In an interesting blog post, John Battelle talks about the emerging “Dependent Web” and the receding “Independent Web.” And, no, it’s not about Net neutrality. What Battelle is getting at is what I’ll call the “personal Web” and the “impersonal Web” — basically, the Web that presents itself knowing something about you and curating itself in response vs. the Web that doesn’t differentiate based on who you are.
The problem, as Battelle sees it, is that because everyone is gravitating to services that mimic or leverage the Dependent Web, we may be reducing the overall value of the Web:
I see a threat to the overall value of our industry – if we continue to graft a Dependent Web model onto the architecture of the Independent Web, we most likely will fail to deliver the value that we all intuit is possible for the web. And that’s not good for anyone.
After all, if the relatively crude algorithms and tracking devices we have now come to dominate the architecture of the Web and set customer expectations, we may retreat from it. After all, the Dependent Web’s abilities will be in some ways limited by their supposed precision — an imperfect approximation at best. And who will revel in a Web that somehow feels pedantic and demanding?
. . . our presence and the identity model the system has made for us stands in. . . . Because there is no infrastructure in place for us to declare who we might want to be in the eyes of a particular site, the response to that query makes a ton of assumptions about who we are. Much more often than not, the results are weak, poor, or wasted.
Battelle’s final point is that perhaps there’s a third way — the Revealed Identity. We shape our identities to serve various purposes in every setting we find ourselves in, so why not online, too? Who I am on my bike is different than who I am at the office in many respects. My “parent” mode diverges from my “friend” mode. Why think of me as one person? Instead, think of me as someone with many interests who manages a set of Revealed Identities.
What would that infrastructure look like?
The entire essay is worth reading if the area of social media and a more complex future of information provision interests you.