2014 was a breakthrough year for IndieWebCamp and the IndieWeb movement. Beyond our technical achievements in creating, building, deploying, and using simple formats & protocols on our personal sites, we organized record numbers of IndieWebCamps and Homebrew Website Club meetups. We gave talks to audiences of thousands, and the press started covering us in earnest. We saw the launch of Known and its hosted service Withknown, a user-friendly mobile-web ready solution for anyone to get on the indieweb.
With our increasing visibility and popularity, we encountered perhaps the inevitable re-use of our community terms or similar terms to mean other things, and subsequent online confusion. As expected we also saw the shutdowns of many more silos. We lost a very special member of the community. We kept moving forward and finished the year with the first of its kind virtual online IndieWebCamp, and verbal commitments to each other to launch personal site features for the new year.
Table of Contents
A lot happened in 2014. Enough for a table of contents.
- The IndieWeb Movement
- Record Numbers
- Losses and Challenges
- Community Resources
- Summary And Looking Forward
- New Year Commitments
Let’s get started.
The IndieWeb Movement
Anyone can call something a movement, but that doesn’t make it so.
A tweet is not a movement.
A blog post is not a movement.
A single-page-site is not a movement.
A manifesto is not a movement.
This is a movement. People are a movement.
This is everyone who participated in one or more IndieWebCamps during 2014. Real people (with the exception of one cat), passionately using their own personal websites to express themselves on the web, creating, sharing, and collaborating with each other to grow the independent web.
Click / tap the image to go to a fully interactive version on the IndieWebCamp wiki, with every person (but 3!) linked to their personal site.
The 100+ participants above participated in six IndieWebCamps in San Francisco, New York City, Portland Oregon, Berlin, Brighton, Cambridge MA, and Online. Twice as many as the previous year:
IndieWebCamps by year
Handcrafted ASCII graph (took Tufte class twice, not his fault):
WWW MIT NYC LA SF UK UK UK PDX PDX PDX PDX/NYC/Berlin ———— ———— ———— ——————————————— 2011 2012 2013 2014
You can see summaries and links to all of them here: IndieWebCamps
Beyond double the number, 2014 saw innovation in the very format of IndieWebCamps with a simultaneous three location annual main event, as well as the first IndieWebCamp Online. Thanks to David Shanske for organizing and leading the charge with IndieWebCamp Online using IRC and Google Hangouts.
Homebrew Website Clubs
In addition, 2014 was the first full year of Homebrew Website Club meetups. 27 days in total across several cities: San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, London, Paris.
- A Chicago chapter started 2014-04-09 and met 16 times.
- A pop-up London meetup was held 2014-05-21
- A pop-up New York meetup was held 2014-06-04
- A Minneapolis chapter started 2014-06-18 and met several times.
- Paris held a 2 hour "IndieWebCamp" meetup on 2014-10-05 that was very much like a HWC and discussed next steps for biweekly meetups and a 2 day IndieWebCamp in Paris!
2014 had breakthrough press coverage of IndieWebCamp and the IndieWeb as a whole. Most notably:
- Welcome to the Indie Web Movement :
- Don’t like Facebook owning and controlling your content? Use tools that support the open Web :
- IndieWeb advocates launch Known so bloggers can be social and still control their content :
See more articles about the IndieWeb in 2014.
2014 had a record number of IndieWeb related talks being given at conferences by community members. Here are a few of them ranging from introductory to technical:
- Amber Case: Rise of the Indieweb (YouTube, 44:59)
- Willow Brugh's graphical sketch explanation of Indie Web principles & why (YouTube, 5:02)
- Tantek Çelik: Why We Need the #IndieWeb (YouTube, 13:15, HTML slides available)
- Aaron Parecki: OAuth, IndieAuth, and the Future of Authorization APIs (YouTube, 43:26, HTML slides available)
If you enjoyed those, check out the videos about the IndieWeb page for many more.
Losses and Challenges
The IndieWeb community went through some minor growing pains in 2014, and tragically lost a key community member. There was also the continued series of site shutdowns, some of which members were able export from, but all of which broke the web.
Losing One Of Our Own
Mid last year we lost IndieWeb community member Chloe Weil, and we miss her very much.
