Sustainable Web

The first time I connected my computer to a network, it was on May 1984. The computer was an Amiga 1000, the network was a BBS by MC-Link, and the device I used to connect was a 300bps modem. Downloading a 10K image required a lot of time and since that connection occurred on a traditional telephonic line, it was very expensive too. There was no e-mail, but we had bulletin boards. They were very similar to the forums we use nowadays in the web, but we had only the possibility to interact by text: no images, no music, and of course no digital videos. It was possible to load some multimedia content, of course, but in special areas reserved for sharing. In that period it was very important to save time, bandwidth, and disk space, so every unnecessary information in posts was discouraged, as well as any duplication.

Nowadays I surf the web at home by using a 20MB ADSL2+ line! I can easily download images and videos in few minutes even if they are really huge, and I spend only few hundred euro per year to get a lot of services, included VoIP. I have e-mail, a blog, several sites, and I participate to discussions on many different forums at the same time. I am also a member of several social networks. So it looks like it is no more necessary to care about bits and bytes, isn’t it? Well, I disagree. It is necessary, now more than in the past.

On July 28th, 2008, the Google Blog reported that Google had indexed 1 trillion web pages, and they have not covered it all. Other sources reported about 60 billion indexed web pages on second quarter 2008. Whatever is the real number, the web does not contain only sites and pages, but also databases, documents, and links to a lot of content that can be accessed only by specific applications and it is not necessarily indexed or indexable. Nobody developed exhaustive statistics about the real size of World Wide Web by taking in account any possible piece of information, but the growth rate according to different sources is impressive: several billions of new pages, images, and documents every day as well as several hundred million new users every month!

There are no inexhaustible resources. This is true for the Earth and Nature as well as for the Internet. If we continue to produce content and to increase accesses, soon or later we will reach a critical threshold. Therefore it is very important to spread a new ethical concept in the web: sustainability.

Sustainable Web [ENG] · Web Sostenibile [ITA] · Sostenible Web [FRA] · Soutenable Web [ESP] · Nachhaltige Web [DEU]

What does it mean? First of all to avoid duplications, that is, to avoid to upload the same content more than one time. Let me make an example. Let us suppose that you participate to several forums and few social networks about photography, and that you wish to participate to some debate about the latest model of a new camera. You might do that in the old traditional way, that is, by posting your opinion in each forum. On the other hand, you might adopt a new sustainable way: you might write your opinion on your blog only and then you might post very light articles on each forum just providing the link to the article you wrote. Of course, you will have to discuss independently on each forum with the other participants, but you have at least not to repeat the most of your initial arguments on each one. By an intelligent usage of links and trackbacks, it is possible to spread a wide group of discussions about the same subject across several forums, blogs, and social networks by minimizing the amount of necessary content. You may think that saving few hundred characters is a nonsense, but there are more than 1,400 million people in the web today. Few bytes saved by each one makes the difference!

The same approach can be used for images or other multimedia objects. Rather than uploading each image to your blog, for example, you could upload them to a digital album or keep all of them on a remote network folder of yours that can be accessed from the web. In this way, each time you want to use the same image in your blog, in a comment to someone else’s blog article, or in a post to a forum, you only have to provide the same URL. No need to duplicate the image on different sites.

But what if you want to share your content to different people not belonging to the same community? Well, do not send e-mail containing the same text, image or video to a mailing list. Rather use social bookmarking, or sharing mechanisms like Twitter or Facebook. They will allow you to share your content even with unknown people that might be interested to it. Remember to use suitable tags to allow people to easily find what you shared.

So, do not spam: share! It is different. By sharing you give the opportunity to other people to read what you created, whereas by spamming you force them to see it. Posting a link gives someone else the possibility to decide to click or not. Just add few words to explain what the link is and why you did post.

So, to conclude, keep your content in one place and share several time by using links. When Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web in 1989, he based it on an hypertextual mechanism. The core of the web are links. Send links by e-mail, include them in your posts to forums and comments to blog articles, use trackbacks, take advantage of social bookmarking. You will save a lot of room and bandwidth. By supporting a sustainable web you support all of us, and the future of the web.

Traduzione in italiano di Roberto Favini

Commenti (5) a «Sustainable Web»

  1. utente anonimo ha detto:

    As a rule: clear, direct, focused. A really great article!

  2. utente anonimo ha detto:

    Sustainable Web

    [..] Bookmarked your post over at Blog! [..]

  3. utente anonimo ha detto:

    interesting viewpoint, I am going to use your post in a seminar on “sutainable IT” we are having on December 1st, 2008 in Ghent, Belgium

  4. utente anonimo ha detto:

    I’m only a bit scared in using Social Networks etc to publish my contents. I mean, sharing may be ok, but using them as the only repository is risky: they could close, or disable your account for whatever reason.

    I prefer “duplication” in this case. At least a couple of safe places, say a private Web-Server and maybe a free domain. And then, agreed, links, whenever doable.


  5. Dario de Judicibus ha detto:

    @Dario: well, there is a misunderstanding. It is not a matter of using social networks a s a repository, but just as a sharing mechanism. Let us distinguish between the place where you store content and the way you share. For example, some content of mine is in a NAS at home that is shared on the web, so it is really under my control, my own storage. What I share, maybe througha tinyurl and a DynaDSN is just a link. What we have to avoid is to physically duplicate the content, apart that for backup reasons, of course. The physical Internet is hidden to webn users, but it has a cost also from an environmental point of view.

Retrotracce e avvisi (1) a «Sustainable Web»

  1. […] created by me or some collaborator of mine. In fact, I personally think that we should apply sustainability principles to web too and avoid to increase its entropy. Duplicating any good stuff created by someone else is […]

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