Take Back Your Web: Tantek Çelik’s Call to Action to Join the Independent Web

Tantek Çelik, Web Standards Lead at Mozilla and co-founder of IndieWebCamp, delivered an inspirational talk titled “Take Back Your Web” at the most recent beyond tellerrand conference in Düsseldorf, Germany. He opened the presentation with a litany of Facebook’s wrongdoings, taking the world’s largest social network to task for its role in increasing polarization, amplifying rage, and spreading conspiracy theories.

Çelik challenged the audience to “stop scrolling Facebook,” because its algorithms are designed to manipulate users’ emotions and behaviors. He noted that it is the only social network with a Wikipedia page dedicated to its criticism. This massive document has a dizzying number of references, which Wikipedia says “may be too long to read and navigate comfortably.” As an alternative to scrolling Facebook, Celik encouraged attendees to spend time doing nothing, an activity that can be uncomfortable yet productive.

The “Take Back Your Web” presentation is a call to action to join the independent web by owning your own domain, content, social connections, and reading experience. Celik recommends a number of IndieWeb services and tools to empower users to take control of their experiences on the web.

With a free site hosted on GitHub, he said the costs of owning your own domain are less than owning a phone or having internet service. Suggestions like this are targeted at developers who share Twitter names instead of domains and post articles on Medium. Setting up a site on GitHub is not a simple task for most. That’s why networks like WordPress.com, along with hosts that provide instant WordPress sites, are so important for enabling average internet users to create their own websites.

Celik referenced Matthias Ott’s recent article “Into the Personal-Website-Verse,” highlighting the section about the value of learning new technologies by implementing them on your own website: “A personal website is also a powerful playground to tinker with new technologies and discover your powers.” It’s one of the few places developers can expand their skills and make mistakes without the pressure to have everything working. Ott enumerates the many benefits of people having their own enduring home on the web and encourages developers to use their powers to make this a reality:

As idealistic as this vision of the Web might seem these days, it isn’t that far out of reach. Much of what’s needed, especially the publishing part, is already there. It’s also not as if our sites weren’t already connected in one way or another. Yet much of the discussions and establishment of connections, of that social glue that holds our community together – besides community events in real life, of course –, mostly happens on social media platforms at the moment. But: this is a choice. If we would make the conscious decision to find better ways to connect our personal sites and to enable more social interaction again, and if we would then persistently work on this idea, then we could, bit by bit, influence the development of Web technologies into this direction. What we would end up with is not only a bunch of personal websites but a whole interconnected personal-website-verse.

Check out Çelik’s slides for the presentation and the recording below for a little bit of inspiration to re-evaluate your relationship with social networks, create your own site, or revive one that has been neglected.


13 responses to “Take Back Your Web: Tantek Çelik’s Call to Action to Join the Independent Web”

  1. The great thing about the IndieWeb is that you can have the pie and eat it too: you can post your own content on your own site and syndicate it to the social networks (including Twitter and Medium, but not Facebook). Content includes not only your posts, but also comments and likes.

    Something really cool: 2 people each having a site implementing the Webmention web standard can reply to comments on the other person’s site but store their comment on their own site. Then, they can have a conversation through comments, with the comments taking place on both sites! So, you own your own content, yet you can interact with others as in a social network.

    Also, instead of being represented through some account on some social network in which you’re simply a guest, you can make your own site become your real digital identity and give it your own personality. Wouldn’t it be way cooler if conference speakers, instead of saying “You can find me on Twitter under @…”, they said “You can find me on my own website https://…”?

    WordPress is well prepared to take advantage of the IndieWeb: There are already several plugins to integrate the site into it, just check https://wordpress.org/plugins/search/indieweb/

  2. There are a lot of cool things that you can do with IndieWeb tools on your WordPress site. As an example, I posted a link to this post that I wrote on my personal site to Twitter. When people retweeted it, liked it, or commented on my post on Twitter, they got sent back to my site as Webmentions. You could also respond elsewhere and just use the URL as a comment (above the “Ping Me!” button) for semantic linkbacks from your own site.