Chloe participated in the very first IndieWebCamp 2011, as a shy apprentice, but learned quickly & eagerly, and put her many creative skills to work building & growing her own personal web presence. Here she is at that event, third from the left edge:
She built her own personal-site-based replacement for tweeting. She participated in both the first IndieWebCamp NYC as well as the subsequent main IndieWebCamp 2014 East at the NYC Location. Here she is again, front row and confident:
She captioned this photo:
“Your high school’s yearbook club just graduated and knows HTML”
Here are a few posts about Chloe from the community:
If you’ve written your own blog post in memory of Chloe, please let me know so I may link to it in the above list.
The Web We Lost 2014
We saw many silos go offline, taking millions of permalinks with them. Here are a few of the notable clusters of sites the web lost:
The most common shutdowns were acquisitions or acquihires:
- Yahoo shutdowns: Ptch.com, Donna, Vizify
- Skype shutdown: Qik
- eBay shutdown: Svpply
- Ancestry.com shutdown: MyFamily.com
- Vox Media acquired the staff & technology of Editorially, whose founders subsequently shut it down
Short Notice Shutdowns
The second most frequent shutdowns came suddenly, or nearly suddenly, unexpectedly, and sometimes with a complete loss of content (without any opportunity to export it).
- Spreadly - site went offline without any notice
- Fotopedia - 10 days notice and "all photos and data will be permanently deleted"
- Justin.tv - two weeks notice and all videos deleted
- Codespaces - most content deleted by vandals, site shutdown rather than attempt recovery.
The Cloud Is A Lie
So-called "cloud" services have been heralded as the new most reliable, scalable, available thing for storage etc., and yet last year:
- Ubuntu One cloud sync service shut down with only two months notice.
Breaking The Web
All these shutdowns break the web in some way or other. However there are particularly egregious examples of breaking the web, such as when third-party link-shorteners and identity providers are shutdown. In 2014 we lost another one of each:
- s.tt link shortener, shutdown by parent company and site Repost which itself shutdown as well
- myOpenID.com, a popular OpenID provider, also shutdown.
Losing A Classic
Lastly we lost a classic site in 2014:
- 43things.com - after 10 years of service, the sites owners decided to shut it down.
See: IndieWebCamp: site-deaths 2014 for more.
“Indie” Term Re-use
Last and least of our challenges, but worth noting for the consternation it’s caused (at least on Twitter, and perhaps that’s telling), the overloading of the term and prefix “indie” has led to some confusion.
When I first used the phrase “indie web” to refer specifically to independents using their personal websites for their online identity and content (instead of large corporate silos like Facebook & Twitter, or even group sites running open source like Diaspora), I knew both that the prefix “indie” was already both in heavy use across industries and with different meanings.
When Aaron Parecki and I deliberately chose to use the term “IndieWeb” or phrase “Indie Web” to refer to a difference in focus from “Federated Social Web”, and then co-found IndieWebCamp with Amber Case & Crystal Beasley, we viewed our usage of “Indie” as deliberately continuing in the same spirit and theme as earlier "Independent Web" efforts (such as the early 2000s "Independents Day" campaign), and complementary to “Indie” efforts in other fields.
2014 saw the launch or promotion of other things labeled “indie” on the web (and at least somewhat related to it), which had little or nothing to do with the “IndieWeb” and was a source of repeated confusion (and continues to be).
The privately held startup “ind.ie”, bootstrapped & crowdfunded, and yet developing various "independent technology" or "indietech" efforts which could easily be assumed to overlap with "indieweb" did not relate in substance to the IndieWeb at all.
There were numerous instances of people confusing "ind.ie" and the "IndieWeb" in their posts, and criticism of one would inevitably lead to errant conflation with and criticism of the other. It got so bad that "ind.ie" themselves posted a blog post:
Are you the same as IndieWeb?
No. IndieWeb is a separate movement and yet we have some overlap of goals.
The IndieWeb community similarly documented as much on the wiki: ind.ie is not IndieWeb nor IndieWebCamp. Others have also noted that naming something even more similarly e.g. "indienet" will only create more misunderstandings (nevermind that IndieWeb itself is peer-to-peer/distributed).
