The Open Web and a History Lesson
For this to make sense, you first need to understand how I view the web right now. The internet has become a foundation that a huge percentage of humankind rely on. I think that our future is as dependent on technology, the internet being a key piece of that, as our recent past has been dependent on scientific foundations. I truly believe that the future of all people will be better if this key piece of our technological foundation is freely available to all, able to be used for any purpose, and not controlled or excessively influenced by any particular person or group.
I gave a short talk recently in Phoenix, where I said this very thing, and it came with a small history lesson that bears repeating.
Robert Hooke was a scientist in the late 17th century. Many of you might vaguely remember his name from your junior high science class. He’s the guy that looked at cork under a microscope and discovered that plants, and much more, are made up of cells.
Isaac Newton is a name you probably remember better. We all picture an apple when we think of him, right? Something about gravity? The truth is that Isaac Newton gave us a lot. He invented calculus, discovered many things about light including that white light is made up of many other colors of light, and in his principia he gave us laws about gravity and motion.
In a letter from Newton to Hooke in 1675, Newton famously said:
If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
And the best part is, we’ve been standing on the shoulders of people like these since. Much of modern medicine can be traced back to an understanding of the cell. Similarly, our world has been made smaller through things like air travel, where modern jet engine technology could not exist without calculus or the principles of force that Newton gave us.
Because of this, society as a whole has been able to make consistent and rapid progress forward. People don’t have to start over. They don’t have to rediscover the cell or create calculus, and can instead pick up where others left off and move forward from there.
So what the heck could this possibly have to do with the REST API endpoints in WordPress?
We’ve built something that has the potential to be a tool for others to use. It’s part of the height of our proverbial shoulders. It may not have the far reaching effect that calculus has had, but it does have the chance to do things that we can’t currently imagine. Newton probably didn’t imagine the Boeing 777 either.
If we don’t offer these kind of modern tools, built into WordPress, to allow people to build the future of the Internet, then we risk them using similar tools offered by closed solutions from Facebook to Medium.
It’s going to be a lot of work. Not just to merge, but to keep up, improve, and generally manage for the future. But it will be worth it. To push forward the open web. To help make sure that people can pick up where we left off and keep making progress.