Closed silo challenges to an open web

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Open and closed source

The growing trend of closed content silos—publishing platforms that require a login in order to view the content—is a step away from a more open web. As this trend continues, owners of closed silos will have even more control over published content and traffic that content drives. This is why content producers should also consider ways to publish content openly, and for their users to have the option to access content through their web browsers rather than being driven into closed ecosystems. 

Content control

Back in December of last year, Facebook launched its own in-app browser, which is basically a webview that loads links you tap on using the Facebook app. Although in-app browsers may be convenient for some, features like this are designed primarily to keep users inside of the application longer, which translates to more advertising exposure (and, thus, more money). This kind of feature can be challenging to the goal of keeping the web open, not only because the feature overrides the end user's default mobile browser, but also because it keeps users in a closed ecosystem (versus exploring the web).

Additionally, the Instant Articles feature doubles down on siloed content by working with publishers to make articles available nearly instantly within the app, loading much faster than they would through a mobile browser. This sounds good, and it is convenient. But it also sets up a path for monetizing content that would otherwise be viewable outside of the closed silo, and, because you're using the app to browse the web inside this silo, there are privacy concerns. Unlike using a browser such as Firefox or Chrome, which have a private browsing option, the in-app browser user does not have the same privacy control.

Then there is Apple's News Publisher, which has been pulling content into its new app so that, in many cases, the end user can view the entirety of the articles its partner publishers share directly in the Apple News app.

Another form of content control is holding exclusive content behind a login, like LinkedIn's long-form posts feature. Or, Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages Project that directs content away from its original source, as Wired explains.

What do you think of closed silo publishing? Can you think of other examples? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Benjamin Kerensa
Benjamin Kerensa is an internationally recognized open source evangelist, community manager, author and speaker with experience in systems administration, project management and open source development that spans a decade.

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