[Air-L] Privacy Buzz

Nick air-l at njw.me.uk
Wed Feb 17 11:43:12 PST 2010

Quoth Zeynep Tufekci:
> 2- Many of these are natural monopolies; due to network externalities, it
> makes sense that there will be one big online auction space (Ebay), one big
> search engine (Google), one big social directory (Facebook), one big
> encyclopedia (Wikipedia), etc.

What do you mean by network externalities here? For some things like 
search, I'd tend to agree that centralisation is a simpler fit, but 
most applications I can think of, a good example being 
facebook-style 'social networking,' could work much better in a 
decentralised distributed way. Of course facebook is here now, and 
good P2P tools using for example FOAF & SSL & RSS aren't so much, 
but I certainly don't think it's the case that centralisation is 
inevitable for most things.

Indeed the model of the web that Zuckerberg envisages (with a few 
tweaks, such as removing facebook as intermediary), in which people 
use their extended online network more than eg google / ebay / 
craigslist to find information / products / services, makes 
decentralis[ed/able] networks more central (excuse the pun) still.

By virtue of its copyright licensing, wikipedia also somewhat avoids 
the problems of monopoly. The 'freedom to fork,' while far from 
perfect, significantly mitigates a lot of the problems with other 
centralised services.

It's relevant to note that yesterday I listened to the recording of 
Eben Moglen's recent talk on freedom & the cloud ( 
) and as always he's heavily influenced my thinking.

As opposed to an earlier comment which suggested that many people 
were just apathetic about various sorts of personal data being 
aggregated and sold, I think the scope of what's possible and being 
done is largely just poorly understood. So the problem isn't so much 
apathy as ignorance.

Nick White

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