Another use for $50

A picture named bodie.jpgI 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.

BTW, in case you use Chrome, here’s a link that will actually enable you to view my feed. They broke RSS again.

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.

So I’d like to put an alternate idea out there.

A microblogging server that’s a simple install on EC2 or Rackspace or any other easy cloud-based server.

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.

From these seeds mighty mega-servers will boot up, like the ones that have sprouted around WordPress. Automattic could run a big server, for example.

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.

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About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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