Tag: decentralisation (page 1 of 10)

Decentralisation begins at decentring yourself

Aral Balkan, who has 22,000 followers on the Fediverse and who recently had a birthday, has written about the influx of people from Twitter. As I’ve found, especially on my personal blog, you can essentially run a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on yourself by posting a link to your blog to the Fediverse. As each server pings it, the server can eventually buckle under the weight.

What follows is a really useful post in terms of Aral’s journey towards what he calls the ‘Small Web’. While I don’t necessarily agree that we should all have our own instances, I do think it’s useful for organisations of every size to run them.

If Elon Musk wanted to destroy mastodon.social, the flagship Mastodon instance, all he’d have to do is join it.

Thank goodness Elon isn’t that smart.

I jest, of course… Eugen would likely ban his account the moment he saw it. But it does illustrate a problem: Elon’s easy to ban. Stephen, not so much. He’s a national treasure for goodness’ sake. One does not simply ban Stephen Fry.

And yet Stephen can similarly (yet unwittingly) cause untold expense to the folks running Mastodon instances just by joining one.

The solution, for Stephen at least, is simple: he should run his own personal instance.

(Or get someone else to run it for him, like I do.)

Running his own instance would also give Stephen one additional benefit: he’d automatically get verified.

After all, if you’re talking to, say, @stephen@social.stephenfry.com, you can be sure it’s really him because you know he owns the domain.

Source: Is the fediverse about to get Fryed? (Or, “Why every toot is also a potential denial of service attack”) | Aral Balkan

Organisations are not just joining the Fediverse, they’re setting up their own instances

It’s great to see that Raspberry Pi Ltd. and other organisations are setting up their own servers. Not only does it enable them to verify themselves, but that of their employees and affiliates really easily.

I’m sure it won’t all be smooth sailing ahead for the Fediverse, especially when it comes to trust and verification. But I’m optimistic that the recent migration from Twitter is ultimately for the good of the human species.

We’ve opted to host our own instance. We’ve done this because, with multiple instances out there, we had to decide how to make sure people following us knew that our Raspberry Pi account was the “real” one.

Distributed systems are an interesting corner case when it comes to trust. Because when it comes to identity, you eventually have to trust someone. Whether that’s a corporation, like Twitter, or a government, or the person themselves. Trust is needed.

With Mastodon the root of trust for identity is the admin of the instance you’re on, and the admins on all the other instances, where you’re trusting them to remove “fake” accounts. Or, if you’re running your own instance, then it’s the domain name registrars. The details of our domain registration of the raspberrypi.social domain may be redacted for privacy, but our domain registrar knows who we are, and is the same registrar we use for all our other domains. They trust our government-issued identity to prove that we are Raspberry Pi Ltd. You can trust them, they trust the government, and ultimately the government trusts us because they can use Ultima Ratio Regum, the last argument of kings.

Source: An escape pod was jettisoned during the fighting | Raspberry Pi

Forbes on federation

This article uses a common format in Forbes where we follow an individual who just happens to have a product to sell. The story is lightly researched, and told in a way that seems to suggest that innovation comes from white guys.

Still, I’m sharing it because it’s a mainstream discussion of ActivityPub and Scuttlebutt, protocols that underpin federated social networks. Linking to places like planetary.social also normalises the true meaning of ‘community’ as an active verb rather than a passive noun, as well as the notion of co-operatives.

While the original, aborted version of a decentralized Twitter was built using the same messaging standard as Google Cloud Messaging and Facebook Chat, a number of technical innovations have recently surfaced, enabling an even more open and decentralized architecture. In January 2018, early blockchain-based social network Steemit exploded to its peak of about a $2 billion market value and Henshaw-Plath took his first job at a blockchain startup, seeking to learn from the inside about the technology that connects people without middlemen.

Though blockchains’ decentralized infrastructures might seem perfect for connecting friends on a social network, Henshaw-Plath was eventually turned off by their reliance on cryptocurrency. “Our feeling was that the primary social interaction should be based on intrinsic motivation,” says Henshaw-Plath. “If you integrate financial incentives into everything, then it can make it into a financial game. And then all of a sudden, people aren’t there because of their human connection and collaboration.” Users, it would seem, agree. Steemit fell 94% from its all-time high to about $107 million today.

Henshaw-Plath started looking for alternatives. “Eventually,” he says, “I discovered a protocol created by this guy who lives on a sailboat in New Zealand.”

That is Dominic Tarr, an eccentric, open-source developer who lives just off the coast of Auckland on a Wharram catamaran named Yes Let’s he found on the side of a road. Tired of being unable to send emails to his friends from his Pacific Ocean location, Tarr wrote software that uses technology similar to Apple’s Airdrop to create a protocol that lets anyone build social networks where information moves like gossip, directly from phone to phone—no internet service provider required.

Entrepreneurs using the protocol get to choose their own business models, their own designs and how their systems function. Users, meanwhile, can move freely from network to network. Tarr called the software Secure Scuttlebutt after the cask that stored water on old sailboats, which is also maritime slang for “gossip,” as in conversations held around a water cooler. “Modern capitalism believes that what people want is convenience,” says Tarr. “But I think what people actually want is a sense of control.”

Scuttlebutt itself isn’t supported by venture capital. Instead, taking a page from the way Tim Berners-Lee funded the creation of the World Wide Web, Scuttlebutt is backed by grants that helped jump-start the process. Similar to a distributed autonomous organization (DAO) that connects groups on a blockchain, there are now hundreds of users who personally donate to the cause and an estimated 30,000 people using one of at least six social networks on the protocol. An estimated 4 million more use the largest social protocol, Mastodon, which supports 60 niche social networks, with a rapidly growing pool of blockchain competitors in the works.

Source: Jack Dorsey’s Former Boss Is Building A Decentralized Twitter | Forbes