Is This Indieweb?

two woman on the moon look up at the rss and indieweb logos

Buckle up, today we’re getting geeky about microformats, protocols and feed readers.


RSS Still Rules

Recently I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of users using RSS feeds in my little corner of the web, which is always good to see. And at least partly to blame for this, is a post by Mike V from NoHappyNonsense:

As Mike explains, RSS is basically an old web way of keeping up to date with your favorite websites and blogs- either via email notifications or by using a feed reader. But while it is pretty old-school, RSS is still used all over the web today. However, most websites and creators tend to push users to use other forms of staying updated (creating accounts to subscribe, newsletters, etc.)

So why use RSS today? Well, two main benefits come to mind:

  • RSS offers a way to “subscribe” to content without giving away personal information everywhere or signing up for anything.
  • A well-curated RSS feed reader can serve as your one-stop shop for online content.

In other words, RSS can be both convenient and privacy-orientated. But as with any tool, it’s all about how you use it.

Personally, I find many modern RSS readers like Feedly to be pretty clanky. And it seems that they tend to focus more on “curating” your feed (with a side order of ads and “bonus premium features”) rather than serving it up and getting out of the way.

Furthermore, the potentially anti-protest and anti-union nature of Feedly’s AI models raises some concerns:

That said, you might enjoy the extra stuff you get with these types of RSS readers. They just aren’t for me.

On the other end of the spectrum of RSS feed readers, and by far my favorite, is Newsboat. It’s a terminal-based app that serves up a one-page list of the feeds you are following and whether there have been any updates. You can then read the new entries from within the command line or quickly switch over to your browser of choice. And that’s it. There are no ads, no AI assistants, no algorithms, and there is no sign-up required.

I recently wrote an introduction to the app and a guide on how to use it. Once that’s published, I’ll link it here.

The only downside to Newsboat is that you have to be a little comfortable with the command line to use it. But in fairness, it is dead easy. Nonetheless, there are both minimalist and feature-heavy options if you’d rather have a GUI. I just can’t vouch for any of them.

But what about making an RSS feed for your own site? Well, if you use a CSS like WordPress, creating one is just a plugin away. And there are plenty of dedicated RSS feed creators out there (check out NoHappy’s post for a link to a Google sheet form you can use too).

All that aside, it’s pretty easy, if a bit cumbersome, to create a cheap and dirty DIY feed from scratch with nothing more than a text editor like Notepad. That’s how I do it. And, most of the time, it works fine.

I recommend this guide if you are looking to figure it out for yourself:

Is This Indieweb?

I’ve previously talked at length about movement and concepts such as the Small Web, Web 1, and the peripheral web. In short, these are the names for the comparatively tiny and sometimes hard-to-find sections of the net where retro aesthetics, creativity, and simple static web pages still rule supreme. And where the algorithms, over-commercialization, tech-bro hype, and ad-tech of the “corporate web” is typically shunned.

But I’ve only touched upon the IndieWeb, a similarly aligned but different movement.

To be clear, I see these terms used interchangeably all the time. And I’m not here to police these terms or draw lines between alternative web communities. But to discuss the “IndieWeb” community of software developers as opposed to what some might refer to as the hobby-orientated “indie web”.

All clear? Yeah, me neither.

So what exactly is the IndieWeb?

The home pages described it as a “people-focused alternative to the”corporate web". Said site also offers an extensive wiki. I should warn you, though, there’s a fair amount of jargon on these pages, and I don’t just mean the technical terminology.

Honestly, if I have just one criticism of the IndieWeb, it’s that they love their acronyms and buzzwords a little too much.

(side note: sometimes jargon is, in fact, a good thing. But you can't tell me that terms like 'POSSE' and 'Silos' aren't a little silly.

Nonetheless, the “principles” and “why” pages of the IndieWeb wiki give a pretty good breakdown of what the IndieWeb is all about.

In short, it is all about owning your own data and “content” (I prefer the term “stuff” myself, but I’ll set the negative connotations aside for now) on your own site and removing any reliance on third-party platforms (while still making use of those platforms), all while retaining the social aspect of the modern web.

In other words, if the small web is loosely about embracing Web 1.0, then the IndieWeb presents itself as an alternative to Web 3, with all the decentralization and none of the crypto hype.

(On another side note, does anyone else notice how all those crypto bros are now the same ones who never shut up about their conversations with AI? Just an observation).

