What I'm worried about is actively preventing decentralized, small-scale or hackership services.
If some guy has to effectively stop hosting a forum because of GDPR, or I can't host my own email server, or serve HTTP out of my home box, or get decent bandwidth for a private virtual network, Tor, I2P or IPFS while Netflix works at full speed, or do about anything else than initiate HTTP/HTTPS connections to known big company grade services or be flagged as a malicious endpoint, then there will not be a decentralised network living within the same infrastructure as the centralised behemoths. And that is the death people are talking about.
A marginal decentralised segment of the current internet is still larger than the whole decentralised internet in its early years. As long as the old ways of networking can live, develop, and grow along with the FANG & co that's fine. But it might not be taken for granted, eventually.
"Because freedom of association necessarily recognizes pluralistic sources of power and organisation, aside from the government, it has been a primary target for repression by all dictatorial societies."
And that freedom is rather young (19th century).
Hosting/owning data and the processes on them is no different as an exercise of sovereignity.
At this point, today, it's more a matter of law (it must be recognized and guaranteed) than a matter of ability (it's possible) or market (it exists). That's where the battle is.
People are "lazy and don't care" is dialogue you hear from people who don't have the experience of getting things done.
It's why we are now in a world where either Google or Apple have access to pretty much every piece of data that every person on the planet produces or consumes.
The Google Problem in particular is spawned by people wanting free or cheap stuff at any cost.
It will take more than a few hundred people to change this now. It's too entrenched.
People are busy and have other priorities and don't see meaningful gains for investing time and effort in opposing the endless torrent of technofeudalism washing over them.
Trying to moralize a co-ordination issue is great way to shift the responsibility for bad things occurring from those doing it to those who failed to resist it.
So were they before when literacy and education was limited to nobility and clergy (probably not so much per design, but per means and imagination and interest). And so couldn't understand WHAT general people literacy and education could bring to society as a whole and for every one.
It's not a matter of guilt or lazyness. Things take time to enter the mind of one person, even more so the mind of societies.
An educational/technological advantage is not always but often a winning one.
And that is not an excuse.
GDPR does not prevent people from hosting forums
The problem for anyone wanting to host a forum is that using off-the-shelf software is a sensible route, but the available software might still be leaning towards offering to collect data like this, might not yet have support for GDPR disclaimers, checkboxes, etc.
What I’m saying is let’s assume neither malice nor incompetence and instead that those wishing to host forums may be hamstrung by the available software.
Sure, that's easy: everything is copyrighted. The difficult part is determining whether the uploader can legally share the copyrighted material, which is just as likely to prove impossible to automate with accuracy and precision as the detection of personal information.
How would that have that effect?
Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
More realistically, this is a problem that has no easy technical solution that originates from a law that still isn't adopted.
If I were an owner of such platform, I wouldn't worry too much about it now. In a year... maybe.
Here in the UK, these sorts of laws have had, as far as I know, zero enforcement.
Absolutely nobody actually seems to care about decentralized databases and networks feeding compatible clients info. Every user interface is made by the people holding the data in a walled garden.
How do you define "web" and "centralized" here? The internet (not necessarily the world wide web) was created to be decentralized because the US military recognized that having a single point of communication failure was a bad design (http://ccr.sigcomm.org/archive/1995/jan95/ccr-9501-clark.pdf).
In my estimation, the most centralized thing about the internet as we currently know it is the physical infrastructure (which is still not really centralized, but there's a relatively small number of Tier 1 networks connecting everyone else). But the protocols can be implemented over radio if necessary (albeit much more slowly), so even that's not really centralized.
My estimation is that as governments increase regulation of the internet as we know it, more people will move to TOR or something like it (move to the "dark web" if you like) as a way to just do normal internet things without the need for a lawyer. The governments in turn may decide to outlaw that (as in China), but enforcement of that seems infeasible against determined and skilled citizens.
Web as the world wide web of HTML pages served over the HTTP protocol. And centralised as served by the handful of biggest players in each market.
