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posted by chromas on Tuesday January 22 2019, @12:00PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the RFC3271 dept.

Researcher Ruben Verborgh explains how to re-decentralize the World-Wide Web, for good this time. He argues that decentralization is foremost about choice and thus people should be free to join large or small communities and talks up Solid as a primary option.

Originally designed as a decentralized network, the Web has undergone a significant centralization in recent years. In order to regain freedom and control over the digital aspects of our lives, we should understand how we arrived at this point and how we can get back on track. This chapter explains the history of decentralization in a Web context, and details Tim Berners-Lee’s role in the continued battle for a free and open Web. The challenges and solutions are not purely technical in nature, but rather fit into a larger socio-economic puzzle, to which all of us are invited to contribute. Let us take back the Web for good, and leverage its full potential as envisioned by its creator.

Earlier on SN:
Tim Berners-Lee Launches Inrupt, Aims to Create a Decentralized Web (2018)
Decentralized Sharing (2014)


Original Submission

Related Stories

Decentralized Sharing 20 comments

Anonymous Coward writes:

""MediaGoblin is a free software media publishing platform that anyone can install and run. Decentralization, (...) is the main goal of the project, one that is backed and connected to the GNU project.

So far, MediaGoblin has raised only $3,000 of its $60,000 goal, with the campaign set to end April 14th, (...) that is a date that is soon approaching. The first crowd-sourcing initiative was in October of 2012, so this is not the first crowd-funding initiative the project has launched. This second campaign was clearly spurred on by the PRISM revelations of recent past. Having not noticed any failures to meet 2012's funding campaign, it's very possible the team may reach their goal again, given the intensity of the subject matter."

Tim Berners-Lee Launches Inrupt, Aims to Create a Decentralized Web 53 comments

Exclusive: Tim Berners-Lee tells us his radical new plan to upend the World Wide Web

This week, Berners-Lee will launch Inrupt, a startup that he has been building, in stealth mode, for the past nine months. Backed by Glasswing Ventures, its mission is to turbocharge a broader movement afoot, among developers around the world, to decentralize the web and take back power from the forces that have profited from centralizing it. In other words, it's game on for Facebook, Google, Amazon. For years now, Berners-Lee and other internet activists have been dreaming of a digital utopia where individuals control their own data and the internet remains free and open. But for Berners-Lee, the time for dreaming is over.

"We have to do it now," he says, displaying an intensity and urgency that is uncharacteristic for this soft-spoken academic. "It's a historical moment." Ever since revelations emerged that Facebook had allowed people's data to be misused by political operatives, Berners-Lee has felt an imperative to get this digital idyll into the real world. In a post published this weekend, Berners-Lee explains that he is taking a sabbatical from MIT to work full time on Inrupt. The company will be the first major commercial venture built off of Solid, a decentralized web platform he and others at MIT have spent years building.

If all goes as planned, Inrupt will be to Solid what Netscape once was for many first-time users of the web: an easy way in. And like with Netscape, Berners-Lee hopes Inrupt will be just the first of many companies to emerge from Solid.

[...] [On] Solid, all the information is under his control. Every bit of data he creates or adds on Solid exists within a Solid pod–which is an acronym for personal online data store. These pods are what give Solid users control over their applications and information on the web. Anyone using the platform will get a Solid identity and Solid pod. This is how people, Berners-Lee says, will take back the power of the web from corporations.

How does Solid compare to Tor, I2P, Freenet, IPFS, Diaspora, etc.?

Related: Tim Berners-Lee Proposes an Online Magna Carta
Berners-Lee: World Wide Web is Spy Net
Tim Berners-Lee Just Gave us an Opening to Stop DRM in Web Standards
Sir Tim Berners-Lee Talks about the Web Again
Tim Berners-Lee Approved Web DRM, but W3C Member Organizations Have Two Weeks to Appeal
70+ Internet Luminaries Ring the Alarm on EU Copyright Filtering Proposal
One Year Since the W3C Sold Out the Web with EME


Original Submission

Protocols, Not Platforms: A Technological Approach to Free Speech 53 comments

Mike Masnick, usually editor for Techdirt, has written an essay on a technological approach to preserving free speech online in spite of the direction things have been heading in regards to locked-in platforms. He proposes moving back to an Internet where protocols dominate.

