[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Freedombox-discuss] Network effect

> Still, you must see
> how tempting it is to discuss the freedom box that spits fire.

All too well (from personal experience :-).


On Sun, 2011-03-20 at 21:47 -0400, Boaz wrote:
> >>What do people think of this strategy?
> >
> >It's interesting and I'm glad you are talking about
> >the network effect -- but....  there has to be a "but" :-)
> >
> >You might be overthinking a bit.
> >
> >What if instead - and this is exaggerated but not by much -
> >the very first freedomboxes:
> >
> >a) Did little more than host a user's personal mailbox (ordinary
> >mailbox - no extra fancy encryption, alternatives to DNS, etc.)
> >
> >b) Booted, was solid has hell, was inexpensive, was a solid foundation
> >to build on in the future, and had some minor privacy and feature
> >advantages over alternatives like 3rd-party hosted email.
> >
> >That's a freedombox that does almost nothing at all (other
> >than solve some very fundamental problems without which
> >nothing else matters).
> >
> >With such a 1.0 people have an incentive to buy a FB even with no
> >FB-specific network effect.
> >
> >There are lots of similar plans - doesn't have to be email per se.
> >
> >It's not just you.  There are huge numbers of interesting
> >ideas batted around for mesh networks, overlay networks,
> >DNS alternatives,  fancy encryption, new global user id systems,
> >on and on and on.   Geeze, looking at what is being collectively
> >spec'ed out (roughly and informally):  the militaries and
> >intelligence agencies are likely to be our best "customers"!
> >Very, very fancy stuff we're talking about.   Industry is
> >way behind what we're talking about when we talk about all
> >those features.  Way behind.  To a large extent, so is academia.
> >
> >All of those fancy featuers are squarely on mission for FB!
> >We should catch as catch can.  We should plan for them and add them
> >as they become available.  We should not define the 1.0 around
> >them.
> >
> >
> >The fewer of the fancy features we care about for release 1.0 (other
> >than laying down a good foundation for adding them later),
> >the greater the chance of success and impact, I think.
> >
> >I think pretty much everything you say is more or less
> >right (close enough) EXCEPT that I think that's way beyond
> >a strategic plan.    The strategy should be to build a
> >very solid and simple foundation and avoid hard problems
> >like "the totality" of protocols and creating a network
> >effect and so on.
> >
> >There are plenty of things a stand-alone, no other users
> >freedombox can be useful for.
> Of course you're right: the most important thing is getting out some
> box which does something useful and does it well.  Still, you must see
> how tempting it is to discuss the freedom box that spits fire.
> Boaz
> >-t
> >
> >
> >
> >On Sun, 2011-03-20 at 17:44 -0400, Boaz wrote:
> >
> >> One of our most vicious enemies in the beginning will of course be
> >> this thing called network effect, which I'll define as that property
> >> of both communication protocols and walled-garden style communication
> >> services wherein its value to an individual prospective user is
> >> increased the more people already use it and decreased the less people
> >> already use it.  This will be our enemy in the beginning because in
> >> the beginning no one will have a freedom box and many people will
> >> already use unfree walled-garden communication services.  Why would
> >> anyone get a thing which won't help them talk to anyone?  On the other
> >> hand, if we clear the initial hurdle, in the end game the network
> >> effect will be our most powerful weapon.  This post contains my
> >> thoughts on how to overcome network effect in the beginning.
> >>
> >>
> >> This is the framework in which I view our goals.  With respect to all
> >> the forms of communication that people use in their lives, we desire
> >> all of:
> >> 1. That they use a free and open protocol, that they could run their
> >> own servers.
> >> 2. That they do run their own servers.
> >> 3. That they encrypt their communications from end to end.
> >>
> >>
> >> As an obstacle to the achievement of our goals, the network effect
> >> specifically attacks that first goal.  The nonachievement of the first
> >> goal would very effectively stifle our ability to work toward the
> >> other two, and it is therefore quite imperative that we overcome
> >> network effect to achieve the first goal.
> >>
> >>
> >> One of our first orders of business will be to create and describe in
> >> totality the set of protocols that makes up the way that freedom boxes
> >> communicate, which for lack of a better term I'll call for now the
> >> freedom protocol.  Looking over my own and other people's wish lists,
> >> it seems to me that a large portion of the necessary protocols already
> >> exists.  SMTP handles mail, HTTP does pages, SIP/RTP for voice, XMPP
> >> does instant messaging and a sort of friend request and approval
> >> transaction, FTP for file transfer, RSS does feeds though perhaps is
> >> not as rich a language as Twitter or Facebook news feed and etc.  So
> >> as I see it we're most of the way there on the front of creating the
> >> protocol suite.  And there are projects already working on filling in
> >> the gaps and integrating into a unified whole of a "social networking"
> >> protocol.
