TL;DR (1072 words): The current trend towards closed communications systems like Slack, Facebook and the like can only hurt us as society. An open standard needs to emerge. Who’s volunteering to support things like Matrix and the “new decentralized Internet”?
I’m trying to illustrate the newly closed nature of the Internet using team chat and team collaboration as an example. But you can expand this example to pretty much anything nowadays. Because the solution to combat this closed-ness applies equally to all of these issues, I hope you can extrapolate from this as necessary.
These are some longer things I’ve read this week. I don’t guarantee that they’re new, just that I found them interesting:
Android at 10 part one, part two. As Android turns ten, Google is moving away from Linux and towards their own Fuchsia kernel. What might the next ten years of Android look like?
Super Mario Odyssey review by Digitiser2000’s Mr Biffo. It sums up pretty much what I think about the new mechanics, and also calls out Mario for being a sexist pig. Don’t take this as virtue signaling, but yes, Nintendo might need to work on this when the only game starring Princess Peach is basically a pre-menstrual mood swing simulator with a far too easy jump’n’run wrapped around it. You know, for girls! Girls can’t play video games! lololol!
Microsoft appears to have lost the source code for parts of Office. And this is the same company that some governments trust with their sensitive data. Why doesn’t Microsoft publish all their software under a FOSS license? It’s like Linus Torvalds is rumored to have said, “Backups are for wimps. Real men upload their data to an FTP site and have everyone else mirror it.”
Ideas were not enough. Not the reformation alone brought religious freedom to western societies, but the fact that enforcing religious unity was becoming too expensive and politically cumbersome for the rulers.
Stress can be good for you, but most toxic stress has measurable detrimental effects on your brain. The article explores the damage stress causes down to the physical level and gives some hints for post-stress recovery. Daily walks and meditation are mentioned. I’ve had episodes of stress and trauma leading to generalized anxiety (as the article also mentions) and I can say that meditation definitely can’t hurt.
I’d be delighted if some of that tickled your curiosity.
The sunlight was inviting, so I set out to gain a little altitude. Have a better view, better knowledge of where I am in this blasted valley and perhaps find out some details about the fish-frog people.
It did not take long for the first sign of their cult to appear beside the road. This time it was made out of iron and was much more intricately decorated than the wooden one I had last seen, so it was probably also more powerful:
Gamers spend way too much time indoors. And why is that? Because our gaming systems have screens that can’t be viewed outside! Yes, sometimes you see a gamer hunched over their super-reflective mobile phone screen, squinting and trying to make out what the hell is going on, playing a game in the park. It might work if they’re sitting in the shade of a tree, but it’s a very bad gaming experience in broad sunlight.
Owning all those Game Boy iterations, I tried thinking of an excuse to avoid being outdoors and couldn’t, so I decided to work this the other way and actually go somewhere. Just take the first road I find and walk until I’m bored, but at least for an hour, then play some Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.
Google just shut down the last piece of Google Talk, killing XMPP. This means that people using standards-based open and interoperable chat systems can no longer talk to their friends who use Google’s proprietary and closed chat system, Hangouts. For example, people who use Pidgin on any of the thousands of free and open XMPP servers in the world cannot message Google users anymore.
Instead of working towards standardization, making sure that all chat systems from all vendors can talk to each other, each large company now has their own communications silo. Skype is not compatible with Hangouts is not compatible with Apple FaceTime is not compatible with WeChat is not compatible with WhatsApp. Even though all these systems perform mostly the same function, have roughly the same features and could be built using open, mutually compatible standards. Could even be built from the same source code.
But Google, Microsoft and Facebook make more money by preventing you from talking to your friends on other systems. They want to analyze both parts of a conversation, they want to control the sender and the receiver and read all the content. This is harder to do when you have a standardized, federated system, and even harder in the case of XMPP where users can employ message encryption with just a few clicks. Encryption that is not controlled by Microsoft or Facebook but by the users themselves.
What can you do against this?
Geting an XMPP JID would be the first step. You can register for an account on any public XMPP server (sometimes called Jabber servers, but Jabber is now a closed product by Cisco, adding insult to injury, while the XMPP standard remains open).
Then get an XMPP client, for example Pidgin for the desktop and Conversations for Android. Set up your account and log in. People can now invite you to their XMPP contacts and you can start chatting.
If you want message encryption, make sure to enable OTR. There are many tutorials on this, I’ll just link to a random one I found.
What if you don’t do this? Then we’ll end up in a world with more and more communication silos, where people find it harder and harder to talk to each other, and huge multinational companies with very bad privacy policies will control and record more and more of our communication. Because these closed platforms create inconvenience for anyone not inside those closed platforms, group pressure will then pull everyone towards such closed platforms, until a dangerous oligopoly emerges. This latest move by Google is one more step in this direction.
Like I guessed about two years ago, Google are now trying to undermine the ad blocking market by releasing their own ad blocker, which will of course not block ads served by Google. It will probably also not block other privacy invasions or tracking systems that would benefit Google or its customers. Since Google is the world’s largest advertisement company, that’s quite a few.
This is likely just the first step of several that they might take while abusing their browser dominance. Watch carefully as things get worse the higher Chrome’s market share climbs.
You can still use an independent web browser, but who knows for how long? The effects I described in that old article linked above might lead to content no longer working correctly on anything but Google Chrome, and by that time Google’s control of what you can and cannot see, and also of how much of your privacy you are forced to surrender, will be total.
Well, okay, we didn’t cover that entire length just in the Alps, but I needed a catchy title. If you want the short version: there is nothing to say here, and that’s the most significant thing I can tell you about electric driving in Europe today.
This is the start of a new turf war for child mindshare. Like drug dealers, Microsoft and Google know that it’s best to get them early, get them young, make them depend on your products. Microsoft even helpfully supplies teaching aids to make sure that only Microsoft technologies are taught to these poor children, who would probably go through IT life without guidance and learn independent thinking otherwise, like programming Python or having the ability to choose between different word processors. Microsoft does not want independent child minds, they want dependence. If they could, they’d add heroin injections to Windows 10 just to cause a bodily addiction.
TL;DR: We’re not doing a good job of keeping the Internet and related technologies as open and egalitarian as they used to be, allowing a dangerous oligopoly to reemerge. How can we reverse the trend? And by we, I actually mean you.
I see some worrying signs that we’re going backwards in terms of freedom. Read on for some scaremongering.