13 Nov 2020
I recently redesigned this website. When I did, I removed all of the IndieWeb functionality from it. This post talks about why I did that.
I suppose a good place to start would be to talk about what the IndieWeb actually is. On their website, they describe it as a people-focused alternative to the “corporate web”.
That’s a pretty cryptic description that isn’t a lot of use to most people. In English, the IndieWeb is a suite of tools that you can integrate into your website which allow you to communicate with other sites who have done the same.
I tend to think of the IndieWeb as a decentralised social network that’s embedded in to my website. So if I post something on this blog, and link to another IndieWeb enabled blog, they will get a notification. These notifications are called Webmentions.
The IndieWeb isn’t just about notification tomfoolery though. Oh no dear reader, it also includes things like a Twitter style micro-blog and an authentication system. If you want to know about what it can do, check out this post or their getting started guide.
So this all sounds brilliant, right? Why wouldn’t someone want to implement such a feat of social mastery into their personal website?
While this all sounds great on the surface, there are a couple of drawbacks that really taint the entire experience:
The IndieWeb is made up of multiple parts, but linking them all together and managing them is difficult to both wrap your head around and implement into your site. I myself only used a few core parts of the whole system; namely webmentions, a profile and IndieAuth.
In order to implement those 3 services, I had to install 7 (yes, SEVEN) bloody WordPress plugins on this site. They did a vast array of things, including adding support for the kitchen sink, but it was too much.
All this just so I could occasionally log into other sites instead of signing up, and so I could get my Fosstodon comments piped into here via Webmention. Overkill to the max, kids!
The IndieWeb is more prevalent in the privacy circles that I run in, but even then I’ve seen many a web dev cry out in utter frustration that the whole thing is just too complicated.
What I have seen — and this is purely anecdotal — is that people try to implement it, get the basics working, then give up.
The only real value I got from the IndieWeb would be the occasional Webmention from another site that supports it. I become aware of the post, and they get some exposure by having a link to their post in my comments section.
That was a great feature, but these comments were like 1 in 20 if I was lucky, and they didn’t warrant 7 bloody plugins!
So when I redesigned this site with a 90s feel, I decided I would strip out all of the IndieWeb stuff. I also went one step further and stripped out comments all together. So none of my posts have comments now.
Instead I’ve gone full-blown 90s and implemented a guestbook instead. This still allows people to have their say on this site as well a proving some kind of community vibe.
Crucially though, a guestbook is oh so 90s! Think MC Hammer, Saved By The Bell, Forrest Gump and Tab Clear. It’s awesome! ?
Never say never; comments (or even the IndieWeb) may have a resurgence on this site at some point. But for now, I’m happy with the decision to roll an old skool guestbook instead.