The Net, what does it mean for today’s society? Many people want it to be clamped down on, becoming something akin to a newspaper. Some people want it to be completely free and lawless, like it was in the old days(somewhat). Others desire the middle road, and still others want something else. Today, I’d like to talk about that something else.
I want a net which is completely decentralized, which will not only help in times of war, but also to undermine censorship by governments, and which could evade blocking by them as well. Right now there are only several applications which adhere to this philosophy, but I believe their time to shine is coming. We have seen the emergence of Mastodon, Friendica, RetroShare, and many other applications which allow any user to start their own instance, provided they have the means of running it. I want to go one step further, and ask that the backbone of the internet be given to the many users who populate it. Of course, this solution would be rife for abuse, giving everyone their own means to own their portion of the internet. But that would also mean great responsibility. I don’t know if people are ready for such a thing, but nevertheless I feel it is necessary.
What would it mean for the current net landscape? Well, since it would be akin to a revolution of sorts, it would stand that companies like Comcast and the like would go out of business. Comcast and other net companies are known for their abuse, however, and their monopolistic-like predatory behaviour. For instance, in many rural places, people still use dial-up. Why? Comcast thinks it’s not worth it to hook them up, despite the fact that for many rural people, having a faster internet would be a blessing and allow them to more easily connect with their families and friends. In other cases, if everyone could leverage their own connection through something like a small device that runs something like the FreedomBox, places that have a hard time being connected, like many developing countries, could form their own networks by banding together mutually.
One application service that is promising is IPFS. IPFS could be the start of this revolution, since it covers some of the above use-cases. In any case, there also exists services which pre-date the web, such as gopher. Gopher is a text-only service, but that can also serve files. Nowadays I believe you can also extend gopher over services like Tor or i2p, to ensure more privacy and anonymity. Personally, I am for such services, as I believe nowadays that the internet focuses too much on graphic design and not enough on content. I’m not saying graphic design is unimportant, but that too much emphasis, especially this decade, has been placed onto it. As for other services, USENET and IRC are critically undervalued in this age, and most people don’t even know that they exist, despite the fact that in many cases, most of the software being developed that is open-source is regularly discussed in IRC chatrooms.
There also exists an operating system, called Plan 9, which allows one to easily acquire resources, such as file systems, devices and other such things, whether they’re 2 miles apart or 2 countries apart, and use and browse those resources onto a local machine. This was made by the original designers of Unix, which in turn influenced Linux and the *BSD’s.
We have all these resources currently available now, but it’s up to each and every one of us to use them and hopefully contribute in some way to furnishing a Net which our descendants and others will look back at us as making the right decision for the future. All the services and/or applications I listed above are free/open-source, and can be improved upon by anyone given the time, dedication and work. In addition, there are many other applications which I will compile onto a list, and will provide directions or a FAQ on how to use it, and where to start. I plan to continually update this list as improvements are made onto the applications, and I will also list other applications for every operating system which give you back control of your system, instead of being led around by a corporation that only wants your dollars.
One of my other plans is to list BBSes which still exist today and to interview their founders and see what they believe about the modern Net and where it is headed. BBSes, or Bulletin Board Systems, also pre-dated the Net and were major sources of social networks and file sharing. The problem with these services was that, at the time, you had to dial-in to them, and that ran up your phone bill. Nowadays most BBSes allow one to log in via use of Telnet, which is a service which pre-dates SSH. It’s not secure, but most BBSes are mostly about social things anyway, with most concentrated on the use of a message board internal to the system.
Facebook, Twitter, and many other big corporate, centralized conglomerates are things which I consider to be actively user hostile. They say that they allow user freedom in breath, but in the next take it away. This is why decentralized services are so important to me and many others. I hope you’ll see that we can make a difference.
Next time your ISP, or Facebook or whatever large corporation or government blocks you for whatever reason, protest and join the call for a new internet run by the people, for the people. Your protest, in whatever form it takes, helps pave the way to a new future. Be smart and proactive, donate to the listed projects and more, and finally, through whatever way it takes, make your own network which isn’t reliant on any other.
Before the internet fully becomes a proprietary mess which is ruled by an iron hand by corrupt corporations, regulated into a shell of it’s former self or blocked off by massive firewalls, we need to fight for a net that is free.