The Embarrassing State of Web Authoring

If the read path of a document on my computer is


then it's very easy to deduce the write path for this same document. Because the two paths are identical.

But what if they weren't? What if every document had two separate paths, one for reading and one for writing, either of which could be arbitrarily chosen? Nobody would be able to deduce the write path of a document from its read path! Updating anything on your computer would become a complex endeavour in which each application would make its own decisions about how to structure the write paths of its documents, and those write paths would be undiscoverable outside of that application. It would be like iTunes went insane and stole all write functionality away from your operating system. If this sounds to you like a hellish hypothetical, consider that it isn't hypothetical at all. You are already living in this world, online.

The read path for a web document might be

From this, what we can deduce about the write path for this document is nothing at all. We can assume that the top and sub domains would be the same, but we would not be right all the time. Not without host-specific contextual knowledge. There is just no standard way for your computer to figure out how to update what you're reading online. At this point you might be tempted to say 'FTP', but there is not even a standard way to construct the proper FTP upload path for a given URL. The only correct single answer is, it depends. (And figure it out for yourself, or else no update for you!)

What I'm trying to tell you is that if you have ever found authoring files on the web to be an unholy mess, most of which no one has been able to automate effectively — this is why.

All that needs be done is to define a standard discoverable write path for all web documents (probably via password-protected FTP). Once we have that, we will be able to build truly instantaneous intraspecies publishing into our technology at a basic system level. Until we have it, web authoring will continue to be a quasi-penetrable codex for communicating with a planet of charmingly ineffective bureaucrats.

Let's not be the laughing stock of the Milky Way — not again.

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