Micro.blog Project Surges Past $65K on Kickstarter, Gains Backing from DreamHost

With one week remaining on its Kickstarter campaign, the Micro.blog indie microblogging project has surged past its original $10K funding goal with $66,710 pledged by 2,381 backers. This puts project creator Manton Reece closer to his stretch goal of $80K, which would enable him to develop a Safe Replies feature to preemptively combat abuse on the platform and hire a part-time community manager.

Micro.blog also picked up support from DreamHost this week, pushing the project past the $50K mark. The hosting company pledged $5,000 towards the campaign.

“What ever happened to the vision of the open web as a distributed network of websites that were owned by their creators?” said Jonathan LaCour, SVP of Product and Technology at DreamHost. “We’d like to make it as easy as possible to launch a WordPress-powered microblog on DreamHost that integrates well with Manton’s upcoming Micro.blog service.”

DreamHost (and all other hosting companies) obviously have a vested interest in getting people to see the need to have their own digital presence. However, the biggest obstacle for WordPress customers is making it convenient to join the IndieWeb. DreamHost is planning to take its support of Micro.blog one step further and create an easy way for customers to get started with independent microblogs.

“As a followup to our contribution to Manton’s Kickstarter campaign, we’re planning on working on making a streamlined, pre-configured Indie microblog with WordPress at DreamHost,” LaCour said in the #indieweb channel on IRC yesterday. “I tend to agree that a simplified, pre-packaged WordPress setup would go a long way to driving Indieweb adoption.”

When asked whether the company would be utilizing Micro.blog or some other service, LaCour said it has not been decided yet. He said the idea is that people could create an independent microblog hosted at DreamHost that is compatible with Micro.blog and other indie microblogs.

“Our major focus at the moment is getting people excited about owning their own website (and entire digital identity),” LaCour said.

Micro.blog is Aiming for Incremental Webmention Support

Webmention is a protocol similar to pingback for notifying a URL when a website links to it and also for requesting notifications when another site mentions one of your URLs. It is an important part of facilitating decentralized communication across the web. On January 12, 2017, the Social Web Working Group published a W3C Recommendation of Webmention with the specification contributed by the IndieWeb community.

WordPress doesn’t natively offer Webmention support and the core trac ticket for adding the feature has had little discussion.

During a preliminary discussion on Slack last year, WordPress lead developer Dion Hulse said he thought Webmentions would be a great feature plugin and that there are a few people interested in it. There hasn’t been much movement on this front in core, but a Webmention plugin is available in the directory.

Reece is working on incorporating IndieWeb protocols into Micro.blog but said it will likely launch with incremental support for Webmention.

“It might take a little while to get everything IndieWeb in there, but that’s the eventual goal,” Reece said. “I’m committed to Micropub and microformats and still exploring how best to support Webmention. (It might be partial support with more later.)”

Micro.blog doesn’t currently handle mentions and replies using Webmention but Reece said his eventual goal is to include it.

“The first step to me is getting more people their own microblog so that the infrastructure for cross-site replies is even possible,” Reece said.

Micro.blog Puts the Focus on Indie Microblogging, Instead of Replacing Twitter

Reece also launched a Slack community where the project’s backers can discuss Micro.blog and other microblogging topics. He said he initially had reservations with starting something on Slack but was surprised to see the community has already grown to more than 300 members.

“I didn’t want to distract from any posts that should happen in the open on blogs,” Reece said. “Some discussion just fits better in chat, though. There’s an emerging community of indie microbloggers. Having a place to share tips, tools, and ask questions about Micro.blog just makes sense.”

Many of the project’s backers are eager to create a community of their own and are interested in using Micro.blog as a Twitter replacement. Other services have attempted to provide alternatives to posting directly on Twitter but none have caught on enough to significantly push IndieWeb adoption forward. App.net, one of the most promising ad-free, microblogging networks, went into maintenance mode in 2014 and will be shutting down March 15, 2017.

