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Ask HN: What are we doing about Facebook, Google, and the closed internet?
609 points by vkb 16 days ago | hide | past | web | 424 comments | favorite
There have been many, many posts about how toxic advertising and Facebook are (I've written many myself[1][2][3]) for our internet ecosystem today.

What projects or companies are you working on to combat filter bubbles, walled gardens, emotional manipulation, and the like, and how can the HN community help you in your goals?

[1]http://veekaybee.github.io/facebook-is-collecting-this/ [2]http://veekaybee.github.io/content-is-dead/ [3] http://veekaybee.github.io/who-is-doing-this-to-my-internet/




Make your website of record your website. Make social media platforms and others (e.g. Google) secondary to that. Don't let Google and Facebook control how you build your website. I am amazed at companies that take their websites and subjugate them to their Facebook page. You may gain social attention but you are handing over control. Never, ever, ever say to contact me go to facebook.com/xxxx or my email address is xxx@gmail.com. Your site is yoursite.com and your email is youremail.com. Your login to the sites you build are email addresses, not tied to social media providers. The closed internet providers are enhancements to your sites. They do not take the place of your site. If you follow this philosophy, you are supporting the open internet. Own your .com. Don't let others own you by taking that from you.


Adding to that: don't host your content on other domains either. Beware of insidious threats to the WWW, like AMP.


I don't really understand this? I've never used AMP directly but I use Ghost which comes packaged with AMP. How does AMP change the domain of your content?


Google Search, when used from a mobile user-agent, such as a mobile browser or some mobile-resident Google Search integration like the Google Now Launcher Search Bar, will show some results' AMP-equivalents, and uses AMP-availability as a ranking signal.

When such an AMP search result is opened from the aforementioned Google Search source, it will open in a Google Search-wrapped frame reader, such that the outside is Google Search -- although this is not visually obvious to the user -- while the inside the AMP article. The browser-level URL for this endpoint begins with 'google.com/amp/'. While it's now possible to get the article's original link from this viewer, this was not present at launch, and it was a frequent source of criticism.

This is a brief restatement of a more in-depth description I gave in a different thread [1].

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14385122


Google uses AMP for caching. When you click on the link, they are serving cached content from their own servers. They say it promotes user experience because it is faster. The average user can hardly tell the difference, and they might never go to your server.


It really depends on what you want to do: disseminate information (with a canonical URL that you control) or shovel users to your server?

In the former case, AMP caches are a reasonable compromise since it's really just a free CDN. In the latter case, that cache is annoying because of how it needs to fit in the design of the contemporary web. See the last paragraph of https://amphtml.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/why-amp-caches-exis... for some ideas on how to improve the platform so the caches wouldn't be necessary for much of AMP.


But it is an attack on the open web, Google is now sealing off the 'user leak' holes like Facebook did to keep people within their ecosystem. That's all well and good for Google, but we all rely on a relatively neutral search engine and we've relied on Google not to come back down the abstraction levels and into the application space. From a business point of view the game has changed and Google need to be treated as hostile even if they don't know it yet

If speed is the answer, then sure offer AMP, but also offer a lightning bolt next to pages that load within 'x' milliseconds. Reward speed regardless of implementation

It's only going to get worse with voice interfaces, see what Echo now does (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXEu8RcneZQ).

A vibrant ecosystem is key to competition, it's not in our long term interests to let the web consolidate into an oligarchy


AMP isn't really about speed -- it's about the appification of the open WWW.

The correct way to fix these problems would be to teach people how to make their sites faster rather than enforce restrictions on how they create and monetize their online publications.

"Pinboard founder Maciej Cegłowski already recreated the Google AMP demo page without the Google AMP JavaScript and, unsurprisingly, it's faster than Google's version."

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/19/open_source_insider...


> Maciej Cegłowski already recreated the Google AMP demo page

He solved a different problem.

I don't think anybody at AMP claims that fast pages aren't possible. Their claim is that there's a need to enforce certain rules to achieve a certain quality of service.

> teach people how to make their sites faster

In a way, that's what AMP is doing. It picks a subset of HTML5 that can be rendered efficiently, and - for now - uses javascript to fill in the blanks (eg. where desired capabilities are forbidden due to how they're commonly implemented: provide build a polyfill that's better suited) and for enforcement of these rules.

As linked in my parent post, there are already efforts to offload some of these constraints into standards to be enforced by browsers - I fully expect the AAMP scaffolding to let go of that soon after (or revert to shims)


Your content gets served on Google.com domain with a giant "back" button at the top that takes users back to Google rather than deeper into your site. It also creates restrictions on what you can publish and how you can monetize.

Here are some recent articles about it:

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/19/open_source_insider...

https://daringfireball.net/linked/2017/05/20/gilbertson-amp


Awesomely Malicious Performace


Awesomely Malicious Protocol


I have been attempting this for sometime with:

http://hyperlinkserver.com/webdesigning/tomorrow/

I have had multiple developers quit and don't have the $80k budget quoted by Gigster.

Concept: in the same way you might register a username/handle on ig/twitter a user registers a new domain (or "connects" a domain the user already owns).

Using Enom API we also offer "branded" email and private registration, and in the background the name records are automatically pointed to their "tomorrowbook page". By logging into tomorrowbook the user can use the "text tool" to add posts to their website, basic website analytics, and ability to customize their follow/like buttons...also access the tomorrowbook email client for their branded email, not unlike a social messaging tool only open bc it works on email protocol.

Obviously the explanation above changes just a little for users who own domains with 3rd party registrars and/or using 3rd party hosting.

How can HN help? If there are any developers who can get the Enom API out of sandbox and fully functional where my other developers have quit.


I'd be happy to talk with you about what you are doing with the API. I don't know if my company would have time to write it for you, but I'd be happy to talk through it with you and offer some suggestions.


I kind of like that idea! have you looked into getting a single technical consultant to help you outsource to india?


+1 totally correct

Social media works well for announcing stuff on my own web site (new blog articles, new releases of open source projects, new books I have written, etc.)

Hosting long form content of someone else's domain is not playing the game right.


Ok, but what about the other 99% of the population who are too busy to completely learn ops and opsec? My mom isn't going to leave facebook to make her own website and host her own email, even if you give her all the tutorials in the world.


No one said anything about hosting your own email or making your own website.

eg. My wife has a small business with an online store hosted on Shopify and her email provider is Gmail. But her website is www.her_domain.com and her email address is @her_domain.com.

She can easily switch out her providers and her contact addresses don't change. No real tech knowledge needed except for how to register a domain name and follow some how-to docs from Shopify and Gmail.


I think this is the right attitude to take. It strikes the perfect balance between offloading your problems to the big guys, and keeping control if they decide to screw you over, or run off into the wild yonder.

That doesn't mean they couldn't still mess you up pretty bad. You'd want a pretty solid backup scheme, and you'll still have to accept the loss of some levels of privacy etc. but that might be worth it to you to subsidise cheap services, while still having an escape plan.


They're already screwing us over--they took sides in the election and modified/molded content and search results in an attempt to push their agenda. That was evil.


Registering a domain name may as well be magic to a large portion of the population.


Is it more complicated than buying and owning a car? A house? More complicated than filing your taxes, managing retirement savings, having a wedding, choosing insurance?

Learning the basics of something new, enough to get by, is part of being an adult, even if you won't ever be and have no interest in being an expert.


Given the number of bad financial decisions people make because they don't really understand those things I'm not sure that those comparisons are helping your case, but even so, for a lot of people it IS more complicated than those things because they are afraid of technology in a way that they aren't afraid of tangible things.

Solving 99% of technical problems requires nothing more than Google and following instructions in the first result, but people still can't handle it. Most people haven't given running a website enough thought that they would even know what to look for. A good portion don't even really understand URLs enough to type facebook.com into the address bar instead of Googling Facebook and clicking the first result.


I'm not sure those people are so willing to brand themselves online. If they are, they already have the capital to have someone else do it for them.

The process of registering the domain behind the scenes might be a bit magic but buying one and pointing it at a hosting provider certainly isn't.


You're ignoring (or overestimating) the enormous segment of the population who wouldn't even have an Internet presence if it didn't come with the phone, and getting the phone was already the one of the most mentally challenging things they've done in years.


Not really. I know people with zero tech knowledge who have done it. Anyone able to register a trademark. Art director, actors etc.


Right, and it's not like you couldn't ask a technical friend to get it done.


I'm not an advocate for anything that results in even more people bugging me to do "computer stuff" for them


I've read all of your comments in my subthread and I agree with everything you've said. Especially this! It was immediately what came to mind but I hit my post count.

This problem of getting people to care about alternatives to Facebook seems to be something you've given a lot of thought as well. Mind if I ask what field you work in?


I work at Google (with the standard disclaimer that my opinions are my own), with a history in the financial and defense industries. Nothing particularly related to Facebook, but I'm sympathetic to the concerns around Facebook. I just think HN tends to miss the forest for the trees when discussing alternatives


Understandably so, after all HN is its own little echo chamber. Technophobia is a real problem and we can't just tell people to "get over it" and join the rest of us, who have likely spent our entire lives working with computers for hours a day.

And asking someone to rely on their geek friend for deployment, education and support instead of relying on a stable platform like Facebook is just silly. Unless we can provide a similar, stable and feature-packed platform then there is just no perceptible incentive for people to make the switch.

I mean heck, Google couldn't even do it.

I think the problem needs to be attacked from multiple vectors. Simply building a technologically superior platform with better privacy control isn't enough. There needs to be a real shift in understanding about the dangers of big social media.


You've enlarged the scope of my comment tenfold, it was that you could ask a friend to help register a domain or move it, that might happen once or twice a decade.

But what about teaching them proper security practices, deployment practices, maintenance, all of those things that go into actually running a website? Even if its just using Wordpress or a static site generator? Registering a domain is the tip of the iceberg in hosting your own content.

The are being paid to do so. Also they see it as part of the job.


So what can we do to make this simpler? Make the technology easier to understand?


You could provide a one stop shop for sharing information with the people you care about that is easy enough to use that even people who are afraid of technology can handle it... also everyone they know needs to already be on it... but then you just created Facebook.

The ease of use is only one part of the problem, the other part is that you are trying to solve a problem that a lot of people who use Facebook just don't care about. Facebook fills their need and they really don't care about walled gardens or open internet or whatever else the HN crowd views as a dire issue.


I do this as well for my personal email. It's good to decouple your front end from your back end.

The main concern I still have is that I'd lose gchat if I swapped out my email host from Google apps.


Website in a box (docker), put it wherever. This might be a good idea.


Yes. But by website in a box, it would have to be as dirt simple as signing up for FB.

So, gramma goes to a web page, clicks the signup, the website deploys a docker image on a webhost and spins up a UI that is not unlike what she is already used to.

Next, comment and "likes". You have to have a comment system that runs on there also. Gramma would invite others to her site by clicking invite. This would generate a specific invite signature for that person and would email it out (gramma would need to know Uncle Fred's email; sorry gramma). Uncle Fred would click the link and be taken to gramma's sight and can comment. All comments stay on gramma's sight. All gramma's content, period, stay's on gramma's sight.

How does one monetize, however?


There are some docker images on DockerHub which are very polished along those lines. OwnCloud for storage, Ghost for blogging. You run them with default settings and they open to a nice welcome page with a tutorial and a fully-functional setup.

With a docker UI like Kitematic, it's remarkably similar to an app store experience.


To monetize you could make referral deals with web hosts. I assume this setup means that gramma is paying the web host a fee.


Why would my mother do that instead of just using Facebook which is already there and already had all of her friends and family on it?


She wouldn't. But there are many people who don't like Facebook for privacy reasons or other reasons mentioned in this sub-thread. They might opt for such a service. And then it would grow organically if the experience/total package really was more in line what people want out of a web presence. Its not like the whole world would switch overnight

Because maybe Facebook nukes her account, for whatever reason.


When has this actually happened? And by this I mean that out of nowhere Facebook suddenly has deleted someone's page and then not restored it?

I get what you are suggesting, but I can't help but to think you are making this way bigger issue than it actually is.

Also all of you are missing the most obvious point: if it hasn't happened to a lot (and I mean literally more than 10-20% of user base) it is not a significant risk and thus spending extra effort for literally no gain (and actually probably more of a loss in views/users/buyers/whatever) is not worth paying someone to design you a website and paying for updates and then A) paying for (yet another) 3rd party company to host your website B) learning how to setup, host, update, and maintain your own website.

I'm sure most of people on this site could easily setup their own website and run it wherever, but the reason why people are paying you to do such things for living means that most people can't be bothered to learn all the necessary skills.


Facebook's real name policy affects some people lots more than others - particularly lgbt people, and sex workers.

I'd guess that amongst my friendship group around 5-10% of people have been affected by this. This is disproportionately high - a suburban soccer mom is far more likely to never see anyone have problems with their fb account. But amongst certain populations this is a real problem and can put people at risk.

Fb has decided that the increase in value from 99% of users is worth the pain for 1%, and that the network effect will keep the 1% in line. They're probably right. On the other hand, fb got a foothold in the market through 1% of the population who are college students, an alternative social network could get a foothold through the queer or other communities that fb is ignoring.


Good luck posting some controversial point of view on Facebook or similar platforms. They'll axe you in the blink of an eye.

It's real. It happens all the time. I have seen it again and again.


I may have a business one day that sells bits for model steam locos. Many people who are likely to be my customers belong to a facebook group, and probably don't use their PCs much except for facebook and e-mail.

And if I needed to post a controversial point of view on my model steam loco business page, I've got bigger problems than facebook.

I can't stand facebook, but for my purposes it is probably the cheapest, most direct, and low effort way for those people to get to me. It's also probably pretty low effort on my part.

The business would never be more than a cottage industry and I certainly wouldn't want to spend ANY money on IT that I could avoid.

Anyone here offering to donate their time to keep all my IT in order for the same cost I can do it with facebook, and give me the exposure it will to my potential customers?

If so I'll give you my gmail address to get in contact ;)


I think that your point of view is both : - totally acceptable :-) - not really answering the OP question !

The way I understand it, the question could be phrased : "What costs are we willing to pay to reduce the collective social costs of ultradependence on private companies". You clearly states what are the costs you're not willing to pay, but don't really answer the question which is : what costs would you actually be ready to pay ? (Maybe the answer is none, but I don't feel like you actually state that ?)


There are no costs for IT I'd be willing to pay for. The nature of the business is such that it wouldn't even be worth having a shopping cart type app running.

The web presence of the business would basically be an advertisement, newsletter, and contact page.

There are related businesses that sell lots of small items, eg nuts, bolts, material, that would be a lot more convenient to use with a shopping cart, but mine doesn't need it.


I think you could have a connector between your site and Facebook. Basically an app that would synchronize content. You should certainly start on Facebook, see if you have something valuable and then think about transferring to a self hosted solution. At that point you might find it worth it but maybe not.

Docker containers make sense because they are portable apps. You can choose where to deploy them, upgrade them, and store the data or what not.


My day job is software development, and your second paragraph made me shudder. So imagine what someone who doesn't want anything to do with IT would think!

The majority of the world do not want to know about containers, hosting services, domain names, or anything else that is related to computers.

I'm not even sure that is changing with younger people - they're happy enough to dick around with social media but don't want to get involved in running a web site and all the software on it.

If a business can work with a "no obvious cost" platform like facebook, the owner won't start paying for something "better" in response to non-quantifiable downsides and threats possibly posed by the platform.


>And if I needed to post a controversial point of view on my model steam loco business page, I've got bigger problems than facebook.

Yeah, but what if you post it on your personal wall, and get banned for that? You won't be able to access your page, it doesn't matter you kept it clean.


I only use facebook for the model engineering group(s) and unless they decide discussions about miniature locos are dodgy I should be okay.