Even early on big centralised portals were attracting users. Internet started to attract common folks as soon as some services grew big enough to become "go to sites" at which point word of mouth was crushing smaller players. People didn't use Neighbour Joe's Web Crawler for searching, people used something like Alta Vista. The market for shopping on the internet increased directly as a function of big commerce sites gaining popularity. The small players never enjoyed more than a fraction of the number of users the big players had.
It seems to me that this suggests common people who do not have an interest in technology want to rely on a single (or at most few) brand(s) of service providers which basically leads to a winner-takes-all market and that just adds into centralised nature. If your mother wants to buy something on the internet isn't the only clue she has called "Amazon" ? (Or some applicable local market leader, depending on the country.)
Even if internet itself was completely decentralised and people were using RFC 1149 to reach the net I'm pretty sure they would still be connecting to Amazon, Ebay, Google, and other centralised hubs.
It is definitely warrants to be concern and care to have, for safety and security purposes of society as a whole to counter the will of bad actors that perhaps will ebb and flow until the end of time; it's why I believe as a signal point (a canary) for government-citizen relationships, is a deeply embedded law that allows for mesh networks to be always allowed - and so the moment there is an organized crackdown on this, we can know something is up - whether that is capitalistic for-profit efforts of people thinking more selfishly or a bad actor who has malicious and hatred-based goals/impulses.
This is very hard to believe. Developers hate apple, facebook, and countless other platforms that are doing very well. Adoption is the fundamental problem, not what developers want to support. The platform with the most users is what people will develop for.
I think you may be too focused on how developers decide a platform that is already successful. In that case, yes, which one is already adopted the most deserves strong consideration. However, when it comes to actually achieving adoption, it’s the platform that developers flock to that tend to succeed, all else being equal. We are talking about relatively fresh terrain here. There isn’t already a huge federated system like this that has a lot of mainstream adoption.
Perhaps, but I struggle to think of two comparable platforms with similar user adoption and significantly different developer interest, outside of there being different sets of developers that hate/love each (c.f. iOS and Android). I'm definitely not aware of any examples indicating a platform can be saved or damned by developers loving/hating it: e.g. most developers hated developing for the PS3 initially but it didn't fare badly in the console wars. Xbox One however did do much worse than the PS4 because fewer users wanted it.
But I think you do have a point. It's not just developer preference, there are other big factors like feature offered and ease of entry that determine likelihood of success.
and why is that possible? it's because the backend is decoupled from where the users are.
Linux would hardly be where it is without the help of Intel, IBM, HP, SGI, Hollywood studios, ...
The lack of focus on UI/UX and a full stack experience for frontend developers (native/web).
Hence why Android and ChromeOS succeed at it, while hiding what kernel they run on.
This is true of most things. Applicants flock to the industry that is hiring the most. It would be nice if the industry hiring the most was the most worthy, but that is doubtful. Consider mining communities.
And Apple's main draw is the large number of affluent customers. They'll have developers as long as they have those users, whether the developers like it or not. Which is why they can get away with charging 30% to developers when platforms have historically given incentives to developers to develop for their platform.
Apple was successful in building a platform because it's in house developers were capable of putting together something that was popolar with many people. They built on that to make more money by allowing other developers to use their platform.
However two things come to mind:
1. Competency is not a moat. If Apple loses developers it's next product will not be so much better than competition that it's success will maintain against erosion.
2. For all people talk about associating with necessary evils; when you associate with someone long enough, you begin to think they are not evil. Thus it seems reasonable to think developers do not hate Apple, if they work with Apple.
It's almost as if users patronize Comcast because they like internet access and Comcast is not truly liked for itself. It's almost as if drivers patronize the DMV because they like driving without being arrested and the DMV is not truly liked for itself.
There is a big difference between needing something and liking it.
> Apple was successful in building a platform because it's in house developers were capable of putting together something that was popolar with many people. They built on that to make more money by allowing other developers to use their platform.
But who are they to be allowing anything? GE makes a fine electrical distribution panel but that doesn't mean they get to decide what kind of lamp or microwave or laptop I can use with it.
