Breaking down the walls between the internet’s many social silos, Webmentions offer a new level of freedom for web interactions.
People can post about what they’re actively listening to (either on their personal websites or via podcast apps that could report the percentage of the episode listened to) and send “listen” Webmentions to pages for podcasts or other audio content.
With Webmention support, one could architect a site to allow inline marginalia and highlighting similar to Medium.com’s relatively well-known functionality. With the clever use of URL fragments, which are well supported in major browsers, there are already examples of people who use Webmentions to display word-, sentence-, or paragraph-level marginalia on their sites. After all, aren’t inline annotations just a more targeted version of comments?
As mentioned earlier, Webmentions allow notifications between web addresses. If both sites are set up to send and receive them, the system works like this: Alice has a website where she writes an article about her rocket engine hobby. Bob has his own website where he writes a reply to Alice’s article. Within his reply, Bob includes the permalink URL of Alice’s article. When Bob publishes his reply, his publishing software automatically notifies Alice’s server that her post has been linked to by the URL of Bob’s reply. Alice’s publishing software verifies that Bob’s post actually contains a link to her post and then (optionally) includes information about Bob’s post on her site; for example, displaying it as a comment. A Webmention is simply an @mention that works from one website to another!
If you use Twitter, your friend Alice only uses Facebook, your friend Bob only uses his blog on WordPress, and your pal Chuck is over on Medium, it’s impossible for any one of you to @mention another. You’re all on different and competing platforms, none of which interoperate to send these mentions or notifications of them. The only way to communicate in this way is if you all join the same social media platforms, resulting in the average person being signed up to multiple services just to stay in touch with all their friends and acquaintances.
Webmention is a (now) standardized protocol that enables one website address (URL) to notify another website address that the former contains a reference to the latter. It also allows the latter to verify the authenticity of the reference and include its own corresponding reference in a reciprocal way.