I can see there is a potential trap there for the people who decide to mix their personal and professional lives on something like facebook. I just think it is unlikely to get sprung, and comments like "why on earth don't they take complete control of their online presence and register their domain, get their system hosted, set up all their e-mail addresses, etc" could only be written somewhere like HN. The rest of the world would just shake their head slowly.


Yeah, I agree. But I think mixing personal and professional on Facebook is pretty much by default, and most people do it. Also, the illusion that people could control their own presence comes from the fact that this is how it used to work, back when the internet was a much different place.

You're going to need to show examples for people being banned for JUST posting a controversial point of view. Most of the time I hear this, it wasn't for the point of view, but because the person was actually breaking the ToS, and they knew it.


What happened for me was that people stopped seeing my controversial posts to the point where the only reason I still had facebook, which was to discuss tech, philosophy, and politics with the masses, became void.

That was an awakening moment for me. Promptly deleted the damned thing and every other social media account I had. Technological echo chambers are going to do so much harm to society.


Yes, Facebook has an insidious shadow-ban system. Its goal is showing people what they like, and not what they don't like. So they're happy Facebook users, seeing happy Facebook ads.


Some suggest it shows a healthy balance of things users like and dislike. That addicting loop of frustration and redemption we often find in the mobile gaming sphere. Not to mention it does this using machine learning techniques to get the timing down juuuust right.

Something something something beauty without pain.

I think my posts were well beyond the "frustrating but redeemable" category, because I had a purposeful tendency to discuss abrasive subjects in order to elicit strong reactions.

So the question is, how the hell do we create a platform that encourages people to challenge their preconceived notions in a way that doesn't make them unbearably uncomfortable in an age where people will do just about anything to not feel uncomfortable, even if it leads to stronger discomfort later?

I have a nascent idea of an anonymous conversation app that pairs users and groups together with various conversation starters, migrating them to new groups over time, while still allowing them to have conversations with users and groups they have befriended over time.

What do you think of such an app and its potential utility for solving this problem?


> ... I had a purposeful tendency to discuss abrasive subjects in order to elicit strong reactions.

That sounds a little like trolling, but I get that you meant it as educational. Maybe a distinction that simple machines don't make.

> ... anonymous conversation app that pairs users and groups together with various conversation starters ...

And that sounds a little like Usenet, or discussion forums. Except that group selection and migration are totally voluntary. In my experience, unless there's moderation, you eventually get trolling wars. Which seem like harassment, to people who don't want to (and/or don't know how to) play those games. And everyone but the trolls eventually leaves.

If you could build an app that facilitated intense discussion, and prevented trolling and harassment, that would be very cool. Forcing anonymity would largely prevent harassment, because anyone who felt harassed could just move to a new persona. And there would be no meatspace impact.

Did you ever go on talk.masked? It used to be a main branch off core.onion (Tor onion services).


I rarely started abrasive discussions, but I would jump on the abrasive statements of others pretty quickly to call out bullshit.

A little off topic, but an example: Someone declared that if you ever doubt any woman's claim about being raped or assaulted, you are the worst kind of person, and you're sexist.

Well, I was assaulted once, and then the girl turned around and told all of my friends that I attacked her.

I lost a LOT of friends over this and it had a pretty negative impact on my life. I shared this experience, and next thing I know dozens of women I'd never met are telling me I'm likely to be a rapist when I grow up and I should just kill myself and I was probably lying about not attacking her. I was just a white male who has no experience with abuse and should keep my mouth shut. Nevermind that I was physically abused for 15 years until I left home.

The complete irony of the situation, what with the victim-blaming and being called sexist while being told my opinion as a white male was invalid, was not lost on me. That was the first big sign that Facebook had become a cesspool.

This is exactly the kind of harmful backwards thinking I want to eradicate. However it seems that some rich and powerful have decided it is in their best interest to manufacture this kind of thought and impress it into the masses. I want to find out how technology can create a level playing field.

The app's just a thought experiment but I wonder if group moderation could be done in a way that doesn't produce social bubbles or echo chambers.

I haven't been on talk.masked. Is it not active anymore? I haven't been on Usenet in a while.



I was thinking of this recent post: http://www.optimizationtoday.com/social-media/what-i-learned...

Searching "facebook blocked" suggests that it's a common problem.


> When has this actually happened?

It happened to a lot of Facebook meme pages.[0]

[0]: https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/the-zuckening-mark-zuckerbe...


> When has this actually happened?

Germany and France do this regularly for what they consider "hate speech" (for example retweeting newspaper articles about attacks by migrants). Germany has just installed a law that allows imposing multi million EUR fines on companies for repeatedly violating requests to delete user content that violates these fuzzy criteria.

There's a huge influx of German users to gab.ai because of this.


How would this be any different on self hosted platform

I am an advocate of having your own domain and having control. But most people don't care as much as the hacker news crowd does. "Phone broke, here is my new number..." really? For business it's critical to maintain any form of communication you have ever offered. But for personal, a lot of people don't care if they change their [email] and inconvenience their friends and family.

The internet is not crucial to everyones daily life. And honestly, it probably shouldn't be as crucial to ours.


I like the idea, but the goal would be to make configuration, deployment, maintenance, and good security as easy as possible. So easy that you don't have to touch a command line. Mind expanding on the idea a bit?


I think It is time to reinstate geocities.


You might be interested in its spiritual successor neocities, then

https://neocities.org/


And the founder of Neocities thinks it's time to instate a distributed web https://blog.neocities.org/blog/2015/09/08/its-time-for-the-...


ok how will neocities or anybody hosting a node be compensated? How will the artists whose works are being distributed in this manner be compensated?


With some sort of "proof of upstream" cryptocurrency that trickles a percentage back to the content's origin node along with other nodes in between. Users would earn credits by leaving their devices connected and forwarding data, paying most of it back into the network when downloading data.

The original uploaders of very popular content would accumulate a surplus of credits, which they then sell to to mega-crawlers. Content creators would do well to be the original uploaders of their own content on such a network.

The credits would also be incentive to buy devices and leave them running in poor-coverage areas. E.g. the owners of billboards could mount repeaters along rural highways.


They probably won't, but could by using a distributed pay to host service like filecoin https://filecoin.io/


How sites would make money? I'm not really thinking about that too much right now, but I suppose sites could do all the usual things they do with the current web (advertising, accepting payments via credit card gateways, Bitcoin, Patreon, etc). It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition and it certainly isn't to me. Some functionality will still require a centralized service​, just not the entire thing.


So, Wordpress basically?


That's a fine business idea.


I was with you until logins. I'm tired of creating accounts and managing umpteen million passwords.


I only know two passwords: one for my password manager and one to unlock my computer.


But you're still "managing umpteen million passwords", hence the name password manager.


That makes no sense. You use a password manager so you don't need to manage the passwords. If you don't like the concept of having passwords at all then use a stateless, hash-based password generator instead.


How does one integrate that with Facebook or Google or Nameasite?


A browser extension could be made pretty easily. If you have a terminal open, do `echo mymasterpassword facebook.com | shasum -a 256 | pbcopy`.


What's the alternative? To authenticate against our FB account? I'd much rather have a distributed system than to be forced to maintain a FB account just to login.


Persona seemed like a pretty good system, until it was shut down. I don't like single-sign-on systems in general, but having it managed by the Mozilla foundation seemed a lot safer than relying on Google/Facebook. I think their original long term plan was to transition users away from their single-sign-on service as browser support for the features they needed got better.

The only thing that bothered me about the general design is that it used email addresses as identification tokens, and for the site I was making I didn't even want that much personal information from my users.


How about indieauth[0]?

Indieauth lets you authenticate to websites based on your control of a website you specify (via rel=me links).

[0]: https://indieauth.com/


I haven't fully read your link yet, but wasn't that the point of the original opened spec too?


Yes? But indieauth does not require you to personally run an auth server, which makes it easier to adopt. Basically it will search through different online identities that you list on your home page and letting you choose any of their OAuth services.


Neither did OpenID, you would just list your auth server in a special meta tag. IndieAuth even seems to support acting as your OpenID server, see https://indieauth.com/openid .


"I'm tired of creating accounts and managing umpteen million passwords."

That's your choice. You can use the same credentials for all accounts you create and manage the entire mass as one. It's a bad practice, I know, but it's still a solution.


> It's a bad practice

That's the understatement of the century.


Sure, "not recommended", but works fine for 99% of people 100% of the time.


It's such a bad practice that it is not a solution.


In the near future, use DApps (Decentralized Applications) a few of them are already up and running.


I like the prospect of DApps with the client-side code served out of IPFS, and the backend on Ethereum.


Yeah, I completely agree. There are already some services in this space trying to combat filter bubbles and walled gardens, Akasha [https://akasha.world/] for social networks, DNN Media [http://dnn.media/] for news and Lemon Email [https://ipfs.io/ipns/dapp.lemon.email/#/] (dApp and the full beta version) for email system. The last one is completely in line of what you're talking about. I like the approach through blockchain systems because, if used properly, they have the potential to become direction in favor of democratization and decentralization of information.


Set up Akasha out of interest and it does seem really promising. Thanks for the tip!


Lemon Email looks really cool, thanks for sharing.


By making your email something custom instead of @gmail, you're spending some energy, time, and money to protect against a perceived threat.

I guess my real question is, what exactly is that threat, how damaging is it, and how likely is it to occur?

By my mental math, I can't really justify spending even a few bucks, or more expensively, a few hours, protecting against some consequence that I can't really quantify at any real level of risk.

For business, sure, because there are other benefits to having a custom domain, but for personal stuff, I don't really see the cost/benefit analysis making sense. The biggest threat seems to be that the government will have my data and I'll be advertised at, but having my own domain doesn't help either way. Am I missing something?


> you're spending some energy, time, and money to protect against a perceived threat.

Perceived by some but apparently not by many others who are still clueless. I know multiple people who invested considerable time and energy into building up Facebook pages only to suddenly be cut off from fans who had followed them when fb decided to go the pay to play route. I personally lost my YouTube channel, due to sheer incompetence on Google's side after they moved to the single login system across Google, Plus, YouTube, etc. I tried many times over multiple years to get access again but their support is crappy as I'm sure you've heard many times before...

For a short term experiment, it's totally reasonable to give it a shot. But if you're trusting Google, Facebook or any other tech giant (or even small startup) with things important to you, you're making a mistake. Not backing up something as important as all your email history in Gmail would be insane, in my opinion. Even with a backup, you could lose access to a lot of other services if Google ever locks you out, as they have done to many, many people in the past.


>I know multiple people who invested considerable time and energy into building up Facebook pages only to suddenly be cut off from fans who had followed them when fb decided to go the pay to play route.

An anecdote on a similar note, there's a comedian I'm a fan of who had an Instagram account he used to post funny boudoir style photos as a big, bald, overweight man. All of his posts were well within Instagram's terms of use, in that he never showed full nudity or anything overly suggestive. Basically he was doing the same thing thousands of "butt models" do on Instagram. These weren't just cell phone snaps, either; they were staged and professionally shot images.

He gained a few thousands followers with this, until one day when he was locked out of his banned account with no explanation. With the help of a friend he managed to contact someone who works at Instagram and was told his account was removed for "harassment". Since no other explanation was given the only conclusion that seems reasonable is that people reported him for "making fun of" plus sized female models by doing the same thing himself, which is absolutely ridiculous, as he was always positive about what he was doing. He just happened to be a bald fat man while doing it.


You can still host your domain on google apps which is simple and painless. The key is that you can take your domain with you and move it wherever you want later on, if you choose to.


Exactly this. I'm lucky though in that I signed up when it was Google Apps for Domains (and free). I've been using it for years without paying (having been grandfathered in). If I ever decide that I don't want to be on Google anymore, I can take my domain and move to (e.g.) FastMail without having to go through the pain of shifting everything over. I don't have to:

* spam everyone I know to use a new email address.

* go through authorship information in any READMEs out there for projects I may contribute to.

* deal with an invalid email address embedded in public commits (ala Github).

* deal with possibly important, time-sensitive emails ending up in a blackhole.

* updating email information for online accounts. Especially for sites that use a combo of email address/password rather than login/password.

* etc...

I only have to pay ~$12/year (or less if I buy years in bulk) to keep the domain, and I also get the benefit of being able to grant emails on the domain to other people too.


Same here. Having my own domain at least decreases the risk of ever losing access to my email address. A lot of developers seem to do this.

It's a shame that this is not something the average person can do easily. Email addresses are by design linked to specific domains.


In the end of the day it looks like false freedom for me. You think that you can move everywhere you want, but you're still using a closed source platform (Google).

To have an "open web" we have to have as usable, hassle free alternatives. And as I don't see that day coming yet, because you have to invest your time and money to take care of something (e.g., your email) that wasn't a worry to you before, we won't have "an open web" any time soon.

Some may have the perception that they are "free" and "contributing to an open web" when they're not.

Furthermore you may argue that is best to post in your own website instead of facebook. But what if your business depends on posting on Facebook to earn more? Some may write a copy in their websites, but they will be secondary. Or everybody moves out from such closed source platforms (the masses won't), or we won't have an open web.

I'm looking forward to be completely mistaken. Tell me how wrong I am.

p.s.: my entire comment is not necessary a reply to the comment above, only part of it.


exactly, you can protect yourself from a lot of manipulation over time by owning your own domain and always look to build traffic into your personal control, while 3rd parties often offer attractive propositions, the fact that any community built on their platform is not yours to truly 'own' is an issue over time and a risk that is easily mitigated by paying a yearly domain fee.


> to protect against a perceived threat...

It might be too romantic these days, but it you might be better if you see it as a matter of principle...Doing the right thing (Backed by your own thought ofcourse).

Think of it as selling your identity off to a thrid party. If you see that as an improper thing on its own, then you shouldn't do it no matter how much value the third party provides, right?

Things like facebook are essentially saying. "Give us your identity, secrets and your whole life, we will save you some cash and make some (nonessential?) things (slightly?) easier for you"....


> The biggest threat seems to be that the government will have my data and I'll be advertised at, but having my own domain doesn't help either way. Am I missing something?

The biggest threat is that Google removes or locks you out of your gmail account.


Right, many people have been permanently "canceled" over unwitting mistakes they've made.


Yes. My girlfriend has a bellsouth.net email address (it's our ISP). Recently, Tumblr announced that anyone with an email address belonging to AT&T (and yes, bellsouth.net is owned by AT&T) will no longer be able to use said email address to log into Tumblr. I don't have a clue why, it is what it is.

So now she's forced to get another email address to log into Tumblr. I got around that by creating an email address at my own personal domain that forwards to her current bellsouth.net address, and that was good enough for Tumblr.

Enjoy your free Internet.


Details at https://www.att.com/esupport/article.html#!/email-support/KM...

My guesses: Tumblr belongs to Yahoo. Yahoo had some agreement with AT&T to provide them services. The agreement is no more, AT&T customers can't use their AT&T email to login into Yahoo services anymore. I don't see why that should be technically our commercially necessary, but that's it.


One really basic threat that just seems so obvious and i controversial to me is that in another five to ten years when there is a new service that comes out that is cooler and better, you can just switch to it without effort. When you see someone with an AOL or a Yahoo address, it says something about the person: remember that a true one point they had best of breed solutions.


i controversial -> non-controversial

a true one -> at some


So we're doomed to the tradgedy of the commons?


The problem with this is that these platforms thrive because of their existing network effects. Even if you own your very own well built .com the vast majority of these dot coms will still have a combination of facebook, twitter, youtube accounts etc which mirror content available on your personal site. This provides distribution that is otherwise difficult to come across.

I have been working on a purposed solution over at http://www.peerprofile.com which allows creation of a personal domain and instead of getting locked in provides an open model.


How is this different from about.me? The user still doesn't own a domain, they just have a hosted page to link to their other profiles. Is that the full point of the product? What am I missing?


do you use this?


