In my article on how the blogging platform Medium is bringing back the web we lost, I describe how Facebook and Twitter, while opening up blog-like tools to millions of casual users, have confined us to a world where our content is beleaguered by so many artificial restrictions:
It makes sense that so many abandoned their blogs for Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. These platforms offered an extended network where your writing actually had the opportunity to be read and commented on. Publishing a blog post on your personal blog sometimes felt like launching it into the ether. Unless you wrote every day it was very difficult to amass an audience. Many bloggers complained of burnout or wrote posts apologizing for lengthy hiatuses. With Facebook and Twitter you had none of that; you could go several days without posting and then have a network of friends and colleagues waiting to engage with future posts.
But by migrating to these platforms, we gave up much of the control of how our content was presented. We couldn’t hyperlink and we couldn’t arrange photos within text. With Twitter we couldn’t even write more than 140 characters, and though this can be a good thing in some respects, many ideas deserve way more space than a sentence or two. Facebook has always had terrible internal search functionality and is pretty much a black box to outside search engines like Google. The blogosphere, while still flourishing in some ways, has seemingly become the domain of professional writers and corporate media companies. It’s rare that I find myself wading into the WordPress.com and Blogspot ghettos where the web’s remaining independent bloggers still reside.
This is why I was heartened to read that Dave Winer has teamed up with Facebook to produce better publishing tools. Winer was one of the original bloggers and an early pioneer in RSS and podcasting. He has been one of the most vocal critics of social media platforms that have continued to restrict their APIs in their extended corporate battles. On his blog, Winer has a list of reasons why he decided to work with Facebook and why this is such an important move for the company.
I don’t think Facebook is hurt by a vibrant competitive market in publishing tools that post to Facebook and post elsewhere, simultaneously. This is where development happens fastest, without the huge installed base to bring along. If this is cut off, that cuts off growth. I think we’ve already been dealing with this, for a long time. I believe if Facebook opens up more, the lights will start coming back on in new content management tools.
So the web and Facebook can co-exist and feed off each others’ growth. Seems like a win-win. Facebook readers get higher fidelity content, more beautiful, easier to read. It’s more effective for authors. And blogs and news organizations can easily publish and maintain their content in two or more places. When you’re liveblogging an event, for example, you can’t manually copy and paste every time something new happens.