Why Should You Care For The Open Web? - A Drupal Perspective – Srijan

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By Team Srijan Oct 14, 2022

In the early days of the web, when only 7% of the population had access to the internet, the web functioned as a decentralized, free, and open landscape that belonged to everyone. The authority to regulate what people see wasn’t vested with a single, dominating company. Today, this is widely challenged by large proprietary platform companies (eg: Google and Meta) that control how people interact with the web, connect, and share information. 

Though these companies have succeeded in enhancing the web's usability and reach among billions of people, the closed web culture spawned by them results in widespread misinformation, data loss, privacy breaches, cyberbullying, harassment, and abuse. These dreadful societal impacts of the closed web prove beyond doubt why you should care for the open web. 

What is an open web? Why is it important today?

Open Web or the open web platform is an all-encompassing term that embraces technical concepts like open-source code and open standards as well as democratic concepts like safe, healthy, and accessible digital spaces for everyone.

“The Open Web Platform is the collection of open (royalty-free) technologies which enables the Web. Using the Open Web Platform, everyone has the right to implement a software component of the Web without requiring any approvals or waiving license fees.” - W3C

Without the open web, open-source communities like Drupal would not exist and people would not have been able to connect with each other, exchange ideas, and start business. Shocking incidents that lead to accessibility, security and privacy related concerns that are prevalent on closed web platforms - such as MySpace losing years of user-uploaded music due to server migration and Meta tracking sensitive user data through its Facebook and Instagram in-app browsers - keep dominating our headlines. To overcome this predicament, we need an open web that doesn’t limit user creativity and offers improved flexibility, accessibility, privacy, security, scalability, identity, and freedom from vendor lock-in.

Disadvantages of Closed Web Platforms

Closed-distribution platforms shatter the original integrity and freedom of the open web in many awful ways:

1. Proprietary platforms are short-lived

Low user engagement, software design flaws, and data breaches within the platform API resulted in the shutdown of Google+ in 2019. Like Google, Amazon also lost many of its ambitiously launched products (Amazon Destinations, Fire Phone, Amazon Wallet) to fierce industry competition, poor software designs, obsolete technology, lack of market demand, and lean profit margin. These miserable failures prove beyond doubt that closed web platforms tend toward short-term thinking, which prevents users from deeply understanding how the proprietary platform code can be applied and adapted to their specific requirements. This percolates to a lack of usability and flexibility, which reduces the lifespan of the closed web. 

2. Limits creative freedom and uniqueness

To use a proprietary software platform, you need to purchase a license from its owner. Even when you pay, you will not have permission to access, view, copy, distribute or modify the source code of the proprietary software. This limits your creative freedom as you cannot customize the proprietary software to address your specific business needs. Content algorithms employed by large tech platforms like Facebook control what is distributed and publishers are limited to the services the owners choose to build. The closed, platform-controlled “walled gardens” take over the freedom and creativity of content publishers. Feature updates to extend the proprietary software’s capabilities are supported only at a higher cost. Bug fixing and patch upgrades would solely depend on the vendor.  

3. Irreversible data loss

Proprietary platforms are often reluctant to disclose data dumps and even procrastinate to confirm the irreversible data loss to the public. MySpace, which was once the internet’s leading social network, lost almost 12 years of user-uploaded data during a server migration project, leaving no chance of recovery. Neither did they provide users an opportunity to back up their data before commencing the migration process.

Closed platforms force customers to engage in a protracted struggle with vendors for obtaining authorization to retrieve lost data. There could be very limited communication from the vendor’s side and zero trace of what could have gone wrong.

4. Invasive tracking of sensitive user data

Security & privacy researcher Felix Krause observes that while Meta apps like Facebook inject custom scripts into third-party websites, it allows them to monitor all user interactions, including every button or link tapped, text selections, screenshots, and any text form inputs like passwords, addresses, and credit card numbers.

Several proprietary platforms sell data to third-party apps, without the knowledge of their users. Billions of people use the free and convenient services offered by proprietary platforms without a clear understanding of how and where their data is being used. User information sold without their permission to third-party apps often results in privacy intrusions and exposure of sensitive personal data to cyber offenders.

Open Web - A step towards a futuristic, collaborative era of the internet

An open web solution incorporates the following elements to deliver ambitious web experiences.

1. Build trust through openness and flexibility

The open web provides organizations with a safer brand platform to publish enriching content that will truly engage their audiences and facilitate meaningful conversations. A survey by Harris Poll and OpenX reports that 74% of people consider the open web as their most trusted and a key source of information. The survey also states that the open web is the go-to place for consumers to learn more about a business and make purchases because they trust the landscape where brand safety is held prominent. 77% of people trust the content on open websites more than what they read (or see links) on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.

