A Read-Write Web without Storage Silos
Everyone has a sense that something is amiss with the World Wide Web. Recent examples include concerns about topics such as:
- Fake News
- Data Silos
Each of these issues, without exception, is related to the Write aspect of the originally conceived Read-Write World Wide Web, which has sputtered since its inception.
What’s the problem?
Due to the nature of current Web Applications, users of the Web do not have an ability to store documents to locations of their own choosing, without compromising one or more of:
- Document ownership
- Document access control
- Privacy (which is, more or less, a combination of the above)
Basically, all roads lead to some kind of "document storage silo."
Today, storage services (provided by Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon S3, Box, Rackspace, and others) can enable you to share documents via the Web. Unfortunately, these services generally both fail to offer granular document content-type controls, and extract a “Social Network” tax for document sharing. (The single exception is Amazon S3, which instead charges an up-front fee for use of its "buckets.")
You can test some basic operations against any of these services to better understand the silo problem:
- Attempt to share a document with anyone — the email addresses of your contact(s), and their membership in the social network on which you’ve stored the document, are mandatory payment
- Attempt to publish documents that are not plain text (content-type "text/plain"), HTML (content-type "text/html"), nor a few other "blessed" formats — these days, you can’t pull that off (except on Amazon S3)
- Attempt to publish a Web Site — simply not an option (again, except on Amazon S3)
How can we solve the “document silo” problem?
Storage virtualization, which amounts to building a middleware layer above these storage services, can protect users from the shortcomings of those same services. This kind of virtualization enables:
- Publication of any document type
- Full support for content-type negotiation — re-enabling HTTP features previously obscured by these storage services
- Fine-grained attribute-based access controls ("ABAC") — providing service users with powerful document access control construction capability
As usual, the document silo problem has everything to do with failures to exploit Web Application architecture and little-to-nothing to do with a lack of open standards aimed at preventing said problem.
Let’s imagine that we want to share annotations, comments, and the like about a post published via Medium, whereby the artifacts associated with these actions are persisted to a personal storage space (or Data Space) of one’s choosing.
Tools used in this example include:
- post about Slack that I stumbled upon
- dokieli browser extension (an as-yet-unreleased contribution to the project, provided by OpenLink Software)
- YouID browser extension — simplifying use of Web Identifiers (WebIDs) for People or Software Agents
- OpenLink Structured Data Sniffer browser extension — simplifying discovery and analysis of metadata embedded in HTML documents
Here’s a collection of screenshots that demonstrate how we can actually experience the Write dimension of the Read-Write Web, using existing Open Standards, without breaking what exists!
- Open Medium Post.
2. Click on the icon for the dokieli browser extension to open up its action menu. (Here, the icon is second to the right of the document address input field. This preliminary icon may change in future versions of the extension.)
3. Put dokieli in “Review” mode by clicking that menu icon.
4. Select a chunk of text. This will trigger presentation of a menu that will let you share, approve (or like), bookmark, or note (make an annotation).
5. Click on “Share” to send a Share Notification about this document to selected members of your contact list. (Note — the contact list is dynamically derived via a WebID lookup that resolves to a document where you have social-oriented relations that associate you with those you claim to know.)
6. Following successful delivery of a Share Notification to my personal data space, here’s a conventional “files and folders” view that lets you explore this notification and other documents I’ve opted to share with the public.
- My Public Inbox that holds all my Notification Docs (output from Sharing, Bookmarking, Reviewing, Editing, etc., across the Web)
- About dokieli — a powerful Read-Write Web tool
- “Let’s fix the Web” callout — excerpt from post by John Battelle about the current woeful state of the Web, exemplified by #FakeNews meme
- We Can Fix This F*cking Mess — actual post by John Battelle
- Break the logjam with a simple API — post by Dave Winer ☮
- Fake News Meme — my post that also includes pointers to many posts about this topic .