Reece, who was an early fan of App.net, published a thank you note to the service’s creators for trying something risky and creating a community around their ideas. He believes it’s the right time for another open platform to emerge.

“We don’t need just another Twitter or Facebook clone,” Reece said. “We need a new platform that encourages blogging on the open web.”

Nevertheless, Reece is preparing Micro.blog from the outset to be capable of replacing Twitter’s functionality, which is one of the reasons he is focusing so heavily on ensuring the platform doesn’t get overrun with abuse. Reece wants to avoid the pitfalls that have contributed to some of the more negative aspects of Twitter, but his focus is on encouraging people to blog from their own space.

“Micro.blog is a success if more people blog,” Reece said. “To provide value it doesn’t need to replace Twitter, but it can.”

The project’s mobile app is key to making it convenient for users to read other people’s posts and post directly to their own websites from the same interface. Reece shared another preview of the iPhone and iPad app that will be ready at launch and said he hopes there will be other apps developed by the community.

“Most RSS traditional readers can’t post,” Reece said. “I think this makes for a more complete experience, and because it’s just a blog I can still use other apps and platforms to post.” He plans to give Micro.blog a 280 character limit before truncating the post.

Keeping the timeline fast and making posting convenient will be critical to the platform’s success as an alternative to the dominant social media silos. Polling blogs for new content is not very aggressive in the current prototype but Reece is tuning this to provide a better experience. The platform uses rssCloud and WebSub (formerly PubSubHubbub) to provide a more Twitter-like, real-time experience.

Micro.blog seems to be landing at the right time, as the idea has already resonated with more than 2,300 people willing to back the project. The service hasn’t even launched but the concept behind it is already attracting a supportive community eager to explore better ways of powering microblogging on the web.

“You don’t replace Twitter overnight, or even try to,” Reece said. “But step by step, we’re going to end up with a better web, and I think independent microblogging is part of that.”


12 responses to “Micro.blog Project Surges Past $65K on Kickstarter, Gains Backing from DreamHost”

  1. I am a contributor to the Webmention plugin and the one who opened the ticket about the addition of Webmention to Core. A major rewrite of the plugin using the WordPress API infrastructure is in beta and will soon go out to the public.

    A companion update to the Semantic Linkbacks plugin, which handles the microformats parsing functionality mentioned above, is also in the works.

    There have been questions about what Webmentions would look like in Core that I would love to have conversations about if there was enough interest. I would invite anyone interested to comment on the Trac Ticket, try the plugins, give feedback on their development. That is how things move forward.

    • I’ve been using the plugin in combination with brid.gy for quite some time now, I can’t imagine blogging without it as it pulls all the likes, comments and more from the various silos into my blog.
      I’d like to use the opportunity to thank you guys for the great work! Unfortunately I don’t have the skills to give much support apart from the very occasional error report, so all I can say is how grateful I am for your work.

      • Brid.gy, which is a project of Ryan Barrett, pulls comments, likes, and such from various networks back to your site. It basically converts them into webmentions. It is a great example of how posting on your own site doesn’t mean you have to be cut off from others.

        But being a programmer is not required to be of help. One of the comments we often have is that someone new trying the plugins doesn’t understand what they are supposed to do. Helping someone by answering questions, writing a blog post about how to use them…even submitting feature and documentation suggestions helps too.

        • I have to admit that I kind of muddled my way through, just tried things until it worked. But where I can I’ll certainly try to help. Have already made the odd comment on Github.
          On a related note I’ve noticed that version 3 is now adding a Webmention form to my posts, which is brilliant. Blogging is all about conversations, so hopefully that will help to keep them going.

    • Hi Pete, thanks for the feedback. I think the work on the Webmention plugin is really important too. Everything is better (including Micro.blog) if more web sites support these protocols. I hope that what I’m doing will encourage many more people to run their own web sites, and there are sections in my book specifically about the IndieWeb and WordPress.

  2. I love that Micro.blog is doing so well on Kickstarter! I’m even more impressed that DreamHost is backing this and doubling down in this area.

