I haven't criticized app.net here because I want to give them a chance to get their act together, and see what they come up with. But I also haven't "joined" because I place a very high value on my independence. I hope that they will accept my invitation to use RSS as a means of importing and exporting messages. That way our systems can interoperate. That's the right level of involvement for me. It would mean I could follow people who use their service in my own river-based aggregator. And they could read what I publish in my linkblog feed.
But app.net is still based on a centralized model, and I happen to believe that a decentralized approach is the only one that works long-term. It's the only way to preserve freedom of speech, and to allocate costs fairly to the people who use the most resources. And to provide a variety of tools and environments to satisfy a wide variety of use-cases.
Clubs and corporations can operate servers for their members. Computer communities used to have user groups, and they were a very good idea. I would operate a server for my family (I already kind of do that, I bet a lot of the people who read this blog do it too). The Hillside Club in Berkeley could operate one. The NYU Journalism Department. Stuyvesant High School. Berkman Center. You get the idea. It wouldn't be a huge groundswell at first, but a measured boot-up process.
If it starts a process of users gaining their independence from tech companies then app.net has done a good thing. That's why I think in these terms. Making it easy for people to set up their own servers, and hoping that they will do this for their friends, work colleagues and family members.
Amazon has an incredible proposition. They offer a free Linux or Windows server for one year. It's enough of a server to run a great linkblogging system. I know because I'm doing it, and also sharing my server with a few friends. We're not ready yet to support a lot of people doing this, but we're getting there. I'd love it if Rackspace made a similar offer, and Google and Microsoft, and lots of others.
And wouldn't it be wonderful if some major tech companies, instead of throwing boulders in our path, would actually put some energy behind this. It's been really awful the way some companies have behaved. Especially Google. Shameful. I often argued with Microsoft, in the 90s, that they would get 70 percent of all the growth that came from the web, so why don't they stop fighting it. Same message to Google. Your employees are making you act crazy. Take a long-term view of this stuff, and relax. This stuff isn't a threat. It's an opportunity to build something, the kind of thing users develop, not employees. Kick back and stop insisting on being the inventor of everything.