> You may gain social attention but you are handing over control.

Yeah it's a tradeoff and for many people giving up that control is worth it.


No it's not. They think it's worth it until the negative aspects catch up to them. Then they weep.

Due to some unexplainable optimism, people always believe that injustice won't happen to them. Just like with car accidents. And just like with car accidents, there should be some sort of "insurance" against unforeseen douchebaggery.

It's like this : - let's say there's a 1% chance of FaceGoogle abuse for anyone - when faced with that 1% chance, most people (99,99%) will choose to forego the insurance - 0.99% of people are now vulnerable to injustice

People are not as rational as we'd like. We don't have a very good sense of how likely something is to happen, especially when the probabilities get smaller.


I maintain a website for a small nonprofit in my town. We did our best to get our name out there directly but 90% of our hits came from Facebook. For worse the site has serious levels of engagement.


Looks like there's a typo in your first sentence. I could sort of figure out what you meant, but it took a bit of digging.

EDIT: Never mind, I was straight-up wrong. Sorry!


You mean the following sentence?

> Make your website of record your website.

I don't see a typo (and your comment is 3 minutes more recent than his, so I don't think he made any corrections). Maybe "record" is throwing you off?

What he means is that "Your official or authoritative website (i.e., website of record, like owner of record) should belong to and be controlled by you."

Edit: If you're saying that the sentence could be hard to parse, yes I agree.


Ah, much better way of phrasing it. Thanks

* website-of-record should be your own.


That's good. I'd probably have used quotes to indicate I'm using a phrase that's made up or not very common. Your "website of record" should be your own. So-called. If you will.


>Don't let others own you by taking that from you.

Others doesn't include whoever provides your MX records.


If whoever provides your MX records decides they no longer want to serve you it is no problem to change that with your DNS provider. If Facebook decides to close your business page you have no alternative to maintain those connections with customers or for advertising.


I don't generate my own power either, the line has to be drawn somewhere.


"Please stop posting our website on HackerNews. It's a cloudy day, and poor Kevin can only pedal his exercise bike so fast."


I am a member of the W3C Social Web Working Group (https://www.w3.org/wiki/Socialwg), and have been organizing IndieWebCamp (https://indieweb.org/) conferences in this space for the last 7 years. We've been making a lot of progress:

* https://www.w3.org/TR/webmention/ - cross-site commenting

* https://www.w3.org/TR/micropub/ - API for apps to create posts on various servers

* https://www.w3.org/TR/websub/ - realtime subscriptions to feeds

* More: https://indieweb.org/specs

We focus on making sure there are a plurality of implementations and approaches rather than trying to build a single software solution to solve everything.

Try commenting on my copy of this post on my website by sending me a webmention! https://aaronparecki.com/2017/06/08/9/indieweb


I had no idea these standards were in any phase of existence and I'm really excited about them.


Existing is one thing. Adoption is something else entirely.


More important I think is this misunderstanding that this is a technical problem to solve.


The technology is insufficient but necessary. Users want features. Open standards that allow implementation of those features are a (small) but necessary part of the solution.


> Users want features.

They want more than just features, they want to get them for "free."

We've had equivalent standards in the late 90's and early 2000's (RSS, ATOM, XML-RPC pingbacks, etc.), had open/free code for that (MovableType and WordPress) and yet personal blogging mostly died because it was easier to just post on Facebook and there was a bigger audience there.

Facebook from that perspective is "free," as in no software to install, no updates to do and no servers to pay for. Running your own install of some blogging software entails paying for it, having a lower audience and having to handle software updates (and database upgrades, plugin upgrades, templates, etc.).


These services could all still be provided for "free" and still follow open standards. Just like email is an open standard yet we all still use "free" Gmail.

The success of Facebook is that they offered these services in a very user friendly manner and for "free". The tragedy of Facebook is that their implementations are a proprietary walled garden, and now pretty much a monopoly.


Gmail, and other big email providers, are exactly what we don't want these open/free social media protocols to become. Gmail reads your emails regurgitates them as AdSense.

Personally, I think we need to be encouraging people to pay small fees for services. A dollar a month to use Twitter? Sure! $20 a year to use Gmail minus the data mining? No problem.


There are certainly adopters, some (who even leverage plugins such as via wordpress) may not even know that they're adopters. If you're interested, i encourage you to follow along in the discussion (through various means - e.g. irc, matrix, etc.): https://indieweb.org/discuss


Who is implementing these? I saw there was an Apache project as a reference implementation a while ago but it was now abandoned. Is there a new reference implementation or are there plans for creating one?



Thank you.


This looks like a good start for a personal blog site: https://github.com/barryf/transformative

I found this on the Webmention Implementation Report [1].

1. https://webmention.net/implementation-reports/summary/


This looks like an interesting list. I'm giving myself homework: Read the above. Now, Attempting a Webmention right now.


looks awesome.

Is there way I can be notified about different such projects being done at W3C?


Hi Aaron. I didn't know you were part of that committee. Cool!


There is no going back, this 'battle' was lost a long time ago.

We've tried so hard to make technology ubiquitous and accessible to everyone. We thought that that was a good idea at the time, except we didn't really understand it entirely.

The consequence of ubiquitous technology is that the majority now has access to powerful tools to 'express' themselves while being subjected to constant brainwashing into behaving in predictable ways - purchasing, thinking, liking, voting, etc.

By 'expressing' themselves, they contribute to a cacophony of content, which makes it very hard to discern truth from fabrication, leading to confusion, apathy and insecurity, exactly the sweet spots that advertisers of all kinds target.

A small minority profits greatly from this system, while the users themselves are rewarded with a 'virtual self' which is slowly taking over their 'real' self, making even the idea of losing it scary. This mental trap is very powerful - just look at the number of 'zombies' on the streets - people interacting with their phones there and then, disregarding others and their personal safety..

The remaining 5% who are aware of these issues get to share all the alternative technological solutions and monetary scraps left over from the big fishes.

So I don't think there's anything to 'do' about it - just be aware of it and try to stay away from large crowds.

I respect and applaud the efforts of so many who try to build distributed and anonymous systems, but I'm very bearish about any of them becoming 'mainstream' for the reasons described above plus this one: most people don't care about these things.

Those who control these systems are some of the most powerful people in the world. In time, they will get older and more conservative. Soon they will venture into politics on a global scale.

Considering the alternatives, maybe that's not the worst thing after all.


Forgive me if I exaggerate, but you sound a chef who is appalled by the lack of variety in fruits and vegetables distributed at a shelter.

Billions of people can communicate and learn in ways never before possible. This is overall A Very Good Thing.


I think it's good on balance, but am also scared about the dangers ahead, and around us.

I'm sure when the tractor was invented, some bright minds realized this was going to be the end of small farms, and that some day we'd be eating manufactured food product out of a tube, having long forgotten the art of cultivating a rich breadbasket for your family.

They would've been right, of course, we've lost our health and our knowledge of the earth, somewhat catastrophically.

Which isn't to say we should've skipped the tractor. But just that "it's net good" won't be the end of the story.


The above example might as well serve to reassure you that dystopia is a long ways off. Because whoever saw the first "tractors" and had such worries, died long before the first hints of "tube food" appeared --- or certainly before such became daily standard fare for the majority, rather than the odd diversionary rare "treat" / entertainment for an urban minority..

Agricultural examples are also tricky analogies here. Replacing beasts of burden with fossil fuels for one always carried the siren song of "we can feed more people for lowered costs --- think of the many hungry ones" (of course reproduction rates always outran such promises then til now) and certainly none of these inventions had the potential to so profoundly rewire brains and actual human consciousness as the always-on, easy-to-use, always-connected, full-mobility "smart" screens that spreaded slowly less than a decade ago.


So... Can I assume you are doing something about this? Like are you going to buy a farm and start "cultivating rich breadbaskets"? If answer is anything, but: "Yes" followed by a planned date, then you are just blowing out air. It's easy to say "hurdur we used to be close to earth and things were so much better" from your yoga mat using latest MacBook Pro, but unless you are actually getting up at the crack of dawn to work on fields you have no idea how much work goes into farming.


Yes. No I won't buy a farm, as distant intentional communities seem to inevitably stagnate in isolation.

My MacBook is a 2011 MacBook Air.

I think you might be pretty interested in how I see the path back. It won't be retreading the path we came in on. And things will be very different when we get there.


Don't be lame with the Facebook tease. Tell us or don't, and for the record, I am interested.

I think we'll implement the basic functions of capitalism in software, and learn to use them on a smaller and smaller scale, to the point where you could issue a bond to buy a burrito and sell your burrito farts, someone else could buy the bond, the burrito gets eaten, and dividends paid in the span of an hour.

As that technology diffuses, large corporations will lose their competitive advantage over individuals, and we'll switch over to voluntary contracts for all commerce, instead of coercive employment and property regimes. There will rarely be a time when you think "well, this deal isn't great but I don't have a lot of other choices". You'll be able to just decompose the deal and bid out its parts to an effectively infinite network of contractors, and bond it out in tiny increments. Any business plan which makes sense will be immediately implementable.

Simultaneous with this, we will also develop softwares for other political organizations besides capitalism, including communism, monarchism, fascism, etc, which we will all participate in voluntarily in the same way. Anarcho-syndicalism will be notable among these, because it is the only one with a mechanical basis in consent and a morality grounded in self-defense.

In this new regime, where people are no longer dependent on large cultural institutions for basic sustenance, consent will become a much more valuable marketing tool. People won't be used to being pushed around, so pull-based institutions will start to work better. Anarcho-syndicalism will have a powerful advantage in this market, and people will shift over to using it for most of their daily transactions. These will have to be mirrored with capital-based accounting in order to be legal in capitalist states, but the actual people involved will think less and less in terms of capital. You will come to my bakery and ask for some bread, and depending on the rules of the syndicate, I'll give it to you. In the background AIs will note a "sale", a bond if necessary, and file tax forms, but you and I won't look at them. Anarcho-syndicalism will be how we make decisions, capitalism will just be an accounting method required to not be put in jail for illegal distribution of bread.

Eventually the capital accounting will be ignored for most things, certainly basic healthcare concerns like housing, food, mental health, maintenance of sacred lands, etc. The capital contracts will still be used in the entertainment industry, which will make up the vast majority of GDP. And even within that industry, corporations will be a minority. Most work will happen inside small partnerships of 2-10 people who are working directly together, said partnerships also contracting out to the individuals as sole proprietors. Full time employment will be extremely rare.

The economics of this are based on the presumption that human health is inherently valuable, so bonding it is no problem.

In this way capitalism will "die", still existing but no longer being a central conduit of resources and power.


The comparison with lack of blah at a shelter is telling, don't you think, when you think about how shelters are usually a place where people are "doled" out stuff? It is not merely a patronizing suggestion (which the billions of people are already aware of and accustomed to), but it is also taking a lot of people down a path where their choices will become severely restricted in the future. How is that "A Very Good Thing"?

Also, think about what companies start doing when they start failing. And don't make implicit assumptions that these megaliths will never fail or stumble. What would you, as the CEO who is supposed to "maximize shareholder value" do? Are you going to say "Well, we could do some shady things to exploit the data we have and buy ourselves some more time, but it is a better idea to declare bankruptcy and close the company"? Imagine a company like Facebook nearing bankruptcy. You can bet on your life that they will offer the appropriate third parties greater control of their data mining prowess in return for a bailout. Is that also overall a Very Good Thing?

Also, notice how the 2008 financial crisis unfolded. None of the offending parties got anything more than a slap on the wrist, because they had the keys to an engineering construct of extraordinary complexity (the financial system). It was just "heads I win, tails you lose". The way our lives are becoming intertwined with these tech behemoths is no different, and I don't see it playing out any differently if there is a similar crisis in the tech sector. How can that be overall a Very Good Thing?


I tried not to make value judgement in my comment, because, well, I don't really know wether this whole thing is good or bad. I'm just observing the phenomena - seems like confluence of power is unavoidable, a law of nature if you will, so it would have gotten to this regardless.

The fact that billions of people can do something they couldn't do before is commendable, but it also raises the bar for everyone - just like reading and spelling did 100 years ago and now it becomes obligatory for everyone to learn and communicate or be left behind.

In other words, we have super powers compared to past generations, but it doesn't matter because everyone has them now.


I think what good we have now is that there is more information access parity. Note I specified 'access', not true information parity. This is but a single aspect of what transformation would be required for there to be true equality that is self-sustaining and antifragile. I can access most information that I truly desire, some with more work than others, but the information ecosystem I live in is vastly different than the one that, say, Mark Zuckerberg lives in. There are numerous different information ecosystems, and certainly some class inequality separating many of them. I could go on, but as I typed this I realized I agree with some of your analysis, but I see it from a different slant. I think confluence of power is inevitable, but a weak point in the armor of that power has developed due to these technologies. Those at the top know this, but are also simultaneously using new tools much more powerful and more effectively than the masses know, so are comfortable with the weak point right now. I do not think as things stand that inequality would ever be addressed, but I do think we live in a time where there are possible chains of events moving forward that could disassemble that armor in ways that are only imagination right now.

Do you find yourself an active participant in any of this, or more of a passive observer?


Your comparison is flawed because the majority of those in said shelter are people who didn't need a shelter in the first place and most of those in need are not in the shelter.

As for whether this is a good thing: Who is president in the US again? How did this come about?


just look at the number of 'zombies' on the streets

Get used to the zombies...they are going to become far more prevalent. When Neuralink or whatever technologies converge to directly project experiences mind-to-mind, people will not be broadcasting selfies...they will be broadcasting self, as in their current, total sensate experience. People will tune in and live the most exciting virtual life that they need...while their physical sits decaying with saliva dripping from their half-opened mouths. The drug wars will come nowhere near as close to the holo-virtual experience tune-out that's rather near.


To be honest, many people live lives of "quiet desperation" so to them this doesn't sound much more dystopic than the cards they were already dealt.


My statement was not meant to be taken as a judgement insomuch as a prediction of what's shortly to come.


Zuck looks pretty happy about it http://imgur.com/a/UL7HX


That picture is so sad.


When there was Windows 98 and ME 'we' thought the Microsoft's proprietary systems are the dominant platform. Maayybe Linux would win but being so difficult to even install, little chance someone outside of the IT world could productively use it, like install an Application, print something.

Fast forward 15 years: many surprises happened, non-IT people don't even think of buying desktop computers. Laptops are borderline geek-devices, most of the stuff is going on cell-phones of which most are Linux-powered.

Windows as a growing platform is more or less dead. (There are serious efforts to reanimate it, but who knows...)

Maybe the example is too geeky, and one may argue that Windows didn't have so many users as Facebook and Google now. Instead think of Televisions, at least in Germany they are dead. Most of my friends don't have a TV and even among those people who have one, many argue that it's bad for you.

So yeah, think positive. ;)


Bit hard to think positive when all of the bad things have been replaced by worse things.

If things continue on this trajectory its going to be even worse,


I mean Windows 9x/XP, was this for me: my CD-ROM drive one time stopped working for 3 weeks, then, without doing anything it worked again. Or I had this weird boot error that also over the course of weeks, the boot process would be faster when opening and closing the CD-ROM drive during the Windows splash.

Oh man, or like you edit something in Office or, say Paintshop Pro, and the program just crashes, all data lost. Haha, or you boot and the filesystem is corrupt and you need to run chkdsk or whatever the name was. My god, Windows used to be such a bad operation environment. The worst where Microsoft's world domination tactics, pushing vendor lock to the limit and at the same time making the competion's life so hard that even international courts go to action.

