Rigid vs Elastic Web

I woke up this Saturday morning to the chatting on Twitter about Instagram and other popular (entertainment, sharing, productivity) services being down. A major server went down in one area of the US due to a storm, and that took out a number of sites (or at least diminished the performance of those sites) with it. You even had folks like Forbes talking about it:

Amazon Cloud Goes Down Friday Night, Taking Netflix, Instagram And Pinterest With It

When you think about it, that’s not all that wrong of a happening. Websites live on computers in far-away areas, and if those areas have environmental moments (like thunderstorms, tornadoes, etc.), you expect there to be some problem.

And at the same time, I think that our expectation for this to happen is a part of the problem. We expect that we can save items to “he cloud” – ignoring that there is no more a storage in the sky metaphor as there is a Tooth Fairy. Items are placed on servers which you don’t control, being administered by people who don’t directly report to you, in regions where you might not have much, if any idea, of the legal responsibilities of those folks managing your data. Your stuff is literally “out there” and you are maintaining nothing but a creator’s license towards it ownership or management.

I’m biased. I think that such an architecture for the web (Internet, intranet, dark net, and every other net connecting machines to machines) should be more elastic. Perhaps that’s in part shaped by some of the services that I’ve “digitally grown up with” like Skype (which used to be a mesh-node comms network, but is now the more conventional centralized-server network since Microsoft’s purchase) and IM protocols like XMPP which were not tied to a specific application or service provider, but merely needed a container on some computing device to capture and relaunch the communication events. I’m still smarting from not having my own publicly accessible website, being served from my mobile device – and the beauty of the REST APIs which would have made it possible to [self-]embed telephone functions into my other computing devices and smart appliances. I have wanted, and continue to want for a connected experience that is as elastic as the grey matter in my head which knits and breaks apart these possibilities and outcomes.

That’s not exactly how things have evolved. At least, not in the space of those who aren’t system/core/low-level engineers and developers. At my skill level (prosumer w/a touch of UI/UX), you are pretty much at the whims of what was engineered for you. You can only create from the crayons that you’ve been given if you will. And as such, that’s kind of what the web is like. People are only able to share within the confines of what’s been given to them. And rarely is there that incentive to go beyond that, to create, or at least investigate a structure different than whatever has become the norm for those around them.

There was a point when I was a child where I stopped wanting the toys that were already put together. I wanted things that allowed me the space to use my imagination to reinvent them as needed. I became a fan of slot electric cars because you could do so much with a few feet of track. I moved to Legos instead of simply settling on Hot Wheels for making the automotive thoughts I had come to life. I asked for sketchbooks and colored pencils, carrying them wherever the thought struck, instead of settling on the TV-in-my-room shift that was happening around me. In effect, I constantly was given a choice for something more elastic than the norm, while keeping myself plugged into the rigid norms of what people around me didn’t decide.

In my opinion, the web should have been made, or at least marketed similarly. Yes, we all aren’t creators, and many people would rather just come to a sharing platform to have things just work. But when they don’t, you shouldn’t be at a loss for being entertained, or a loss for sharing. Your web should be more elastic than that. And if the services we use aren’t allowing for that… then is your web more like bars of a jail, and less like oars of a raft?

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