Just before Christmas, Anil Dash published The People’s Web. In it, he wrote:
Think of every time you’ve sent someone a Snopes link to debunk a spurious story that’s been shared online. The casual way we might look up the credits for an album on Discogs, or for a movie on IMDB. The absurd details of popular culture captured on TV Tropes and Fandom, linguistic oddities documented on Urban Dictionary, technical questions answered on Stack Overflow, lyrics we quote from Genius, memes on Know Your Meme — all of these are a powerful and valuable record of the world around us, created and captured by millions of ordinary people. And there is, of course, Wikipedia standing astride them all, as perhaps the pinnacle of people-created web references.
Now, these kinds of sites are far from perfect. Each ecosystem of information has too many barriers to creation. Their communities of moderators and contributors are often exclusionary, echoing the gatekeeping of the media and institutions that preceded them. Some of the information on the sites is inaccurate, or skewed.
But even with all their flaws, the existence of dozens of massive, collectively-maintained, curated and organized libraries of communal culture are still something like a miracle of the web. Tellingly, these kinds of sites rarely get launched these days, and the ones that have survived all follow a fairly common set of patterns. They often start as a labor of love from one person, or one small, tightly-knit community. The knowledge or information set that they record is considered obscure or even worthless to outsiders, until it becomes so comprehensive that its collective worth is undeniable…
But here’s the thing: Taken together, these sites are as valuable as any of the giant platforms run by the tech titans.
Anil then goes on to explore the vulnerability of these immensely value web platforms, and what we can do to help them.
These people-made web communities are deeply vulnerable to the whims of the big players. We have to recognize their collective value before they’re facing an existential threat.
It’s a great article. Go read the whole thing.