Another event has once again cemented my thoughts that the informed technical person needs to run their own services rather than depend upon the benevolence of companies. It started with Google closing Google Reader. Then Facebook and Twitter got extra censorious. During all that, people started abusing DMCA requests on Youtube. Recently Google decided to close Google code. Now there the Ars Technica story that SourceForge is installing malware on software that is considered abandoned on their site.
Little by little, I’ve been trying to make myself less dependent on others. Sure, until we finally get to IPv6 and ISPs allowing users to run their own servers at reasonable cost I’ll still be dependent upon my hosting provider and upon the ICAAN not being pressured by some government to screw over my domain, but there’s nothing I can do about that for now. So I’ve been taking advantage of HTML5 and WordPress’ new built-in video abilities to upload videos here rather than Vimeo or Youtube where they can be removed at a whim. I might still ALSO upload them there for discoverability purposes, but they’re here – safe. Although I’m still posting some images to flickr and Google Plus, I’ve also (over the last year) reduced my dependence on those services. Both are likely in precarious states: flickr is owned by Yahoo and Google Plus seems about to tank. I’d rather not have my carefully constructed blog posts fall apart because the links no longer go back to those sites.
In the wake of this SourceForge thing, lots in the FLOSS community have begun to question what might happen with GitHub. At the moment it appears to be a very different situation because Github actually has a business model – charge for private git projects. So they don’t necessarily need to start adding malware to code in order to make money. But it’s still in someone else’s hands. I looked into GitLab today, but since I’m currently on shared hosting rather than a VPS, it doesn’t seem I can run it at the moment. On the plus side, all my git repositories on Github are just mirrors of what I have on my computer so they can never fully take them away from me. I’m also not running particularly popular projects at the moment so it really doesn’t matter too much. Still, if we ever move to where I’m able to once again self-host without going against my ISP’s terms of service, it may be something I end up doing to ensure that I am as self-reliant as possible.
Outside of what I decide to do for myself, we do seem to be at an interesting crossroads where it is in the interests of many of the companies to get us on their clouds so they can mine our data and sell it. But the social (and/or legal) contract isn’t there to keep them from acting incorrectly – adding malware, removing your data, etc. Will the prices continue to fall such that it becomes negligible for us techno-nerds to roll our own solutions? The biggest reason I don’t run OwnCloud is that it doesn’t provide a solution at a cheap enough price that’s better than dropbox, Google Calendar, etc. But if that day comes, do we just leave the non-technical people behind in their gilded jails? Do we try and help them out? Will they even care?