Free as in "free speech", not as in "free beer".

Years we spent fighting to be able to read, fix, adapt and improve software. Being able to operate software wasn't always enough so we routed around the problem of software lock in. That solution is called Free and Open Source Software.

With web services becoming a commodity, and with companies like Yahoo! and Google that collect all our data, how do we prevent that our own data becomes proprietary data that we have no control over? How are we going to route around data lock in?

Much like Linux was able to take on Microsoft, and Wikipedia was able to take on Brittanica, will there be a community-driven David to take on today's Goliaths? Or do we need a Free Data Foundation similar to the Free Software Foundation?

A new battle is brewing.


Kris Buytaert (not verified):

I kind of remember reading HackTick and other CCC related publications back when I was like 16 or so that Information wants to be Free. It's in its nature so the fight must already have started years ago. But maybe the Chaos Computer Club really isn't such a good organisation to promote the concept. ;)

Heck... guess you have been reading Database Nation also. :)

bertboerland (not verified):

Complex question. The simple answer is "it is the data, dummy!". Not the network (used to be closed AOL-a-like's now the "open" internet), not the OS (used to be closed MSFT's, now "Linux"), not the application (used to be MSWord now; it is the data. And to fight someone's answer that there is Wikipedia, is is not as much the data as it is the meta data where the real value is.

It is hip to bash Google, so here is some food for those bashers:

* Google reads my e-mail (gmail)
* Google reads my blog (Googlebot / rss reader)
* Google knows who vistits my blog (Analytics)
* Google knows the value of my blog (Adsense)
* Google know what sites I visit (FF Google pagerank tool)
* Google knows what I search for (
* Google knows what I find interesting (Google Bookmark backup / sync)
* Google knows my friends (Orkut)
* Google knows my converstations (GTalk)
and lots and lots more. Fact is, Google knows a lot about me... and I -and most others- don't care.

So IMHO it is not just the data that is valuable, it is the meta data. And combining that will create a new beast that we will fight the next century.

And while it might be easy to transport the data via webservices, people -including me- like the value of the meta data combined. And as long as we give the authority of this meta data to parties like Google, we give away the power to abuse that meta data.

Now I would never use the domain name of someone else to blog on, let alone an ASP blog service for my own writings. I think it is just a question of time that the same holds true for meta data. If you can't / won't trust someone else with your meta data, then start your own safe with your own meta data on your own server.

Is that a weird idea? I dont think so. 15 years ago John Doe didn't care much for the internet, what could he possibly need on a computer of someone else. 5 years ago he went online. 10 years ago John didn't care much about proprietary operating systems, now he uses a Linux box. Now John (aka bert) didn't care much about who knows what. In 5 years time he is running all the services he needs on his own.

John and we as well will loose also a lot by breaking all the combined services like Delicious and Digg to our own servers/service; the fact that my and your meta data combined creates a new "uber" meta data structure where we both can benefit from!

Now if we could use distributed webservices to sync our meta data where and when we want it to whom we choose, I think we will be winning in 5 years. There are distributed search enegines starting right now for example.

Then again... maybe I'll still use google in 5 years time.

BTW: /me still has all his hacktics.

Moshe Weitzman (not verified):

I am fine with using external services as long as those services provide an easy way for me to backup my data regularly. Then I get the both of both worlds. If they disappear, or become undesireable, I can go elsewhere.

For example, here is a service that will send you a DVD of all your Flickr images: Thats perfect, IMO.

Privacy considerations are something else entirely. That really is a trust issue. It is true that once the organization has your data, you don't know exactly all the ways that they are using it. If you do down that road, you have to conclude that credit cards are an unacceptable risk. Likewise for automobile transponders and even telephone calls. As a practical matter, it is getting extremely hard to protect privacy.