    I coincidentally happened to have a great conversation yesterday with Jonathan LaCour before I saw the article and we spoke about what DreamHost is doing in the realm of IndieWeb and WordPress. I love their approach and can’t wait to see what comes out of their work and infectious enthusiasm.

    I’m really surprised that WordPress hasn’t more aggressively taken up technologies like Webmention, which is now a W3C recommendation, or micropub and put them directly into core. For the un-initiated, Webmention works much like @mention on Twitter, Medium, Facebook, and others, but is platform independent, which means you can use it to ping any website on the internet that supports it. Imagine if you could reply to someone on Twitter from your WordPress site? Or if you could use Facebook to reply to a post on Medium? (And I mean directly and immediately in the type @mention/hit publish sense, not doing any laborious cut and paste from one platform to another nonsense that one is forced to do now because all the social silos/walled gardens don’t inter-operate nicely, if at all.) Webmention can make all that a reality. Micropub is a platform independent spec that allows one to write standalone web or mobile apps to create publishing interfaces to publish almost any type of content to any platform–think about the hundreds of apps that could publish to Twitter in its early days, now imagine expanding that to being able to use those to publish to any platform anywhere?

    While Twitter has been floundering for a while, WordPress has the structure, ecosystem, and a huge community to completely eat Twitter’s (and even Facebook/ Instagram’s, Medium’s, & etc.) lunch not only in the microblog space, but the larger space which includes blogging, photos, music, video, audio, and social media in general. The one piece they’re missing is a best-in-class integrated feed reader, which, to be honest, is the centerpiece of both Twitter and Facebook’s services. They seem to be 98% readers and 2% dead-simple posting interface while WordPress is 98% posting interface (both more sophisticated/flexible and more complicated), and nearly non-existent (and unbundled) reader.

    WordPress has already got one of the best and most ubiquitous publishing platforms out there (25+% of the web at last count). Slimming down their interface a tad to make it dead simple for my mom to post, or delegating this to UX/UI developers with micropub the way that Twitter allowed in the early days with their open API and the proliferation of apps and interfaces to post to twitter, in addition to Webmentions could create a sea-change in the social space. Quill is a good, yet simple example of an alternate posting interface which I use for posting to WordPress. Another is actually Instagram itself, which I use in conjunction with OwnYourGram which has micropub baked in for posting photos to my site with Instagram’s best-in-class mobile interface. Imagine just a handful of simple mobile apps that could be customized for dead-simple, straightforward publishing to one’s WordPress site for specific post types or content types…

    With extant WordPress plugins, a lot of this is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet, to borrow the sentiment from William Gibson.

    For just a few dollars a year, everyday people could more easily truly own all their content and have greater control over their data and their privacy.

    I will note that it has been interesting and exciting seeing the Drupal community stepping on the gas on the Webmention spec (in two different plugins) since the W3C gave it recommendation status earlier this month. This portends great things for the independent web.

    I haven’t been this excited about what the web can bring to the world in a long, long time.

    Originally posted to and syndicated from: http://boffosocko.com/2017/01/27/my-reply-to-micro-blog-project-surges-past-65k-on-kickstarter-gains-backing-from-dreamhost-wordpress-tavern/

  3. It’d be a huge mistake for them not to have an Android app super fast, because less than 20% of all mobile device sales are for Apple products, the remaining 80%+ are firmly Android with a tiny bit of Windows phone stuff.

    Not sure why developers and creators don’t know this, or if they do why they ignore the overwhelming majority of the mobile market right from day one. As the saying goes “shot yourself in the foot.” SMH.

  4. Regarding the comment on complexity involved in setting up WordPress: Buying a domain and setting up WordPress at your hoster often means you have to click through a wizard, so I am not sure of how easy it can get. I have done this multiple times, from dreamhost to godaddy, on amazon aws and at a regional hosting company – it has it differences but if you are capable of reading docs sometimes you will get there.

    There is a big crowd being to lazy to go selfhosted and overestimating the network effects of being part of “a bigger community / platform”.


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