Sometime around 2001, I made a personal technology prediction. It was a time when blogs were the latest thing to change the face of the web. Everyone influential was starting their own weblog, LiveJournal was still a little ways off from reaching critical mass, and Blogger was years away from becoming a Google property. I'd been running my own website about my interests for years, and I'd installed Apache on my family desktop. Microsoft had just dropped its latest, greatest operating system, Windows XP, and Apple was turning nerds' heads for the first time in a while with a stable release of OS X.

Putting all this together, I started to envision a future of the web where just having a computer gave everyone the ability to participate online with their own blog. For Microsoft and Apple's next operating system, they should ship every copy with Apache bundled in at an OS level. Users could flip a switch and publish their blog right from their desktop, running over their home internet connection. Tossing photos into your user Pictures folder would create an image gallery. Text files in your Documents folder would be shared as blog entries. All you had to do was give someone your IP address or some other DNS that resolved to it and everyone and their mother could have their very own cutting edge weblog.

It sounds like one of those crazy dot-com-fueled ideas that nobody would really want. Apple did, in fact, ship OS X with a built-in version of Apache enabled through a Personal Web Sharing toggle up through 10.8, when the feature was put to rest. However, even stripped down, Apache still required writing HTML files, so it never caught on even as LiveJournal peaked and users migrated to more complicated platforms like MySpace. Why? There was clear user interest there, so why did so few people publish their own websites, but flock to place their content on other people's sites?

Okay, there are many technical reasons that this didn't take off. Broadband was still exceedingly rare in the early 2000's. Most people weren't comfortable leaving their computer on 24 hours a day. And it would have been a huge undertaking on the part of any operating system maker to educate users about why they might want to share information on their computer and how to do it safely. And let's put aside that by the time Microsoft's next operating system released, pretty much anyone who thought they wanted a blog had one. But the idea of self-publishing didn't go away just because this implementation never developed. What did happen?

Subscribe to RSS - web