LibreServer Blog / Prepper Pontifications

Like most people, I'm not good at predicting the future. But my intuition is that the environment for people running independent or "open web" systems is going to get harder in the coming years. The trajectory over the last 20 years has been towards centralization and I think this is going to enter a more aggressive phase in which earlier ideas of openness are entirely jettisoned and there will be moves to produce fully contained national or regional networks, similar to Iran or the experiments in Russia, in which services are only provided upon presentation of a government issued ID (eg. Aadhaar).

So I think what we ought to be doing is to be preparing for a future in which some of the assumptions about the internet which we presently hold no longer apply. Assumptions such as globally available open networks in which server A can talk to server B without regard for national borders. This probably means more emphasis on mobile, p2p and "offline first" systems which can sneakernet their way around any officially imposed restrictions. It also means more emphasis upon community owned network infrastructure so that it's more difficult for any single organization to have control of everyone's communications.

The state of p2p apps on mobile right now isn't encouraging. Because they need to keep connections open they tend to consume too much battery power. So what's needed are p2p systems which expect intermittent connectivity and which can operate in a store-and-forward mode. If the person you're trying to contact isn't online then maybe the message gets sent to someone else in your contact list who is, and who can then relay the message if necessary.

I hope I'm wrong about this and that things are actually going to redecentralize. But, as someone pointed out, nobody ever got rich by giving away their power. So the software industry with its very capitalistic focus probably isn't going to embrace decentralization in a substantive way. If they do then their business models evaporate. So if there is redecentralization then it's going to require a movement sufficiently large that the incumbents can't ignore it. Centralized systems are also extremely convenient for governments, so the route of legislation and regulation of "big tech" might not go much beyond posturing and empty rhetoric. Sabre rattling without any followup. For the most part, they're quite happy with Facebook or Google being a single point of contact.