Despite this effort at proactive documentation, confusion has continued, though now it's typically quickly followed up by a clarification that the two are not the same, and link to one or both of the above.
indie.vc not IndieWeb-specific
A new VC firm launched in 2014 called "indie.vc". Due to their name and web presence, they too were inevitably confused with “IndieWeb” or people assumed that they were some sort of IndieWeb investment fund. Neither of which is true.
In the future it is possible that indie.vc will fund an IndieWeb startup, but until that day comes, they are disjoint.
Despite such challenges, the IndieWeb community proposed, discussed, specified, built, and interoperably deployed the following indieweb technologies in 2014. These IndieWeb innovations in the past year were nothing short of web technology breakthroughs.
And the best part: all of the following are 100% free as in freedom, creative commons zero (CC0) licensed, openly documented, and real: interoperably shipping, often with multiple open source implementations.
This is technology by independents declaring independence. You could even call them “indietech” if you thought they needed another buzzword, which they don’t.
In alphabetical order:
- fragmention — a way to use a URL to link and cite individual words or phrases of a document.
- h-feed — while previously proposed on microformats.org, in 2014 the indieweb community adopted h-feed as the primary DRY way to markup a feed or stream on an HTML page, published multiple indieweb sites with it, as well as multiple indieweb readers consuming it, consequently upgrading it to an official microformats.org draft.
- indie-config for webactions — indie-config is a set of client & server libraries to enable seamless webactions across sites (invented, and implemented interoperably at IndieWebCamp Brighton 2014)
- marginalia — within a few months of the invention of fragmentions, community members realized they could post indie replies to specific paragraphs or any phrase of a post, and the receiving post could display them as comments in the margins, thus inventing distributed marginalia, a feature previously only available in proprietary text editors like Word, Google Docs, or the Medium silo, and not actually distributed, aside from emailing around Word documents.
- Micropub — a standard API for publishing and updating posts on indieweb sites (conceived in 2013, first interoperably implemented in 2014) with:
- person-tag — a special kind of tag on a post or in post content that refers to a specific person by URL (and name) rather than just a word or phrase. Only publishing examples in 2014 (subsequent interop in 2015).
- Vouch — a webmention protocol extension to prevent spam (interop at 2014/Cambridge)
In addition to all those groundbreaking technologies, IndieWeb community members continued to evolve what types of content they posted on their own sites, documenting the paths as they paved them with permalinks on their own websites — all of the following have documented real world public web publishing examples (at least one, typically many more) on their very pages in contrast to the more aspirational approaches taken by other current attempts in this space (e.g. ActivityStreams, and the since defunct OpenSocial)
- collection — a type of post that explicitly lists/embeds multiple other posts chosen by the author
- edit — a special type of reply that indicates a set of suggested changes to a post (only publishing example(s) in 2014)
- exercise — a broad post type that represents some form of physical activity, i.e. quantified self, or in particular:
- food — a new post type that represents eating or drinking
- invitation — a new post type for sending someone one person an invitation to someone else’s posted indie event. Also supported by Bridgy as a way of backfeeding invitations made on Facebook POSSE copies of event posts.
- quotation — a type of post that is primarily a subset of the contents of another post usually with a citation.
- sleep — similar to exercise this post type is for tracking when, how deeply, and how long you sleep.
- travel — a post type about plans to change locations in the future.
Beyond technologies, several indieweb services were built, deployed, and significantly improved by the community.
- Withknown launched, both as the open source Known project you can download, install, and run independently on your own domain, and a hosted service at withknown.com that made it easy for anyone to quickly signup and get setup with a modern indieweb enabled site, and 1000s did.
- Bridgy crossed the 1000 user threshold and was improved with numerous new features:
- backfeed from POSSE Facebook events of RSVPs and invitations (GitHub issue)
- Bridgy Publish - POSSE posts from your site to silo destinations (Twitter and Facebook), both interactive and via webmention based API
- Blog host webmentions - Users of Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress.com hosted blog services can now sign-up to receive webmentions like any other indieweb blog!
IndieWeb Community Resources
There's lots to technology development beyond the technology itself. Over 1000 new pages were created in 2014 that documented everything from concepts, to brainstorms, designs, and everything else indieweb related that the community came up with.