This article proposes an entirely different approach—one that might seem counterintuitive but might actually provide for a workable plan that enables more free speech, while minimizing the impact of trolling, hateful speech, and large-scale disinformation efforts. As a bonus, it also might help the users of these platforms regain control of their privacy. And to top it all off, it could even provide an entirely new revenue stream for these platforms.

That approach: build protocols, not platforms.

To be clear, this is an approach that would bring us back to the way the internet used to be. The early internet involved many different protocols—instructions and standards that anyone could then use to build a compatible interface. Email used SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). Chat was done over IRC (Internet Relay Chat). Usenet served as a distributed discussion system using NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol). The World Wide Web itself was its own protocol: HyperText Transfer Protocol, or HTTP.

In the past few decades, however, rather than building new protocols, the internet has grown up around controlled platforms that are privately owned. These can function in ways that appear similar to the earlier protocols, but they are controlled by a single entity. This has happened for a variety of reasons. Obviously, a single entity controlling a platform can then profit off of it. In addition, having a single entity can often mean that new features, upgrades, bug fixes, and the like can be rolled out much more quickly, in ways that would increase the user base.

Earlier on SN:
Re-decentralizing the World-Wide Web (2019)
Decentralized Sharing (2014)


Original Submission

Mail Is Not Difficult 54 comments

OpenBSD developer, Gilles Chehade, debunks multiple myths regarding deployment of e-mail services. While it is some work to deploy and operate a mail service, it is not as hard as the large corporations would like people to believe. Gilles derives his knowledge from having built and worked with both proprietary and free and open source mail systems. He covers why it is feasible to consider running one.

I work on an opensource SMTP server. I build both opensource and proprietary solutions related to mail. I will likely open a commercial mail service next year.

In this article, I will voluntarily use the term mail because it is vague enough to encompass protocols and software. This is not a very technical article and I don't want to dive into protocols, I want people who have never worked with mail to understand all of it.

I will also not explain how I achieve the tasks I describe as easy. I want this article to be about the "mail is hard" myth, disregarding what technical solution you use to implement it. I want people who read this to go read about Postfix, Notqmail, Exim and OpenSMTPD, and not go directly to OpenSMTPD because I provided examples.

I will write a follow-up article, this time focusing on how I do things with OpenSMTPD. If people write similar articles for other solutions, please forward them to me and I'll link some of them. it will be updated as time passes by to reflect changes in the ecosystem, come back and check again over time.

Finally, the name Big Mailer Corps represents the major e-mail providers. I'm not targeting a specific one, you can basically replace Big Mailer Corps anywhere in this text with the name of any provider that holds several hundred of millions of recipient addresses. Keep in mind that some Big Mailer Corps allow hosting under your own domain name, so when I mention the e-mail address space, if you own a domain but it is hosted by a Big Mailer Corp, your domain and all e-mail addresses below your domain are part of their address space.

Earlier on SN:
Protocols, Not Platforms: A Technological Approach to Free Speech (2019)
Re-decentralizing the World-Wide Web (2019)
Usenet, Authentication, and Engineering - We Can Learn from the Past (2018)
A Decentralized Web Would Give Power Back to the People Online (2016)
Decentralized Sharing (2014)


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by c0lo on Tuesday January 22 2019, @12:14PM (3 children)

    by c0lo (156) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @12:14PM (#790040) Journal

    I mean, I don't think the 10% of the non-crap on the internet is more centralized now than it was 10 years ago.
    If I'm right (am I?), then having 90% rest of it centralized is an advantage: you know where not to go.

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday January 22 2019, @12:24PM (2 children)

      by c0lo (156) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @12:24PM (#790042) Journal

      The concept of centralization does not pose a problem in and of itself: there are good reasons for bringing people and things together. The situation becomes problematic when we are robbed of our choice, deceived into thinking there is only one access gate to a space that, in reality, we collectively own. Some time ago, it seemed unimaginable that a fundamentally open platform like the Web would become the foundation for closed spaces, where we pay with our personal data for a fraction of the freedoms that are actually already ours.

