The joy of web surfing 🏄

I sometimes go for weeks or months without anything to say, and then 💥, I have several things I want to share. Here’s what’s on my mind in this issue.

Surfing like it’s 1999

In a previous newsletter, I wrote about how I thought the early web was much more fun and that we should return to it. Inspired by the nostalgia of StumbleUpon, I started collecting out-of-the-ordinary sites and saving them in a flat database (aka a plain text file). I then created a new site that randomly selects a site from the database and opens it in a new tab/window.

The site is coywolf.surf, and all you have to do is click on the big SURPRISE ME! button and enjoy. If you know of some fascinating and off-the-beaten-path sites that you think should be included, you can submit them at coywolf.com/surf, and I’ll consider them.

You can stop appending page titles with your site name, really

I intentionally stopped appending page titles with my site name years ago. That’s because Google already knows each site’s name and brand, and I prefer that my page titles solely focus on the page’s content. In addition, if you’re using a plugin like Yoast SEO, it reinforces the site name to Google on every page within the Schema structured data it autogenerates.

On October 14, 2022, Danny Sullivan, Google Search’s Public Liaison, reiterated this guidance on Twitter and linked to Google’s documentation on titles.

Our guidance is generally not to add a site name to <title> for every page. In cases where that's seen as helpful, our systems may omit that if a site name is appearing.
Tweet about site names in page titles by Danny Sullivan

It should be noted that this recommendation does not apply to the homepage. And if the idea of not including the site name in the page title for every page is disconcerting, then leave it. But if you do, append it to the end of the title and separate it with a delimiter such as a hyphen, colon, or pipe.

Finally, a genuine Instagram alternative without ads that you control

If you’ve followed what I’ve written for several years, you know I’m deeply interested in decentralizing social media. Most attempts have failed or made little headway. For example, Diaspora has all but died, the Tent.io protocols were abandoned, Tim Berners-Lee’s SOLID appears stalled, and nobody is sure yet if Twitter’s Bluesky Social will be a decentralized panacea or a giant disappointment like all of the attempts before it.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. A bright spot in this is the ActivityPub protocol and the social platforms such as Mastodon that have built their software around it. Mastodon’s user base has been steadily growing as people continue looking for alternatives to centrally controlled and ad-supported social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

PixelFed is another decentralized social platform that leverages ActivityPub, and like Mastodon, they, too, are growing. What makes PixelFed unique is that they are an alternative to Instagram’s image blogging platform. To help propel their growth, they recently developed a new iOS app to compete better against Instagram. The app is surprisingly good and offers users features they can’t get with Instagram, such as no advertising, adding links in post descriptions, and having complete control over your account.

PixelFed iOS app
Screenshot of PixelFed’s iOS app

The Open Graph Checker hits a milestone and gets a little better

In March 2022, I did a weekend project with the same developer helping me make my new web-native minimalist CRM. The project was a Chrome extension that checked for Open Graph metadata and displayed it if it existed. It was appropriately called the Open Graph Checker.

Open Graph Checker
Screenshot of Open Graph Check Chrome Extension

Seven months after publishing it, the extension has hit over one thousand active users and has earned the Featured and Established Publisher badges. To celebrate its growth, we updated it with some fixes and improvements. It now works on sites with invalid HTML (i.e., missing quotes) and is fast on any site, even sites with excessive code bloat in the <head> area.

Open Graph Checker in Google Chrome Store
Open Graph Checker in Google Chrome Store

Clearscope’s fireside chat and AMA with Jon Henshaw

Lastly, I did a live chat with Travis Dailey, Director of Marketing at Clearscope, on Thursday, October 20, 2022. We discussed the importance of disambiguation, ranking without link building, AI writing, and much more. You can watch the full interview here.

Fireside Chat and AMA with Jon Henshaw
Clearscope’s Fireside Chat and AMA with Jon Henshaw