The internet needs a follow button…

Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about social media and the open (indie) web. As people are fleeing Twitter and flocking towards Mastodon in an attempt to find a new way of doing social media some of the things that social media gets right keep cropping up in my feeds.

The first is that social media made it easy to follow people. Mastodon is not intuitive in how it handles following people across it’s many instances. RSS is great for following individual blogs as long as you have the necessary infrastructure in place (an account to act as a sync service and some apps to read in), but even then it’s not always easy to subscribe to the RSS feed of a website.

Go back a decade or so and browsers were heading in an interesting direction. Safari on the Mac had RSS built in and Firefox had a feature called live bookmarks. Both allowed you to “bookmark” a website and the browser would automatically use the RSS link it found on the site and notify you when there was an update. To me this is the most logical place to integrate RSS or a “follow” button for the internet. What was missing was some king of home page or feed akin to an RSS readers or that of Twitter. Browsers of today offer a great experience for browsing the open web, or at least starting a Google search and going from there. What I would like to see is a browser that places as much emphasis on bringing a social experience to the open web.

Imagine this… you are browsing the internet and come across a new blog, you’d like to follow it so you click the follow button in the header of that website. The UI of the website reflects that and your browser adds the website as website to it’s bookmarks. You close the browser and go off to do something else. A while later you come back, click on your browser icon and instead of being greeted by Google you are met with a feed reader type UI that shows you recent updates from the sites you follow. This is your curated space but it’s all tracked and kept in sync by your web browser not a social network. I think that would be an interesting way of handling social stuff on the web, the browser would be your home and not just a gateway to everything.

Phil Bowell @philbowell