      WTH? Nobody is forcing people to join a closed space, "where we pay with our personal data", you are still as free as 10 years ago to bring up your own web and/or mail server - maybe even cheaper than in the past. And yet, sheeple flock to Facebook/Twitter.

      As such, the existence of yet-another-solution (like yet-another-standard [xkcd.com]) will convince people to stop using Facebook... exactly how?

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @02:24PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @02:24PM (#790074)

        It’s called the network effect. Once in place it is a virtual lock-in: you choose Facebook because most of the people you know are already there. You stay at Facebook because all your connections are there. Think back to the early days, Facebook had several competitors, all gone now. Even Google+ Is now throwing in the towel. It is a lock-in that can only be cracked by something drastic like decentralization.

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday January 22 2019, @10:43PM

          by c0lo (156) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @10:43PM (#790336) Journal

          And what's the incentive for the overwhelming majority of the population to get out of FB and jump into the decentralized 'escape pods'?

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by c0lo on Tuesday January 22 2019, @12:34PM

    by c0lo (156) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @12:34PM (#790045) Journal

    Kudos for whoever chose the dept line!

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by MostCynical on Tuesday January 22 2019, @12:35PM (1 child)

    by MostCynical (2589) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @12:35PM (#790046) Journal

    what problem are they trying to solve?
    Social media?
    Paywalls?
    Balkanization?
    hosting?
    ISPs?

    If a robot can crawl through a web page, it will be indexed and you will (eventually) find it using a search engine.
    The main problem most people who want to access the internet seem to have is the ISP as gatekeeper.
    Nothing about their suggestions gets around the ISP..

    --
    "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @03:42PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @03:42PM (#790099)

      The more I analyze how the WWW evolved, the more I see how much luck it had that it evolved first in a way different than a TV.
      There was an access to FAQs - a starter for beginners in any domain to start learning a new skill.
      There was an innovation in hypertext - to make people publish it was needed to learn only a simple language.
      There was a big mistake of marketing industry, who saw WWW as medium for "business cards".
      And there was lots of geeks initiative.
      Today if we make Internet decentralized, we'll get the same spam sh*t as in centralized web as we won't have such coincidences.

  • (Score: 2) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Tuesday January 22 2019, @01:08PM (1 child)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @01:08PM (#790053)

    decentralization is foremost about choice and thus people should be free to join large or small communities and talks up Solid as a primary option.

    The reason why we have huge nefarious internet conglomerates is because people allow it and want it, for the sake of convenience, because lolcats and sharing their stories of their brother's best friend's latest bowel movements is more important than principles of freedom and privacy.

    Decentralization won't happen again, because it hasn't happened before, because people don't give a shit.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by theluggage on Tuesday January 22 2019, @02:18PM

      by theluggage (1797) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @02:18PM (#790070)

      This. As Douglas Adams put it - "To summarise the summary of the summary, people are a problem".

      If you want a website to publish your own interests, completely devoid of data-slurping and ad-targetting, the cost is a couple of beers per month and a bit of effort - its not like you have to learn HTML at all, with Wordpress and other point-and-drool website builders available - although even html is hardly rocket science. If you're willing to compromise and put up with a few banner ads you can probably find it for free.

      Certainly quicker that wading through all of those words on the Solid website to find out what it actually is (and its clearly not a point-and-drool web publishing tool for the masses yet - maybe it will grow into a useful tool).

      Decentralization won't happen again, because it hasn't happened before,

      Yup, its worth remembering that the "good old days" were pretty much restricted to people who worked or studied at universities and other large institutions (even after dial-up internet 'went public' that's still what you needed if you wanted to do more than, maybe, create a forum on a bulletin board). Its never been so easy to set up your own web presence. Getting people to visit your site is another matter - even some hypothetical non-evil, decentralised version of Google won't do that if you are one voice amongst millions and don't have some other way of pump-priming the traffic.

