It’s nearly 2021, and I’m reading a lot lately about how we need a new internet. That’s doesn’t necessarily mean we need to replace all the wires and routers and other hardware layers the internet runs on, so much as the software we use when we access it. I really love the intent there.

A friend just linked me to this article by Adrienne LaFrance in the Atlantic about Facebook and its ‘megascale’ and the problems that’s led to. If you follow this sort of thing, as I do, this will not be new really. But this article is a good introduction to the topic and has lots of specific links supporting its argument. We’ve been hearing for years how Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are too big, out of control and hide how they really work from us, their users. The summation in this article is spot-on:

Anyone who is serious about mitigating the damage done to humankind by the social web should, of course, consider quitting Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and any other algorithmically distorted informational environments that manipulate people. But we need to adopt a broader view of what it will take to fix the brokenness of the social web. That will require challenging the logic of today’s platforms—and first and foremost challenging the very concept of megascale as a way that humans gather.

Could not have said it better myself (as you probably already know, writing is not my forte).

So then, fixing this problem starts with one basic idea: Decentralization.

Generally, we need to take the power out of the hands of the mega-companies by not using their services. Cancel your Google account, delete Twitter and quit Facebook. But what then?

I have this idea to provide people with their own servers. The server could either be a box they run in their home, or a shared virtual cloud server in a datacenter. The idea is to pre-install all the open source software needed to replace Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, YouTube and so on, so the people running one have control over their lives again. No more hidden algorithms suggesting content to us - your feed should include just what you choose to look at (which comes from other people’s servers). Your email and calendar are yours to share with just the people with whom you associate. Nobody should be tracking what you look at and watch and listen to and so on, unless you choose to monetize your browsing, with things like Brave Rewards for instance.

There are lots of people trying to work on decentralization right now, but I don’t see anyone trying this specific idea yet - make a server and all the software people will need available in one clean, easy to use product. I am envisioning something you either buy, plug in and run at home or a subscription if you prefer the cloud option. It’d be the same software, either way. You sign in from your phone or tablet, configure a few easy things and boom! You have your own social network/email/calendar/music enterprise. Sharing or selling your stuff however you like is super simple. And it’s all open source, so you can mod or hack it too.

What do you think? Is this idea worthy of some time and effort to build? I think so.

I’ll write more on this ASAP, since I have a lot of ideas already.


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