My relationship with the web has always been very personal. I started hanging out there when there wasn’t much to it. A few people, a few sites, not much else. I use the term “hanging out” on purpose – it wasn’t one directional – from my very first days on the web I was interacting with people. Hanging out with them. And in this way the web has always felt like a place, not a thing. It’s not something I turn on and off, rather it’s a place that I go. I can influence it, and the things I do to help shape it are experienced by others even if I’m not there. It exists without me. It is a community as much as an architecture.
I think of the web that I experience as a neighborhood. My website is my living room and the little traces I leave around on other sites are my house. Some parts are mine, some parts are shared, and some parts I’m just borrowing for a little while. Some parts are the foundations that other people will build bigger and better houses upon. There are other neighborhoods as well, and I can visit those just like I may travel to other places around the world. But my own neighborhood is special to me and the same way I might put up holiday decorations or buy something from a neighbors garage sale, what I do on the web helps shape my community and that is comfortable to me.
Offline, my neighborhood is alive. Children play in the streets and parks. My neighbors know each other and spend time with each other just for fun. We make decorate our houses together and keep the place clean for everyone’s enjoyment. We build businesses based on our interests and the needs of our neighbors. We all grow together.
If you ask who built my neighborhood, it’s not a simple answer. Is it the people who originally paved the roads? Or the people who designed and built the houses? Or perhaps it’s the first family to move in, or the neighborhood council that encouraged others to follow. Is it the electricians who keep our houses powered or the plumbers who make sure we have water? Is it the owners of the coffee shop on the corner where we all say hi to each other in the mornings or the mail man hand delivers packages and letters to us every day. Is it everyone’s favorite babysitter or dog walker? The truth is it’s all of those people, all of those things, and so much more. My neighborhood is so much more than the just the value of the parts added together.
The web is the same thing. Who makes the web? The people who build the infrastructure or the people who add the content, or the people who experience that content and add to it. Is the web made by people who run startups or the people who run mailing lists? By the people who build frameworks or the people who build communities? It’s all of these people, all of these things and so much more. Webmakers build it, shape it, live in it and make it a place others want to visit. It’s more than any single part, and this is why it’s so exciting. We all get to have a say in what the web looks, and feels like. We can make it our neighborhood. We can make it our home.