  • (Score: -1, Spam) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @01:32PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @01:32PM (#790062)
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by shrewdsheep on Tuesday January 22 2019, @01:36PM

    by shrewdsheep (5215) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @01:36PM (#790064)

    I am still trying to wrap my head around how this might work. I guess something like facebook would be called an App which asks me for permission to access (part) of my data. Once granted it would have to copy and index my data on own servers at the very least for performance reasons. So that would be business as usual. The only difference I could see is that my data would not be locked in. I could grant permission to yet another site but my data would still reside with the first one and I do not see anything in the proposals that would allow to enforce retraction of data. Most likely on granting permission companies would try to funnel in the right to hold the data perpetually. The main challenge it seems is to make the *Apps* decentralized, rather than the data. Only if Apps would run in a peer-to-peer fashion (cashing my friends) and would be cryptographically verified so that there are guarantees to be able to retract data, true decentralization seems achievable.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by AssCork on Tuesday January 22 2019, @02:52PM (1 child)

    by AssCork (6255) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 22 2019, @02:52PM (#790079) Journal

    decentralize the internet

    So...Tor? This guy's going to invent Tor again?

    Wait, wait, wait. Let me tell him.

    --
    Just popped-out of a tight spot. Came out mostly clean, too.
    • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday January 23 2019, @12:10AM

      Yeah, I think these ideologues don't get that so many people are not in a position to have symmetric upload/download speeds on their Internet connection. Decentralization would mean chopping off at least three quarters of the effective bandwidth available to the web.

      --
      My rights don't end where your fear begins.
  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @04:15PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @04:15PM (#790108)

    From the website:

    "it relies as much as possible on existing W3C standards and protocols."

    You can't take a system that is evolved at every level to exploit consumer ignorance, and make it secure. It didn't start that way, but that is where it is now. So the premise is utterly flawed to begin with. You have to start at a lower layer than that. And if that lower layer doesn't include completely redesigning the DNS system, you're wasting your time. The lower layer problems dictate design decisions at the higher layers. Only fools build houses on fault lines.

     

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by melikamp on Tuesday January 22 2019, @04:25PM

      by melikamp (1886) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @04:25PM (#790114) Journal

      I would not expect anything else from TBL, who was the principal force behind adopting digital handcuffs into HTML5 standard. I shuddered when I saw that the #1 feature of Sordid is "true data ownership". Coming from TBL, we know who's the primary benefactor of this "feature" going to be (hint: not users).

      For my money, TBL can either apologize to users worldwide and recognize his mistake, or else go fuck himself. Almost anyone else would be better fitted for the role of making the semantic hyperlinked web user-friendlier in the 21st century. Anyone besides a newly corrupt inventor of the less-than-robust tag soup known as HTML.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @04:28PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @04:28PM (#790116)

    The primary implementation offered of Solid is written in Javascript based on Node.js

    From the docs on the Solid Community pages. This makes it so much more attractive to me </sarcasm>

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by captain normal on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:03PM (2 children)

      by captain normal (2205) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:03PM (#790173)

      Yeah, well look at who the sponsors of Solid are: MasterCard and Qatar Computing Research Institute. The reason the web is such a mess is because of marketing monkeys seeking a scam.

      --
      “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @11:49PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @11:49PM (#790374)

        Yeah, well look at who the sponsors of Solid are: MasterCard and Qatar Computing Research Institute.

        It's the company that forced Paypal to cut service to David Horowitz and Robert Spencer for researching and blogging about the terrorist organizations that Qatar supports, and the exact site that Ethan Zuckerman shipped all of the censorship-opposing Gamergate users' data to.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23 2019, @02:42AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23 2019, @02:42AM (#790426)

        To be fair, Qatar are Moderate Muslims

  • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Wednesday January 23 2019, @02:02AM

    by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 23 2019, @02:02AM (#790412) Homepage Journal

    Is there a guide to the various possibly interconnectable distributed open-source social networks?

    I can get lists of them, but I have yet to find reviews of them. Which ones do what?

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