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Re: <nettime> "Too bad your great ideas will never work."
Morlock Elloi on Thu, 14 Sep 2017 08:28:58 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> "Too bad your great ideas will never work."

There are several randomly conflated topics here.

First, the "web".

The web is, originally, a collection of "web sites", computers controlled by users and acting as their online proxies. Over time, fewer and fewer users bothered to control their own httpds, and instead rented space on corporate/group computers. Once you migrate from owner to renter, things get a bit different. No smoking on the balcony.

But the "web" stays inherently decentralized, even if it ends up consisting of 4 web sites, those four are still decentralized. There is no need to decentralize any more. One just needs to own.

The real question is why almost everyone chooses to live in landlords' tenements? The answer is a long one, and starts with coordinated and well-funded efforts to make ownership a living hell, and ends with the sad fact that most people have nothing interesting to say and contribute. The "web" worked well in the early beginnings, when it was populated exclusively by the special 0.0001% of the population (that's about 6,000) - the most creative, inquisitive, psychotic, intelligent and weird ones. Then came the rabble.

Second, "social networks" (do not mistake these for "web").

These are de facto publishing platforms that will take almost everyone, McLuhan amplifiers. Yes, they do make money from advertizing and surveillance, but people join them because they are legitimate publishing platforms. To be respectable publisher you must enforce rules, so that authors and audiences keep coming. Is one publisher too few? I am not sure. How many reputable philosophy paper book publishers are out there these days? Two? One? Where do you go when you get a rejection slip from Verso (does anyone?) No one complains about that. How would the world be better with 6 social landlords instead of one? Who even cares?

If you visit Diaspora, you'll find out that the main reason for being on Diaspora is making a statement of not being on Facebook (think riding a fixie bike). Yes, it's relatively decentralized (few dozens of landlords), almost anything can go, but almost nothing goes. Mastodon is similar, but more porn. A feature on both is that you don't get punished for bashing feminism, and that's about it.

Third, P2P messaging platforms.

These remained well distributed (SMS, e-mail, Viber, etc.) despite attempts by social networks to absorb them. Anything goes, but little overall impact will ever come from P2P - we always had that.


The fallacy of the approach in the article is the proposition of some sweet spot between renting and owning, and that multitude of landlords would somehow mimic the ownership. In the world of low latency electronic communications the landlords quickly aggregate into monopolies, and the landlord control is always absolute. If there is a solution here it's not Internet-specific: it's the same solution required to break up brick-and-mortar monopolies, parties, landowners, academic cabals, etc. In other words, it's politics.

The Internet did give us what majority always wanted - uniform enforcement of sub-mediocrity and conformity. Enjoy. Or run httpd. There is nothing in-between.

On 9/13/17, 20:59, Geert Lovink wrote:
The Californian Ideology Gets Grumpy. Bay Area Doomsters Have Spoken.

"The three of us investigated several of these most promising efforts to
“re-decentralize” the web, to better understand their potential to shake
up the dominance of Facebook, Google, and Twitter. The projects we
examined are pursuing deeply exciting new ideas. However, we doubt that
decentralized systems alone will address the threats to free expression
caused by today’s mega-platforms, for several key reasons.”

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