> 1. Competency is not a moat. If Apple loses developers it's next product will not be so much better than competition that it's success will maintain against erosion.
Network effects are a moat. Apple had the first mover advantage, so they had the initial users and the developers follow the users. Then the users stay because the developers are there and the developers have no choice but to stay if they want access to those users.
The users could switch to Android -- most of them already have. But the developers can't make the remaining users move outside of some sufficiently large organized boycott, which are notoriously difficult to effectuate because of the coordination problem.
> 2. For all people talk about associating with necessary evils; when you associate with someone long enough, you begin to think they are not evil. Thus it seems reasonable to think developers do not hate Apple, if they work with Apple.
By this logic the most beloved entity in the country should be the IRS. And if people had to file four times a year instead of once they would like them even more.
No, most developers don't hate anything. Most developers are just normal people makin' stuff because their company pays them to.
Most developers are not particularly ideological.
Just some of us are ... perhaps a little bit more than in other industries.
And normal people do have feelings. So they like or love the things they do, or despise or even hate them.
Unless they became mindles zombies along the way.. which happens, but much more common is rather that they project all the other negative feelings into technology X or Y ... at least it often seems like this, when I read another rant about the technology Z.
Facebook is legendary for introducing breaking changes to their API without warning, for having terrible documentation, baroque and inconsistent APIs, flaky behaviour and broken examples.
Whatever you think of Facebook the company, Facebook the API is something everyone I know has horror stories about.
I really dislike this HN generalization that software developers are a big mass of people that think all the same way, which most of the time is actually a synomim for a thin subgroup of developers doing web applications with CLI tooling on UNIX like OSes.
There are many kinds of developers out there, some of us have experienced multiple kinds of platforms and development models towards the years, to make our business decisions how to provide our work according to points of view and related cost/benefit.
If early computing was a walled garden environment like iOS I never would have been a developer.
Each computer system was its own eco-system with special hardware features.
The PC was the exception to it, only because IBM wasn't too clever about securing the platform like everyone else.
Other developers may love it.
As to facebook, we’ll see if it survives. There’s not much to use it for aside from advertising as a platform, and I’ve heard nothing but negatives about return on ads.
Most JS developers quite like stuff like react, and most api developers like graphQL. So while developers may dislike Facebook as a company, they don’t seem to dislike Facebook tools.
I don’t think the platform that developers like will necessarily take of though.
I'm just letting you know that we both apparently have very biased samples on this matter.
When I was 20 years younger most developers I knew loved Linux. So maybe she plays in. I know I left gentoo for a Mac in 2006 and I’ve never looked back.
I don’t dislike Linux by the way, I just don’t want to spend time configuring things anymore.
currently develop on mac but still linux at home
These days it's more than that though. I mean, I'm completely drenched in the apple eco-system, and it's kind of nice to get iMessages on my MacBook and sharing data between devices so easily. I now I could setup something similar with stuff like own cloud, but then I'd have to do that, instead of it just working out the box.
Like I said, I don't dislike linux. I've never really disliked an OS until windows 10, but I just don't bother with technology that isn't designed for user experience anymore.
Like my first smartphone was an android, I don't think I'll ever own an android phone again. :p
One reason the world is so screwed up in 2018 is that people think they have to get everything for free.
Thus "your smartphone" is really an extension of other people's brands. It's not a tool to control your environment but a way sinister forces in the environment control you.
I like Linux for certain things but since you don't pay for it you influenced by the priorities of those who do pay: IBM, Google, the corporate customers of Red Hat.
Since you do pay for Windows and you do have a choice, Microsoft is working for you and there is an incentive to make the OS better.
There are other kinds of developers.
Have you tried developing an app for it? Docs are solid, but time is valuable. Why don't they include a bunch of super simple apps to show how it all works and make entry as easy as possible?
I want solid to succeed (well, anything comparable is also ok), but as much as I don't like it, marketing wins over how good the product is. That's just how it is today. That's how open source libraries and projects grow. It has to do with tons of available information, world moving forward very fast and our limited attention.