Seriously, computing has become soooooo much become since Windows is not the dominant OS anymore. Many people are so lucky to have never used Windows, others like me might have stopped using it when it refused booting for good. (Becoming sentimental, thinking of my Windows XP/Ubuntu dual boot. The XP just showed a blue screen at some point. After that I stopped using Windows for almost 10 years. :-D)


  > while being subjected to constant brainwashing into
  > behaving in predictable ways - purchasing, thinking,
  > liking, voting, etc.
I'd say the open web is not solution for this, because that's not the problem of specific technology. As you note:

  > So I don't think there's anything to 'do' about it
  > - just be aware of it and try to stay away from large 
  > crowds.
Indeed, efforts to solve sociological/any-other-non-tech problems with different/more/less technology rarely if ever are successful. Fix society, not technology or medium.


You have expressed my current assessment of the situation so well, mad props.

To the OP, "combating" these tsunamis-that-already-happened is akin to various other (past or ongoing) "wars on intents"/ideas (won't name them here to not derail but insert any of the various "war on XYZ" memes that have been floated for the past century+ where XYZ is not a specifically identifiably nation or group) --- unwinnable.


It seems weird to assume that people will continue not caring about this 50 years from now, given the power conferred and stakes at hand for democracies to function.


I think the solution is pretty simple. Keep building things. Make person websites and build communities. Don't host everything on major hosting providers like Google or Amazon. Don't rely on Facebook or Google for login or integrations. They only have so much power because we let them. It's more often than not the easier solution. Use tools like GPG, IRC, Email and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

The internet hasn't changed, we have, and the only way to take the internet back is if we change ourselves back.


>"Don't rely on Facebook or Google for login or integrations."

I think this is a really important point. When I see services that give me a choice of either 1)logging in with Google or 2) logging in with FB, I don't do either. I simply elect to not use that service.


For me and my students -- we always use a google login. With 35 students all using 4 or 5 online services each with a login....

There is no way we can keep control of all those separate login details. There needs to be a central control over login.

Sure, login details are pretty old skool bonkers.

I'm going to get downvoted to oblivion, but in the real world where I have to hand a class of 35 students over to another teacher and they need to have confidence that all 35 can log in and complete the lesson.

Repeat this across all classes and all years. That's a lot of users.


Why not use another single sign on service? Why do you have to use Google? Google is the largest advertiser in the world, and is more and more encroaching on the free and open web.


> Why not use another single sign on service?

Look. I'm not an idiot. I write open source. I love free and open web.

Google login works. We use use Gmail - it works. We use google classroom - it just works. Most websites offer Google Login - it just works.

When you have 30 students and you waste 2 minutes logging into a website -- that is 2 x 30 == 60 minutes of student learning lost. Little things like that add up.


It's not 60 minutes of learning, it's 2 minutes of learning. 2 minutes went by. You're not running a factory so you don't need to use factory-style productivity metrics. Anyway what's the hurry? What could be so crucial that not a minute can be spared? Maybe this is why school is uninspiring? The feeling of being on a breakneck treadmill, never having time for anything? Education shouldn't be about quantity, it's about quality. But I know what you're up against.


Come now. On one hand, tech ensures that things get faster, and we ask why a second could be important?

In yesteryears, no one could compute the things our phones do today in seconds.

But the demand for time has gone up, not down. Now idle time is a target to "get stuff done".

Even on HN, people have complained about how being idle during idle moments is a luxury, since everyone is on a treadmill to see how hard they can perform even in leisure.

The point being that when things just work, other long term issues being invisible, people will go for the cheaper option.

The same way people have burnt fossil fuels because the costs are sent off to the future, they will choose convenience over security.


Having worked IT at a college, I can tell you that it's very important to get every minute out of your class. When your class is only 60 minutes, and you spend the first 2-10 minutes getting logged in every single time, that's a huge chunk of wasted time. People are paying one way or another to be there, sitting there staring at a spinning cursor doesn't make anybody happy.


School is a funny old place. I'm struggling to be honest because I'm a hacker at heart and think like you.

But being observed by senior management, they would see students not learning. You could expect extremely close scrutiny for the next few lessons. To be put on special measures. Not quite a sack-able offence, but ....


Perhaps you should consider being less defensive. I believe (could be wrong) OP asked a genuine question and was interested to hear a response. S/he didn't call you an idiot or question your love for the free web.

I think your last paragraph would be sufficient to explain your reasons along with a single, "it just works."


Their response was perfectly reasonable and interesting.


Either everyone is crazy or I am -- does a site that's used by less than 100 users really need to outsource their auth?

If you're part of a school don't you have student accounts in some central place like LDAP/AD/IdM?


Well, for one, they're much better at it than most of us. For two, on mobile, people hate typing in logins. So at least offering an integrated one can provide a huge uptick in usability.


Yes, because outsourcing auth is less about scale and more about security and convenience.

LDAP/AD/IdM doesn't necessarily work with third party services.


Google login is great. The problem is just when a site only provides a Google login or Facebook login, and not a site-specific login.

Which does seem to be a passing fad. "Log in with your Facebook account or go away" was a thing a couple years ago, but now most sites do offer an independent login method.


How many people do you know, that are able to properly use GPG (i.e. understand the pitfalls of misconfiguration, subkeys, key verification,...)? TBH, I believe the GPG ship has sailed a long time ago, even within the IT community.

Using Email does help in what way? Most people do use Mail , Gmail that is. Do you mean Email as a protocol in opposition to Whatsapp, FB Messenger?

How does not hosting on the major hosting providers solve the problems of walled gardens and filter bubbles and the closed internet? That's just ephemeral infrastructure.

Login integrations can make a lot of sense. I don't really see how not deploying integrations will protect us from walled gardens.


I sign my commits with GPG.


What's wrong with hosting on Google/Amazon? I understand that there is a paranoia of them taking control of your servers or stealing all of your data, but that is almost certainly not going to happen. I think the real issue is that they're monopolizing services that non developers use.


It's less about them taking control and stealing data and more about spreading out. If we keep only choosing Google/Amazon then one day there will be no more competitors. There are also plenty of good competitors for smaller/personal projects.


True, but there arent many places that I can host my side projects for free with zero server maintenance like I can on App Engine. Its a trade off.


If they're the easier solution, then we need to make not using them even easier. You're never going to win by saying, "Yes, using their stuff is easier, but it's bad! Use this complex thing instead!" The only way to encourage others to use the other things is to make them easier.


I have a love hate relationship with oAuth, and I completely agree with you statement.


Use Firefox. Develop on Firefox, and then adjust for Chrome if needed. Encourage friends to use FF. Google tracks every domain you visit and how long you visit it even with all the adblockers in the world (under the pretext that you might be searching for the domain instead of going there). You have no idea how much data they are collecting on every minute of your use (the local license in my non-U.S. version has some weird clauses, don't know about the U.S.) and all that info is damaging. FF is now faster than Chrome on every metric, so you don't lose anything for yourself or your users when they switch (though it is wise to make a new profile if you have a old version) If they are not targeted as the main platform, they will be gone. By keeping another browser alive, Google cannot force all of their crazy ideas and dreams in the guise of forwarding the internet. Develop for FF, encourage its use, and that definitely will help you and the free internet.


How about an alternative Chormium-based browser (which is not Chrome)? Anyone tried this?

Chromium also has phone-home functionality, you could try Opera though.

Building matrix.org as a decentralised & e2e encrypted comms alternative.

The filter bubble problem is particularly relevant for us because it's critical for an open network to let users filter out abusive content (whether that's spam, stuff they find offensive, or just a topic they don't care about)... but doing that in a way which doesn't result in creating a profiling db or creating bubbles and echo chambers. The problem is one of letting users curate their own filters (including blending in others' filters), whilst keeping the data as privacy protecting as possible. It's a fun problem, but on our medium-term radar.


Me? I don't use Facebook. I consider Google evil and harmful and avoid them. On my phone I run my own apps, and apps from F-Droid - I don't even register with Google. I have a shit-list of companies I will never work for (Oracle, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and every Government entity anywhere in the world). I browse the net from VM's with specific purposes (one for HN). I use Tor for most browsing, including reading news. If I have to provide data somewhere, I make sure it's incorrect. I host my own content on my own servers, or on rented VM's (not AWS). I host my personal home-page on a VM hosted by a pro freedom of speech NGO, that will go to great measures to keep it on-line, no matter what. I hosted my own content long before Facebook was even a sexist rating site for stolen pictures of pretty girls. I will host it long after Facebook is history and mostly forgotten :) The internet is only closed for those who choose convenience before freedom.


That sounds incredible time consuming and very frustrating. How do you manage to stay so hostile against everything around you?

Do you never wake up and just feel depressed about the state of things? Ever wanted to just say fuck it and create a facebook account?


I'm not the person you replied to but I can tell you what my perspective is. I haven't implemented all the measures he mentions yet but I'm working towards all of them and more. It is time consuming but it doesn't feel frustrating. It gives me the peace of mind that I still own my life and am not dependent on companies like Google or Amazon to live the life I want to live. I do occasionally feel depressed about the state of things but there's not much I can do about it on a grand scale so I tend to just focus on myself and those around me. I did have a Facebook account for about 6 months in high school before I deleted it and I've never felt the urge to re-activate it (afaik accounts are never permanently deleted).

In my opinion it all comes down to putting your money (and time, effort, convenience or lack of it, etc) where your mouth is. I don't like Google, Amazon, or Facebook's policies and practices so I choose not to participate. That most people around me are subsidizing their lives (free storage, free email, 2-day shipping, easy home automation, etc) in exchange for their privacy and independence doesn't really factor into my own decision. I do try and raise awareness and encourage others to take similar steps but ultimately they need to make the decision for themselves of they won't commit to it.


>I did have a Facebook account for about 6 months in high school before I deleted it and I've never felt the urge to re-activate it (afaik accounts are never permanently deleted).

Yes, you can permanently delete your Facebook account

http://www.wikihow.com/Permanently-Delete-a-Facebook-Account via https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1291871


> That most people around me are subsidizing their lives (free storage, free email, 2-day shipping, easy home automation, etc) in exchange for their privacy and independence doesn't really factor into my own decision.

This is exactly what I am thinking and doing all the time. I have one problem however, that is, convincing my friends. How do I do this? Any idea?


I also struggle with this stage, yet I think it comes to three steps: 1) Inform them why they should move away from these things (send them blog posts [of which there are plenty], practical examples, personal experience) 2) Tell them that a solution is to move away from these services 3) Provide alternatives (this is the hardest one for me to come up with ideas for, it's a crucial step yet in my opinion the hardest)

"I host my own content on my own servers, or on rented VM's (not AWS). I host my personal home-page on a VM ..."

This sounds a lot like my own practices.

There is one pitfall which I find interesting and that is that you cannot host your own phone number in the same way that you host your own email/DNS.

If you own a domain and self-host your DNS and mail, you really are the provider - the requests come to you and you first and you have a good deal of "control" over that resource.

However, unless you actually become a CLEC, you cannot "own" your own phone number and become the "server" of that resource. No matter what your setup, some third party intercepts that requests and hands it to you - you are never first in line with a phone call.

One reason this is interesting is, if you run your own mail server, you can email other local users without generating any network traffic - it's just a local copy operation. This is not the case with VOIP/asterisk/anything - your calls are going over the telco network no matter what (again, unless you are a CLEC).


That's great and all, but ignores the bigger picture of our world and current society. You have developed this for yourself, but it's pretty much meaningless if you're​ not actively putting time and energy towards addressing the more fundamental social, political, or technological issues that have created these problems and forced you to do all that in the first place. You need to have a more nuanced view than "those that choose" and "those that don't".

You sound like me--I'm not quite as radical wrt Microsoft and Apple (the devil you know), but a long time ago I made up a list of "places I won't work for and why" and the MIC was on the top, you know, the Lockheeds and the Raytheons who help murder innoncents and subjugate Americans (looking at you Level III System and your asinine naked body scanners in the airports that you just had to sell to the government).

I know some of it is not completely ratioanal--Boeing makes civilian aircraft as well as military. And I accept that not all "defense" products are bad. We need a strong defense. What we don't need is bombs falling 24x7 for 17 years now jus so some a-holes can make billions of dollars off the suffering of others.

And yes, Microsoft, Oracle, and even Apple and Google products run a lot of military systems that enable that killing.

What I found in this exercise is that many of the companies I worked for were indirectly compromised--it's amazing how many firms take money from government sales, money handouts from government/military programs, etc. It's truly amazing how little "private" there is in the private sector.

All developers should take a course in ethics and not stray from those teachings. It would also be helpful to get some philosophy in your toolbox as well. And then maybe, maybe, some of this bullshit would finally cease.


What I'm getting from this thread is that we're sort of fucked. The only way to stop Facebook and Google was to become them before they had a chance to. That way you'd presumably be more benevolent. Maybe that's true for Facebook, but it's still hard to imagine for Google.

I think the bigger problem is cross-generational power. YC itself is somewhat terrifying in this regard, but that's a different topic. In regards to Google and FB, even if we like Google now, we probably won't like the Google 60 years from now. But what is there to do?

Google stopped Microsoft by making Microsoft irrelevant, in the "Microsoft is Dead" sense: Nobody is afraid of them anymore. But people fear Google and FB. Imagine a Microsoft competitor to your startup vs a Google or FB competitor.

This could be a lack of imagination, but it's very difficult to imagine some new company making Google or FB irrelevant in the same way they made their predecessors irrelevant. Think of oil fields. At one point, before oil fields were monopolized, I've heard the ecosystem seemed pretty similar to Silicon Valley circa 2008. Everybody seemed to be able to get a slice of the action, and while it took determination and luck to get involved, it was possible.

Now the oil industry is on lockdown. Imagine asking "What are we doing about Exxon Mobil?" or Walmart. You can't do a damn thing, and there's no shame in admitting that.

As defeatist as it is, we may want to start thinking about ways of riding out the next 40 years in a productive fashion. It's more beneficial to say: Ok, Facebook, Google, and the closed internet are here to stay. Now what?

For example, if you're really set on doing something about it, one of the most effective things you could do is try to join the companies and shape them yourself.


Google was, as we all know, widely seen as benevolent when they were fresh on the scene. I don't know about you guys but I think their wish to "Do no evil" was genuine.

So what happened?

A competitor came long with less scruples. Facebook erupted on the scene very happily crossing the creepy line to wring every bit of data they could out of their users.

So Google now has to compete with this company that has far, far more data (advertiser captnip) than they do. And no one really seems to care - Facebook grows to 2 billion users. Google can either be outcompeted on this front, or they can race to compete, gather more and more data.

Google perhaps tried to stop Facebook by becoming them, but there's so much money in this industry that people are willing to do anything unethical to get past you to get it.

Same with the open web. Same with vendor lock-in. Etc.


Software is easy to copy and replace. There's little, if any, monopolization of software technology resources. Software doesn't require huge investment/over-head like oil industry. I don't think FB/Google/etc. provide much of anything (or of high value like oil) that is not already replaceable by million other alternatives. One of their key business model is selling ads spaces, but adblocks are also on the rise.

I wouldn't bet too highly on those services.


Every few days we have an article here in HN about a relatively big company, and people throw the classic comment that they don't understand how they need hundreds/thousands of programmers to do what they do, when the prototype of their website can be done by 2 people over a weekend. What you are doing is just a slightly more complex version of this, but the answer is still the same, scale.

Software is easier to copy and replace than many other things, but make no mistake: The amount of engineering done at the largest software companies is massive, and has gone way past the point of being easy to replicate. Let's talk someone smaller, like Twitter. Building a Twitter for 100 people is trivial. Scaling it to work well for serious volumes, building all the pieces that make it have actual revenue, and not be just a giant money pit, and all the effort required to build the userbase itself is just enormous. When we go past Twitter, and we think Facebook and Google, serious disruption of their core businesses is really, really hard, because every single user they have is an efficiency you don't.

