Tag: decentralisation (page 1 of 7)

Signal’s CEO on ‘web3’

My first response to most new technological things is usually “cool, I wonder how I/we could use that?” With so-called ‘web3’, though, I’ve kind of thought it was bullshit.

This post by Moxie Marlinspike, CEO of Signal, goes a step forward and includes opinions by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

I’m not sure what I think about the bit quoted below about not distributing infrastructure? In Marxist terms, it seems like not distributing or providing ownership of the means of production?

If we do want to change our relationship to technology, I think we’d have to do it intentionally. My basic thoughts are roughly:

  1. We should accept the premise that people will not run their own servers by designing systems that can distribute trust without having to distribute infrastructure. This means architecture that anticipates and accepts the inevitable outcome of relatively centralized client/server relationships, but uses cryptography (rather than infrastructure) to distribute trust. One of the surprising things to me about web3, despite being built on “crypto,” is how little cryptography seems to be involved!
  2. We should try to reduce the burden of building software. At this point, software projects require an enormous amount of human effort. Even relatively simple apps require a group of people to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day, every day, forever. This wasn’t always the case, and there was a time when 50 people working on a software project wasn’t considered a “small team.” As long as software requires such concerted energy and so much highly specialized human focus, I think it will have the tendency to serve the interests of the people sitting in that room every day rather than what we may consider our broader goals. I think changing our relationship to technology will probably require making software easier to create, but in my lifetime I’ve seen the opposite come to pass. Unfortunately, I think distributed systems have a tendency to exacerbate this trend by making things more complicated and more difficult, not less complicated and less difficult.

Source: Moxie Marlinspike >> Blog >> My first impressions of web3


Update: Moxie Marlinspike has announced he’s stepping down as Signal CEO.

How long before everyone’s using decentralised messengers?

I first experimented with Linux in 1997. It wasn’t until 20 years later that I was running it as my default operating system.

I hope it doesn’t take as long for something like Briar to be my default messaging app! It’s difficult to make the case for it when everyone’s got WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, or the like.

But the radical, decentralised, approach to privacy that Briar takes is refreshing.

Wildire

Another potential use case scenario for Briar are natural disasters. With the climate crisis getting worse day by day, destruction of critical infrastructure is a problem affecting more and more parts of the world, as the recent floods in Europe and China and the wildfires all around the world have shown.

While Briar can definitively be useful in those situations, its trade-offs in favor of privacy are severely limiting its connectivity capabilities. To make an example, imagine your city just got nearly extinguished by a wildfire, destroying all the telecommunications infrastructure that was once there. Fortunately, you and your friends got Briar installed, so when a friend of you drops by you grasp at the chance and write messages to all your friends in-town. One could think that all those messages get synchronized to your friend’s device, so she can serve as a carrier for your other friends’ messages. Unfortunately, that’s not how Briar works.

As I’ve outlined before, metadata protection is one of Briar’s primary goals. Therefore, Briar doesn’t synchronize messages to your friend Alice with Bob when you meet him in order to not let Bob know that you’re communicating with Alice. This is very useful when you can’t trust even your contacts not to be spying on you, but it’s most likely a huge problem when connectivity is all you want in the face of natural disasters.

This message routing scheme used by Briar is called “single-hop social mesh” because you only ever send messages to your contacts if you have a direct connection to them. During catastrophes you most likely want to have at least “multi-hop social mesh” or yet even better “public mesh” where you share messages not only with your contacts but with anybody using Briar. However, as connectivity improves, privacy gets worse because people will know when you’re communicating with whom.

The good news are that Briar is currently receiving funding to conduct research on supporting other types of mesh. Still it will take a lot of time until something gets implemented in Briar, so all of this should be considered long-term perspectives. Note, though, that this mainly affects private chats and private groups. If you and all your friends are part of a forum (Briar’s “public” version of group chats), Alice will indeed serve as a carrier for your messages sent to that forum.

Source: Confronting Briar with disasters | Nico Alt

Decentralised organising

I update the WAO wiki page on how we make decisions today and used a graphic inspired by Richard D. Bartlett.

He, in turn, added the page to a ‘handbook of handbooks’ for decentralised organising.

a mega list of handbooks and toolkits

for groups working without top-down management

from social movements to workplaces

open source for anyone to read, update, share

Source: The Handbook of Handbooks for Decentralised Organising