Ost and the future of the web qua web

Ost and the future of the web qua web – Anil Dash’s critique of the contemporary web is apt.

He argues that web services exert excessive control over their users, limiting the public’s creativity.

More so than at any point in the past, the web is a set of vertically-integrated data silos.

Nevertheless our most meaningful content is stored across these silos: thoughts, images, and records of friendships or interests.

Anil sees the short arc of the web’s history inevitably bending back towards freedom.

We’d like to build software that helps get it there.

While shepherding Ost through its private beta, we’ve continuously asked the question: what is the future of the web qua web?

There are some existing visions out there for web services.

Tent.io focuses on decentralization of social data, while App.net focuses on users as customers, not as products for advertisers.

We’re excited by these projects (Ost connects to App.net as a data provider) and we are working on a complementary vision.

Rather than focus on building the one web service to rule them all (i.e., hold all the content), we’d like to build the web service that brings your content together and puts it under your control regardless of where it resides.

While we’re at it, we’d like to make it easy for you to curate and share your content using the existing web infrastructure.

Collections.me is a project philosophically aligned with Ost, but with the key distinction that it brings your content back to the desktop.

Clearly there are benefits to this approach, such as a more responsive native UI, but it feels like a retreat from the web.

With Ost you can send a friend a link to any space you create, with any collection of services (though we remove some data automatically to protect private accounts), and they can view it in their browser.

The early days of the web were exciting because its basic functions were open to anyone.

Creating a blog and connecting it with other blogs was easy.

Now web services provide more than simple links, and we think our tools should acknowledge this.

We don’t interact with static pages, but with streams of data from many sources.

We don’t just link to content, instead we comment on it, favorite it, and reblog it.

The diverse landscape of the web is not going away.

Web services big and small have their own cultures and uses, whether by fiat or convention, and it would be unproductive to combine these communities into to one uber-service.

For us the future of the web is a collection of services tied together through something resembling a free trade agreement.

Ost is a proof of concept for such a future.

So keep your content in the services you love and use Ost to do new and interesting things with it.

We’re pleased to announce that Ost is out of private beta and open to the public.

You can create a free account right here, and if you like Ost you can pay $16 a year for multiple account support and unlimited workspaces.

We have some ambitious goals and we’re excited to move towards them in public view.

Per William Gibson: The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.

If you’d like a peek, use Ost.