In practice, every large software company today is running a whole lot of machine learning under the hood. Whether it's figuring out which ads to send you, just get you to stay on the site longer, or just have great fraud protection, the difference in data matters. Imagine your machine learning model is trying to sell ads. How much of a disadvantage are you in vs a company that is the user's default search engine, and has analytics hooks in the websites that your target person is on 75% of the time? What if they also have their text messages, know their friends, and their friends' purchases? You can have much better algorithms, but they have such an insane data advantage that you have to be orders of magnitude better to even compete with them!

So I'd definitely bet highly on those services, because they've spent years building moats. That doesn't mean they are unbeatable: We all remember the time when Microsoft and IBM looked unbeatable, and we all know what happened, but I don't think anyone without massive funding and a completely new, must have product has a prayer of entering their space and not be swallowed whole.


Here's an idea: A team of coders in a basement combine lots of AI discoveries done by others (Think merging orthogonal approaches like Numenta + Google Brain + Vicarious + etc). With it, they crack the neo-cortex algorithm (or a rough approximation). It learns outdoors (cameras, actuators), indoors (talking), on the internet, in libraries, on wikipedia, etc. It becomes actually useful. Not: "OK, google set an alarm.", but: "Hey Peter, I'm really stuck with this problem, can you find a solution on SO. Oh, and send flower to my Aunt, you know ... the one who likes pink".

If it was freely available I could see a massive migration of users abandoning google. Who needs google in such a context?

-- far fetched, yes. But it is a scenario where the breakthrough is algorithmic rather than Huge-data based. The learning can then happens slowly (2 years undercover from that basement?), and emerge as a powerful intelligence and company.


Yeah, maybe, but the coders able to "combine lots of AI discoveries done by others", as well as those who make those discoveries, are likely to work for Google/FB/MS/IBM/Apple/Amazon/etc already (or want to work there).

A group like OpenAI also has a good chance to make a breakthrough, but you can hardly call them "a team of coders in a basement".

It's unlikely that any a single company (even a large one) will have any significant advantage, because the research everyone does is highly public (everyone tries to publish asap). The research right now is at the stage where people are still looking which way to go, so as soon as someone stumbles upon a promising direction, everyone will jump on it (e.g. AlexNet success in 2012).


The same could have been said of Brin and Page. Why were they not working for yahoo improving their search algorithm? Some people will have the hunger and drive to disrupt the incumbent.


And we have the same problem we have now. We've just changed the company.


what is the end of this cycle? Does capitalism always tend toward innovation->monopoly->decline->disruption->innovation->monopoly .... ?


Exactly. You don't need all those people to make Twitter. You need all those people to make Twitter work at scale. Yes, technology does move easily, however if there's man-years of labour invested in making it work well at scale, it's suddenly a lot less movable.


I disagree. First is the immense capital investment these companies have in physical servers and data centers. They have economies of scale in delivering content over the internet. Second is mindshare and data lock-in. Users log onto Facebook because other users are there. There are no examples at that scale of user divestment from a platform (in lieu of a major technological or social blunder, ala MySpace or Friendster). Just being 'better' than Facebook means diddly squat. I think it is still theoretically possible to be a 'better' search engine than Google, but they have plenty of other moats and momentum to stave that off. Don't kid yourself, these are certainly monopolies .


Any new piece of tech can do it. Facebook's last existential threat was mobile, and they seemed to handle that well. But it doesn't mean they will handle the next, and the next, and the next well, too. Each step is a place they can stumble.


I think that this doesn't have to be true at all. Because of slow but inevitable commodification of the core technological concepts that make up their edge toward the rest of the market.

Open source search engines are still years behind what Google can do, but those technologies are much nimbler and easier to customize. Reactive paradigms, dockerization, open source tools for machine learning. Such tools might benefit the small players to allow building technology that might disrupt the big players.

Then again, many of those tools come from the big players which kind of defeats my point here...


Is the tendency towards mono/duo/trioploy a feature or a bug? You might say that increased concentration of proven tech/ideas allows them to be more efficient, which in the long run is better for consumers. But is efficiency a good in itself? On the other hand, the trade off is concentration of wealth and power, resistance to change, perhaps stagnation by favoring the momentum of the enterprise over innovation ... But without efficiency gains in farming we wouldn't have had, well, civilization or the industrial revolution. I guess what I'm getting at is this: as the internet transitions from the wildcatter era to a more stable, monopolized form, is that a good thing? Will it release thousands of entrepreneurs and 'laborers' to work on the next big thing? It doesn't feel like it. And when does the pursuit of progress or technology stop? I suppose that's an inherently Luddite stance to take, and I'm not even saying I agree, but it is an interesting question. Pretty much leads to requiring a 'meaning of life' or at least a 'meaning of civilization' philosophy to answer. Which I don't think we have. It was survival for a long time. Then expansion and conquering. And now ... ? What does a 'steady-state' earth and humanity look like? Is capitalism the best organizing principle for that era? All very good questions.


I believe it's more effective to focus on a "small business" approach to decentralizing the web, where we focus on smaller companies providing services, rather than a "tin foil" approach where we encrypt and decentralize everything into tiny islands. I work for a video player company and while we aren't a platform like Youtube, we indirectly compete with them for ad dollars (along with Facebook). Something like 90% of ad dollars go towards them already. Most publishers do not like them. I think it's a lot easier to decentralize the internet by having the websites that 99% of users visit powered by smaller internet businesses rather than AmaGooFaceSoft.


Convenience has usually won over these goals. That's why Google/Facebook/Microsoft/etc have no problem attracting users.


I agree. I moved to FastMail for stronger privacy behavior and good quality service. But it's not the level of like... ProtonMail. But I'm patronizing a great company with great customer service that treats me like an adult.

Note that while I'm happy to deal with smaller businesses, and happy to spend money on them, I am still pretty wary of advertising-based businesses. It is a slippery slope of doom, and I think it's ideal to try and stay off of it.


I don't mind ads, it's the tracking that I don't like.


>"But it's not the level of like... ProtonMail"

Can you elaborate on this? Are there some privacy issues with Fast Mail that don't exist with ProtonMail?


FastMail chooses not to mine your data (even for spam filtering, they only optionally collect emails you permanently delete from the spam folder). They're a paid service, with no advertising. And they have a very strong privacy policy.

ProtonMail encrypts your email storage in an end-to-end manner for client access and storage. (Obviously, unencrypted mail sent to or from other servers could be intercepted.) But their goal is essentially to be mathematically unable to view your email. Of course there are tradeoffs, things like IMAP don't work (without some sort of relay), for example.

Essentially, FastMail makes a point to not violate your privacy, ProtonMail tries to make it so it can't violate your privacy. I lean towards FastMail because it's 'good enough' on privacy, and has a lot of powerful features, but if you're looking to run afoul of state intelligence agencies, you might wanna lean for the latter.


>"ProtonMail encrypts your email storage in an end-to-end manner for client access and storage."

Is this just TLS + block level encryption like LUKS? If so I would be surprised if FastMail wasn't offering the same. But maybe Proton is offering something else at the client level? It was my impression that the big differentiator was Proton Mail's infrastructure was all co-located in Switzerland.


From my understanding, there is no way for ProtonMail's operators to decrypt your mail storage, it requires your own private key. Whereas FastMail is not much different from Gmail in terms of "company's access", except it's privacy policy prohibits it from using it for anything but customer service on request.


I see, thank for the clarification.


* W3C Social Web Working Group - https://www.w3.org/wiki/Socialwg

* ActivityStreams 2.0 - https://www.w3.org/TR/activitystreams-core/

* ActivityPub - https://www.w3.org/TR/activitypub/

* https://distbin.com - My implementation of the above. Who wants to federate?


Not enough. We techies have a moral duty to choose wisely, and to educate users.

I'm a resident in a "neighborhood activist collective" and I made a self-hosted web site for the house. Now it's expanding into a web app that's a tool for the organization (planning, etc). It's also being set up for similar houses in the same city, and we plan to make it into a kind of federated small-scale "social network" built around our own principles and premises.

Another aspect of the project comes from a "house terminal" that I set up here, basically an offline Raspberry Pi running GNU/Linux and a custom chat/guestbook program that runs as a "kiosk". This terminal will morph into a kind of in-house only access to the federated network with real time communications etc.


Are there opportunities to cross-pollinate your efforts with GNU social? Sort of best-of-both-federated-worlds? See https://gnu.io/social/


Sounds interesting! Any links you can provide to the project?


Keep a personal website (avoid Medium, et. al.)

The internet is only closed if we keep acting like it is. The protocol is the same. Go build stuff.

http://ryanglover.net


Nowadays, it's difficult to be read and to be visible to a large audience and gain followers without a platform like Medium. You can read unknown author and discover new topics. Unfortunately you still inside the Medium bubble showing you a lot more famous article than other.

You are more likely to spread your ideas about open internet in a public place like Medium than the faraway countryside like your website.


I've seen a lot of good comments on this page, but we really need to start looking at the problem from a customer's point of view.

Why should the end user care about this problem?

Have you heard your non-entreprenuer/engineer friends or others online complain about this problem?

If the answer to above two questions is Negative, then the problem/pain point simply is not large enough to fix.

And, as a potential success case to model our strategy off of, we should be looking towards DuckDuckGo, they've written some good material on how to do it.


This thread provides a wide enough sample population of people who have a problem with these services. Additionally, this population is getting bigger. I do hear friends and family concerned about facebook -even in the early days. Does grandma care? no. She doesn't need to. We just need to create replacements for these services that replace the need to use them (facebook and google for instance) to 100% satisfaction for those interested. Then we can worry about growing them. We don't need to worry about the entirety of mankind... yet. Startups 101

It's getting there. Facebook is now a monopoly and is not improving their service in ways that benefit the users, they have no need to. They are only working to keep you locked in and to serve those who actually pay the bills, advertisers.


You didn't actually answer the question(s).

So what if Facebook as stagnated with user features? Why should your average Joe care? It's already serving their purposes, most if not all of their friends and relatives are on the platform. Again why is this bad for the end user?


curious to read the ddg material referenced


My biggest gripe with the "modern internet" is e-mail. MS and Google dominate the e-mail scene, and they are making it ever more unpleasant to run your own mailserver. They will frequently blackhole mails, without bounces, warnings or any recourse.

I'm not sure what can be done about that, but it's certainly becoming an up hill battle.


I try and get everyone I know to use (and pay for) Fastmail. It has a great interface. Great calendar. Awesome spam filter. Etc... It costs $30/year to send messages around the globe. That seems like a steal to me.

Ultimately, email clients are services that have maintenance and development costs - if you're not paying for it, someone is selling your information to fund the service.


What's the advantage of fastmail compared to, for instance, the free iirc 5 mail addresses that gandi offers you when registering a domain name: https://www.gandi.net/domain ?


I have not explored what Gandi offers, but I can tell you Fastmail has a very user-friendly & intuitive interface for email, calendar, contact management, etc... a la Gmail many years ago. If not better. The $30/year includes all these services. And, I would think, since email is Fastmails bread and butter, it gets all the attention, as opposed to being an add-on/additional item that may not be top priority for a company.

And, to be clear, I have no stake in Fastmail, nor do I work for them, I am just enamored with their product. I wish I would have made the switch years ago.


Calendar and address book (with CalDAV and CardDAV) is another thing.


$30/year isn't a big deal for people who actively use email (especially if you work in tech industry were salaries are higher), but I can tell you for a fact that non of my close relatives (and I doubt many of my friends) would be willing to spend the money for seemingly no benefit.

They mostly use email for promotion/ad emails and registering for services/games/whatever.

I've thought about switching, but last time I tried I couldn't get my own domain working on the first try, so I just gave up. I think even I would just like to have my own domain in the email and wouldn't gain any other benefits.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Fastmail. I am curious if you or anyone else might be able to share any tips or resources for successfully migrating from something like Gmail to Fastmail.

How do you get everyone to update their contacts?

Also it seems like even if you forward form Gmail to your Fastmail account Google still knows your business.

I'm not trying to make a case for not doing it but rather would be interested in hearig what has worked for others.


It took a lot of time, honestly. But I really wanted to extract myself from Google and cleanup my email, so I did everything manually, sending emails to friends and family from the new account, getting rid of any old emails I absolutely did not need, and forwarding any archival stuff I could not let go of to Fastmail and/or exporting emails and docs to my PC.

That said, Fastmail does have an import function, but I did not use it when I migrated: https://www.fastmail.com/help/receive/migratemail.html

edit: word choice


He was talking about servers, not just clients, and not just free. I've been running my own email server for a couple of decades, and it's getting harder and harder over time.


Look, if you're using email to have actual conversations with other human beings then tech giants are certainly not dominating the email scene (except for Exchange).

Running your own email server takes quite a bit of maintenance but as long as you're not using it for marketing you'll be fine.


> as long as you're not using it for marketing you'll be fine.

Really? That hasn't been my experience the last couple of years. I wasn't joking when I said that Google and MS routinely blackhole mails from my users to their users. These are legitimate mails. Sent by real people, to real people. Often people they've been conversing with for years.

You can play by the rules, set up SPF, DKIM, periodically check blacklist statuses and be perfectly fine, and suddenly mail still disappears. No bounces, and no ability to contact an MS or Google postmaster to shout at. This certainly isn't due to incompetence on their part, so I can only assume it's a strategy to frustrate mail server operators to simply give up and use their little walled e-mail garden.


I have been using https://www.zoho.com/ for email hosting and its good.


I'm betting on (and contributing to) IPFS [1]. Some friends and I are working on Peergos [2], which is built on top of IPFS to replace dropbox, email and facebook with a P2P secure and private alternative.

[1] https://ipfs.io

[2] https://peergos.org


The e-mail sign-up button doesn't work properly on the Peergos page. It shows "Page Not Found" error: https://peergos.org/Thank-you.html


Thank you for pointing that out. I think we lost the page in the recent website remake. I'll reinstate it. In the meantime the sign up is still working. (I was wondering why people were signing up multiple times with the same email, now it's clear).


It is fixed now.


How do you feel about where keybase has been going with some of this (related to peergos)


I think keybase are doing some great work. Their social proof using existing websites is great. Their keybase fs has some similar properties to peergos, but is still centralised and, to the best of my knowledge, closed source (open sourcing only the client doesn't count in my mind).

I want something that is fully decentralised, open source, doesn't depend on DNS, and doesn't expose metadata (including the social graph).


I think there is a need for an announcer system, some known endpoints to connect into to feed p2p though... Also, haven't thought of a good way to mitigate poison injection/ddos attacks in terms of open/anonymous/decentralized communication.


There is an authenticated pub-sub in the works for IPFS. The idea being that only the holder of a given private key can publish updates to something (nodes would just refuse to propagate anything else).


Thank you for starting this interesting debate.

I have a slice of hope still that we (the whole community, dev's just like users who need to use services) can "make the world a better place".

The proble I currently see is that: 1. We are too few ATM 2. Facebook, Google, Apple,... already nested into the minds of many people, even the one's who claim to "think different" 3. There has to be something: - big - useful - attractive - free of costs

to use instead of their sh*tty services and you somehow need to convince "Jenna to take here FB profile and also their friends with her to the new place in town".

The same goes for other services like WhatsApp, searching with G., buying on A. etc.

How will we be strong enough (against companies with billions of $$ and the brightest minds in tech cause they wanna earn 120k/yr) to put something up that can not only withstand them but convince all the zombies?

How will you get those zombies moving? The most of the ppl. not even reads news anymore and if they do they just believe what they see & hear. There is no discussion, if someone is pissed she/he is right. There is no science for someone who doesn't even know the value of a scientific method. We are royally screwed and there has to be A BIG UNITING OF ALL ACTIVISTS under one flag.

If we go on like this with every hackin' Joe trying to construct his own facebook clone then we will just die like the rest.


Think: FTP, TELNET, IP. You know, protocols. The open things the Internet was originally based upon.


