Self-host Plaform Superglue Makes Decentralizing the Web More Easy

October 10, 2014 | 00:44
Self-host Plaform Superglue Makes Decentralizing the Web More Easy
Self-host Plaform Superglue Makes Decentralizing the Web More Easy
With the Superglue design tool you can build webpages and immediately host them on your Superglue personal server. By making self-hosting easy, the Superglue team wants to restore the distributed nature and DIY-mentality of the internet's early days.

Superglue had its launch party at the cultural center Worm in Rotterdam, The Netherlands on October 3 . Speakers Douglas Rushkoff & Olia Lialina shared their respective views on the internet and the web to highlight Superglue's place in them.

The God of computing
Douglas Rushkoff, writer and media theorist, fittingly tuned into the Worm gathering by means of the internet. During the video chat he recalled the days of the early internet: “When I was first exposed to the internet it wasn't an internet, we didn't even call it that, it was networking, the net came later. Internet is wonderful thing, but it is just one way to connect to one another. Back in the 80's you'd dial to another computer. It's an asynchronous style of communication, you'd download information from a pc, disconnect, and read the things that pertained to you. You'd read it and think for hours about how you were going to respond or participate. You sounded smarter out there in cyberspace than you did in real life. We were all just our higher self there. It could take days to send an email, but it worked, without central control. A peer-to-peer connection, node to node. We did not need approval of central God of computing, There was no DNS.

“The internet was interesting and then came the web which was interesting too. But it got ceased upon quickly by traditional broadcasters and commercial parties. It became much more centralized. Instead of all of our little computers connecting to each other, we were now all connecting to the website or server.”

And centralization is right up the alley of commercial entities, said Rushkoff. TV companies did a survey amongst early adopters of the internet and found out that families with an internet connection watched 9 hours less TV a week. “People were socially connecting to each other instead of passively watching. The web was the way back to passive consumption.”

Switch off the nation
Rushkoff pointed out that the less control users have, the more they are at the mercy of those entities who do have control. Be they commercial parties deciding what can and can't be communicated on their platform or governments restricting the use of the technology to what they deem fit. “They can switch it off, we saw this in Egypt during the Arab spring. If you have an internet whose openness is dependent on the approval governement, than it doesn't really strengthen the power of people.

“The excitement behind superglue is that it actualizes the indy-power of the net. Each node is viable and connected. It's a fledgling mesh network, peer-to-peer, a rhizome network. With Superglue we are free of the requirement of centralized net.”

One Terabyte of Kilobyte age
Olia Lialina is a pioneer internet artist and theorist. She runs the One Terabyte of Kilobyte age project, centered around 400.000 old Geocities homepages, that were rescued after Yahoo closed the web hosting service with an estimated 38 million user-made homepages down. For the project 74 screenshots of pages of an age long gone are uploaded to a Tumbler account every day. LiaLina said in her talk she looked at least that number of pages every day to keep up with the projects production pace. She knows a lot about old school web pages.

The homepage started out with a different meaning. It the page that opened up when you started your browser, LiaLina narrates. As this was the time before functioning search engines, homepages provided links to locations on the internet to get the browsing started. Homepages were provided by entities like ISPs or the CERN nuclear research center where the world wide web was born. Then Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog was published which encouraged people to create their own homepages to diversify the offerings of links by the likes of CERN. But as people started to create their own homepages, they rapidly changed their function. Instead of a link portal, they became personal pages. Peoples homes in cyberspace.

Lialina showed a couple of examples from the geocities database to illustrate that quite a few people took the home metaphor pretty literal, with images of half open doors on the opening page with texts like 'welcome to my home' or 'click to enter my home'.

No format
Since the concept of a homepage was completely new, there were no formats indicating what they should look like or what information they were supposed to contain. The result was a collection of pages as diverse as the people who made them.

Around 1999 that started to change, slowly the attention shifted from building your own place on the web to producing content. In 2004 people migrated to Myspace en masse and the era of user-generated content was a fact.

Formatted expressions
Lialina points out that she isn't longing for the webpages of old, which were often quite terrible but the shift signifies an underlying change. People had to tap into their own creativity and gained understanding of what the web is. “Lialina: “You are coding, even in WYSIWYG you think structurally. You are learning how the web works. You are not alienated [from the technology you're using] and you feel responsible.” About creativity she said: “Making a webpage is historically bound with answering existential questions. Once you've decided to build a webpage what is it that you have to say?” During the times of the early formatless homepage you had to come up with that answer yourself. Much different from today's social networks' template user profiles and preformatted questions such as 'what's happening' or 'what's on your mind' in the text field steering the user's expression.

Superglue restores the freedom of free formatless expression of the nascent web.

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