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posted by janrinok on Friday August 30 2019, @12:08PM   Printer-friendly

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)


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Friday August 30 2019, @05:34PM (2 children)

    by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Friday August 30 2019, @05:34PM (#887843) Journal

    Protocols don't collect, store, and filter/recommend information.
    Platforms do.

    That's why platforms won.

    Before we completely deify the past, remember that in IMing one had to be on the same platform. Were you on ICQ, AiM, or Yahoo? If you used ICQ but your relative was on MSN you were out of luck. There was never any cooperation on getting a unified protocol and Facebook won the franchise wars.

    You can create the best open-sharing protocol in the universe. Someone still needs to collect/store/filter the data.
    Conversely, a platform has to operate via some kind of protocol. In current social media the platform creator uses its proprietary protocols which may or may not have API's, and usually aren't fully public so the platform owner locks people in. And the big platform owners learned it does not pay off to have or allow cross-compatibility when you are the leader.

    Consequently, anything that is to replace the current crop of social networks has to both gain adoption sufficient enough to cause interest/switching and capture enough market share to compete. But not just a protocol - what standard platforms will come along to use those protocols and become ubiquitous enough to win?

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by kazzie on Friday August 30 2019, @06:38PM

    by kazzie (5309) on Friday August 30 2019, @06:38PM (#887856)

    Before we completely deify the past, remember that in IMing one had to be on the same platform. Were you on ICQ, AiM, or Yahoo? If you used ICQ but your relative was on MSN you were out of luck. There was never any cooperation on getting a unified protocol and Facebook won the franchise wars.

    The likes of Pidgin and Trillian eased that somewhat, as multi-protocol clients. You'd still need multiple accounts, but you could combine them into one interface.

  • (Score: 2) by legont on Friday August 30 2019, @07:35PM

    by legont (4179) on Friday August 30 2019, @07:35PM (#887893)

    Protocols don't collect, store, and filter/recommend information.

    But they can provide an easy tech to help users to do it. Telegram has a concept of a "bot" that anybody can implement.

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