Because Steve Needs ANOTHER project?

Social media bugs me. It bugs the fuck out of me. It can be serverless. Completely serverless. (Well, techichally not "completely", but more on that in a minute.) Today I tried an app that, while still maintained, is from 10 years ago, RetroShare. It's a serverless, peer to peer social network. It looks like somebody reinvented AOL, without the A, the O or the L, but it works.

So, why is this serverless thing important? How Elon Musk can control his hoarde of nazi minions, how Mark Zuckerberg can manipulate you to anger, then purchase, is the power of the server. You're not the client on a client/server model, you're the product. Anybody who owns a server, controls the clients, or potentially can. That's the importance of peer-to-peer.

A screenshot of RetroShare's connection window, showing a new person added to my circle, a real person I know, on the other side of the city, both of us behand our NAS boxes and ISP firewalls.
A screenshot of RetroShare's connection window, showing a new person added to my circle, a real person I know, on the other side of the city, both of us behand our NAS boxes and ISP firewalls.

Another way to look at it is this. I have friends, family, colleagues and hope to have a developer community around me, my peers. Without a server, connecting to my peers is safe, manageable with an addressbook and mutable. I can place my family in a group and only give them family relevant information. My friends get my off-colour jokes and leftist/equitist political rants. My colleagues get my code stuff and my music stuff. Some of my friends, like Wayne are colleagues, too, so he knows some of my colleagues and some of my friends and fam. The thing is, though, only because he let me into some of those connections (he's at the center of his social network) and because I let him into some of mine. (I'm at the centre of my socnet.) The special thing is, these networks overlap a little, and that is where the magic happens!

So, back to the app I mentioned earlier, RetroShare. It uses some tech, some buzzwords and very modern bittorrent tech to connect our social networks, but it doesn't have any servers out in the big wide world, like Facebook or Twitter. It has encryption, a distributed has table and bittorrent filesharing to hook people up, share conversations, documents, opinions and discuss topics. In that world, I can share you a 1 minute, short snippet of one of my songs, along with my and, if you like the song, you pay me, and I give you the full file. Apple or Google don't take a cent of it, because they're not the server brokering the deal. You and I brokered the deal, like 2 grownups.

Now do you see why serverless, peer-to-peer social networking is so important? Now we have the means of the artist or the tradesman owning the means of distribution, not just production. This is the real reason why the capitalists fought The Pirate Bay and brought in Apple, Amazon, Google and Spotify to lock up music. Not so much they didn't want to lose sales to pirates... They didn't want to lose their control over artists and makers. They are the middlemen, a term so disgusting, we hide it behind the French word, "Entrepeneur."

Now, like I say, RetroShare is cool, but it's a bit ugly, a bit clunky and old fashioned, like AOL without the squark of a modem and it looks a little like Windows 95 or Mac OS 9. Modern SocNets are slim, mobile microblogs, with reaction buttons, sleek industrial design and threaded conversations, rich media and the ability to embed a youtube video or a spotify station. Some even have markdown comands for rich text formatting.

Then, also today, I watched a video by Julia Evans. In a blog post, she'd just solved a file structure issure for me, so I thought I'd have a look around, and I watched "Build Impossible Programs." In her tale about building a program that could tell her what other programs were doing wrong, she talked of being bold, taking risks, learning new stuff as you delve into something you've never done before. And I suddenly realised, "I code, just not in Javascript, I can learn it. I have an idea that I can describe how to use it, but don't quite understand its technologies... yet... I don't know if a key interconnection problem can be done, so I examined prior art... AND IT CAN BE!"

Like I say above, I'm a leftist, I believe in collectives (free open source software is built by collectives) and I believe that wealth is not measured by money, it is measured by community prosperity and security. I believe that, without bosses or borders, there is less bullshit. Facebook users can't post from their platform to twitter, not can tweeps do the vice-versa. Even the fediverse, despite the brilliance of activitypub protocol, is a continent of small, city states, with admins, sock puppets, bros and honeybadgers.

My fam - I love them to bits, they annoy sometimes, but I'd never cut them off. I disagree with my sister on many things, but I'd never defederate her. So she feels safe enough being in my IRL circle, and I hers. My friends, like me, can sometimes be idiots, but we yank each others chains when one of us crosses the lines. I'm retired, I don't have work colleagues anymore, I'd like to. And we all have ideas, and we all share them. Me at the =centre of my social groups, you at the centre of yours, my sis at the centre of hers. And because more than half of my people live distributed across this Earth, I want that modern shiny interface, with nested threads and reaction buttons, sortable timelines so that I can't easily drunkpost to colleagues or my local charity.



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