Redecentralize Digest — May 2021
In this digest:
- DWeb meetup (today!)
- Reimagining the Internet
- Matrix Spaces
- Misc tips & updates and events coming up
DWeb meetup today
Let’s start with this, before it’s over: Today-ish (3 June 0:00 UTC) another DWeb meetup takes place, this time with Nathan Schneider talking about the exit to community concept. Nathan’s focus is on distributed ownership, rather than the distributed design, of technology; in his words:
“For too long, we have hoped that distributed technology would produce distributed power. Again and again, the tech alone doesn’t cut it. The web won’t be truly distributed until the wealth it creates is.”
Besides this talk there will be several lightning talks about decentralisation-related projects, such as Matters, Social Roots, and Hyper Hyper Space. Enjoy!
Reimagining the internet, for the public
At the Reimagine the Internet conference of the Knight First Amendment institute, Ethan Zuckerman and friends discussed the importance of and opportunities for internet services that are not (only) run by big tech corporations and surveillance capitalism: “The internet is too important to leave up to the market”
For social media, Ethan promotes the bright idea to think in terms of “governance, not moderation”, aiming for smaller self-governing communities rather than single world-wide platform policies; more like the Fediverse (or even Reddit) than Facebook. But he also lets evelyn douek finish the conference with observations about the trend towards more centralisation in the pursuit of effective content moderation.
Ethan’s overarching theme of creating “Digital Public Infrastructure” (see also November’s digest) seems part of a wider trend, with “Public …” themes appearing everywhere: Public Interest Technology, Public Service Internet, (Digital) Public Spaces, Public Stack, Shared Digital European Public Sphere, and EFF’s latest introduction of the Public Interest Internet.
These similar (sometimes synonymous) themes all overlap with the goals of decentralisation, and usually go hand-in-hand. This makes me wonder how to see the relation between these two angles of ‘public’ and ‘decentralised’. Perhaps we should take care to give both angles attention, to ensure that decentralisation efforts indeed benefit the public, and that public interest projects don’t end up creating a centralised “Statebook”.
The Matrix chat protocol has been developing steadily. The latest introduction is the ‘Spaces’ concept, which enables grouping chat rooms. A bit like you may know from e.g. Mattermost/Slack/etc, but more versatile: rooms can appear in multiple spaces, spaces can be nested in a hierarchy, and more features are to follow (technically, a space is itself a ‘room of rooms’).
A beta-version of spaces can be tried in Element, the flagship Matrix app. Perhaps we will soon turn our #redecentralize chat room into a space too! (come join us already, if you are not there yet)
Matrix also revealed its Pinecone overlay network as a first step in the move from federated to peer-to-peer networking.
- Freenode, the most popular IRC network, saw much of its volunteer staff resign after a ‘hostile take-over’, to start a new network at libera.chat.
- The Internet Policy Review started building a “glossary of decentralised technosocial systems”, defining various (mainly blockchain-related) terms with academic rigour.
- What is Decentralized Social Media? — A first introduction to some decentralisation concepts, with some questionable (over)simplifications, but also linking to many projects & resources.
- After three years of GDPR, the European Data Protection Supervisor aptly calls it “a three-year-old who must still learn to walk”, and the EU Parliament called the Commission to take action against Ireland’s lack of enforcement to the tech giants based there.
- June 2/3: DWeb meetup: The Latest in the DWeb Ecosystem
- June 3/4: EFF30 Fireside Chat: Free the Internet, with Gigi Sohn
- July 10: IndieWeb Create Day; work on your personal website with the IndieWeb community
For these and more events, check out and subscribe to the 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 for all tips & suggestions.
The digest’s format and content are not set in stone. Feedback, corrections and suggestions for next editions are welcome at email@example.com. We don’t spy on our readers, so please do tell us what you think!