Redecentralize Digest — March 2021
In this digest:
- The DOTS pattern library
- Decentralisation explained with tomato cans
- Public Spaces coalition
- Compost magazine & Distributed Press
- Misc tips & updates and events coming up
DOTS pattern library
The “Decentralization off the Shelf” project from Simply Secure (mentioned last year) has released its brand new library of design patterns for decentralised applications. Starting with the observation that “decentralization introduces concepts and scenarios that are diverging from today’s dominant, centralized paradigms”, the pattern library demonstrates typical design problems (22 so far) encountered in decentralised tools, along with solutions that developers could incorporate to address them.
Rather than providing code, the library gives explanations, tips, and examples from existing applications. It can thereby help improve user experience of decentralised apps and smoothen users’ learning curves by reducing incoherence between apps.
The pattern library is an ongoing project, and its creators would gladly receive suggestions for new patterns or hear about apps applying the described patterns.
Explained with tomato cans
In this video, mathematics student Bram van den Heuvel explains (cansplains?) the difference between centralised and decentralised communication networks in a clear and convincing manner: using a kitchen table, cans of tomato pulp (representing apps and servers), and pieces of string to connect them.
The video uses messaging apps as examples, with the Matrix and XMPP protocols as the decentralised alternatives to mainstream apps. It explains the freedom of choice this opens up for users, putting focus on practical outcomes without keeping it too simple — it even mentions how a bridging server (again a tomato can) could translate between the two protocols to connect people between different networks.
In its accompanying blog post, the author digs deeper into the problems with the centralised networks, as well as the need for solutions from the political side: like with telecom operators, online platforms should be obliged to interoperate under oversight of a regulator. His concrete proposal for the European Union sounds close to what we would suggest:
“The European Commission should create an independent government agency and charge it with ensuring competitiveness of the online market by forcing social platforms to be accessible through an open communication protocol.”
Public Spaces is a coalition of organisations with public functions (such as broadcasters and museums), mainly from the Netherlands, that “want the internet back” and work towards that together. It gives hope to see this category of parties get involved in the topic; these are not the usual end users, but organisations that often, in their attempts to reach those users, feel compelled to use the centralised platforms they would rather avoid.
This month, the first Public Spaces conference took place. In a discussion panel about “building connections”, Gerben got the opportunity to present Redecentralize’s mission, and to emphasise the importance of cooperation among the many value-aligned projects.
Compost & Distributed Press
The first issue of COMPOST magazine is out, publishing “creative works reflecting on the web as a digital commons”. Besides good old HTTP, it is also made available via the distributed web protocols IPFS and Hypercore.
To facilitate this publication, the team behind COMPOST built Distributed Press, “a beginner friendly, open-source publishing tool for the distributed web”. It is still in alpha stage, but could become a helpful tool for others who would like to publish their websites on decentralised web protocols — something that still requires some geekery, as we discovered while trying to publish redecentralize.org (along with getdweb.net) over the same protocols (but: ipns://redecentralize.org should work now!).
- interoperability.news is a new information hub promoting interoperability regulation in EU policy. (disclaimer: Gerben is one of its editors)
- Mozilla Festival, even online, was a highly colourful, interactive, participatory conference. One may thus have to attend to get most out of it, but many recorded sessions are available.
- As India is creating new intermediary rules for digital platforms, the Internet Freedom Foundation summarises how ungood this is for internet users.
- Searx, the privacy-focussed, self-hostable search engine aggregator, published its first stable release.
- Microsoft’s self-sovereign identity system, ION, launched officially.
- FSFE tells how hard it can be to get your rightful refund for that unused MS Windows licence that came with your new laptop.
- April 12: Open Tech Will Save Us; monthly presentations hosted by the Matrix project
- Apr 20–22: Internet Identity Workshop; unconference about decentralized identity/self-sovereign identity, organised twice a year
- Apr 23: DWeb SF meetup: NFTs - Hype or the Hope of Art? (no link yet, check here soon)
For these and more events, check out and subscribe to the new dweb.events calendar!
About this digest
The Redecentralize Digest is a monthly publication about internet (re)decentralisation. It covers progress and thoughts relating technology and politics, without ties to a particular project nor to one definition of decentralisation — figuring out its meanings and relations is part of the mission.
This edition was written by Gerben, with thanks to Ross and any others who contributed.
The digest’s format and content are not set in stone. Feedback, corrections and suggestions for next editions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. We don’t spy on our readers, so please do tell us what you think!