Universal Basic Website


Many years ago - when I was very young and you were even younger - it was standard for an ISP to provide all their users with a small amount of webspace. Both Pipex and Demon offered webspace back in 1996. If my hazy memory is correct, they offered a few megabytes - more than enough for a fledgeling website1.

But, over the years, ISPs shut down their bundled web offerings. Even their bundled email services went on the chopping block. This is sad, but understandable. Most people unbundled their email so they didn't need to stick with the same ISP. Why have user@isp.example when you could have a GMail address?

And, indeed, why host data with your ISP when you could just use Facebook?

For most people, Facebook is a pretty good personal website. You can post your photos and have your friends & family see them. You can write long heartfelt rants about your teenage melodrama. You can put up the opening times of your new business. You can even host a discussion board around a specific topic.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are a few problems with Facebook2. All your faves are problematic. But I think it shows that people want the benefits of personal websites, even if they don't want the hassle of running those websites.

What does the world look like if a country offers its citizens a Universal Basic Website? Similar to Universal Basic Income, a no-questions asked entitlement to a chunk of the Web. Perhaps a generic subdomain, some storage space, and an easy to use interface?

Oh, sure, there are lots of technical issues. You'd probably have to make sure people weren't running unapproved scripts. Moderation of prohibited content would be contentious. Tech support would be a nightmare. Some corrupt company would get billions to run a sub-standard service. A failed backup or a hacker would wipe out your bakery's recipes.

But...

We accept that there are common spaces in the real world3 where people can have fun without paying. Anyone can go to a park. Anyone can stick a flyer up on a community notice board. We let kids ride the bus for free.

Can we do the same in cyberspace?

You can read some other peoples' thoughts on this Mastodon thread.


  1. With background MIDI music, as was the fashion of the day. 
  2. This is an understatement. 
  3. AKA Meatspace. AKA AFK. 

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11 thoughts on “Universal Basic Website”

  1. Artemis says:

    This started with dropping usenet support of which imho the text-only discussion parts really should've been maintained as a basic universal social network to fall back on

    Reply
  2. James A says:

    Although there would be some network security questions to consider, I'm imagining the ability to configure a static website for my telephone number - not too dissimilar to setting a voicemail recording, I suppose. Let's call it webtel.

    Combined with a reserved top-level DNS name to resolve on-device contact-nicknames, this would allow my acquaintances to check my website for updates by visiting http://james. - and that would resolve to an IPv6 address that is in fact my smartphone running an energy-efficient static-content webserver (so james. would resolve differently on other people's phones).

    After the initial deployment of this groundbreaking technology -- and because in some ways it could be considered similar to two individuals communicating over a phone call or text message -- my telecom provider would add the ability for me to view basic statistics about my website (3kb served today), and my device might be able to report contact-related info the same way it does for telephony; '2 missed calls from basil. 1 webtel view from basil'.

    Webtel: it's good to HT(ML|TP)alk.

    Reply
      1. James A says:

        Indeedy - designing contact systems that are incentively-aligned to cater for genuine communication while also preserving privacy and discouraging spam/scams.. seems like a tricky problem.

        NB: The sample URL in my comment should have read: `http://james.<webtel>` (james dot angle-bracketed-webtel) to make it more clearly an invalid link, while still demonstrating the idea - my mistake for not factoring-in the HTML filtering.

        Reply

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