There once was a "we" in "web"
2022-09-23, 13:30–14:20, Tesla

"The web is not dead, it just smells that way."


IRC, e-mail lists, the Bittorrent protocol, and even Direct Connect provided a place where people could form common moral values, social codes and even internal economic systems (like the leech/seed paradigm, or the self-moderating nature of IRC channels).

These experimental platforms were popular in the first decade of the 2000s (which we remember because we've been forever hooked on the internet since then). In fact, we dare say no single person who lived in a country with adequate bandwidth (for instance, symmetric or close to symmetric UL/DL) escaped the cultural mark of these systems. It was a glorious time, and a time of hope, forward struggle and purpose.

For some years we thought that the technology had simply outran every old norm society had. We were innovating on what it means to be in a social context, have friends, maybe not even just creating technologies but primarily using them and improving them. No one runs an IRC channel alone, even if they're the moderator and can kick-ban. We were all in it together. In our minds, new communities based on biographies or a do-it-yourself attitude would come out on top. But it didn't turn out to be so. Geographies rather than biographies and an eat-it attitude is momentarily winning.

We always knew that we will have to face hurdles. The cryptowars, the copyright wars, and surveillance resistance are global, contemporary topics that have shaped the technical platforms we use, not just from a security and privacy perspective, but also from a social perspective. The more time passes, the more we, humanity, are shepherded into services that gradually take away our agency. In fact the internet is getting pulled back into l'ancien régime.

We'd like the present the possibility of a web which discourages many admiring and idolizing the few (Instagram being the foremost example). Call out the lurkers and leechers for no other reason than that it's better for the world to make friends and be happy than not to be.

But how do we get there?
- OSS and open protocols may not be enough
- Federated networks (internet, Freifunk, Mastodon, etc.) also don't suffice
- Protesting silly political initiatives e.g. EU NIS2 Directive seems inadequate too :(

We will address all the things that would not help realize the dream, and end on a positive -- or at least imperative! -- note.