[NetBehaviour] Long Live the Web.
james at lowtech.org
Mon Nov 22 10:48:42 CET 2010
Well said, Tim Berners-Lee!
However, we should not get too depressed by imminent traffic-filtering
and shaping, walled gardens and so on. I agree with Alan's comment:
> I keep thinking backing to Fidonet and BBS; these kinds of private
> networks might become deeply relevant again.
Yes, absolutely. I'd suggest if you want to keep your chin up think
about these two key concepts:
(1) Information wants to be free.
(2) We are in control.
If it does become the case that the "mainstream internet" becomes less
than useful due to the interventions of ISPs, commercial content
providers, paranoid governments and so on, then data WILL ROUTE AROUND
those blockages. And we will help it.
Back in the days of FidoNet there was a functional, free, world-wide
email network, entirely built and created by amateurs, That was before
broadband, before Ronja, before WiFi... before 56kBs modems... even
before USB sticks!
Now we have more tools to communicate than ever.
For some years I've been skeptical about the strategic significance of
local WiFi cloud infrastructures like "Consume.Net" because I've felt
that it's perfectly feasible and convenient to piggyback on existing
very cheap infrastructures, and these DIY peer-to-peer WLANs further
ignore the need for long range connectivity. The key issue is whether we
(the community of net users) can create independent, LONG RANGE data pipes.
Trust me, we can. It may be a pain in the behind, but if a restricted
web becomes more of a pain in the behind, we will. If not by
piggybacking on existing infrastructures with stealth protocols, then by
building our own.
Infrastructures like Ronja can be community owned. A key technical
problem is how (cheaply and legally) to build long distance links, not
just 50-metre wifi hotspots. Ronja ($200 for a pair) pushes the limit to
more than 1km, but I believe 10km and 100km+ links would be needed to
create an independent, creative community digital infrastructure.
Do we need our own satellite? (Bish, bosh, just knock one up and get it
But satellites are so old fashioned. All those steam-powered rockets and
Victorian spacemen? Not at all carbon neutral! What we need is something
cheaper, lighter, better, higher-tech and home-made. Who needs a NASA
fabrication facility when you have a double garage?
I suggest clouds of robotic mini-airships, flying at around 20km
altitude. Each one should cost only around $2000 per operational year,
with a lifespan of around 10 years. A major city could be covered by
just one or two. Maybe float up four or five for a bit of redundancy -
here in the UK a few dozen would cover the entire nation - job done!
Alternatively (and even more cheaply, and quickly) we could train homing
pigeons to carry USB memory sticks between independent media centres.
The data transfer rate with pigeoned 360GB sticks is very respectable.
(Though the latency may be less impressive).
And by next year 360GB sticks will probably cost about ?1.50. Pigeon-feed!
So, look at it this way. For 10 years people have been engaging with the
net on a "I can't be bothered to engage with the infrastructure or the
issues, I just want convenience!" approach. And I'm not just talking
about individuals - governments, too, have taken this approach.
Now the implications of that attitude may be coming back to bite us. If
we want independence, we have to pay for it - if not with money, then
with brain-bashing hack time. The "no money, no effort" option is not
available - but we knew that all along.
So with lack of net neutrality, I say bring it on (you bastards!) and
watch the community's response. If it's more useful than what you're
offering, a whole new neutral, undetectable peer-to-peer infrastructure
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