So, unsurprisingly, the first and most vital step of getting on the IndieWeb is getting a website, whether it be a static site, WordPress, or It also doesn’t matter if you’re self-hosting, using GitHub, or even Neocities, but having a place on the web is integral to everything else.

I’ve long advocated for people building their own sites on the web, not just to have a spot online they can call theirs (a “home on the web”) but as a place to express themselves (a “creative sandbox”). And this is something I’ve found reflected in web manifestos across the peripheral web. And it’s also something the IndieWeb movement appears to be behind.

The next step to “IndieWebyfying” a website is getting a domain. Specifically, a or type of domain. And this is one of the places where I think the IndieWeb and small web, generally speaking, differ.

Most people on the DIY web don’t bother with paid-for domains and use pseudonyms. And I think that for most people, this is the best way to go.

Like many writers, tech pros, and freelancers, my name and face are all over the web. Hence it made sense for me to go with the vanilla domain. If I were to start things again, I probably would have opted for something else. But let’s be frank, while I am privacy-conscious, as a white, straight, Western-born male, I have the privilege of not having to worry quite so much about my data.

I know of about a dozen other small web webmasters who also use their real names. And almost all of them are writers or somehow involved with the tech industry. For most people, though, putting your details online is unnecessary and may even be a security risk.

That said, as far as I’m aware, you can still implement some of the core principles of the IndieWeb with an anonymous username. It’s just not something you see a lot. Whether this changes as the IndieWeb movements implementations move beyond the realm of professional developers and tech enthusiasts, remains to be seen.

In any case, the next step after getting online is to add some information about yourself on your homepage and create something known as a h-card.

What the hell is a h-card, you ask? Well, it’s sort of like an online business card, ID, and signature all rolled into one HTML micro-format. In theory, the result is a human-readable and machine-readable way of connecting your identity to your content (stuff). In practice, it’s a little bit of HTML that tells a feed reader or browser that this is my name, this is my website, and this is what I look like.

Linked to the idea of a h-card, are the h-entry and h-feed microformats, which denote content such as blog posts, microblogs, and other projects similarly. Then there are also rel=me links, which allow distributed verification (You might already have one of these rel=me links on your site if you’re a Mastodon user, as they are used to verify links in your Mastodon profile).

In an IndieWeb-utopia this stuff all becomes relevant when someone interacts with something you’ve made online. As a crude example, if my site was fully indiewebyfied, and you were using an indieWeb-friendly reader or browser to read this link blog, you’d probably get my bio and little hairy face staring back at you in the corner.

Yeah, I’m not sure that’s a good thing either.

There are plenty of other microformats, protocols, and projects designed by, or linked to the IndieWeb movement. And if you’re interested in implementing any of this stuff on your site, I recommend you look through the “getting started" section of the IndieWeb Wiki.

The website, is also a fantastic resource if you want to work your way through the process:

More important than any of this microformat stuff are the ideas they are built to support. But this post is getting a little long, and I’ve already stuffed a lot of potentially confusing information and links directely into your brain. So we’re going to do a part 2 next week where we’ll get into syndication, web mentions, and the IndieWeb as an alternative to the social web. And whether this has any relevance to those of us making little DIY sites out here in the internet’s borderlands.

What I will say for now is that a lot of these concepts I’m talking about are still in the proof of concept stage. You can go ahead and get your site IndieWeb-ready, but you won’t get much practical benefit in doing so. At least, not yet. And that’s disregarding the question of whether you would even want to.

That said, here are some more links and resources you might find useful if you’re interested in learning more. - a straightforward guide on how to join the IndieWeb by someone who has done so themselves. A WordPress-centric take on joining the IndieWeb - an interesting post that discusses the IndieWeb for developers vs Indiweb for non-techies - more of a critique on the current state of the web, but worth a watch.


Now that uni is over for another year, I’ve found time to start on a whole bunch of new and previously forgotten projects. Hopefully, I can share some of them with you soon.

I’m also planning on setting aside some time to redo my site’s “writing” page and import all, or at least most, of my essays from Medium and elsewhere onto the site where they will be free, and pop-up free, for all to read. It might not be this week, but hopefully soon.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something more to read, here’s a recent article I did for Counter Arts on the subject of screen time and how we might be missing the point by focusing on it too much: (friend link)

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In The Margins is written by Mike Grindle. It is and always will be cost-free, ad-free and junk-free. If you wish to support its existence, consider sharing it with your friends.

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