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> "You must enable DRM to play some audio or video on this page"


No no no no no.

This isn't right.

The modern Internet is such sellout. It didn't turn out anything like what I'd hoped.

Bittorrent, semantic tagging, RSS, decentralized aggregation. Ownership. All dead or dying.

These companies are all gobbling up the commons and pushing us into serfdom. Apple, Google, the RIAA. The whole lot of them have poached and polluted the web and protected their profits.

Pretty soon we won't be able to "view source". It'll just be binary blobs with DRM. The browser monoculture will collapse into a universal thin client that leaves "standards" in the dust and takes away all the features BigCo developers don't themselves need. Nobody wants URL bars or ad blocking extensions. Those get in the way of the revolutionary UX they've prepared for us to predictably fawn over.

If Flash can die, one day 3rd party websites can too. In fifteen years your personal website won't even work. I can hear it now: "What's haitch tea tea pee?" Too confusing. Too dangerous.

Your tiny applet will exist within the WeeChat shell that is ChromeOS. The BigCo [1] will take 50% of your profits and make you obey arbitrary rules, lest your app be taken down. This bleak utopia is coming to Microsoft Windows too, because they know best how to Protect You™ and make your computing Trusted™.

All interactions will be recorded for training the models. You don't deserve that data yourself. Only BigCo has the resources and expertise to build their own. And they'll use it against^W for you to sell more ads and Farmville Loot Crates. You're just another whale to pump full of dopamine.

"Nobody would personally own an oil rig or an airplane, so why would anybody own a computer? What a laughable concept. Only big companies get to have those. Go back to your safe and easy to understand smart tablet that we've prepared for you, and consume your TwitterTok FaceFeed."


I hate supporting this. Economically or with my brain.

Stallman told us it was coming. Brace yourselves.

[1] there are several, and that is an important point, because several BigCo competing for your attention cannot possibly constitute a monopoly. That's an outdated concept from last century. Go be angry at your local representative and/or family members so you can drive more engagement for us.

You made me realize there's such a thing as "internet citizenship". Thank you. It's partially my responsibility as an informed "computer citizen" that I play a role in the internet I'd like to see.

> "internet citizenship"

> "computer citizen"

I like these phrases a lot.

I often wonder how much time it will take for the scenario you described to collapse. Once computer systems become completely closed and programming becomes unavailable to the lowly user, how are new skilled people going to find their way into the system? Will it die when the last developers of the system retire?

That's the oft-forgotten other half of the premise of the film Idiocracy. Everybody talks about the (inaccurate and unrealistic) premise of natural selection favouring unintelligence, but overlook how the future society is supported by ageing high-tech easy-to-use machinery which is falling apart.

Maybe Idiocracy was right, but not for the reason most people assume...

Eventually, but it could live on for a long time. Reminds me of a story in the Dying Earth series, can't quite remember which one. Cugel visits a city where no one knows how the technology works anymore. Some of it still works, other stuff is breaking down, and the populace thinks that's because the magic is fading away. Or maybe I'm confusing different stories. Anyway, something along this line probably.

Similar stories have been around for a while, (I think) starting with "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster in 1909:


"City of Ember" is another version of this type of story:


I'l pretty sure that there's at least one Star Trek TOS episode like this too.

Having systems working without maintenance would be a true breakthrough.

Most machines will work for a while without maintenance. See: All the cars on the road that have never had so much as an oil change.

It’ll be something you’ll need to go to university for. You wouldn’t be able to learn it for free at home.

And that's the part where I think it collapses. In many fields (not just computer science), the best people get interested and tinker with the subject early on. Overall, if the only way to learn how to develop and maintain "the system" is in their 20s at a university (or apprenticeship or whatever), I think the quality will deteriorate over time and the system will become unmaintainable.

> quality will deteriorate over time

Jonathan Blow's talk "Preventing the Collapse of Civilization"[1] makes a good argument that software quality has already suffered significant deterioration. We've just gotten used to software not working. Reboot the computer; refresh the webpage; spend the morning trying to work around the "improvements", regressions, and removed features in the software that forced an update.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSRHeXYDLko

The 'ole "student license". I remember that one from my days learning SAS. Getting out of the clutches of that awful SAS licensing was how I discovered the world of open source and R and Python.


Podcasts are still mp3 files. They don't know to check for DRM before preloading the mp3

The modern Internet is such sellout.

I don't really want to defend DRM, but the main tangible difference between DRM as part of the browser and the DRM that came before is that DRM plugins were shockingly bad for users. Flash was a notorious attack vector for all manner of malware and viruses. RealPlayer (first released in 1995 so it's not so much the 'modern' Internet that sold out) was literally spyware for a while. I'd love for DRM to vanish entirely and for me to be in control of what my browser is doing, but failing that utopian ideal I'd much rather have DRM be a first class citizen in the browser that means users don't have to open up gaping holes in their security to watch and listen to the latest cat videos and true crime podcasts.

