They do tend to represent ideas like anti-censorship, individualism, and (sometimes) privacy. I think it makes more sense to discuss these topics in terms of the actual implication of what you're decentralizing, and how it actually helps.
For example, the Internet itself is decentralized. But from the perspective of your particular ISP, it's not at all decentralized (if your ISP turns off your Internet, it's game over).
Email is also decentralized, but so what? Most people use the same email providers so it's somewhat meaningless for SMTP itself to be decentralized. Google can still read your emails.
The problem with using these terms instead of more tangible language (i.e., language that describes what the thing is actually doing) is that they tend to get hijacked by scammers/marketers who just want to harness their popularity for their own ends.
I actually think email is almost the ideal implementation of a decentralized network. You're always going to have giants in any communication network- that's simple the reality. Email allows people to use these giants or, and critically, it allows people to join in the conversation while not using those giants. It is open. Suppose this were to happen with twitter or facebook, where the protocol was open and people using networks like mastodon could simply join in. That is a way to achieve decentralization, with the benefits that go with it. If you don't want google to read your mail, you and your correspondences can choose not to. Twitter and Facebook offer no such choice.
I suppose you make that claim based on the assumption that any electronic long range communication system at most reduces to a network?
If so, your assumption—while applicable to our current global communications network—doesn't cover the communication systems which could (& hopefully would) already exist if the ARPAnet originators hadn't messed this up by dropping the Internet layer and renaming the Network Layer to the 'Inter'net layer. It got Telcos exactly what they needed to remain giants.
Can you send elaborate? Genuinely curious.
Back in the day the network layer was not standardised nor interoperable. The "International Network Working Group" provided a communication protocol (TCP/IP) capable of hiding the differences of the different networks.
> the job of the TCP is merely to take a stream of messages produced by one HOST and reproduce the stream at a foreign receiving HOST without change. [Cerf]
That network of networks demonstrated the feasibility of the concept of interconnection. The resulting net eventually became the global inter-network... INTERNET
Interconnected Network Networking (what we have today)≠Interconnected Internetwork Internetworking (what we should have but don't)
The latter enables recursive structures, the former doesn't.
Yes the ISP is a chokepoint and thats why:
1. People push for regulations like net neutrality to legally prevent them from doing something like that.
2. Use VPN's to deny ISP information they could use to decide whose pipe to turn off.
3. Some are trying to build meshnets and physical peer-to-peer infra.
Client implementations being possible is a huge one.
The security claims of a product like WhatsApp (in the news lately) would be far more verifiable if it weren't essentially a black box. It's also just like, basic computer hygiene and _nice_ to be able to have custom clients.
Imagine if the Gmail web interface were all you had and software like Thunderbird or Mutt was just completely impossible.
> Although Riot has made significant progress in the past few months, there is still a long way to go before it becomes a suitable drop-in replacement for platforms such as WhatsApp or Discord.
The problem with adoption client based on Matrix protocol is clearly lack of the quality of clients and being so annoying for users. I think it also stands true for other protocols like IRC or XMPP. In my humble opinion, clients for all 3 are far behind Telegram or WhatsApp or even BBM.
Looking on commits in repos of various Riot clients, I am not sure if there is significant progress (yes, it's a bit unfair to said that, but comparing to let's say webpack repository, number of random contributions is quite low). For Android there are two versions - Riot and RiotX. RiotX is in early stage development (I'd say it's unusable), while the Riot just gets minor changes. iOS client is OK. Web and desktop client (based on electron) is not as simple as Slack to get start and running. I keep fingers crossed for Riot developers and spontaneous contributors to improve those clients - without good, simple to use clients there isn't any chance for Matrix to be adopted widely as WhatsApp or Telegram are.
Centralization is not really important factor for most of people during selection of communicator. IM is a tool and if it does not do its job properly, people will look for better alternatives. Just, please take a look how many sysadmins/devops switched to Slack from IRC. Please stop writing yet another article how centralization is bad - just help Vector.im, TheLounge.chat or other group to bring such IM client where most of people will be comfortable to use it.
Which seems to be an issue a lot of open source, decentralised projects have to be honest. They get a lot of programmers involved, but seem to struggle to get the aesthetics/design side up to par.
What would it take to get the kinds of designers found at the likes of Slack, Discord, WhatsApp, etc working on open source projects lke Matrix?
> Most Popular Instant Messengers 1997 - 2019
WhatsApp has approx. 2 billion users. The beginning of that video starts out with messengers (not including things like IRC and email) that have a few million.
This is just the Eternal September effect.
You and I can just crack out nginx and host a site. The author of this post didn't even do that; what hope is there for the rest?
An instant messenger, even a secure one, needs a proper marketing budget in order to succeed out in the real world. It doesn't just need to be superior - it needs to be _advertised_.
We have to start with reconquering our phones. A decentralized app cannot be hinged on a centralized appstore.
I don't think there's anything wrong with using Medium, but this is always where decentralization/security/open-protocols utopia seems to die: convenience and the UX. Where everyone seems to be trying to convince you that something like IRC is the best while using Discord because it's better.
Compare a simple article, across the years:
Once they started achieving critical mass, like every other free-to-use webpage, they loaded it full of crap.
(and the percentage of people who even check the latest story for a tag has fallen even further since the last redesign).
Then again, so is using a VPS, just at a different layer
That does not appear to be true of Medium blogs.
Otherwise, assume your communications are being collected and perused.
“If we build it, they will come.” Is just a lazy fantasy that lets you stay in your comfort zone, fixing bugs, refactoring modules, and pushing features for the next release.
If Matrix is to succeed as a technology it needs a real, highly competent go to market team and strategy. And I think you have to build some very compelling user experiences to drive switching and combine that with import/invitation features and outreach (pushes, email, etc) to even have a look at the basket. Alignment across platforms is just table stakes.
Unfortunately, any communication protocol which mathematically always reduces to ye olde beads-on-a-string with enough extra steps to hide this even from most experts makes this fundamentally impossible… — …and both IP 4 and IPv6 fall into that category, despite their very name implying otherwise:
Two brief quotes from over there:
This does not mean that we should be doing OSI. Good grief, no. …
 Someone will ask, What about IPv6? It does nothing for these problems but make them worse and the problem it does solve is not a problem.
The other large issue is once you self-host, you're now liable for moderation of illegal content. I'm not sure how to fix that part.
Consider RINA and/or GNUnet instead. IPv6 just represents a bandaid.
I get what the author is trying to say, but getting technical details like this incorrect makes it difficult for me to want to keep reading these types of articles. There is no need for WhatsApp, et all to make the crypto insecure, all it needs to do is keep a record of the keys in a centralized database. That's why having centralized Commination isn't good, all you have to do is own the key handling process and you're good.
To follow the analogy in the article, the lock is fine, just 3 letter agencies have the key.
The reason I make this distinction is because it makes other attack vectors different. If the cipher was made insecure, then the whole thing couldn't be trusted because anyone can now attack the cipher.
However, if the keys are being stored in a database, it means that the cipher it means you can either attack and get the keys on the local device or the center database.
Those are two radically different attack venues with entirely different consequences on the encryption scheme.
Edit: Thinking about it too, it also makes the defense against it a lot different too. Say I'm in a country that only allows WhatsApp for this reason (WhatsApp allows key sharing). If I wanted to, I could crack the software and just stub out the part that sends the key (or send a dummy key as well). You still get the protections of a secure cipher, and no one else has the key now. If the cipher was weakened, then you couldn't do this.
This isn't even a slippery slope, 'suspected, other serious criminals' is subjective enough to apply at will in any instance.