The IndieWebCamp wiki is now the pre-eminent reference for all things Independent Web.
If you have a question about something "independent" and "web", you're very likely to find the answer at https://indiewebcamp.com/
Here are some of the top such resources created in 2014:
- archive — the UI Pattern of providing archives of your posts that users can navigate
- communication — how to create a communication / contact page on your own indieweb site, with clear one-click buttons for people to contact you as desire and are capable of being contacted.
- disclosure — how to proactively disclose some aspect about a site that the site owner wants the user to explicitly be aware of
- facepile — the UI pattern of providing a set of small face icons as a summary of people, e.g. that like a post, or have RSVPd to an event
- file-storage — why, how, and examples of the common IndieWeb practice of storing your data in flat files (instead of the customary webdev habit of using a database)
- follow & unfollow — documentation and implementation of the concept of (un)following people and posts
- FreeMyOAuth — a one stop page to quickly access the "what have I authorized on what services" lists so you can de-authorize any apps you no longer use or don't recognize
- generations — perhaps one of the most important pages created in 2014. generations showed for the first time an overview of how the IndieWeb approach of engaging development leaders first (e.g. by focusing on selfdogfooding), then journalists & bloggers, etc. provides a rational and steady growth path for the indieweb to eventually reach anyone who desires an independent presence on the web that they own and control.
- HTTPS — best step-by-step documentation for how to setup HTTPS on an independent site, with choices, levels to achieve, and real world examples
- mobile — a great summary of mobile first and other mobile specific design considerations, how tos, etc. for any indieweb site
- mute — the ability to skip seeing someone's posts, while still following them in general
- notification — research and analysis of both push notifications and notification pages across various applications and silos
- onboarding — the user experience of a first time user of a site, service, or product, who is looking to sign-up or otherwise get started using it.
- payment — how to create a payment page on your own indieweb site, and how to create the links to various payment services for your readers to click and pay you directly
- scope — summary of what are OAuth scopes, examples of them used by IndieWeb apps, sites, and silos.
- this-week-in-the-indieweb — a weekly digest of activities of the IndieWebCamp community, including a summary of wiki edits for the week
- URL design — a collection of analysis and best practices for designing human-friendly and robust URLs, e.g. for permalinks
- wikifying — simple steps for new community members to start engaging on the wiki
Summary And Looking Forward
2014 was a year of incredible gains, and yet, a very sad loss for the community. In many ways I think a lot of us are still coping, reflecting. But we continue, day to day to grow and improve the indieweb, as I think Chloe would have wanted us to, as she herself did.
By the end of 2014 we had community members organize IndieWebCamps in 2014 in more cities than ever before, and similarly, start more local chapters of the Homebrew Website Club as well.
I'm grateful for each and every person I've met and worked with in the community. Everybody brings their own perspective, their own wants and desires for their own website. As a community, we can best help people by channeling their desires of what should be done, into what they should do on their own website for themselves, building upon the work of the community, and then, how can we connect amongst our sites, and in-person, to motivate each other to do even more.
That's exactly what we did at the end of the year.
New Year Commitments
At the last Homebrew Website Club meetup of the year on 2014-12-17, we decided to make verbal commitments to each other of what we wanted to create, launch, and start using on our own site by the start of the next year.
As you might guess, we did pretty well with those commitments, but that's a subject for another post.
If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations, this was a long post, and long overdue. You’re clearly interested, so you should come by for more:
- #IndieWebCamp IRC on Freenode
- The next IndieWeb Homebrew Website Club meetup or any other future IndieWebCamp Event that you can make it to.
Independence on the web is within your grasp, and there’s a whole community just waiting to help you take the next steps. The first step is up to you.
Thanks to reviews and feedback from fellow IndieWeb Community members Kevin Marks, Kartik Prabhu, Ryan Barrett, and Shane Hudson.
I wrote most of this post incrementally on the IndieWebCamp wiki with a bunch of contributions from the IndieWeb community (citations, images etc.). Thus the text content of this blog post is CC0 licensed for you to re-use as you wish and preferably quote, cite, and link. Please credit the “IndieWeb Community”. Thank you for your consideration. — Tantek