Those protocols were superseded for a reason.


Mastodon is a federated, open-source social network based on open web protocols

https://joinmastodon.org https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon https://mastodon.social


I'm working on GNUnet[1]. It needs a lot of help.

[1] https://gnunet.org


I'm having trouble finding information about what GNUnet is on the website. Is there an overview somewhere?


The website is one of the things we need help with. If you want something more detailed than the About GNUnet paragraph there's the key concepts[2] and user handbook[1].

[1] https://gnunet.org/user-handbook [2] https://gnunet.org/concepts


We need local bookmarking and indexing tools that can become primary to search. You have no idea how many times I end up searching the same thing over and over again. I'm using the search engine as a bookmarking tool. If there were more streamlined, humane, well designed local bookmarking tools, that wouldn't be an issue.

As a matter of fact, the fact that the browser by default sends everything I type into that bar up to some 3rd party, whether I've pressed enter or not, is pretty scandalous. It's not necessary.

I want local copies of pages that are important to me, for offline viewing, and I want to be able to bookmark specific parts of them in annotated, searchable, useful ways. I want to be able to share these. I want to be able to upvote and downvote their relevance as I use them again and again. I want human readable formats for storing these things. I want them on my filesystem, but not in a bunch of jumbled, strangely named files hidden deep somewhere on the computer. And I want to be able to share them peer to peer.

Remember the good old days, when people had WWW hyperlink indices? It's 2017 and centralized search/social platforms have all but destroyed the artform of digital curation. It is an artform that deep learning will clumsily fumble again and again. This website is a perfect example of how powerful human curation can be. The articles are curated and annotated collectively by human beings. The protocols and the web standards are more or less masterfully designed. We have unlimited programming languages.

I want to subscribe to notable peoples public web-bibliographies. I want them available in formats that are interoperable with my web browsers bookmarking and annotation tools.


What can you say about this beta: https://bubblehunt.com? Bubblehunt is the search platform, where you can get free and personal search engine for your bookmarks and other information that you think is interesting.


Be interested in what HN thinks of Maidsafe, Storj etc. Basically decentralised versions of the internet or the cloud based around blockchain technology.

Storj for example is an order of magnitude cheaper than AWS, uses peoples spare hard drive space, encrypts everything and back it up using peer to peer tech.

I am currently pretty comfortable as an Android dev, but I am wondering if I should start learning everything I can about blockchain tech in order to help on projects such as these?


I came here to see if anyone would mention blockchain technology (which I personally believe is an important part of the solution). Yes, there are the DApps you've already mentioned, but I think the following might be as important in addressing the concern raised:

uPort: Self-Sovereign Identity (https://www.uport.me/)

Userfeeds - Content Ranking System (userfeeds.io/)

Status - Messaging Platform (https://status.im/)

Brave - Browser (https://brave.com/)


Thanks for the info. I was not familiar with Userfeeds, it looks interesting.

Work is currently offering to pay for any online/university courses I want to take in Machine Learning, which is interesting and probably profitable, but not really a huge interest for me.

Making the internet ( and the world ), more decentralised is basically my personal religion however, so trying to decide what I should do, and more info is always good, so thanks for the links!


Has Brave gotten any traction among users?


Personally I quite like the iOS app. The browser seemed slow on my arch Linux laptop.


I for one am strongly against anything involving blockchains, because I do not want to support the development of a world where each app has a multi-Gb blockchain to deal with.


I think the general incentive we've been seeing is the incentive towards faster and thoughtless opinion-sharing. Reactive (in the bad way) behavior is incentivized, and thoughtful behavior is discouraged, because by then people have moved on to the next thing.

So I'd generally like to see more effort put into making it easier for people to engage in more thoughtful ways.

This can also be applied to advertising. I'm trying to avoid chips, but if they're in front of me I'll eat a handful. So then the internet thinks, "This guy wants more chips!" So if advertising were more about my long-term values rather than my short-term behavior, then it'd be more valuable.

Anyway, it's pretty hard on social media to share deeper analysis and arguments and thoughts. I get that medium was sort of an effort in this direction, counter to twitter, but that's really just blogging with some extra algorithms thrown in. Need something else.


No it cant.

You miss the critical purpose served by more emotional hind brain thinking - its easier to repeat and get predictable responses to.

Think of this as much older hackers using new tools to do better at their subject - their subject being the hacking of human brains.

---

A simple way to test the effectiveness of your proposal is to see how forums perform. The more complex a topic, the fewer participants and the fewer posts.

People don't want to engage in complex topics, unless they fulfill certain selection criteria.

You can't make people consume more complex information - unless you remove all other mental food options from the table in the first place.

It is very much like making children eat broccoli. Except the children are grown adults, and are being bombarded by companies selling them thought sugar because it generates click revenue.

There is no market solution to this - there may not even be a regulatory solution to this.

The best I can expect is a legal challenge, but who would the injured parties be, and what would be the injury?


Your point about forums assumes that forums encompass the full gamut of how people can communicate. "There is decreasing participation for complex topics in forums, therefore people don't want to engage in complex topics." But that doesn't account for the possibility that the form of forums themselves are the problem. With a new kind of forum, perhaps people would engage more in deeper arguments. At the least, lack of participation in other forms of forums wouldn't disprove that.


There's no new kind of forum. Because there's no new kind of human. Communication only for complex ideas requires time and energy to be expended.

People would rather have cheap and easy consumable info and move on. The drive is to be able to respond faster, not respond better. Unless it's an area where people have a specific need to understand the subject, they will rarely read complex topics.

And people regularly fail that too - take a look at success rates on MOOCs, a small percentage of self driven applicants actually finish the course.

It's a human brain problem, not a tech problem. The problem is people and those who know how to manipulate them.

Remember that any new form of forum which manages to make people learn complex topics could just as easil make them learn falsehoods or propaganda.


Most of this thread seems to interpret "we" as referring to people who think Facebook and Google are problems. If the "we" refers to internet users as a whole, then the answer is clearly that we like Facebook and Google very much and are using them more and more because they are best for doing what we actually want to do - talk to our far-flung friends and find answers to questions.


So my question to people who point this out is -

If this is inevitable, and this is best for "WE"/"OUR" needs - then does it just make more sense to accept it and strive to be in charge of the process instead?

Is it now OK, to just accept that people will be manipulated by those who know the method to do so? And apply to those firms?

----

Yes - If people turn out to be harder to model, it may be harder to corral people and ideas. The model and assumptions in the larger discussion being held in this topic will be logged as hyerbole and we will move on.

Yet - its clear that people DO have some obvious levers, essentially the human hind brain is an easy target to throw emotionally laden messages at. The brains react and then oppose whatever target they are provided.


Honestly? I'm not doing a damn thing. Forgive me for this, but the internet has been a walled garden for some time now, and the vast majority of humans just don't care. I haven't seen anything that's going to change that. The Internet requires a login, and your privacy being dead is a foregone conclusion.

It's easy to trash Facebook, but clearly it provides an insane amount of utility, and people aren't willing to stop using it because of others saying that en masse that is bad for a hypothetical Internet they never really took part in anyway.

IMO the focus should be getting the government to keep its hands off of it. That's not only more possible, but infinitely more important than not letting Facebook try to show us the right ads.


You will likely have to get Governments around the world more selectively involved in it.

As systems, governments are playing catch up in many areas, while leading in areas we don't want them to have power.

For example - governments should have already put out rules against skinner box games, the most popular kind on Facebook and the rest of the net.

Governments made rules against things like subliminal messaging - because it targeted and manipulated human choice at a subconcious level.

We wont be able to protect ourselves against corporations, unless we have coordinated action. The mechanism for this is always going to end up being political.


I'm working on a project to separate data from presentation. Too much data is overly wrapped with presentation (e.g. HTML) so we are forced into using a certain display method (popular commercial web browser).

A related problem is that human readable data is often unnecessarily encoded into binary machine data. If we weren't wasting so much space on presentation, we could have just served the human-readable data.

In this future I think it will be considered ridiculous that you had to load an entire webpage full of unrelated images and icons just to read an article or weather report.

This concept will be huge for AR. In AR extra unnecessary information and uncontrollable presentation is beyond annoying, it actually makes users angry and uncomfortable.

Look out for Optik.io .


I'm working on something similar. Can you email me at toomim@gmail.com, and/or check out https://stateb.us?


> Too much data is overly wrapped with presentation (HTML)

The design of HTML5 and associated web tech separates semantics (HTML) from presentation (notionally CSS, but this bleeds over into JS) and behavior (JS).


HTML does a fine job with semantics but the reality is that most of it is used for presentation. HTML says what text is but not what it means, so reading a plain unrendered HTML document is a rough experience that doesn't add much usefulness for humans.

The vast majority of internet data can be relayed through something as simple and readable as markdown and/or YAML, and still convey enough useful semantics.


Here's a thought I've been turning over for a little while now.

It occurs to me that all extant social media apps have, at a high level, exactly the same requirements:

1. Allow users to upload some data to cloud storage 2. Make that data discoverable to certain other users 3. Show everyone ads

Whether FB, Twitter, etc were to be dislodged by another app that is essentially the same app is not terribly interesting. So let's look at which of these reqs are amenable to change:

a. "ads" - No one actually wants them, so get rid of them b. "Cloud storage" - Lots of people would rather own their data, so switch this to "the user's own server."

That sounds pretty compelling. I don't hate FB, but I'd sure rather switch to something that allows me to own my own data, and share pics of the kids with Nana without having to run them through Facegoog's billion-dollar snooping engine. However, there are two big hurdles:

i. Most people don't have a server on which to host it ii. Most people won't pay for it, so someone would have to write it and make it really easy to use, for free

...and by a lucky cooincidence, both of those objections have the same answer: Amazon. Most people don't have a server? Amazon will rent you one. Who would develop a self-hosted FB clone for free? Amazon, to get people to rent servers.

Just a thought...


You might want to read about urbit [https://www.urbit.org/]. I think it might be similar to your thinking.


I'm familiar with Urbit, and intrigued by it, and a big company deciding to try a project inside it is inarguably the best thing that could happen to Urbit; but I'm not very bullish on that happening, for a variety of reasons.


Urbit is designed in theory so that proportionate incentives exist at each stage of adoption. Initially it will be curios only, like the interwebs in 1995. If it gains value then applications will be built on it.

Even if urbit fails, the theory is sound. It turns out economics is really effective. And advocacy (99% of the other solutions proposed in this thread) is as limp as it was in 2000.


I think that's an excellent way to view that project. Maybe something down the line can use some of Urbit's ideas.


"It occurs to me that all extant social media apps have, at a high level, exactly the same requirements: 1. Allow users to upload some data to cloud storage 2. Make that data discoverable to certain other users 3. Show everyone ads"

Identification should be on that list. Allow me to uniquely identify myself, and prevent others from attempting to impersonate me.

"a. "ads" - No one actually wants them, so get rid of them"

Nobody wants them, but you need to keep the lights on somehow, and people are even less inclined to pay for things.

"i. Most people don't have a server on which to host it ii. Most people won't pay for it, so someone would have to write it and make it really easy to use, for free ...and by a lucky cooincidence, both of those objections have the same answer: Amazon. Most people don't have a server? Amazon will rent you one. Who would develop a self-hosted FB clone for free? Amazon, to get people to rent servers."

So now you're trading Google for Amazon? That's no better. And you just said that people don't want to pay for things, but now you want people to pay Amazon for servers?"


Highly recommend cloudron.io. They are trying work a SaaS style deployment angle for people running their own server.


You're kidding yourself if you think people actually want to run their own server for the purposes of social networking.


I do wonder though if you could create a compelling product that would keep the customer from ever knowing they "own" a server. I've thought about a service where I effectively would run one big "load balancer" front end that would route a customer's traffic entirely to prefab cloud servers that I would spin up & configure via tools like Terraform and Ansible on the back end. I wanted to load those mainly with privacy tools--things like Pi-Hole, encrypted DNS, etc. I don't see why I couldn't say "hey in addition to this you get an app portal" that is effectively providing a standardized social media app. So for a regular price you get privacy, ad blocking, and a social media / cloud storage app that doesn't spy on you. It seems doable.


If users do not see a visible distinction between your app portal and Facebook, why would they pay you instead of using FB for free? Is it enough to claim privacy in order to make a sale? I really doubt it.


You could be right, but it isn't that far-fetched. Consider:

* A lot of users would be in the pennies-per-month level, charged by standard Amazon usage prices

* Owning your own data is a big deal - it's not uncommon for people to pay for backups, which would essentially be an included service

* It's not unreasonable to imagine a company of Amazon's size and competence doing a very good job of this, and including novel features that FB/IG/etc can't match

* It could also be a loss-leader to get people to own servers for other purposes, e.g. hosting a vanity domain


There is a chicken-and-egg thing too - it's not normal for Joe Internetuser to have a $5/mo cloud server in addition to his Netflix/Hulu/etc because there is no easy-to-use-for-regular-people software to run on one, and no one builds such software because such users don't have $5/mo cloud servers to run it on. This is sort of the fatal flaw of app portals like Sandstorm, but it doesn't need to be that way forever.


Well, you can use a managed version, both Sandstorm and Cloudron can be subscribed to as online services. I also think there's a lot of opportunity for families and small groups. Most people I am close with would not run their own server, but perhaps would use mine if I offered it.


You're implicitly assuming that Amazon does a bad job of implementing the front end. If the goal is to get even a tenth of FB users to be paying EC2 customers, they can probably spare a couple of UX developers to give it a easy-as-a-ios-app interface.


It could be pre-made and run on AWS automatically be default. More advanced users could tinker with it if they want. You would pay money for the costs of running it, plus an extra something.


> You would pay money for the costs of running it

Nobody except hardcore tech nerds would want to do this.


One harsh truth that must be swallowed before we (the Hacker News community) makes progress on this problem:

We live in the land of Startups. All good technology innovation we're used to over the last 20 years has come from the Startup/VC world, when the internet was fresh and nobody knew what would work. Over the coming decades, we'll need vehicles for technology innovation that go beyond the "take over the world & prayer" model, assuming that silicon valley's vehicle of ultragrowth monoliths will eventually align with civic values. They won't.

To illustrate this, let's say you want to improve some problem with Facebook/Google/etc. To even begin, you need $50 million and a minimum of 3-5 years building a userbase. By then, you have payroll, growth obligations, & investor pressure & are forced to monetize, usually in a way that compromises longer-term values.

We can solve this with smarter internet infrastructure. If you could share social graphs between applications, for instance, you eliminate an incredible amount of overhead in developing and experimenting with new social applications. There's a number of great initiatives trying versions of this (IPFS, Urbit, Blockstack -- I'm tracking a number of popular ones over at http://decentralize.tech).

The community needs more organization and more funding around these problems, especially in the field of developing new business models that work for software that don't involve selling out user priorities to global ad networks. I'm in San Francisco and working on this problem full-time if anyone wants to meet up and discuss solutions; Email's in profile.


I believe that the internet is powerful because it connects us to people rather than content. My dream is for our portal into the internet (currently google or Facebook) to become a search engine for people. I am interested in x. This person is the top authority on x. Here is a chat window. You can ask it questions that his/her bot will answer at first (to save this person from being spammed). However, eventually if you ask the right person, he/she will be interested enough to join in the conversation.

What am I doing about this? Nothing yet, but I have been thinking about this recently.


Honestly what you just described is pretty much Facebook.


more like Twitter. Hard to meet strangers on FB.


It's too late. The culture of free exchange that existed on the usenet, over e-mail, and on the early web died circa 2013.

It's tempting to blame Google and Facebook, and they definitely converted a lot of public value into private value. But I suspect it's mainly down to self-selection bias of internet early-adopters. I call the present state of affairs "eternal October".


Why do you say 2013?


