This obsession with everything being archived and searchable forever is weird. Can’t we just talk? That’s what people do on Facebook. Talk.
First, Joe’s partly correct that there are some people who obsess too much about everything being archived and searchable forever. I like the Field Notes saying on this:
“I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”
When we put content on the web, the first and foremost purpose is that it has an effect this day, this week, this month. We want it to still be around 1 year or 10 years later, but that’s not the primary goal. The primary goal is now. The moment you loose site of that and start worrying about how you’re going to keep your domain renewing in perpetuity after you’re dead — you’ve gone off the deep end and it’s time to dial it back. So Joe’s got a valid point here. Some people go crazy with this stuff.
Joe’s correct about a second thing too: if your primary use of the Internet is to just talk as he calls it, then yeah, in that case, not only is domain renewal in perpetuity a misguided effort, but the content isn’t even worth search engine indexing. A site like Facebook is all about just talking so it makes sense that Facebook would block search engines on their content. To get upset with Facebook about this is to misunderstand Facebook’s entire mission: connecting people through conversations. Being SEO friendly has absolutely nothing to do with that. It doesn’t get you any closer to that goal. Indexing Facebook posts would be like indexing emails you write to friends. What’s the point in that? There is none.
Once you start peeling the layers back, you realize that Joe Hewitt and John Gruber are talking about two completely different things. Joe doesn’t write for a living. He occasionally blogs at Medium and that’s it. He spends his entire summers in his garden. When he gets on the Internet, all he wants to do is just talk. He doesn’t have the need for anything more than that. If he woke up next month and all the content he’d ever put on the Internet had vanished, he wouldn’t have suddenly lost a major source of income, nor would it bother him that greatly. For someone like Gruber however, it’s completely different. Gruber can’t afford to be on a third party site that suddenly shuts down through acquisition or lack of funds. He can’t afford for all his links to suddenly break, or to suddenly lose all of his content overnight. It’s not just that it would be an annoyance losing his body of work. It would have major business implications for him. Gruber isn’t advocating the open web for pie-in-the-sky ideologies. He’s advocating for it because it makes better business sense.
I like Joe Hewitt’s pragmatism. We need lots of pragmatism in the tech space. But I guarantee you that if Joe were thinking about writing online for a living, he wouldn’t be writing his content on Facebook or even Medium. He’d create his own site. Of course he would.
Gruber sees Hewitt’s standpoint as a threat to his type of occupation. And Hewitt doesn’t know what it’s like to make a living through online content so he doesn’t get what the fuss is about. These guys are watching two different movies, to Scott Adams this.1
If your goal is to just talk then Facebook is great. But if your goal is to be an independent online publisher, then the open web is something worth fighting for.
- Yeah I just verbed that man’s name. ↩︎