> >>
> >>
> >> So once the protocol exists, our task with respect to the network
> >> effect then, is to promote the use of this protocol.  How can we do
> >> this?
> >>
> >>
> >> We're fighting an uphill battle, so we need to be not just equal but
> >> superior to our unfree competition.  There need to be significant
> >> aspects of the freedom box which are materially better in terms of
> >> utility and experience than Facebook.  Also, many users will weigh
> >> into their decision process degrees of importance of freedom box's
> >> privacy superiority ranging from slight to compelling.  Best will be
> >> if people get diverted away from our competition by censorship.  If it
> >> gets to the point where some small but significant minority are
> >> already using freedom protocol, and then some group for some
> >> controversial cause gets their page on Facebook shut down, bonus
> >> points for us.  Likewise if Facebook as a whole is blocked in some
> >> country.
> >>
> >>
> >> Clearly there will be a small number of people, like me and I imagine
> >> many others on this list, who refuse to use the likes of Facebook no
> >> matter how many people we know use them, and will buy one of the first
> >> freedom boxes before knowing anyone else who uses one.  This can
> >> provide an initial jump start, but this will not be a very large
> >> number of people.  Why should someone who knows only one or two or
> >> worse yet zero other freedom box users buy a freedom box?
> >>
> >>
> >> The first thing that I foresee will be enormously helpful to us will
> >> be the way in which an owner of a freedom box will be able to
> >> communicate with preexisting adapters of individual parts of what make
> >> up the freedom protocol.  Straight out of the box, the owner of the
> >> first freedom box will be able to use his freedom-box-served email to
> >> write people, his freedom-box-served website to make announcements,
> >> his freedom-box-served XMPP account to chat with, for example, users
> >> of Gmail's chat feature, his freedom-box-served FTP server to send
> >> people files, and so on.  He can buy the freedom box for these uses,
> >> but by doing so he now also supports the entirety of the freedom
> >> protocol and is adding to our network effect.  This is why I see it as
> >> so crucial that we incorporate those protocols which are already in
> >> heavy use.  We would be shooting ourselves in the foot to reject SMTP
> >> for example, because we would be killing a powerful ally in overcoming
> >> the network effect.
> >>
> >>
> >> Just one single, really useful, really compelling use of a freedom box
> >> could propel the freedom box to prominence in no time.  Just as an
> >> example, if people have trouble sending large files to each other (no
> >> problem, i'll just email it. oh wait, the size limit. okay, i'll use
> >> one of those web services. oh wait the size limit. damn) and the
> >> freedom box presents a powerful, ultra convenient solution to this
> >> problem (imagine right clicking on a file in the file browser and
> >> clicking "create FTP link and copy to clipboard"), people might pay
> >> $29 just for this one feature.  But by doing so, they would become
> >> supporters of the entirety of the freedom protocol and add to our
> >> network effect.
> >>
> >>
> >> Many people propose that as an aide to overcoming the network effect
> >> the freedom box should provide an interface which aggregates
> >> communications through unfree channels with ones through free
> >> channels.  Perhaps, but this could also just encourage those unfree
> >> channels to linger like a plague.  Imagine that a small but
> >> significant minority is starting to use the freedom box.  What
> >> encourages someone who doesn't care about the goals of freedom box, or
> >> does but is lazy, to get a freedom box to talk to the people he knows
> >> who use freedom box if he can just keep talking to them, through the
> >> same interface on their side, using Facebook?  In any case, for the
> >> help of the person who already uses Facebook and now is trying to
> >> switch to freedom box, nothing stops him from having the freedom box
> >> interface open in one window, and a web browser opened to Facebook
> >> open in the next window.  He's just using a new kind of communication,
> >> the freedom box, in addition to the old kind.  Mike says:
> >>
> >> >I'd be trying to "sell" them on a box which would allow them to talk
> >> >to me, but cause it to be harder (or at least no easier) to talk to
> >> >all the friends they have on Facebook.
> >>
> >> But that's not true: the box in no way makes it any harder to talk to
> >> their friends on Facebook, and as for making it easier, well, why
> >> should the freedom box make it easier to use Facebook?  Also, asking
> >> someone who used to use the Facebook web interface to switch to an
> >> aggregation of Facebook and freedom box inside the freedom box
> >> interface is asking him to change the way he uses Facebook.  Perhaps
> >> more useful would be to ensure that the people who are already using
> >> social networking aggregators can integrate freedom box into the
> >> aggregate.  Better, if possible, not to ask people to change how they
> >> do things they're already doing.  And we would certainly want to be
> >> very careful that no one finds himself encouraged by the freedom box
> >> interface to use an unfree service that he was not already using.
