Short documentary on the quest to re-decentralize the internet

Originally published at:


Sounds great, but I remain skeptical. I clearly remember the general feeling in the early-to-mid-nineties that somehow, someway, this whole “web” thing was gonna set us free. In hindsight, I was the stupid one for subscribing to that notion. I would have been less surprised, I guess, had I stopped to consider back then that there’s just no way something so free and amazing could last. Still, bravo for championing the idea.

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Are they going to focus on getting IPv6 pushed out so the original idea of peer-to-peer communication doesn’t fall victim to the curse of NAT?

But honestly, that vision only worked when everybody on the net was a nerd comfortable with running stuff off of their home connection. That pretty much died in the eternal September and was replaced by Geocites type sites where people built their own content from scratch but hosted it on a big server somewhere. But people sucked at web design so they moved onto even more restricted blogging platforms where you get relatively little control over how the site works and eventually Facebook/Twitter/Reddit/YouTube/etc…

The history of personal sites has been a race to the bottom of the mandatory technical requirements but also design freedom. Are we going to teach everyone’s grandmothers, uncles, children, etc… how to code HTML again? Worse, web sites are expected to be a lot more featureful these days, learning how to code it by reading the source is too much to ask. Back when you were just doing simple tags and creating 90s looking sites it wasn’t too hard to figure out the basics, but now everything is layers of frameworks and separation that make it nearly impossible to reason about until you understand how all of the layers interoperate.


I like how you turned the tables a bit on the “government ba-a-ad” assumptions of the Reason interviewer by addressing the role of anti-trust regulation in terms of restoring the free market to which they pay lip service.

I’m also glad you framed this specifically as re-decentralising the Internet, because that was the original vision that’s been perverted by monopolistic late-stage capitalist enterprises like Facebook. The technologies are already out there, but the trick (as you note) is to get people to abandon these toxic centralised cesspools like FB and Twitter and adopt open-source, decentralised and federated platforms (again).


September never ended. Of course the problem wasn’t everyone and their dog getting online. The problem was them bringing the shopping mall model of capitalism with them.


Really, all that the vast majority of the Eternal September people wanted to do was post textual and multimedia content; some experimentation with the Web design toys provided by Geocities and MySpace aside, only a minority were interested in look-and-feel, design and layout, and functionality pieces (and the coding or even the CMS platforms needed to implement them).

The shopping mall/walled-garden was a place where those users (understandably) were comfortable, and Facebook and Twitter and YouTube serve that purpose like AOL did – in a way that’s convenient but unhealthy, like a junk food franchise. There are better options, but getting people to abandon the monopolistic centralised cesspools in favour of something like Mastadon or diaspora will require a lot of work from a lot of different angles.


And a seismic shift in cultural values. We’re getting the seismic shift, but whether it goes in the direction of (re)decentralization or the Chinese model is an open question. Mind you, I’m optimistic civilization will get there eventually if we survive our own self-destructiveness. Whether it’s in the foreseeable future I’m less certain.


The thing about tech, especially peer-to-peer tech, is that the more these authoritarian and greedy Tarkins tighten their grip, the more people start using open-source, peer-to-peer, and decentralised software tools with strong crypto to get around the crappy defaults.




I vote for not giving big tech any more state-like duties. Not just big tech, but large corporations in general shouldn’t be running things. Corporations are psychopaths by design.
IPFS looks promising, and I really like the idea of a decentralized web. I get the concerns over not having some kind of overseer who can delete the accounts and content of people like Alex Jones. Would it be better to have that kind of control, or would removing that control lead people to not have so many false beliefs in the first place?

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I could imagine something like blogging software, or even like Facebook that would run on your local device and publish to IPFS. Simple to use, but still on the distributed/decentralized web. The distributed web needs a killer app like that to get any kind of traction.


If you watch The Great Hack streaming on Netflix, you will not be encouraged about the prospects of this movement.

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How does Molly McKinley make a living? Is she living off her saved up Google wages? Or does her work have a commercial application of some sort that help her stay afloat?

The aristocratic view of open source has held back the movement for a long time, and it’s understandable why: nerds relate to other nerds, and when we build things to share, we build them with each other in mind.

The problem is that the nerds who were building things for “everyone” weren’t doing it to share, they were doing it to establish hegemony. We need nerds to build things for everyone which establish an anti-hegemony - a free space for everyone. This is as much a social challenge as a technical one.

What we’ve learned so far is that centralized platforms are actually incapable of overseeing their content, even when they want to. No matter what they promise, Facebook and Twitter literally cannot protect vulnerable people, because they’re totally out of touch with those communities’ needs and situations. And what’s worse, their business models are centered around actively stripping their users of the power they would need to take care of their own needs.

What we need are frameworks and networks which afford communities the autonomy and sovereignty to protect their own interests and set their own rules.


I agree with you, but I would also say exactly the same thing about governments. The idea of re-decentralization is great because, if it’s done right, nobody will be “running things” on the internet.


the panopiticonism nowadays makes it more of an eternal September 11th imho

five eyes watching you poop yadda yadda

Just to clarify, are you saying the government shouldn’t have state-like duties? If so, I understand that we want to be free of oppression, but there are cases where some regulation can be good. What if someone posted false information about you and encouraged readers to harm you and your family?

Is there a way that a decentralized web could be self-regulated that wouldn’t be gamed by bad actors? I just keep thinking about how online reviews and comment sections get astro-turfed and wonder how we’ll prevent the same thing when it’s distributed.

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