Old News but still true as ever: Facebook and Instagram are harming the Open Web

A big motivation for building the Friends Plugin is to be able to follow what my friends and family are up to. Probably the most important “follow technology” is good old RSS.

While mostly used for public posts, there are many examples of how it can deliver posts not meant for the public: the solution are individual RSS feeds per subscriber, for example paid podcasts, or like the Friends plugin gives specific feeds to friends that can contain private posts.

Now reality is that (no longer) every platform has RSS feeds. It’d be easier if they just provided themt but alas. There are plugins for the Friends plugin itself that make use of projects that have built custom parsers for specific services: Fraidyscrape and RSS Bridge.

Now unfortunately, a lot of friends and family post to Facebook or Instagram. It’s just impossible to follow these friends outside of the platforms.

  • They don’t provide (authenticated) RSS feeds. That would solve all of this.
  • They rate limit and quickly block IPs (especially Instagram) that try to read a few posts unauthenticated.
  • It’s unintuitive, developer centric and needs approval to get an API key, so it’s not something every user of the plugin can be asked.
  • Their HTML is scrambled with random class names, preventing any classic scraping.

So in the end, the content of my friends and family is locked in. It would be a solution for them to create their own blog (IndieWeb style) and share their content that way. But I am realistic enough to understand that the hurdles are great. They are already connected to their friends inside Facebook or Instagram. They get lots of likes and responses there. They are used to the UI and the apps. It’s just not good for anyone who doesn’t want to join the Facebook ecosystem and be exposed to their ads.



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