms have long been the mainstay of online publishing. Allowing the common man to get a presence online. Now the task before us is to expand this pocket of freedom. Enter: IndieWeb.

IndieWeb is a series of tools and concepts designed to allow for the creative expansion, promotion and even the authentication of user content. These components allow you to build an ever growing spider’s web of content that all links together. This web provides ways for other users to see what you’ve posted, follow you in different locations and generally “authenticate” your work by providing links to and from it back to other content you control.

IndieWeb Authentication

Another method of controlling your stuff is signing in through your own identity provider. IDP is not a new concept. Services and protocols like OpenID, Kerberos, Shibboleth, LDAP, and Oauth have been around for a while. Many of these tools are either defunct, hard to setup and maintain, or are not really suited for web-based Single Sign On (sso). Enter IndieAuth.

IndieAuth allows for you to setup your own Oauth (kind of) setup that authenticates you against your own domain. For instance, if you use the WordPress IndieAuth plugin, you can use the built-in login tools in WordPress to log into other sites. You’ve probably already seen this in action with “Login with Google/Facebook/Github/Twitter/Microsoft/iCloud/etc”. The concept is the same, but now you control it.

Microformats

In part, all of this functionality works by implementing Microformats. These bits of information, invisibly embedded in the HTML of your site, provide extra information to other tools. Some of these tools will parse out your contact information, if provided. Others will parse out article information on your blog, or parse out connections to where the content has been posted elsewhere, like on LinkedIn or whatnot.

Like IndieAuth, Microformats are from days past. While they’ve evolved into a much more rich framework of properties, I was implementing them in the early 2000’s on Florida Coastal School of Law’s website.

Why I Don’t Use It

Excuse me? I’ve just gone on, gushing about how good the IndieWeb is and how we’re taking back the power from the man. What gives?

Simply put: I don’t need it. Most of my posts on social media are just short thoughts that don’t deserve blog level exposition. I don’t access any services that allow for IndieAuth logins, and honestly tearing apart twentytwenty to implement proper Microformats is enough to make me want to do actual productive work on something else.

I personally endorse the IndieWeb. It needs more people, more eyeballs and more implementations to succeed. The tools it has are well done, but could use some polish. Microformats, Semantic Linkbacks and other features are awesome and, if you’re up to it, not hard to simply add to your site (YMMV). If I were setting up a static site with one of those newfangled generators, I’d totally implement as much as I could. It’s easy. The problem for me is that I’m lazy, old and too pragmatic to break something that isn’t broken.

By Nathan

Nathan is a technologist and Open Source enthusiast living and working in Florida. Often, he can be found playing board games with his family, video games by himself or breaking technological things in order to fix them "better".