5 years ago: Digital Feudalism and How to Avoid It


I learned a lot in those five years and we’re still working for the same goals. Surveillance Capitalism is worse than it ever was but we also have new hopes: @Purism, Mastodon, @gnome, DAT, …

The one thing I’d change is to replace “open source” with “ethical technology” and “free (as in freedom)” in my words.

@aral Great talk. What do you make of services which aren't open source, but state clear alignment with privacy -- subscription instead of ads, no data mining (or even end-to-end encryption), easy data export?

@james Depends on their funding and corporate structure. The key risk is that they’ll be Trojan horses – if they get too popular, one of the surveillance-based businesses buys them and slowly erodes privacy – see WhatsApp. If VC-funded, it’s basically a given that this will happen unless they IPO (and even then, the internal loss of control of the original founders – is they were driven by their social mission instead of profits to begin with – may change its character).

@aral Hmm yeah, Trojan horse is a good way of putting it. My main concern of open sourcing as a founder with bootstrapped products is that someone will deploy a clone and undercut my pricing, making it unsustainable for me to continue developing the product.


@aral What do you think of something like this: github.com/jamesisaac/product- . Hasn't left draft status as I'm not sure it's a particularly bullet-proof solution. WhatsApp a good counter example as network effects are so strong that it's too late for people to leave even with ample notice, but for apps with a good single-user utility I can see it helping. Do you think that sort of approach could help / is there something similar I'm not aware of?

@aral (For an example of how it looks to an end-user, who isn't concerned with the exact clauses)

Sign in to participate in the conversation
No Logo

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!