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<nettime> Vickram Crishna on the need to start 'our own' web/ e-mail/ et
Patrice Riemens on Sun, 11 Nov 2007 13:09:36 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Vickram Crishna on the need to start 'our own' web/ e-mail/ etc. community services

bwo Bytes-for-all list, posted Oct 31, 2007.


"Last August, Wired published two unusual stories describing how
consumers might link together a variety of third-party services to
emulate Facebook, and ultimately calling on the open-source software
community to build alternatives to the service."

The Slashdot post refers to the dangers of entrusting personal
information and more to commercial web service providers. Web
behaviour is already entrusted to search engines, and so is a whole
lot of mail, the persistence (on 'free' service provider boxes) of
which concern has already been expressed.

Only geeks are really familiar with genuine OS email, off community
services like riseup and protest - there are others.

Across South Asia, in which I believe lives the maximum readership
of this list, the awareness of issues relating to individual freedom
and the risks associated with regular web usage, as practised in our
largely lip-service democracies (some are even openly, from time to
time, not democracies at all) is very poor.

This is very risky. Not only are we advocating here that net usage
increase in depth, but also in breadth, and therefore inevitably among
those already at the receiving end of injustice and state-sponsored
terror (by which I include types like rogue cops. I don't in the
least imply that individual governments sponsor terror as a policy,
although that is an impression widely spread by certain kinds of media

What is the answer? As net-savvy (not necessarily techie) individuals
and groups, we need to start looking beyond billion dollar valuations
and looking to billion dollar values, using our strength as a
community to enable alternate search engines, or to power search
engines for local language and environment searches (another Slashdot
article recently pointed to the fact that global search giant Google
fares terribly in areas where non-English net usage is high. In South
Korea for instance, it has less than 3% of the total searches run,
compared to some 93% by the leading Korean language search engine).

In addition, we need to put together non-commercial linkages at the
backend, empowering local ISPs to connect with each other without
routing through servers in the US and other sophisticated locations.
This will reduce international data traffic hugely. As a serendipitous
spinoff it will force commercial storage mirrors like Akamai to
physically locate their devices within South Asia, further reducing
the international data traffic (well not really force, they are free
to lose the business to some other smarter service provider or even to
widely owned and distributed storage centers, if they don't act).

We really need high-quality free or otherwise non-commercial email

When we have some or all of these pieces in place, we can rest
confident that when we advise or suggest to local grassroots groups
to start becoming ICT-savvy, there will be services on offer that
do not put the newbie users at complete risk of future harassment
by local quasi-governmental goondas. At this point in time, country
after country in our region is seeing laws being proposed that will
make it incumbent upon commercial services to 'cooperate' with the
'authorities' to turn over private and personal information.

One of the sponsors of this list is, I understand, APC, the
association for progressive communications. I think it is high time
such groups began to show their support in meaningful ways. to ensure
that the most important medium for communications, as a friend on this
list told me just yesterday, 2.0 communications, that use the Internet
(in its purest sense, a network of connected networks), remains free
of oppression and unhampered by governments and regimes that come and
go. Not just APC, but all the other international and local groupings
that use these lists, presumably to promote an atmosphere of open

Well, we are here, we already empathise with the goal of open
thinking, but we are at risk because we do not have services in place
(and we are terribly dependent on these services) that are immune to
local harassment.

I started this post in reference to Facebook, the US collegiate social
network that has become ubiquitous, and also widely criticised for
the manner in which it exposes its users to risk from unscrupulous
netizens. With solid funding behind it from the well-known anti-OSS
TNC Microsoft, users may at some point in the future find their net
experience tinged with unwanted reminders that Big Enterprise is
watching. Awareness of the reality behind this is so low, that it is
not surprising that so many users on this list (including myself) post
from commercial service providers such as Yahoo! and GMail.


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