I have read with fascination what we would have called before a blog post, except it was featured on The Guardian: Iran's blogfather: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are killing the web The "blogfather" is Hossein Derakshan or h0d3r, an author from Teheran that was jailed for almost a decade for his blogging. The article is very interesting both because it shows how fast things changed in the last few years, technology-wise, but more importantly, how content-free the web have become, where Facebook's last acquisition, Instagram, is not even censored by Iran. Those platforms have stopped being censored, not because of democratic progress but because they have become totally inoffensive (in the case of Iran) or become a tool of surveillance for the government and targeted advertisement for companies (in the case of, well, most of the world).
This struck a chord, personally, at the political level: we are losing control of the internet (if we ever had it). The defeat isn't directly political: we have some institutions like ICANN and the IETF that we can still have an effect on, even if only at the technological level. The defeat is economic, and, of course, through economy comes enormous power. That defeat meant that we have first lost free and open access to the internet (yes, dialup used to be free) and then free hosting of our content (no, Google and Facebook are not free, you are the product). This marked a major change in the way content is treated online.
H0d3r explains this as the shift from a link-based internet to a stream-based internet, a "deparure from a books-internet towards a television-internet". I have been warning about this "television-internet" in my talks and conversation for a while and with Netflix taking the crown off Youtube (and making you pay for it, of course), we can assuredly say that H0d3r is right and the television, far from disappearing, is finally being resurrected and taking over the internet.
But I would like to add to that: it is not merely that we had "links" before. We had, and still have, open standards. This made the internet "downloadable" (and by extension, uploadable) and decentralized.
(In fact, I still remember my earlier days on the web when I would
actually download images (as in "right-click" and "Save as..."
images, not just have the browser download and display it on the
fly). I would download images because they were big! It could take a
minute or sometimes more to download images on older modems. Later, I
would do the same with music: I would download
WAV files before the
rise of the
MP3 format, of which I ended up building a significant
collection (just fair use copies from friends and owned CDs, of
course) and eventually video files.)
The downloadable internet is what still allows me to type this article in a text editor, without internet access, while reading H0d3r's blog post on my e-reader, because I downloaded his article off an RSS feed. It is what makes it possible for anyone to download a full copy of this blog post and connected web pages as a git repository and this way get the full history of modifications on all the pages, but also be able to edit it offline and push modifications back in.
Wikipedia is downloadable (there are even offline apps for your phone). Open standards like RSS feeds and HTML are downloadable. Heck, even the Internet Archive is downloadable (and I mean, all of it, not just the parts you want), surprisingly enough.
(The software is generally completely proprietary, except some frameworks that are published as free software in what looks like the lenient act of a godly king, but is actually more an economic decision of a clever corporation which outsources, for free, R&D and testing to the larger free software community. The real "secret sauce" is basically always proprietary, if only so that we don't freak out on stuff like PRISM that reports everything we do to the government.)
Technology is political. This new "app design" is not a simple optimization or an cosmetic accident of a fancy engineer: by moving content through an application, Facebook, Twitter and the like can see exactly what you do on a web page, what you actually read (as opposed to what you click on) and how long. By adding a proprietary interface between you and the content online, the advertisement-surveillance complex can track every move you make online.
This is a very fine-tuned surveillance system, and because of the App, you cannot escape it. You cannot share the content outside of Facebook, as you can't download it. Or at least, it's not obvious how you can. Projects like youtube-dl are doing an amazing job reverse-engineering what is becoming the proprietary Youtube streaming protocol, which is constantly changing and is not really documented. But it's a hack: it's a Sisyphus struggle which is bound to fail, and it does, all the time, until we figure out how to either turn those corporations into good netizens respecting and contributing to open standards (unlikely) or destroy those corporations (most likely).
You are trapped in their walled garden. No wonder internet.org is Facebook only: for most people nowadays, the internet is the web, and the web is Facebook, Twitter and Google, or an iPad with a bunch of apps, each their own cute little walled garden, crafted just for you. If you think you like the Internet, you should really reconsider what you are watching, what you are consuming, or rather, how it is consuming you. There are alternatives. Facebook is a though nut to crack for free software activists because we lack the critical mass. But Facebook it is also an addiction for a lot of people, and spending less time on that spying machine could be a great improvement for you I am sure. For everything else, we have good free software alternatives and open standards, use them.