That's the year Google killed Reader, and all the mailing lists I'd been on since the '90s spontaneously moved to Facebook. I think it was also the year mobile really took off

http://tumblr.jackdawresearch.com/post/136750883723/digestin...

(The last two charts are trailing-year, which better show the derivative than the more typical cumulative charts)


Hm. Personally I thought it was around 2010, when Facebook chat replaced AIM. And the iPhone 4 came out.


The decline was definitely underway. 2010 is also the year Duke dropped usenet. But the blogosphere was still going strong and mailing list traffic was still strong. Facebook group versions of many mailing lists and private forums existed but discussions were high-quality and didn't cannibalize the parent forums much. Forum/list traffic collapsed in 2013 and meaningful Facebook group discussions followed about a year later.


Ah I see. There are still some good forums that exist (I won't link them cuz I don't want HN crossover). IRC is still going strong too.


The UK government is working on it's own Internet [1]. It's going to really take off and be the next big thing!! No encryption too, so it's nice and safe from all those terrorists. Can't wait!!

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/new...


Jesus fucking Christ. Global leader in online fascism, more like. I wonder at which point citizens will stop and say "wait, what the hell?". Probably too late.


That's really cool! Does that mean that my bank records will be sent in plaintext over those series of tubes?


Brings to mind the series of tubes that powered the information system in 1984's Oceania, and how antiquated the mindset that envisioned that system, with its memory holes that could eradicate past information forever.

That said, even if today's distributed system prevents a gatekeeper from having sole veto on information, today's filter bubbles and chaos of viral disinformation campaigns can be such a barrier against truth that perhaps they can be considered, for all practical purposes, a type of modern day memory hole.


Well if that can end the confusion caused by all these fake news and trolling on social media, I'm all in. Plus last week's attacks really reminded me of how dangerous the world can be, hopefully the new internet will catch more terrorists than the pathetic current one does.


May has just lost the Tories their already weak parliamentary majority maybe even her position as PM. Although both Tory and Labour agenda is virtually the same when it comes to pushing anti privacy laws.


Just because there are closed houses in the US doesn't mean I can't travel from coast to coast. Or build my own house with whatever rules I want.

If, instead, I had no freedom to build a house at all or the rules were dictated to me by others, I would be less free. And poorer.


I play with IPFS, use Linux, use Mastodon, use Nextcloud in my basement with davdroid. I use FB only in the browser I don't use in (both on mobile and laptop I reserve Chrome for these things). I avoid where possible Whatsapp and use Signal. I have a mailserver with a local (Dutch) company with my own domain. I publish anything on my self hosted Drupal instances. Is it more time consuming and more difficult? Yes! But also more fun. I like the term slow computing: https://www.americamagazine.org/content/all-things/slow-comp...


Have you ever warwalked or wardrove your neighborhood? What is the # of AP's / mile? Think of all that NAT not being used.

Where are the specs for the Outernet Protocol: a NAT to NAT DNS system that doesnt rely on gatekeepers/ISP access. Use the 198.162.xxx.xxx addresses on all of our existing routers for neighborhood scale networking. Build trust by proximity by allowing only known neighbors to connect. Could be very interesting. Especially when Joe mirrors Wikipedia and Samantha mirrors Archive.org and Jan has a realtime mirror of some good Reddit feeds.

Automate the mirroring the internet. Scrape every last bit, in real time, without the ads and crap. Make it available to those trusted folks in your proximity.


I like the ambition, but it's limited to regional effects at best.


Actually, there once was something somewhat similar to what you're describing: netsukuku - http://netsukuku.freaknet.org


Talk to others. More importantly, learn _how_ to talk to others. Know your audience. Learn what examples turn people on and off---what gets their attention vs. what sounds like a parent lecturing to their child. You don't want to put people on the defensive. Learn how to relate it to them. Learn how to make them _understand_ the problem and why it's important---otherwise they won't care, or if they do, it'll be short-lived.

Speak at events/conferences. Speaking generally to a broad audience with broad information and hard-hitting references not only gets the message out, but also makes it more difficult to make someone feel targeted, like you might one-on-one or in a small group.

I target two groups: technical people who can actually do something about it and teach others (but might not care or be aware of the issues), and average users and groups who might know or not care. Talking to your family and friends (and spouse) helps gain great insight on what people are thinking without quickly ending the conversation if it makes them uncomfortable. As does HN. ;)

Talk to groups you _know_ will be hostile to you. Learn common rebuttals. Learn how to respond to them. And harden yourself with relentless attacks on your facts and opinions.

Offering practical alternatives is difficult. Even if you can, people want to socialize where others socialize---I'm not going to get my friends all on GNU Social or Mastodon (or the fediverse in general) for example. Work security and privacy into their current practices the best you can understanding that compromise is _essential_. Maybe they can transition further in the long-term as they get used to certain ideas.

I encounter similar issues (and get a lot of practice with it) with free software activism---getting people to care about and understand software freedom is far more of a difficult battle than getting someone to care and understand about privacy and security issues.

For those looking for some resources to get them started:

https://mikegerwitz.com/projects/sapsf/plain/sapsf.bib https://mikegerwitz.com/talks/sapsf.pdf

And this is an _excellent_ resource:

http://crackedlabs.org/en/networksofcontrol


Would any solution be tangible for the type of user who is attracted to Favebook? That is, would there be any solution which a non-technical user would flock to? Would it meet their needs and abilities in a meaningful way?


We need better tools, so that ordinary people can setup their own blogs, websites, email servers, forums, and whatever else they want without being an expert on systems administration or security. They should be able to deploy a system and be confident that it will keep working without intervention for decades. We're not there now, largely because of security vulnerabilities.

We need it to be easier to write secure applications. We need to eradicate undefined behavior from our software stacks. Rust is a good step in this direction. We need well-thought-out APIs that are hard to misuse.

I think we also need a better search engine, and tools to filter news. Tools that detect clickbait, overzealous advertisements, and other forms of low-quality content and push them to the bottom of the rankings, and also punish sites that link to low-quality content.

We need email to be more user-friendly than it is; maybe we need a new protocol that's simpler and consistent with how email (and Facebook/linkedIn mail) is used in 2017. Setting up an email server should be easy, and the settings should be secure by default.

We need tools to identify credible information sources, possibly by analyzing if a given information source is vouched for by someone we already trust. Flooding comment sections and forums with fake comments is an easy way to manipulate the public and create an illusion of consensus or a made-up controversy, but it's a little harder to be fooled if you have automated tools to filter out people that aren't connected to anyone you know by some kind of chain of recommendations.


Most comments here are quite pessimistic.

Matrix.org is a start.

On a much much broader scale the Web 3.0 will be build on Blockchains, the so called Fat protocols will surpass the Web 2.0 or eventually merge.

https://www.usv.com/blog/fat-protocols

Ethereum will build up a considerable part of the ecosystem, with Dapps like status.im

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Je7yErjEVt4


I contribute to Mastodon, an open-source federated social network based on the OStatus set of W3C standards. Most of my work has been on making the web frontend faster, trying to add the kind of fit-and-finish that proprietary apps like Twitter and Facebook have.


Maybe should try on another level alltogether. Here something from 6y ago. (i even posted it here then but with near-zero attention).

A (personal) system that keeps your own notions (and versions of) and crosslinks them to each another, with translators to/from other persons/entity notions (and subsets - think i/o facades/faces).

Like the tags u put on your images. And how u would explain them to somebody else. And take some of their images (i.e. of same event) with their tags. And tag them yourself. maybe in time.

http://www.svilendobrev.com/rabota/notionery/ http://www.svilendobrev.com/rabota/notionery/1.html

it's rough sketch, may live on top of any p2p technology. Back then noone could be bothered about "why would i put another layer around myself". Now maybe the awareness is better, i don't know. (contacts in profile or that site) have fun


I am of the opinion that Facebook and Google will continue to be relevant simply because of the perceived value in working for these companies. There was a recent top news on HN about a programmer who self-learned and applied to Google. The line "Feeling more confident, he set his sights high. He began to wonder if he might be able to work at Google" made me realise that as long as people look up to Google as a pinnacle of software engineering (or if pinnacle is too much of a hyperbole, at least I admit that Google has high software engineering standards), there will always be an influx of good engineering talent to these companies. I feel that one way to combat their grip on the Internet would be to change the mindsets of these programmers, and to change the narrative that all good engineers should work at Google et all. Without a constant stream of programmers willing to work for these companies, the quality of their offerings should decrease, hopefully to a point where the average Joe would start to look for alternatives.


More simple would be: as long as the wage and perks are awesome, google will attract talent


I argue that "the Internet" has become a category error:

http://www.sampenrose.net/civilization-absorbs-technology/

There is just civilization, which the Internet used to be meaningfully separate from but is no longer.


Maybe Google and Facebook shouldn't be lumped together.

Google (however big they are) provides a lot of value to my world at least. Just for search alone. Sure, there are other search engines but none nearly as good. Making it easy to find relevant information is of huge benefit and really does "change the world". I consider this enhancing.

Facebook is like the owner of a seedy bar. Preying on people's need to socialize and serving rotgut. Profiting from degradation rather than enhancement. (IMOP).

People should stop drinking rotgut. That's the way to stop Facebook. Rotgut is cheap anyway. You can even make your own in the basement. But if you want to stop Google you need to build a better search engine. Best of luck with that (seriously, I'd use it, no loyalty but so far Google has some truly useful products).


Should we add github to that list?


It's interesting so many jobs now want you to provide a link to your github account as part of the application process. There's no option to specify "I run my own Gitlab server." I always feel that I am in the minority that I find this disheartening.


and netflix


I am curious why you are suggesting Netflix? The filter bubble created by the recommendation system? It seems like they are relying on original content more and more. Or maybe you mean because of the centralization of it? Is there a decentralized and legal alternative?



The meat of this is really anti-DRM and while I agree with that sentiment completely I am failing to see how this relates to the centralization trend or filter bubbles that are the topic of this discussion.


Are you aware of usable alternatives to Netflix? (I am not). This is the problem I guess...


Useable? What do you mean? Bit Torrent, iTunes, Amazon are all "useable." Netflix is hardly the only game in town.


A little late to the party on this but:

1. I have quit Facebook, minimizing Twitter use, and am using Mastodon[0] for my social networking fix. My existing Facebook friends aren't on it, but the people I'm "meeting" are very nice. Will be blogging about it soon.

2. I am re-launching my long-idle blog, but this time supporting indieweb[1] standards for identity. This way, I have a central identity on the web across social networking sites, that I control.

[0]: https://joinmastodon.org/ [1]: https://indieweb.org/


Im re-engineering the internet (http://unravel.org). There are many more who are trying. If enough of us try, someone will sucseed.


Is this some sort of attempt to claim Facebook and Google are somehow worse than Ajit Pai's FCC?

I'm specifically objecting to the phrase "closed internet". It sounds like the opposite of net neutrality, but in reality, any privacy options within Facebook and Google have been user-driven.

The focus should be on removing Pai. Regarding Facebook and Google, you can simply choose to not use them if you wish.

You only have one choice for broadband, and Pai wants to extend ISPs' monopolies. Let's not let that happen without a fight.


At least Google and Twitter have data takeout.

I recently discovered that, on Reddit, anything beyond your more recent 1000 posts/comments/upvotes is totally irrecoverable to you, even via scraping.


Wait, really?


Yeah. This was pretty upsetting to discover. I had been blindly using my reddit upvote history as a supplementary personal log of sorts, for many years. And most of that's now just gone.

Thank god I haven't made over 1000 comments or posts with any one account.

The data's all still in the database, but due to their caching setup, only the last 1000 of anything is publicly indexed. While everything's technically reachable, it's all deep web. To recover something private like upvoted or saved posts, we're talking heat-death-of-the-universe, through a full-table-scan squeezed through brute-forcing a search box, while authenticated, with rate limits.


In my view a big way to fix these problems is to allow for multiple clients to compete on the same underlying social network protocols. Semi-decentralized (federated) social networks like Mastodon have done great work here. Even better would be completely decentralized equivalents of Twitter, Facebook, etc. There are several impressive projects working on enabling these decentralized apps. One such project is IPFS. Another is one I'm working on called Blockstack.


Walled Gardens - Do consumers really feel that it's a big enough problem? As for filter bubbles, a consumer need only visit another news site, right?

I hope I'm wrong about this.


Consumers don't care, they'll start caring when their last dollar is squeezed out of them and they start wondering why is their life so shit. At which point, it will be too late.


Is there another way?


That's extreme for most but :

1. I don't talk to Google and Facebook - I mean, really, litteraly http://sling.migniot.com/index.html?filter=no_.*sh

2. A decade without Google Search and DuckDuckgo instead - sometimes I have to use !g at work

3. I have rooted phones without a Google account - but I know no single other person who does it

And the corrolaries :

- I get a lot less ads for free

- I have to talk again to Google from time to time, for captcha purposes

- I have real-life friends who call me - like in "phone-call", they know I have no Fb, no Insta', no Pinter', no Google, no Snap'

- From Google and Fb's standpoints I'm like a blackhole: I don't leave intentional traces, opinions, preferences but I'm as traceable as a dead pixel on a uniform background.

I left this comment because I feel like a Unicorn : I do this nearly as a hobby and to prove that "It's still possible" - but it takes a BC in computer science and constant fighting :

Nobody does that


What would it take for a new social network to take users off facebook in 2017?


The real problem would be network effects. Nobody uses a new social network, because nobody they know uses it.

To get people off of Facebook, you'd have to find a way around that.


Yep. You need a niche. Like yik yak, but not.


Integrate with Facebook. Don't force people to choose one system or another. Then people will diffuse across the barrier.


use Facebook oAuth to log into a facebook clone? Will they let that happen?


A CEO that says "no" to an $X billion acquisition.


Start by making a list of cons. What do people not like about facebook? What's the problem with using facebook? That's where your answer lies.


Most people don't have any problem at all with Facebook. We're in a very small echo chamber here on this thread.


Someone with the talent and drive to create a billion dollar closed social network that eclipses Facebook.


What about a for-profit open-source social network then? Reading through comments on threads here it seems the events pages make it difficult for people to switch somewhere else without having a large part of their social life cut off.


It would have to be something that makes facebook irrelevant. For example: a telepathic group mind meld - where you could interact with other people synchronously or asynchronously.


To foresee the perils of a closed internet, look at healthcare.

Instead of using open standards, most of our medical data is trapped in proprietary vendor systems that are at best antiquated.

Patients are unable to move their data easily, doctors and hospitals have to pay huge sums to access their own data. The vendors extract massive rents but were all left in the dark and our health suffers


Seems like the first thing we need is organization. Even if the effort is spent on diversified efforts, having an organization of like-minded people agreeing on overall objectives and prioritizing would probably be the starting point. Is that organization SocialWG? Something else? I have no idea, but I would be open to participate.


Whichever team invents the best co-governing system will win, no? So the organization that arises naturally from ActivityPub, Mastodon, ActivityPub, etc. will provide the activation energy. The question is: can ANY of these solutions compete against private, financial incentives?


We're running a nonprofit online conversation service, Lyra. It's a space for online conversation which respects language and attention, provides powerful tools to control audiences and news feeds, and doesn't take investment or ad revenue. We're already sustainable!

www.hellolyra.com


> What projects or companies are you working on to combat filter bubbles, walled gardens, emotional manipulation,

I walled it myself by making a small social network for close friends.

Sure, it's probably a big bubble but at least I don't emotionally manipulate my friends by showing them ads or changing the order of their posts.


Echo Chamber Club exists to inform people with progressive views, alternative viewpoints on stories they wouldn't normally encounter within their own social media circle.

https://echochamber.club/


In some sense open and federated information networks go against the grain. Popularity of Facebook is a pretty strong indicator that all the things techies worry about are irrelevant to the general public.

