Known: taking a big bet on the #indieweb

3 min read

Friday marked the end of my first full-time week at Known, the new startup I've founded with Erin Jo Richey. We're lucky enough to be part of Matter's third class of startups aiming to change media for good. (Its founding partners are KQED, PRX and the Knight Foundation: great people to be involved with.)

Known is a publishing platform for everyone. You can share your story using a variety of media, publish from any device, and share it with your audiences wherever they are on the web. You'll be able to get your own site that you control in under 30 seconds with our service, or run it on your own servers. Either way, you should join our mailing list.

One of the jobs of a startup is to look at where the world is going, extrapolating from current trends and domain knowledge, and meet a future need with a product at exactly the right time. We think the time is right for an independent web that is owned by content creators and readers alike.

For the last few years, discourse on the web has been dominated by a few key platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and a handful of others. As the media analyst Dan Gillmor wrote in April:

[...] When we use centralized services like social media sites, however helpful and convenient they may be, we are handing over ultimate control to third parties that profit from our work, material that exists on their sites only as long as they allow.

We believe that, for the people whose livelihoods depend on content and data, ownership is going to become steadily more important. We want to be the best way to tell your story on the web whether you care about ownership or not, but if you do, we'll be there for you. We'll let you take full control; decide on the look and feel; export your data at any time; host with your own domain on your own server. That's a very different approach to Facebook, or Twitter, or a site like Medium.

An important facet of ownership is privacy. Last year, the Pew Research Center discovered that 68% of Internet users believe the law doesn't do enough to protect their privacy online; a full 50% worry about the amount of information they've shared. With a site that you control, you know exactly how much you're sharing, and with whom. By syndicating your content to third-party silos like Facebook, you can still share with your readers wherever they happen to be on the web - but in such a way that you understand exactly what you're sharing.

Statistics are one thing, but movements like the Indie Web, as well as events like Aral Balkan's Indie Tech Summit, books like Doc Searls's The Intention Economy and startups like ThinkUp draw a very clear line to a new kind of post-cloud software, where the customer is once again in control. Interest from the media, from the investment community, and from users, is growing.

There's no reason in the world why this kind of empowering, design-led, user-focused software should be any harder to use than Twitter or Facebook. In fact, it can be more feature-rich, more personalized, and more tailored to the way you work and think. That's the kind of platform we're building - one that respects its users, and that sits at the center of a successful business.

Sign up to join our mailing list, or follow our updates on the Known stream (which is, of course, itself powered by Known). It's going to be a great summer.