The news of the shut-down of one of (my) oldest got-to places on the web, the "Fender Discussion Pages", has made me think, again, about how the web has changed.

Hey Hey, my my
content on the web
will never die…

I am a strong advocat for 'owning your content' and having a personal web site. For all the reasons that are described by the Indieweb movement.

But reflecting on the reasons why the forum shut down, I cannot help but think that there is an elitist taste to this 'own your content' thing.
There are several pre-requisites for that 'owning' thing, and those are not in line with the 'this is for everyone' statement by Sir Tim Berners Lee. In theory, yes, this, the web, should be for everyone. But isn't it like saying this highway is for everyone (who has a car)?

I won't go into the details of what it takes to 'have your own places' on the web, or how (computer) literate one needs to be to take part in this. But all details aside, it needs financial and time investment. As with many cultural things, only those who can afford to invest time and/or money, are able to contribute. And this is not 'everyone', sadly.

In case of the Fender Discussion Pages it seems that the costs/effort to keep it online outweighted the abilities and benefit for the person running this. The visitor numbers decreased over the years (sadly a trend I observe in an equally long standing german musicians forum, too), and though the costs seemed to be financed by a system of voluntary fincancial contributions by regular forum users and some ads and sponsors, I think this never really took off as a business, and never was meant to be one, I guess.
But, to me it seems that there wasn't a great interest in the web, or web tech aspect of this forum from the start.
Until the end, the HTML was like 1999 and never got updated. Seems nobody really bothered about getting this to work on mobile devices, and from the outside, the whole demographic of the users seems to be more on the, hm, not-so-web-interested types. And heck, why should they, it is a guitar, intrument, music, and amplifier forum, and on that expertise, some of the most valuable info and tips are hidden in the forum threads.

Which makes it all the worse, seing this trove go*, because the person in charge called it a day. Which is his well deserved right, and definitely no offense meant. But I chew on the (web) cultural aspect of this. We have twenty years worth of user contributed domain specific knowledge there. And sure - he who owns the database, who created this place, can pull the switch, anytime, nuking the content.

(*Yes, there's another part of 'the web' that is kind of coming to rescue here; the great has preserved large chunks of the forum pages, right until the end, and the idea of having the forum read only somewhere is not completely off the tables, according to some post by the forum's maintainer).

We in the Indieweb corner of the web are very quick to point out the dangers of walled gardens in the large social networks, precisely for that reason - what if the powers that be decide that maybe Twitter isn't a viable business anymore and close it? Unlikely, but Facebook, even? Are user-generated contents, beside the (meta)data they are producing, and beside the personal means to the users, something worth preserving?

I'd say yes, since this is where a large part of the world's population is communicating right now.

This is for everyone.
Is it, really?

Everyone with an internet connection and access to email can sign up for free at one of the large platforms and start spitting out ideas and content.
The price, next to the time spent, is the loss of control over the data. The gain is the 'exposure', the participation and recognition in a huge network.

The price for the democracies and the society at large is yet to be seen, but looks not very promising, due to the filter bubbles of self-validating extreme views, for one.

Owning your content and publishing on your own site is a concept that I strongly support, but for that, you need your own site, which means you need at least to own a domain, or else you already have lost control, again. And I think many many users of 'the web' are not capable or interested in jumping through those loops and will always be happier in the walled gardens, where so much is already prepared and up for easy grabs.

Not everyone is able or happy to go into the woods, chopping trees to free a space, to shovel the ground and then maybe after some months finally have the start of their own garden patch.

Maybe there is a need for a publicly-owned social network?

But as long as state actors also are very keen on getting all the data all the time, this currently seems like not the best of ideas.

Are we seeing something akin to the development of public housing in the 60/70ies? Built with the best intentions, only to turn out as a place where those who can afford it move away?

Interesting times, indeed.