Le Web, C’Est Moi

The Web is fundamentally the creation of the people that use it. Almost everyone contributes to it in some manner. Certainly, people coding applications and websites are creating the web, but that is merely the tip of the iceberg. What makes even the most elaborate coding effort worthwhile is the content people share on the web and the communities people build around it. At its core, the Web is a communication revolution where communities of people share content across applications and websites.

In essence, the web is me, you, and everyone else. The better able we are at making our contributions, the more interesting the web will be, and the more we will get out of it. Learning how to make content, communities, and apps on the web are core elements of web literacy, and web literacy is a core competency we all need to thrive in the new digital economy.

Even among the least technologically developed parts of the world, web literacy skills can help raise quality of life. Local traditional crafts-makers can use the web to market their crafts via social media and sell them on market websites like Etsy and ebay. Even if you never learn to code, you can learn to be a webmaker, and that can change your life.

There are many organizations fueling the maker movement and teaching web literacy. The Mozilla Foundation’s Webmaker project is doing both. From the practical side of providing tools and events to help people become more web-literate, to sharing its collective wisdom about web literacy via pen and paper, PowerPoint, and public speech, Mozilla is helping people realize that they are the web (“Le web, c’est moi”).

Mozilla, the Foundation’s parent, is also a nonprofit. Its commitment to open source products helps to carry its mission of change for social good across all of its activities. With the Foundation’s Webmaker project, the change-for-social-good philosophy is directly applied to enhancing web literacy through Maker Parties.

The growing pervasiveness of the web in all of our lives—in even the most remote places on earth—makes web literacy an essential skill to thrive in the 21st Century digital economy. It is every bit as essential to success as math and science were in the 20th Century. And the “maker” approach taken by Webmaker.org is focused on creating web literacy where the rubber hits the road.

In addition to the Maker Parties, Webmaker.org also provides a suite of tools to help people be webmakers. One particularly innovative and useful tool they provide is called X-Ray Goggles. This tool is easily installed in your browser’s bookmark bar and allows you to remix the content on any web page. Using the tool, anyone can look under the hood of a website and tinker with it. This provides an amazing experience for learning how to make webpages.

Visit any webpage and click on the X-Ray Goggles link on your bookmark bar: you will be able to modify the html code anywhere on the current webpage you are viewing. You can swap out pictures, change links and text, and shuffle the layout using an incredibly intuitive interface. Once you have the page remixed to your liking, you can save it to a new URL that you can share at will. The new page will be fully functional, with the page’s previous functionality and look intermingled with the new functions and looks you add to it.

Among its many uses, X-Ray Goggles offers an intriguing option for small nonprofits who want to redesign their website but have limited funds in their budget. Such an organization can create a crowdsource call to action, calling on people to use X-Ray Goggles to remix the organization’s website, adding new design work, layout, and functionality while preserving the bulk of the links and content. Taking this approach, a small nonprofit can tap into the creativity of its most diehard supporters and produce a new website at a fraction of the cost of hiring a firm through a proposal process.

The other tools provided by Webmaker.org are Appmaker, which makes it easy to develop mobile apps; Popcorn Maker, for remixing video, audio, and images; and Thimble, for creating your own visually striking webpages. And if you want to wade in and participate or host a Webmaker Maker Party, you can find one near you or sign up to host your own here.

Alan Rosenblatt
Director of Digital Strategy