2. Protect user identity

The leading open standards for identity authentication and secure access delegations like OAuth and OpenID have successfully demonstrated how the open web can promote a consumer-based, opt-in data sharing system. It gives consumers a certain level of control over how their data is shared with external sites and services. For instance, if a consumer wants to share their shoe size and color preferences with multiple shopping websites to get highly personalized results, the consumer should also possess the power to manage how their information is used across the entire web, not just within a single platform. Mozilla Chairwoman and CEO Michelle Baker, states that open web tools can build products that could protect consumers from predatory algorithms or data practices which will bestow the power back in the user’s hand.

3. No vendor lock-in

Auth0, the top-rated identity management provider acknowledges that building upon open standards instead of adopting proprietary standards has helped them reduce vendor lock-in and win at enterprise sales. Open web standards are supported by the communities that maintain and grow them. These communities boost the confidence of enterprise buyers by constantly supporting and improving the technology that steers the open web platform.

4. Promote organic reach

You don’t have to pay for promoting your account on the open web and within its communities. When you express a view, the community will impartially judge the value and credibility of your comment according to the specific community guidelines. Since every comment is subject to community feedback, hate speech, racism, discrimination, or violence are not allowed to spread. Moderators (not influencers) drive exposure for your message, bringing better reach to your content organically.

How does Drupal promote the open web?

Drupal’s vision is to foster an open web platform for everyone which is flexible and accessible, which allows both individuals and organizations to own their data. Drupal’s open source content management system is enriched with striking features to promote the open web:

1. Empowers identity and honors privacy

“My personal belief has always been not to collect people’s data and personalities. I aspire to the privacy of a printed book.” - Dries Buytaert, Drupal Founder

Drupal’s open source platform gives you full control and flexibility over the digital experience that you want to offer your users, whether it gleans data or not. While most proprietary systems lock in on privacy and limit your creative possibilities, Drupal gives you control over what kind of data is collected and how it is used.

2. Leads with security and safety

Drupal’s security is designed to meet the standards of Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works to improve the security of software. The platform’s built-in security reporting provides timely notifications and reporting for software and plugin updates, recommendations, and security vulnerabilities. Drupal’s database encryption complies with PCI, HIPAA, and other global privacy standards and regulations. Advanced user access controls, strong password security, a large and active community, a proactive security team, and a fully transparent, secure, and open code base ensure that your Drupal site is under lock and key. 

3. Never tracks users by default

“Walled Gardens” like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have an upper hand in delivering highly personalized experiences because they record data about user behavior, personal characteristics, and habits, including intimate details that many people might not prefer to disclose. On the other hand, Drupal enables organizations to take control over the brand experience, user experience, and information flow, while still building equally rich user experiences. For instance, you can integrate Drupal with a proprietary CRM and an e-commerce platform using open APIs to create smart shopping experiences. You can move the data away from each of these applications to the user through a personal information broker. Data access to different applications is managed by the user’s personal information broker. 

4. Digital Accessibility

Drupal’s open source content management system also caters to the accessibility of users and adheres to W3C standards. The platform promotes accessible content creation through its editorial options and enables structured meta-data that is readable by screen readers. Drupal’s inclusive open web experience complies with the Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA), which allows you to design and launch hassle-free sites that adhere to web regulations.

Good software cares about its end users

“Drupal is a public good that enables the open web.” - Dries Buytaert, Drupal Founder  

When you use proprietary software, your success relies on your vendor’s performance. On the other hand, an open source platform like Drupal propels your journey into the future by ensuring longevity and rapid innovation. Drupal is supported by a large and growing open source community that has contributed 40,000+ modules to extend your site functionality. Besides community support, Drupal’s modular framework offers built-in extensibility via its cloud-based, API-first, low-code, composable architecture. It enables organizations to deliver consistent experiences to customers (B2C/B2B) and employees (B2E) on their own terms. Drupal’s modular content components - termed as “nodes” - help scale your content quickly across multiple digital touchpoints. 

Also read: Composable DXPs - An Architecture Imperative For Composable Businesses

As the world moves at a breakneck speed, Open Web is the right way to approach digital experience. It extends your digital ecosystem and nurtures customer relationships. With Open Web, you can unlock agility, accelerate speed to market, boost scalability, and reduce the time and resources for implementation. 

Looking for an expert who can extend application support for custom Drupal code or any other issues within your digital infrastructure? Get in touch with us.

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