canopic jug writes:
Aral Balkan has a blog post about
taking small steps to end surveillance capitalism. In particular he focuses on the need for federated services. He points out that the move to re-decentralize the WWW is difficult and needs to start at the beginning, using a comparison of Apple's original computers to their latest generation of tablets as an illustration.
Five years ago, when I decided to devote myself to tackling the problem of surveillance capitalism, it was clear what we needed: convenient and beautiful ethical everyday things that provide seamless experiences1 on fully free-as-in-freedom stacks.This is as true today as it was then and it will remain so. The only way to compete with unethical products built by organisations that have control over hardware + software + services is to create ethical organisations that have control over hardware + software + services and thus have at least the possibility to craft competitive experiences. We remove our eyes from this goal at our peril.
Five years ago, when I decided to devote myself to tackling the problem of surveillance capitalism, it was clear what we needed: convenient and beautiful ethical everyday things that provide seamless experiences1 on fully free-as-in-freedom stacks.
This is as true today as it was then and it will remain so. The only way to compete with unethical products built by organisations that have control over hardware + software + services is to create ethical organisations that have control over hardware + software + services and thus have at least the possibility to craft competitive experiences. We remove our eyes from this goal at our peril.
Related: Tim Berners-Lee Launches Inrupt, Aims to Create a Decentralized Web
In contrast, bad centralization is imposition.
They key is to ensure that the underlying, decentralized system or protocol remains viable as a refuge for when the centralization goes bad. Alas, email has not remained viable, because nobody has ever updated it to handle spam—nobody ever implemented Hashcash widely (you know, that core component of Bitcoin was developed first as an anti-spam measure for email).
As a result, you can't just set up your own email server easily; not only will you have to manage incoming spam, but other email services will just discard the mail you send as spam, and so the only way to communicate via email effectively is to use Gmail and the like.
The problem is not that decentralization has failed, but rather the problem is that the email protocols have been abandoned and essentially do not exist anymore.
Like Soylent Green and everything else, the problem is people! People!
Some things do need to be "centralized" (standardized), like weights and measures, and communication protocols. They just need to be scientifically logical and widely agreed upon, and of course open, in the public domain, where nobody can get the advantage. If we can make surveillance a two way affair, the state/corp might be a bit more respectful about it.
Consider that we're now trying to get rid of that lump of metal in Paris that is used to define the Kilogram.
If you can define weights and measures in terms of fundamental aspects of the Universe, then you free humanity from relying on a central authority; anyone, anywhere, can create and calibrate instruments independently.
You people are such jerks!
Dont sweat downmods around here, sometimes it is just one person with bad reading skills.
That may be the worst example you could have picked.
There are excellent mail servers that are fairly simple to implement, with really good functionality (either as a plug in or baked in) for handling spam.
I suspect you had a bad experience with email and decided it was bad. You have absolutely no idea what you're blathering on about.
tl;dr: you're talking out of your ass and it smells that way too.
There are excellent mail servers that are fairly simple to implement
I'll bite. Which ones, and how do you define "fairly simple"?
Think of the 98% of the population that don't have access to a server, have never used a command line, and sure as heck aren't likely to mess with config files.
Now, if I can buy a $100 box on Amazon and just plug it into my home router I'm in!
How do you define server?
From the POV of a technical guy, Postfix and Sendmail, as well as Dovecot and various webmail servers are actually pretty easy to set up and manage.
Non-technical people have options [cyberciti.biz] too.
One of the big drivers of centralization, and the lack of mainstream (as in the general public, rather than the tech mainstream) knowledge/use of distributed mail/social media/file storage/etc, is the lack of widespread implementation of *symmetric* internet links in the consumer space. This is exacerbated by the abusive TOS and port blocking done by (you got it!) the big, centralized ISPs.
If we'd had broad implementation of symmetric, high-speed broadband (you know, like the US taxpayer paid/subsidized those same ISPs to do to the tune of US$50 billion) over the past 20 years, you wouldn't have seen companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google (gmail) get so big and powerful, forcing more centralization.
None of this stuff is so difficult that it can't be wrapped in simple installers and managed with a reasonable UI.
Technical issues (such as asymmetric DSL and cable bandwidth) as well as greed from the ISPs created the space for other greedy folks to create these behemoths. What's more, that also drove the rise of "the cloud" (read: someone else's servers), even though most folks have plenty of compute resources to support most of what they may want to do.
I'm painting with a broad brush, but it's all there if you look at recent history. That's another driver, IMHO. A lack of knowledge about how we got to where we are, along with a healthy dose of willful ignorance have made these trends even worse.
These are big issues that cut across industries and is primarily driven by the desire to extract the maximum amount of rent from consumers, especially since marginal costs approach zero in most of these industries.