There is a bubble or perspective that derides everything popular as toxic, but I encourage you to think in degrees, and compare things.
For example, visit voat.co, and then 4chan, and then compare them to the sites you listed. And hell! compare them to your family discussions, and what you see on fox/cnn/msnbc. I bet you can find a spectrum of toxic content, and I bet the sites you listed aren't at the extreme toxic end.
I like the idea of decentralized as much as the next geek. However, there's a tendency of complex decentralized stuff being something that normal people don't really grasp or see the value of. Also, a lot of this value is not very tangible or even real. Most p2p systems have a hard time competing against a well run centralized system.
A lot of these decentralized Facebook/Twitter alternatives are being populated by people that, well, aren't that social. If you are like that, the empty room problem (you have no friends until world + dog joins) is not a big problem. You might even consider that a feature and not a bug. However, solving the empty room problem really is the key problem for social networks. How do you get all the social media whores, self pro-claimed influencers, etc. from endorsing your super duper decentralized platform and wanting to be there? Mostly that never happens.
Might be because there are no decentralized competitors to facebook, who offer the same possibilities bugfree. Never seen that.
Decentralized is an implementation detail for most users that they don't really understand or appreciate.
I do believe there is an opportunity for something new to displace facebook. FB is not a healthy network at this point. It's shrinking and users are disengaging or even afraid to use it.
Signal for example still can't compete with WhatsApp on everything, but is good enough now to get some traction.
Edit: a follow-up thought. If the answer is no or "it's too hard", then is it possible have something along the same lines, is it possible for the proposed system to self-correct away from monopolies/duopolies/oligopolies should they form?
We need to centralize around protocols/standards and decentralize ownership of data. If somehow each piece of data on a user were exponentially more expensive to keep, that might be possible. But that would be a very strange law…
Dave and I agree with your diagnosis, and we would like to propose a solution. Who is Dave? Well you know him, and I know that you know him and I know that when we both talk about Dave we must be talking about the same person.
(mLuby I probably don't really know you, this is just a hypothetical).
A casual observer could not approach our common understanding by adding more data. There's so many Daves after all. In fact they'd need to subtract all but the right data.
So the solution is a protocol in which increased data adds noise faster than it adds signal. Such a protocol requires 1000s times more plausible yet incorrect noise for every signal. Digital chaff.
Are you saying that nobody can know which Dave we're talking about unless we identify him as Dave-with-cell-5551234567? I don't think that's true, since human social circles are pretty easy to figure out; see the humorous hypothetical collection of data about US Founding Fathers. http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/phone-spying-paul...
there are a few other things too like only being charged to upload files once vs paying a subscription for the rest of your life, or only needing one password for all sites.
> 50% of the work is done by the square root of the total number of people who participate in the work.
Wikipedia also fixes the definition of Price's Law to be specifically around authors and their publications . I can see the relationship that author is trying to make, but I'm uncomfortable to how the article conflates the generalization with original definition. The original definition is also related to Lotka's Law, which is also about publications .
I also just watched the Jordan B Peterson lecture linked in the article, and it sounded to me that he chose to make the same generalization . He correctly calls it out as being restricted to creative work, but then goes on to make connections to goals scored in team sports like hockey and basketball. I think part of the problem in all of this is the attribution of effort with the overall outcome.
Taking Peterson's example with hockey, you can try to have an all-star team of just goal-scorers be on your hockey team including your extra players, but good luck trying to qualify for a championship. "Alright fine", you say and you get two-or-three bespoke goalies on your team. You more likely to qualify now, but given the typical builds of goal-scorers and how often they get injured, and comparing that to players who play defense, now your problem becomes having a team that more injuries than average, and suffering performance-wise as a result.
Certain kinds of success can be acquired through iterative attempts at amassing fractional results into one pot. Other kinds hinge binary do-or-die outcomes. Resilience and longevity comes from striking the correct balance between the two in any situation.
Fund the development of software and not the distribution. It would realign incentives to the consumers.
