An Open Web or a Collection of Native Walled Gardens


This week I am looking forward to publishing a new piece on the future of search in the ThoughtWorks Insights blog. It’s been informed by some great presentations I’ve seen over the last few months, and if I ever speak to you about online marketing, chances are I’ve picked your brain on the topic. That said, the following is really a train of thought that sort of spiraled out of that article, but did not really have a home.

Several recent developments in the tech space are starting to suggest that we are transitioning heavily towards an app-oriented world. Among them:

  • Flipkart’s decision to take down its website to become an app-only company
  • The introduction of deep linking for bringing local mobile content into search indexes by Google and Apple.
  • The introduction of new native publishing platforms from Facebook (Instant Articles) and Apple (News)

The reasoning for these moves is based in the want to optimize (control) the user experience on the device. This might be for performance reasons, for better usage analytics, for advertising reasons or all the above.

I fear that without serious conversation about search interoperability, we run the risk of having a collection of walled gardens.

Sound far-fetched? This would be like the pre-world-wide-web internet that was dominated by the likes of CompuServe and Prodigy. In fact, Phil Windley has put together an incredible article that explores this possibly called The CompuServe of Things.

It’s not all bad though…
One promising development was the recent announcement from Google and Twitter on a collaborative, open-source solution for publishers to deliver high-speed news on the internet.

Another incredibly exciting development for me is a technology ecosystem called This amazing community has begun to develop a set of open source technologies for hobbyist developers to spin up personal servers. Just browse their free ‘App Market’, and you will begin to envision a world where you can not be held hostage to the services provided by the big-box web companies.

What is really beautiful about it is that they are incredibly passionate about keeping alive an internet where people can develop “indie apps” that are easy to share and run. I immediately thought of Dave Winer and his quest to encourage ecosystems where developers can create small, fit for purpose apps based on API’s with other web services. I sincerely hope he spends some time with Sandstorm and develops versions of his River4 and Podcatcher apps for the platform.

While this battle will need to play out, it is clear that the war for an open Internet is still going to continue to be fought for some time. I’m hoping to see more innovations like Sandstorm to keep the web free and open.

Also published on Medium.