When people talk about the Read/Write Web they usually refer to the two phases the web has gone through. In the first phase (Web 1.0) people could just read websites and process them relatively passively. In the second phase (Web 2.0) just about anyone could contribute to the Web by creating easily and cheaply a website – whether that was a blog or a professional presence or later just a Facebook profile. Clearly the Web became more social, personal and ultimately complex with elements like online identity, video, social media etc disrupting the scene and offering unforeseeable capabilities.
There is still however one threshold we have not crossed. It’s true that anyone can edit the web – by creating and writing on their own webpage. People however cannot freely edit the entire web. Imagine, for example, visiting someone else’s blog and not just being able to comment on a post but also to highlight sections, add sentences or even delete paragraphs and so on. And once you’ve left, imagine these changes staying the same (persisting) for the next visitor who would be able to do their thing – to be further altered by the next one and so on. Essentially that would transform the World Wide Web to the World Wide Wiki. Sounds exciting, scary or both?
Obviously such changes by visitors would not truly affect the original version which should always be retrievable. The effect I’m describing would only be visible to subscribers/users of a certain plugin or app which would add those changes as a layer on top of the original author’s content. Only those actively using the app or plugin would be able to view each other’s edits – the rest would simply see the original version. Technically, I’m pretty confident this is feasible – it is very similar to a project I was involved in designing (but which eventually did not materialise).
Yes, this opens the can of worms called ‘unauthorised edits’ – which is probably the reason such an obvious idea hasn’t materialised. Should it be possible to edit the Google buttons to write something obscene or change its logo to link to your own webpage? Would such an app cause all advertisements to disappear from the pages its users visit (thus offering each other an ad-free internet)? Of course, there are ways to constrain such behaviour such as to limit webpage editing to certain ‘regions’, to blacklist certain pages from being editable, to implement voting of user changes before they appear, etc. Perhaps another measure to battle unauthorised edits – and at the same time an important feature on its own right – is to include a versioning system for webpage edits, giving the Web further Wiki attributes.
Despite all its problems (and these are just a few of them) it is such an obvious idea that you would imagine somebody must have tried it. All my searches though in Google as well as startup indexing sites (e.g. simplespark.com, crunchbase.com, etc) revealed no such attempts. I recently also twittered asking whether such a service exists but got no answer – perhaps one of our readers here knows of such a project.
Alternatively, could it be that indeed nobody has tried it and this be a huge challenge waiting to be addressed? Or is what I’m suggesting perhaps too disruptive?tags: idea
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