Over the past year I've dropped several massive Internet “services”. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Github, Twitter, Spotify... gone. I've also adopted / embraced a plethora of other tools – #Mastodon, #RSS, the #Gopher protocol, #Jabber, #MPD (for local music). Besides the privacy / security / moral reasons for these changes, another theme has emerged from these transitions: the primacy of simple, user-controlled, user-generated content.
The constant distractions, bloat, and exploitation of Internet data is pervasive and deeply impactful. Facebook hires neuroscientists to make their platform as addictive as possible. Web behemoths invest copious resources into locking us all in. “Engagement” online has often been reduced to swiping passively through endless timelines, reflexively checking notifications, increasingly detached and impersonal. All carefully constructed for ad revenue and commodification.
Breaking away from these modes of being online (especially given how much time I spend personally / professionally in front of a computer), has been both tumultuous and cathartic beyond words. Losing youtube/fb videos, having to invest time in migrating server infrastructure, not being able to rent / buy digital media as easily, not being able to click on music links from my colleagues, reckoning with not seeing my comrades' work online since most post on Facebook... these have been deeply difficult changes and it's clear as hell why folks become very tied to these platforms. And yet, every one of these decisions has been critically necessary and has been fully in line with my principles and has opened up an entirely different world.
There is a gorgeous renaissance happening right now on the web. Federated, user-hosted, decentralized services. An ethos of eschewing corporate control and state surveillance. And the focus is directly on user-generated content. Artists, engineers, independent journalists, teachers, workers of all kinds... it is an environment by, and for, the people.
When I joined the #fediverse I was immediately blown away by the cultural shift. Finally a social media platform with strong privacy and moderation controls, a beautiful and modern UI, clean and solid fundamental design. A place for nerds and leftists, for queer and trans comrades, for folks marginalized across a spectrum of identity. This is our fucking space and we will make it the vibrant, supportive, radical, visionary place we deserve for engaging / connecting online.
From a bunch of fantastic fediverse convos and subsequent research, I've ventured into all sorts of beautiful tools in a similar space:
- RSS – a divine mechanism for managing feeds of content (news, youtube vids, fediverse profiles, blogs across the web, etc); (check out FeedReader for *nix and Feeder for android
- Gopher – as old school as The Net, this protocol on port 70 is a brilliantly simple way to serve up plaintext and other content in a hierarchical way (yup, just throw your stuff in directories on a server, and have it displayed in your favorite client (be it lynx for *nix or Pocket Gopher for android). lol, I have a secret hope that write.as will someday support gopher integration :)
- Jabber – bringin' the chat back!! I'm running Prosody for my server which supports OMEMO / OTR / PGP encryption, group chat, etc), and I looove the Conversations app for android. You know you miss the days of ICQ / AIM; so pure. Get on that train! :D
- MPD – Spotify / pandora had fundamentally poisoned the way I listened to music. I fucking love buying albums. I love listening to discographies. Hip hop, Irish folk, classical, good R&B... The Music Player Daemon is an incredible tool, a music server that lets you connect on whatever client you want from multiple places, stream music, create playlists, view all the ID3 tags. And with a gorgeous ncurses-driven console client like ncmpc, it is truly a joy to navigate and appreciate an entire music library
These shifts have opened up new communities and incredible content and I think these technologies and spaces share a common thread: one where we are liberated from corporate exploitation and constant surveillance; one where we take notice when our friends and comrades stop posting or are having a hard time; one where we are spending our time reading and writing and sharing and organizing; one where our content is our own and the focus of our digital spaces.
We are the Internet we've been waiting for.
Fediverse comment link