I really want to see more people taking this seriously. Open sourcing the productive world is a radical idea I fear most entrenched businesses owners wouldn’t take seriously, but I think the notion has staggering potential for improving the human condition for generations to come.
There are multiple ways this could be funded. I don't know if any would work.
See "Economies of Scale" 
To the degree that efficiency is increased with larger scale, the market will become an oligopoly or monopoly.
Most things are economies of scale: healthcare, social networks, manufacturing, network protocols.
However, even a thousandth of their scale is enough to demonstrate that decentralized scale is possible at the level where there can be economies (or diseconomies).
Google's scale was already huge even when they had merely "more than 10,000 servers" in the years prior to their IPO.
Because things are easier when devices use the same protocols as many other devices.
Some sort of cross-domain request blocking could then prevent the app from stealing your data.
The key difference is that instead of companies storing, owning and exploiting your data, the user maintains their own data store and companies can then access and exploit it.
It's decentralised in the way where the data lives and is controlled by, not in how or where the data is used.
There is the problem where companies could continue to use your data when you no longer let them access to your data store - but that in effect is at worse unethical and at best not legal these days.
Of course, it is not impossible for the client-side app to send the data back up to the server. Even if encrypted somehow once decrypted in the client for display to humans then its hard to protect that plain-text data. There were also some other open questions like if my distributed data is distributed, how can I "take it back?" I dont think there is a mechanism for that yet - some sort of TTL might work there though, if you can somehow bake it into the data/hash itself to avoid bad clients from ignoring TTL values before deleting/archiving.
1 - https://datproject.org/
Many more sourcews just a short duckduckgo search away.
My main concern is that this project is DOA for the same reason that the last few have been - too much of an academic focus tending towards navel-gazing, not enough network effect to draw hobbyists, and zero money to attract businesses.
The PDS needs to be a personal cpanel. Something with powertools for the enthusiast but enough shiny for the tech hipsters to use it even if they don't know why. It needs to be designed with an Apple-like mindset from end to end, and willing to make fundamental and architectural compromises (or sacrifices) for user aesthetic.
That probably wont happen.
If the effort around this was instead used to make something like Mastodon better, we might see much more widespread adoption of that platform. You could probably find non-profit funding for sufficient centralized infrastructure to kickstart a healthy mesh network.
As much as I like AllegroGraph (and I wrote a book using AllegroGraph) if you want people to be able to install your project easily, then using SQLite, or something similar, might make it easier for people try try it out.
Agreed - the cl-json library will handle all the Solid standards and then developers can layer on top of that their preferred db etc. I'm not sure if we need a db for the core library or not...
The purpose of FaceBook, Twitter, Google+, etc. should be as a place to put a link to your content in your own domain.
If each of us can control personal information about ourselves, the Supreme Court may rule in favor of this information as property. The problem is that this is not a realistic scenario. Most of our personal information involves parties other than ourselves. Counterparties can rightfully stake a claim to information they helped to create. Why wouldn't they? There is no clear breach of ethics by doing so.
So, let's assume the world adopts Solid pods to manage this data. Is each pod really a single source of truth? Any pod organized by an individual could just as easily be created by a counterparty, with some modification.
Then, suppose a marketplace exists for this information. Who is dedicating effort to monetizing their pods? How will individuals, who work for a living, compete with organizations mandated to maximize pod revenue? Both have legal claims.
My prediction is that contrary to what Lee, Pentland , Mazzucato  and others envision, Solid and its growing number of equivalents will spawn a new generation of business models and go even further than they do now, by introducing financial products linked to monetization. The main beneficiaries are those already monetizing personal information and those who will securitize them.
Imagine if you owned and controlled all your email vs. gmail reading it all? For companies, owning their proprietary data is an enormous market. I'm planning to launch a Solid service on top of Allegrograph in the next month or two to service my business customers.
And that UX service can easily import a users entire email history from google and others, and then use the graph to expose relationships and browsing not currently available in google and other services.
With the runaway success of microtransactions, I doubt this interests many. You can even see it in gaming. Spend $100 on Assassin's Creed and it still wants you to cough up $10 for exp boosts.
What are you talking about?
Early on most of the profit was in providing the access, not the content.
The early internet was innately disruptive and extremely different from anything that was there before. This doesn't have that advantage as far as I can see.
Only Netscape is a for-profit company, and it took 3 years of the Web existing to be founded.
The internet and web are already decentralised technical solutions.
But self-hosting is not a feasible solution for people and network effects mean that they'll gravitate to a few platforms.
That's simply the way it is.
Google, Facebook, etc. naturally emerged and similar near-monopolies will emerge with any other technology providing a decentralised network, including Solid.
> OpenID allows you to use an existing account to sign in to multiple websites, without needing to create new passwords.
> You may choose to associate information with your OpenID that can be shared with the websites you visit, such as a name or email address. With OpenID, you control how much of that information is shared with the websites you visit.
Is Solid having the NIH syndrome?
1) Solid is designed for you to store large, complete sets of data you care about over the protocol. OpenID is mainly about identity, and the associated bits of metadata are small and can't be written to by the OpenID protocol.
2) Solid separates the data storage from the application provider. So all your data could be in your Solid personal data store, and none in the application provider. (This was normal on Microsoft Windows in the 1990s, so think of it as a cloud version of that model of application development / data storage).
This is a high level quick answer - correct me if I've misrepresented something. Quickly looking there are lots of OpenID-related standards that I've never read or used, and I bet some write data!
Shouldn't we go back to some of the core values we had back then?
Also, when the internet started, universities and government institutions were inventing and running the internet, while companies were just providing the hardware. Seems like a better model to me in principle, although we need stricter privacy regulation.
It seems stupid to hand our data to ... the entities that have an incentive to abuse our data.
Many years ago, we face the vendor lock-in problem from the software giants, due to proprietary data formats. Thanks to Tim, W3C, XML and open source community, that is less of a problem today.
But now we face the problem of vendor lock-in, not due to proprietary formats, but due to cloud-service lock-in. With all the software giants, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon, ... offering their services primarily as cloud services, this cloud lock-in issue is going to become more severe in years to come.
It's a new war the software industry needs to fight. It cannot be addressed just by one person, one project, one organization. It needs collaboration from the entire community.
I liken projects like Solid to be similar to permissioned blockchain where small groups (people or organizations) use a private platform with lighter weight consensus algorithms than proof of work. Success can be had for small focused communities if there is enough value for users.
After trying to get friends and family to use a private Apache Wave instance for shared communication, and failed due to lack of interest on their part, I now don’t underestimate how difficult it is to move people off of centralized platforms.
The internet already is for everyone - everyone with an internet connection, that is - and that is precisely the problem. So unless you are willing to drastically limit the influx of users sooner or later there will be a swing back to centralization, for instance by companies that require you to give up some of your rights in exchange for hosting your data. And then you are more or less back to today, only with lots of little data-stores that can be merged at will by whoever controls the storage facility after you cough up your keys in return for something shiny.
If I want my stuff to be analysed- I let that happen- it finds business or social matches- awesome. I just need the option to turn that off for things I don't want greped- like banking.
I too am in favor of paid for services. Because that is what happens eventually. You pay for it. I'd rather make a decision and choose who I pay, as opposed to having my choices and VIEW-OF-THE-WORLD limited because everything is "free" but funded by marketing.
Ditto for Facebook and yet another encore for Google docs.
Once established economies of scale and network effects will do the rest. A new system would have to fix a lot more than just the security angle because it is well known that security is always going to be secondary to convenience, a factor that large entities will find much easier to control than many small ones.
So, I really hope they will manage but I'm not going to hold my breath until they do. Note this comes from a guy that does not have a Facebook account, no smartphone, runs his own web and mail server.
Note- the big guys (facebook, google) could trick/force individuals into handing over keys, but if you make the keys per object this becomes less effective for the same big guys.
In a sense, there is no control without encryption.
Still cogitating the various hows, but transparency to the user is the key.
This is an attempt to doom it before it was even tried.