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[Freedombox-discuss] In-the-cloud infrastructure and business involvement (was: distributed DNS)

On Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 9:26 PM, Clint Adams <clint at debian.org> wrote:

> On Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 03:27:11PM +0000, Bjarni R?nar Einarsson wrote:
> > Can that be done at all?  Or should we assume that any infrastructure
> > required by the FreedomBoxes will be managed and owned and run by the
> > foundation?  Deciding whether the project as a whole is business hostile
> or
> > not is a pretty fundamental question.
> Personally, I think the only centralized infrastructure the
> FreedomBoxes should need is the distribution of software security
> updates, and that anything else should be regarded as a stopgap
> measure as we move toward proper decentralization.

I agree that that would be wonderful!  And it's a worthy goal, and something
to work towards.  But I also don't think it is at all realistic given the
tools we have to work with today and more importantly, I really don't think
it's a good idea to throw out the entire existing set of Internet protocols
and standards because they aren't compatible with this goal.

Backwards compatibility with the existing standards of the Internet should
not be a "stopgap" second choice, it should be a #1 priority, first class
feature.  Because without it, FreedomBox users will only be able to
communicate with each other and it will become incredibly hard to build up
the kind of network effects needed to get these devices widely distributed
enough to help the average non-technical person. That's the ultimate goal,

And as far as I can tell, such backwards compatibility is almost impossible
to obtain without some help from "the cloud", and much of the help which is
available, comes from commercial sources.

Should we not do that, and say "Here are three different
> service providers you can choose from to sacrifice your
> personal privacy to, but you are free because you have
> choice," I think we are missing the point.

I think if you design something that people can't use to actually
communicate, then it will never go anywhere and will also miss the point.

Anyway, I think you just made a straw-man argument - just because you
receive help from the cloud, does not mean you have to sacrifice all your
privacy at once.

The obvious example is the routers that make up today's Internet.  Although
technically any (or all) of them could spy on your packets, if you make
careful use of things like SSL or SSH or GPG or Tor (as appropriate), you
can happily use these centralized routing devices without sacrificing your
privacy or freedom.  To varying degrees, things like SMTP relays, proxies
and VPN providers *can* all be fine as well.

In my opinion these are all clear examples of the types of "business" that
FreedomBoxes could comfortably coexist with, services which are as close to
being dumb pipes as possible, and are easily interchangeable so you don't
get locked in.

But the question still remains - assuming such things were useful and
needed, would people want these services to be provided only by non-profits
or volunteers, friends and family, or is there room for businesses as well?
Most likely we're not really ready to answer that question yet, but I think
it is one we should be thinking about.

Bjarni R. Einarsson
The Beanstalks Project ehf.

Making personal web-pages fly: http://pagekite.net/
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