DRM is the gaping hole.

I opened the link and didn't see this link, but I don't have Widevine disabled. Is Apple seriously blocking podcasts without DRM? One of the last open mediums on the web?

No, not as far as I can tell. It's just an MP3. I guess the DRM requirement is site-wide or something.

Gemini might be a good replacement for the web:


Gemini ...recedes a bit too far, though I sympathize with the intent.

Gemini is more like a modern Gopher than a web replacement. Well it's described as something inbetween, but I personally see the end result to be far closer to the former.

Gemini seems like the best option to replace the web. We could also just get rid of JavaScript and CSS but I don't see that happening.

Despite the DRM icon appearing in my Firefox address bar, it appears that DRM is not actually being used. The raw unencrypted audio is being streamed from https://d3ctxlq1ktw2nl.cloudfront.net/staging/2020-10-14/e6b...

Even as BigCos do their best to ruin the mainstream for everyone, there are plenty of alternatives popping up. Gopher, Gemini, shared Unix terminals, Tor, etc.

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your prediction, but I predict if things get so bad, there will definitely be a healthy community of counterculture hackers who will do things differently.

Those are cool when you live in the CLI. My mom doesn't though, being part of a small cluster of hackers is cool but not what the internet should be.

My goal once I can finance it is to create a virtual island that my family and close friends can rely on for vital services: emails, file hosting, calendar, contacts, a public web space, etc. If every hacker did this for its close circle the impact would be far greater than the current hacker communities we create.

Notable mentions: https://chatons.org/en & https://yunohost.org/

Is financing this sort of thing for a small circle expensive? I would (naively) think it's ~$5/month for a DigitalOcean droplet (adjust for your preferred hosting service) and maybe a bit more if you want a domain name (probably, if it's for non-technical family). But I haven't looked into it in much depth myself. Still a great goal, though, and I'd like to do the same at some point.

Running email on a DO droplet (or any shared vps) would be pretty terrible. Even if you manage to find one that doesn't have all of its IPs blacklisted from the mainstream email providers, it's only a matter of time before your email just stops being accepted.

My answer: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25137787

The big things to consider are file storage, redundancy and long-term stability (availability for emails).

> create a virtual island

That sounds like a really cool project. What would the costs be to finance that?

One or two servers (second one for redundancy, at another location). File storage would be the expensive part. Starting at 10-20TB usable space with slots for more would be nice.

The location would either be at my parents', as I move often and they have a rack installed (with nothing in it, the internet link isn't amazing but should be fine) or it could be colocated at a non-profit FAI (https://www.ffdn.org/en). The colocation is probably the most sensible option for the internet link and stability they bring (proper data center context, back-up generators and they have static IPv4).

+ long-term encrypted backups to some random service like Backblaze even if I have duplicate storage, I don't trust myself enough to do everything properly.

The idea isn't new, I have already seen a few online (I remember of two but no links). The focus was more around hacker&friend groups, looking like private tilde clubs. Here the idea is to provide services usable by anyone in my family, with a nice identity (I like seeing it as an island, a village or such).

Cost I think is negligible, or at least affordable, what I wouldn't like in this scenario is the _responsibility_. The part where uptime depends on you, bugs creep into the system and they become your fault, you bork something and lose some data, and you have to keep everything up to date and interoperable and compatible with whatever current tech everyone uses for access.

The browser monoculture will collapse into a universal thin client that leaves "standards" in the dust and takes away all the features BigCo developers don't themselves need.

They will still be standard and "open" for everyone to see, but that doesn't matter because they are too complex and change too often for anyone but BigCo to implement.

It's a good point about 50% of profits; that 30% revenue share is crazy - even the government don't attempt to tax businesses on their revenue...

Depending on the business 30% could make the whole enterprise operate at a loss, for example selling audiobooks or media or other real world products.

>even the government don't attempt to tax businesses on their revenue...

Everywhere around the world countries have figured out that was a good idea and have implemented a VAT. Amazon pays more taxes in my country than in the US lmao.

Sure so apple is worse than VAT almost everywhere and they aren't the government, a real selling point. I wouldn't be so sure how much amazon is actually paying in tax given their history.

Fortunately some companies fight on our side in the war against general-purpose computing: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24881988.

I'm optimistic about Web3. Filecoin and Sia have added incentives for decentralized storage markets so I think truly decentralized applications are now practical to develop.

We realign incentives and we will realign the web along with them.

I would only trust in web again if there is serious open source/libre post-quantum encryption.

Other than that web/internet is NOT trust worthy. Great for entertainment, not serious business or financial transaction.

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