  3. Thinking about it, wouldn’t it be really cool if WPTavern implemented support for Webmention (https://indieweb.org/Webmention)? Then the community taking part on this site, which is greatly composed by WordPress developers, would have a nice incentive to add support for the IndieWeb on their own sites, as to post their comments for WPTavern on their own sites and syndicate them to WPTavern. And from then on, they may implement it for their customers too, slowly but steadily creating a loose network of WordPress sites sharing content with each other, and offering a proper alternative to Medium and the likes…

    @wptavern btw, I think there’s a bug on the site (or is this intentional?): links added through the link button (i.e. ) are stripped, only pasting the URL in the comment body works

    • Brilliant for calling out WPTavern for not supporting Webmentions. Perhaps there is a good reason why WPTavern have not done this. What is that reason? Why was this not covered in the article? Does Sarah Gooding have a website? Does Sarah Gooding’s website support Webmentions?

      • My WordPress website supports Webmention and standard WP comments. I think it would be possible to support Webmentions as an addition to whatever WPTavern is using now.

        “… weighing how it would impact interaction here” is something that could have been included in the article.

  4. As Tantek mentions in his talk, webmentions are basically evolved pingbacks. It has yet to be proven if Webmentions will be killed by spam in the same way pingbacks were.

    Also with comments, there is a constant fight against spam. Thankfully we have decent anti-spam tools but every now and then spam does get through.

    In my opinion, if we want to bring decentralized social networking to more relevance again, users shouldn’t have to deal with spam content.

    I very much concur with Tantek that it’d be a great solution to all the social silos of the web to have everyone have their own website and their own (sub)domain.

    Therefore, I’ve created the Friends Plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/friends/ which allows you to establish friendship connections between (WordPress) sites.

    It’s actually pretty cool what these established connections then allow for:

    – You get a feed of all the posts of your friends, writing their posts on their own site.
    – You can received your (selected) friends posts by e-mail (I think these are quite powerful, you can turn any RSS feed (filtered by keywords if you want) into a newsletter for yourself).
    – You can then restrict the interactions to your friends, thus removing random spam.
    – You can post content that only your friends can see (via private posts).
    – You can emoji-react to posts.
    – You can subscribe to news outlets via RSS and have them integrated into your feeds alongside your friends.
    – The WordPress app gives you a social media client for free: you simply post to your own blog.

    Check out the demo video:

    This could be the basis to further reduce dependency of third parties without a worse experience:

    We could have specialized mobile apps (e.g. an image posting app) that would talk to your own blog. You’d post stuff there and it will be spread to your friends. It’d display your friends images in the app as well, allowing for the same experience like with Instagram, just without a third party involved.

    From a technology perspective, the friends plugin is just a web based RSS reader. Your server does the work for you by fetching your friends’ posts.

    Your own /friends/ page could be your new Facebook feed.

    It’s going to be more fun when your friends have installed the friends plugin, but it’s already useful as is: you can subscribe to the blogs you already read.

    The friends plugin is far from being finished but it allows for very interesting third-party reduced usage of the web.

    • Great idea! Question: what happens if I have Friends plugins uninstalled? What happens with all RSS feeds, posts, etc? Do they disappear, or they are still visible?

      I think this question is important, looking at the future, when hopefully support for WebMentions would be added to the core.

  5. The first thing I’ll keep saying is to return to RSS as the means to distribute content. No algorithms, no censorship, nothing centralized, no privacy concerns, just anyone interested adding the feed to their reader of choice and getting everything that’s posted, and the content creators being certain that everything gets delivered. Facebook (which used it too early on) managed to kill that in order to hold content creators prisoner and eventually make them pay to have their content delivered, and it needs to be resurrected to fight this, and the other problems of algorithms and central control in general.


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