Robin Berjon

Wishing Not-So-Well


People mean well but ethics is hard. In tech, we have a knack for applying ethics in the most useless ways possible — even when we earnestly want to improve humankind's lot. Why does this matter, why are we failing, and how can we fix it?

Transnational Digital Public Infrastructure, Tech Governance, and Industrial Policy

The Public Interest Internet

Urban landscape at night, striped

What if the internet were public interest technology? Is that too wildly speculative? I think not. I am not talking about a utopian project here — a public interest internet would be a glorious imperfect mess and it would be far from problem-free. But while there is a lot of solid thinking about various digital issues or pieces of internet infrastructure (much of which I rely upon here), I have yet to read to an answer to this question: What global digital architecture should we assemble if we take seriously the idea that the internet should be public interest technology?

Those Who Can't Be Named

The Chimeralogists

A Hittite chimera (human, lion, wings) with some purplish-blueish colour effect

Over the past few months I've been having many conversations with people who all have a particular set of skills but whose job titles are all over the place. I believe that we form a more coherent group than we realise, that this novel role exists for a good reason, and that we would benefit from making that known.

¿Por qué no los dos?

ActivityPub Over ATProto

A Gustave Doré chimeric creature, sort of dragon-like with a woman on its back, in green hues.

Thought experiment: how hard would it be to implement ActivityPub over ATProto? The answer might surprise you!

Towards a local-first, trustworthy Web

Web Tiles

Concrete bricks/blocks making a geometric pattern

Trust has been the defining constraint on the Web's evolution towards more powerful, more applicative capabilities. In a Web context, the user must be able to safely load any arbitrary URL, to safely click on any arbitrary link. The way in which this is achieved is that the runtime places strict limits on what a Web page can do, which in turn necessarily limits powerful capabilities. Could we get more power using a primitive that places more stringent constraints in what pages can do?

Putting the agent in user agent

You're Gonna Need A Bigger Browser

A Man Slaying a Monster Carp with a Sword

Browsers are hugely load-bearing in the Web's architecture, and yet they haven't changed very much in quite a while. If the Web is indeed for user agency, we should take a hard look at our user agents to see if they might not need improvement.

It's not just the cats

The Web Is For User Agency

Engraving of a cat statue.

We take the Web for granted as that thing that's there and we talk of things being good or bad for the Web, but we don't ever sit down and really say what the Web is for. I take a look at this question with an eye towards understanding what it is we need to do to build a Web that's actually better.

Back to weaving

Building The Next Web

A painting of the Argo, which is a ship involving Theseus but not the right one for this story

This is the kick-off post in a series in which I'm going to explore things that we could change about the Web. The odds are pretty good that I will be wrong, possibly even very wrong. You're going to dislike some, or perhaps all of it! My point isn't to jump straight into building these ideas — even though I do believe they point in a better direction and are feasible — but rather to break out of the incrementalist rut and stagnant vision that the Web finds itself mired in. It's not in a good place and I feel the need for more vision work and much more thinking about architectural interventions that can bring about radical change.

We Don't Have To Put Up With Broken Search

Fixing Search

Two side architectural drawings of a modern building, with cats

Search on the web, for most people, has become a deplorable experience. It is such a key function that it can feel unfixable, but by treating search as an architectural component of the web (which it effectively is) and working our way through the issues it creates, we can define an alternative that is both realistic and superior.

Don't impale yourself on the tipping point

Decent Imaginaries

Desert vista with a gradient effects going from black-and-white and grainy on the left to highly saturated colours on the right, including a bright blue sky.

The digital sphere appears to be at an inflection point and we need to imagine what comes next as this era rots and burns. Imagining a renewed, decentralised world is difficult, but we can pull it off.