> >>
> >>
> >> I think it's much more important, rather than to make it easier for a
> >> freedom box user to communicate through unfree channels, to make it
> >> easier for a user of unfree channels to communicate with users of
> >> freedom box.
> >>
> >>
> >> Imagine a hypothetical person who knows one or maybe two people who
> >> use freedom boxes, and doesn't want to spend $29 to talk to one or two
> >> people.  What for this person?  One feature that would really help
> >> there is a way for someone who has a freedom box to extend an account
> >> for the freedom protocol to someone who doesn't have a freedom box.
> >>  It needs to be dead easy for both parties.  And for privacy, it needs
> >> to, when possible, encrypt the person's traffic from the people he's
> >> talking to all the way to his own computer, not just to someone else's
> >> box.  I see this as being a powerful way to expand the user base and
> >> create network effect in our favor.  When one of the first freedom box
> >> users who doesn't know any other freedom box users is trying to
> >> connect to his friends in freedom, perhaps his closest friends will
> >> set up accounts on his own box just to talk to him.
> >>
> >>
> >> And, for a person in the position of the hypothetical person from the
> >> beginning of the last paragraph who doesn't know any of those one or
> >> two people very well or simply doesn't like relying on (even very
> >> small) favors, imagine an account provider who provides an account for
> >> the freedom protocol on their server.  This situation utterly fails at
> >> the second goal, and is not at all what we want in the long term, but
> >> it is potentially (at least partially) compatible with the third goal
> >> and does satisfy the first goal and so can grow our network effect.
> >>  It allows this person to communicate using the freedom protocol to
> >> that one freedom box user he knows, and increases the value of a
> >> freedom box to anyone else who knows him and may be interested in
> >> buying one.  This service, provided by the "businesses" that Bjarni is
> >> so excited about, can be a stop gap measure which helps us to achieve
> >> the first goal.  That hypothetical person might buy his own actual
> >> freedom box at some later time.
> >>
> >>
> >> So these are a few of the things that I think might help us overcome
> >> the network effect.  And now I'm about to propose one more strategy
> >> that I think could compliment those others quite nicely, and prove a
> >> powerful force in our favor.
> >>
> >>
> >> Enter the smaller closed garden social networks.  Of what interest
> >> could they be to us, you ask?  In the US market at least, the network
> >> effect of Facebook is so powerful that it's becoming hard for any
> >> other closed garden social networks to compete.  As time goes on, this
> >> effect will only increase.  They will feel the heat, and they will be
> >> desperate for their very survival.  How can a small closed garden
> >> social network hold a candle to the network effect generated by the
> >> behemoth mass of user base that Facebook controls?  What I propose is
> >> that we approach them with our protocol, and we make a simple
> >> proposition: "You, so and so closed garden social network, on your
> >> own, will dry up like a worm on a sidewalk under the heat of the
> >> Facebook sun, and so will all the other closed garden social
> >> networks.  But you, throwing together your network effect with the
> >> network effect of all the other social networking websites other than
> >> Facebook, have a chance of competing head on with Facebook, surviving
> >> and flourishing.  Adapt the freedom protocol and become interoperable
> >> with all the other social networking websites that adapt the freedom
> >> protocol and with users of freedom boxes."  Armed with our protocol,
> >> the swarm of small, currently walled garden social networks will band
> >> together for their own survival.  And in doing so, they will harness
> >> their existing user base to create a mass of network effect which can
> >> feed the growth of freedom box.
> >>
> >>
> >> The people at http://onesocialweb.org are trying this approach.
> >>  Without commenting on the technical merits of this particular
> >> project, which I'm perhaps not qualified to do, I find it noteworthy
> >> that they're pitching their protocol to operators of walled garden
> >> social networks.
> >>
> >>
> >> Imagine a world where a free and open social networking protocol was
> >> already the standard.  In such a world, the task of moving people over
> >> to running their own servers, while still facing significant
> >> challenges, would not need to make enemies with the mighty network
> >> effect.  And it goes without saying that in such a world the likes of
> >> Facebook wouldn't stand a chance.
> >>
> >>
> >> What do people think of this strategy?
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Boaz
> _______________________________________________
> Freedombox-discuss mailing list
> Freedombox-discuss at lists.alioth.debian.org
> http://lists.alioth.debian.org/mailman/listinfo/freedombox-discuss

Reply to: