You can’t propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it. - Tim Berners Lee, Inventor of WWW
Over the last few years, we’ve seen the rise of mega corporations that have had a significant impact on our lives. They’ve made our lives easy, they’ve given us platforms to use that help us connect with the rest of the world with a few taps on our devices, they’ve provided you with means to watch cat videos for free. Are all these really free? To use a cliché, “If something on the internet is free, you are the product.”
If you are someone who has wondered how texting our friend on Zucky’s phone number based messaging app has resulted in ads being served to us about it on the blue F platform, chances are that we have also figured out that it’s no coincidence. They are tracking everything we say, type, browse, listen etc. And with so much data about us, they can predict who we are just by matching some parts of our real life signature which depends on these tastes.
The algorithms at these corporations also amplify content that are eye catching, controversial, rage inducing etc so as to have all of us going back for more, and engaging with them so that they can tell their investors that they are generating traffic and get more cash inflow. They also decide what we are thinking about at every moment in time we spend time on their platforms.
Then there’s the issue of censorship, and partiality from these corporations that results in folks making legitimate cases being banned, yet inflammatory personnel and trolls who incite the masses with immoral speech are allowed to roam freely in the name of “free speech”.
All this means is that we aren’t in control of what we want to see, we don’t get to decide what’s done with our data, we are left at the whims of these corporations who decide how the internet should be.
Can you imagine a world where you are in control of what you share online? The answer to that lies in a decentralized internet where there are computers or servers talking to each other in the way they were meant to. There is a parallel universe called the Fediverse (read up about it, it’s simple, trust me on this) that can solve some of the problems we have currently with an internet controlled by the corporations. The other problems can be solved with the use of open source software that provides alternatives for the services we use. Of course, the learning curve can be a little steep, and the experience not as smooth because they aren’t tailored for us. But we’ll sleep well knowing that you own your data. At a time when governments are trying to censor content which doesn’t suit their propaganda, the existence of a decentralized internet also means that our space is universal and not controlled.
Importantly, we can urge those in our circles to give these alternatives a try to build a better, more democratic internet which respects voices instead of throttling those which one entity doesn’t like. At time when machines are taking over all aspects of our life, let’s bring back humanity to the internet.
I’ll leave you with this talk by Aral Balkan.
And if you like something, please consider donating something to the creators (even the smallest contribution counts) to create an internet that’s yours.