What ruined the web was the lack of good library software

In some libraries, there are sometimes particular collections in which the objects are organized by the order in which they were acquired (at my place of work, our relatively small collection of movies on DVD are ordered this way). This practice makes it easy for a person to quickly see what has been most recently been received or what’s been newly published. Such collections are easy to start and maintain as you just have to sort them by ‘acquisition number’.

But you would be hard pressed to find a good reason to organize a large amount of material this way. Eventually a collection grows too large to browse in its entirety and you have people telling you that they would rather browse the collection by author name, or by publication year, or by subject. But to allow for this means organizing the collection and let me tell you my non-library staff friends, such organization is a lot of bother — it takes time, thought and consistent diligence.

Which is why we are where we are with today’s state of the web.

Early homepages were like little libraries…

A well-organized homepage was a sign of personal and professional pride — even if it was nothing but a collection of fun gifs, or instructions on how to make the best potato guns, or homebrew research on gerbil genetics.

Dates didn’t matter all that much. Content lasted longer; there was less of it. Older content remained in view, too, because the dominant metaphor was table of contents rather than diary entry.

Everyone with a homepage became a de facto amateur reference librarian.

Obviously, it didn’t last.

The above is from a short essay by Amy Hoy about Moveable Type – one of the first blogging platforms – and how MT and other blogging platforms that facilitated easy chronological ordering of blog posts may be have been the true culprit that ruined the web.

Movable Type didn’t just kill off blog customization.

It (and its competitors) actively killed other forms of web production.

Non-diarists — those folks with the old school librarian-style homepages — wanted those super-cool sidebar calendars just like the bloggers did. They were lured by the siren of easy use. So despite the fact that they weren’t writing daily diaries, they invested time and effort into migrating to this new platform.

They soon learned the chronostream was a decent servant, but a terrible master.

We no longer build sites. We generate streams.

All because building and maintaining a library is hard work.

[The above was first shared in my weekly newsletter University of Winds which provides three links to wonderful and thought-provoking things in the world every Saturday morning].