Most walled gardens are built for convenience of consumption whereas most federated networks seem to assume a more active and informed participant. The kinds of features you'd build for one group are at odds with what you'd build for the other one.

Then again Brave seems to be tackling the problem from the right angle. I hope their model takes off and people start incorporating similar ideas into other open networks that respects the network participants instead of just treating them as passive consumers.


I use this to block surveillance, and bypass the big content aggregators. Think of it as full-text reader view for RSS feeds that don't support such things:

http://fivefilters.org/content-only/

Increasingly, I get my news from non-profits that do original research, or technolgists that are the primary source of the stories I read. They don't use advertising to fund their work, which eliminates the moral dilemmas around stealing content vs supporting our corporate surveillance state.

Also, RSS is the opposite of a walled garden.


I was writing an email extension for private communication, and easier sharing and organization of things¹... But then there was an epidemics of first instance judges blocking private messaging systems on my country.

I'm currently waiting for our supreme court to decide if judges have that power before I spend more time on it (or not). Maybe I'll have my answer next week.

1 - https://sealgram.com/blog/yep-im-rewriting-email.html


I've been working towards a distributed social semantic desktop in my spare time. My latest experiment along those lines: https://github.com/pdfernhout/Twirlip7

Related concept video from a few years ago: "Twirlip Civic Sensemaking Project Overview" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mRy4sGK7xk

Wish I had more time to work on it.


Brendan Eich, the inventor of Javascript and co-founder of Mozilla, launched this recently: https://www.basicattentiontoken.org/index.html

It's a token for advertisement that rewards the user, to be used at Brave browser: https://brave.com https://github.com/brave


I love the idea but if we can't get 70% of the population to use ad blockers, what chance do we have of people moving over to a new, unheard of browser?

People switched to Chrome because Google told you it was a better experience every time you made a search. I don't see how people of my parents generation (60s) will ever hear about Brave.


The BAT is for more apps, Brave is just first.

Do your parents like paying half their data plan ($23/month in the US) to load tracking scripts and ads? See https://medium.com/@robleathern/carriers-are-making-more-fro.... Brave is 3-7x faster on top news/media sites than Chrome on Android.

All this and more is discussed at https://basicattentiontoken.org/.

How do small faster browsers get big? Marketing. To counter, big browsers have to block by default and none will (Apple comes closest and is our best ally). They're all beholden.


I'm working on a manifesto and a set of blog posts to influence people that use closed internet services to think differently about it. What I believe we need to do to fight this is to make people care about who we give our data to and have organizations share their machine learning models so that we can have a more secure and open web. One of the ways we can do this is to allow people to execute machine learning models so that everyone can restrict it to the data that they own


Here is what I have been doing:

https://qbix.com/platform

A wordpress-like open source platform that communities can install and have their own facebook.

A platform that allows developers to release apps that communties can install. Or turn their existing app into one.

An auth protocol that works with everything else out there and lets people manage their identities across the web, and link up with their friends from their private address books.

And more.


I actually think that in the long run internet will become more open and here's why.

Why do both Facebook and Google exist? They exist to manage servers. Why do we need servers? Because your personal computer/phone might not be able to handle all that much traffic and might not have dem five nines. How much traffic does it need to handle? What if your phone could handle all the traffic the entirety of humanity could generate? The need for these companies would go away.


sounds like the plot of the show silicon valley this season ;-)


I'm working on freedomlayer.org. It is a research project for finding out solutions to various questions:

- Distributed and secure routing, specifically in mesh networks.

- Creation of scalable economy of digital goods (Storage, computation power and networking) between computers.

I believe that these will provide a foundation to build things like distributed email.

Currently freedomlayer contains mostly research documents, though I plan to implement some of it in the near future.


By slowly withdrawing from the internet entirely. Cancelled my facebook and twitter accounts; the variety of websites I visit has dwindled to just a handful; I use a blackberry and will likely go to a flip-phone when I can find a decent cheap one (recommendations welcome). I read more books now.

"filter bubbles, walled gardens, emotional manipulation" are things I no longer think about


It's not much but I work on decentralized comment software in my sparetime.

[0] https://pik.github.io/Interlocutor/blog/

[1] https://github.com/pik/Interlocutor


In my view, algorithms that deal with user data (our social data) should be designed by universities and perhaps government agencies, like in the old days of the internet.

The role that big companies can play (we still need them) is supply hardware, and perhaps subordinate software libraries, also like in the old days.


You're hosting your stuff on Github so you are part of the problem. Fix that before you start talking.


Came to post this.

I have nothing against Github, but I wish developers knew better :/


I think the developer community should distance itself more from big companies that act badly.

One way to do this could be for open source authors to introduce a section in the README file expressing the wish that the software will not be used in ways the user is not aware of, such as user-tracking.


I am experimenting with a new approach to preventing manipulation and biases in feeds. We use an algorithm to randomly crowdsource people to rate articles on their topical relevance and usefulness. Results at postwaves are still preliminary but encouraging.


Keep using email and open messaging formats, ideally tied to an ID you own. How many people actually have their own website? Probably a minority. Everyone has an email address. If this gets subsumed by FB Messenger, Slack, and Snap, we lose the open web.


The rest of the Internet didn't disappear. If anything, Facebook and Google are tools to drive traffic to your own corner of the Internet.

I don't really believe social media filter bubbles exist, relative to the bubbles of the past. Even the most isolated Facebook user is more enlightened than my parents were during their childhoods in India.

Emotional manipulation was probably worse when the United States only had 3 TV networks. Before that, "yellow journalism" helped lead the US into the Spanish-American war. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_journalism#Spanish.E2.8...

Of course, we should still work to do better than the status quo, but I enjoy being able to develop a following on social media and/or purchase ads for whatever distributed Internet ideal I want to create.


Lordy no.

I've been watching emotional manipulation in India and around the world for decades now. Its always been among my top concerns, and its definitively become worse. I'd argue its a lot worse on all axes, but if you want a singular reasons - targeting has now all encompassing. Its on all the time, it knows where you are, who you know, what you like, in a dramatic way.

Also - you have a third confounding variable in your data. Parents in India from that era were not as educated as counterparts in the west.

The west went through its periods of darkness, where the average person was not educated, and when religious institutions dominated the scene.

They had decades to over come this, generally following the Enlightenment.

India too will hopefully struggle with these same issues. But the new medium for ideas is more dangerous than the one which came before - for ideas themselves.

In a slower news cycle there is also time to reflect. The lack of being always connected, meant that the transfer of memetic force was always broken up.

Emotion is the lever by which most of the world is moved. Whatsapp forwards come at any time, can contain any content and will be accepted by the receiver often without reflection.

The world has iterated, and for the worse.


The UI bit is really important. To do it well would be to make a pixel perfect open source clone of Facebook that works over a distributed protocol like scuttlebot. theacebook.org is the closest ui attempt that I've seen.


I ignore facebook entirely, use duckduckgo for search, and pay for journalism.


First world country problems. In India, we dont really care. And China ofcourse. So half of the world dont care and I dont think India and China has any penetration or audience for these services.


Most people everywhere don't care, really.


With regards to advertising, what are you doing to offer a realistic alternative to getting content creators paid online? Paywalls work, but people hate them (go into the comments of any article from the WSJ or such on here). The automatic tipping things offer very little friction, but hardly anyone uses them. So what's your answer?


I think automatic tipping is the way to go. If blog posts and online content feature flattr (or any) widgets prominently, people will naturally be curious about it and contribute.

People also fund patreons, donate to charity etc to show off and get recognition - maybe some integration into one's social media to show which content creators you enjoy (support).


What if we don't pay them at all? I don't think we'd miss out on too much. It might even make things better, getting rid of professons like 'youtuber' and article writers who'se main goal is to distribute ads with poor quality content and clickbaits. People interested in sharing what they know will still do it. Wikipedia exists without writers getting paid.

Walled garden can still exists, if people value them, they will buy to get content, nothing wrong with this. If people aren't willing to buy to get content, it will then be a hint that the content isn't worth the money.


"What if we don't pay them at all?"

What if your employer didn't pay you? I'm sorry, but this idea that one shouldn't be allowed to make money being a "youtuber" or anything else just because you don't like it doesn't hold water.


I didn't mean to offend you if you are a content creator or want some content creator to be funded. I just don't think it's much of a technology issue. It's a signal that the content isn't worth the money where walled garden doesn't work.

Also, I think you've misread my comment - I can't see any association between your reply and my comment.


I meant to say paid-walled-garden, maybe that was the confusion.


I see digital artists making a living with Patreon, which is pretty interesting. I wonder if it would work well enough for other types of content.


I'm blogging on my own domain whenever I get the chance.

Also bootstrapping https://www.remarkbox.com


for better or for worse, advertising (or some kind of information) is necessary for running a business.

Web ads are working less well than in the past, but they still work. The companies that have a high-visibility 'start page' (news orgs in 1990, yahoo in 1997, G & FB today) are going to have a lot of power.

Create a compelling start page, get 30% of the world to use it once a day, and your problem will have been solved.


These are problems but they ignore the bigger threats. Once ISPs get into selling your history and other reports and net neutrality is killed, we are all toast.


I think there is something even worse than walled gardens and those are the closed platforms apple, Google and Amazon are creating.

One thing is creating websites where they control the content users can see. But the web is still "open", even if facebook bans my content I can still create another website and share it with everybody (probably nobody will ever see it, but that's another problem). The real problem is the new tendency of app stores (Apple Store, Google play, Alexa skills...) If Google/Facebook/Amazon decide to block my content, I have no way to reach other users.


https://status.im/ is doing something interesting in this space too.


I'm making a decentralized app that makes it easier to tell your friends what you had for dinner, then posting it on Facebook.


You're covering input, but what about output?


Don't work at these companies. Don't give them your business. Spread the word about their unethical practices.


Why isn't there an open sourced version of google and facebook similar to what ubuntu is to os x and windows alternatives.


urbit.org


Would it help if more people would have a personal website?

Or would that just put the power into the hands of whoever runs the DNS system


It would definitely help. Use things like RSS feed features so that people can subscribe to updates from your personal site/blog.

DNS is (relatively/-ish) decentralized, and isn't AFAIK, heavily used for data collection. And you can't exactly show ads via DNS.


People do have their own personal websites. Brought to you by SquareSpace.


I strongly believe it would be good. A few friends already run their DNS, so DNS censorship is limited too. Not even mentioning .onion routing.


email contact may be too important for everyone to be running their own mail server, at least with the solutions I'm familiar with?

Take the like/+1/retweet/etc. buttons off your website.


I'm convinced of something surprising -- that walled gardens are actually the result of limitations in ... HTTP! And to prove it, I've implemented a replacement for HTTP called Statebus that adds power to HTTP and breaks down walled gardens: https://stateb.us Check it out!

Statebus makes web programming wayyyy easier, and opens up the insides of websites -- you can go to any page, hit a hotkey, and edit the code live to add a feature, or incorporate state from a different site, or re-use the state or code from somewhere else, just as easily as you use your own site's state and code! Because it puts the insides of sites onto the web protocol itself. In Statebus, every piece of state has a URL! And you can synchronize with it as easily as <a href="state://..."> today!

This breaks up walled gardens like Facebook! Today, we have monopolies at the level of websites, because each different website is implemented with a different proprietary stack of web gunk -- MVC server frameworks, reactive view frameworks, networking frameworks, babel, webpack, and -- YUCK! Statebus replaces all this gunk with the web protocol itself -- the statebus protocol -- which opens the state, and itself automatically synchronizes all this state together!

Statebus transforms HTTP from State Transfer to Synchronization:

    HTTP:     Hypertext *Transfer* Protocol
    REST:     REpresentational State *Transfer*
    Statebus: State *Synchronization* Protocol
It turns out that all web frameworks are really just state synchronization libraries, and we only need them because HTTP doesn't know how to synchronize! By adding synchronization to the web protocol itself, we eliminate the need for all these frameworks, and put all the internal state of a website onto the web protocol itself, making it open for other websites to use!

Statebus makes websites wayyy easier to program, and this means that the easiest way to program websites is now the most open way. This changes the economics of the web, and is going to break up the walled garden monopolies that have arisen around websites -- just like the web itself broke up the AOL walled garden in 1995!

Remember AOL? It provided a lot of the same features as the web -- shopping, chat rooms, forums -- but then was outcompeted by the open web around 1995! Why? Because programmers found it was easier to put their content online with HTTP and HTML than by convincing CEO Steve Case to add their content to AOL's garden! In the same way, Statebus is going to make it easier to build social content than by going through Facebook's walled garden! The future will be a diverse, realtime, synchronous symphony of social state!

You can find technical docs here: https://github.com/invisible-college/statebus/ And a demo video here: https://stateb.us


The biggest thing you can, in my humble opinion, is to make choices predicated on a long term view instead of what is most convenient for you, in the next five minutes. It doesn't require you to code up some sort of amazing app, or dedicate your free time to open source, although both of those are great.

I liken it to the attitude people are starting to take with regard to other aspects of their lives, such as food and materialism. When I go to the store I know that I can save a few dollars by buying the absolute bargain basement produce, flown in from south america, taken from high intensity factory farms, or packaged up and made mostly out of HFCS. Or I could see what I can buy from local producers and from farms that prioritize ethically raising animals. It means my eggs cost 3 bucks more, and I can't have kiwi fruits in February. But wanting kiwi fruits right this minute, even though it is February in a northern latitude is the exact sort of attitude I am speaking of.

So how can you put this into practice? Well a few people have already made similar suggestions so some of this will be duplicating their suggestions, but I still think it is worth saying.

1) Use your own email. I personally like Fastmail. For $50CAD/year I get a great service. I know that I am paying for a service and am not the product. They are doing good work with the open email protocols that exist, and working to produce new open standards for the future.

2) Use Firefox. Do we really want to give a dominant majority marketshare in the browser market to a browser made by a company that makes 90% of its money through advertising to you? This isn't even some sort of rant about google being "evil", it's just a common sense decision. It wasn't a good idea back in the day to give dominant marketshare to a company who incentives were aligned against the web and towards desktop single platform applications, and it won't be a good idea to give that sort of power to company that is beholden to shareholders and makes it money through tracking and gathering data on users.

3) Delete your facebook account. I don't have a fallback here, but honestly I don't think you need one. Between messenging apps, smartphones, email and other communication tools, you will be able to stay in touch with people you care about. Facebook is not irreplaceable and I say that as someone who was in University when Facebook blew up. I am still happily communicating with all of those people.

4) In general, think about your purchasing decisions and who they empower and what the long term gain is. Shopping at the new walmart in your town may save you money for a year or two until they have devastated the local economy and have no incentive to keep prices low. Even if they do, your local area is made worse by the unemployment they cause, and the underemployment they provide. Same thing with Amazon. Are you saving yourself a dollar today to wonder where the retail jobs that helped underpin your community went in a few years? Are you doing all your searches through google when you could maybe do them through Duck Duck Go, or Bing, or just anything that slightly breaks the monopoly that Google has on search?

All of this is stuff that Richard Stallman has been saying for years, and people keep being surprised that he is "correct", but it's usually pretty easy to see that he is just taking a longer term view of things, and understanding that just because an organization acts decently when they are not in a position of power doesn't mean anything about how they will act once they are on top.

In summary, try to think longer term about your decisions, instead of prioritizing immediate convenience, and paltry economic savings, especially when we, as privileged engineers and developers, have the ability and monetary flexibility to do so.


Been slowly weaning myself off Google's products.

Switched my default search engine to Startpage. I still end up on Google for half of my searches -- particularly if I need to get a map to a business -- but it helps that I now have to consciously type in the name of a Google product before I make use of it. It's like treating an addiction.


Heres a question - what are the kids using?


Install a content blocker in disagreement?


we are developing alternatives based on decentrlized and fair platforms like the blockchain




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