It’s difficult to exaggerate the damage that has been caused to the original vision of the web through the commercialisation of domain names. Imposing artificial scarcity and the complexity of commerce systems on a fundamental identifier makes it orders of magnitude harder to self host. Domain names should be a public good. We should embrace in the EU and mandate that all browser vendors implement support and get Let’s Encrypt to provide TLS support.


@aral Under what legal theory can a liberal government micromanage all browser vendors?

@freakazoid @aral under the same theory that allows them to micromanage the ingredients in food, or medication, or.... regulation is common

@walruslifestyle @aral Food safety is explicitly included as a regulatable category. So far software has been relatively untouched.

And we're not just talking about commercial entities here, but open source developers as well.

Food safety laws have been used to squash independent food production fairly effectively. The same will happen with open source once we start regulating software.


@freakazoid @aral the majority of web users use Chrome, from Google, or Firefox, from Mozilla which takes large corporate donations. literally what's being proposed is regulating these large corporate entities to stop them from leveraging their power to wrest money from individuals. exactly what regulation is intended to do. I fail to see the issue, nor the novelty, in this aside from being astounded that it hasn't happened sooner given the level of harm caused

@walruslifestyle @freakazoid @aral

You are pretty naive if you think that regulation constraints big existing players.

The problem with regulating software now ia that it is still too primitive. We would hurt innovation that occurs on free software.

The solution for these issues is very simple: cap company size. Split Google, Facebook, Amazon and friends in a few thousands little company. Problem solved.

@Shamar @aral @walruslifestyle I would certainly prefer splitting up the big players to passing regulations that cement their power by making it too costly for upstarts to grow past a certain point or maybe even exist.

Plus, once you go down the path of regulating software without a pretty strong Schelling point, you will immediately see less liberal jurisdictions doing the same for their own purposes. Use our root servers, use our CAs, insert our spyware, use our blocklists, etc.

@walruslifestyle @aral @Shamar I am willing to accept the possibility that there is a strong Schelling point for a regulation that requires support for a given set of root servers, I just don't know what that is and would like to hear what others think it is.

@Shamar @aral @walruslifestyle Incidentally, I am open to the idea of software regulation if I can figure out how it's not going to harm free software in ways that don't provide clear benefits on the other side, and if I can convince myself there's a clear Schelling point that's going to prevent the same justification from being used for some really harmful regulation down the road.

@freakazoid @walruslifestyle @aral

I'm open to regulate software corporations but regulating software is regulating speach.

Software #programming is a fundamental method of human expression that today is still too primitive to realize it's potential as a force for human #freedom.

So we have most scribes/programmers serving the Pharaoh/Capitalism, a few trying to contrast it but on it's rules and a handful studying how to make everybody write / code.

@Shamar @aral @walruslifestyle The form software regulation seems most likely to take is just an extension of what software regulation already exists: it'll apply to *users* of the software for particular applications. So government users, users in safety-critical applications, public schools, etc. That's also how patents work against open source software today; it's only using the software that infringes, not publishing it.

@Shamar Removing the other folks since we're getting into software philosophy here, but I find this topic super interesting.

I kind of wonder if many of the people getting sucked into serving capitalism would really be making a difference, though. Being able to program doesn't necessarily mean you'd be helping increase freedom if you weren't serving the man. For that I think about Alan Kay and the people around him who are focusing on research into revolutionizing how people use computers.


They would be irrelevant.

When everyone will be able to code and debug their own software, software corporations will be much different from now.

@Shamar @freakazoid I'd add that they'd still be very different if everyone had software freedom but didn't necessarily know how to code.

@Shamar @freakazoid The non-programmers would be able to choose who exercises their software freedoms on their behalf.

I think that's perfectly acceptable.

@alcinnz @freakazoid

Would you accept to just be able to decide who can write for you? Instead of being able to write yourself?

I know that I wouldn't.

And don't say that writing is easier!
I've seen how hard is to learn on myself and my daughter. It's not easy at all! But over a few thousands years we managed to make it accessible to the whole humanity.

Informatics will be a serious discipline when we will reach this level of accessibility.

@Shamar @freakazoid If, say, it's writing legal documents I'm happy to defer to someone specialized in that field. As long as I have a decent understanding of what they wrote.

I think that's very comparable, but I'm guessing you're going to disagree.

@alcinnz @freakazoid

Yes, for several reasons.

For example, even if you can't write a legal text from scratch, you can read it, understand it.

People who can't program, can't debug.

So they have no way to see if what is written is really what they want the hardware to do for them, even if they have the whole multi gigabytes codebase available.

When everyone will be able to code, all programs will be small and composable, by market selection: crap won't survive.

@Shamar @freakazoid I think we're back on the same page.

People do need to at least see what the computer's doing (e.g. any network activity). And I don't think that has any real conflict with usability at all.

@alcinnz @freakazoid

There is no conflict with usability.
On the contrary, I think we will see new wonderful metaphors that will raise software usability at new levels.

BUT knowing what the network is doing is not enough. Debugging the networking stack, being able to trace a bad packet back to the line of code that forged it, is what people need to be able to do.

You cannot ask a friend this.
He will never have the time to do it.
People need to be able to do it.

@alcinnz @Shamar This is an interesting point. It seems likely that a much larger fraction of the population can learn to read code that's written expressly for that purpose (as it should be) than could learn to write it.

I would love to think that everyone could learn to write code, but I suspect that would imply pretty fundamental changes in our society that made it very difficult to grow up as an intellectually incurious person.

This is why computers need to force people to learn to use them

@Shamar @alcinnz I don't really understand why almost no computer game requires you to pick up a manual, even with relatively complicated game mechanics, but nearly every programming language does. We've had this right since Colossal Cave.

@freakazoid @alcinnz

Nice question. I have to think about it.

Not that reading a manual (or a book) is bad.
It's another act of rebellion actually.

But how complex video games manage to not need them? Note: complex _video_ games, because every tabletop game need you to read something.

@Shamar @alcinnz Tabletop games are video games that run in your brain ;-)

I've started calling this "the ramp", though I probably stole that from elsewhere: just ramp up the complexity at a pace set by the user, always pushing them to be able to do more.

And I much prefer when it's part of the gameplay rather than a separate "tutorial level" you have to choose. Portal is an excellent example of this.

@freakazoid @Shamar As a professional I certainly find I can read just about any programming language right away, whereas writing it requires some study.

I imagine it'd be a similar dynamic to a layperson.

@alcinnz @Shamar That's not saying much since most programming languages are essentially identical. The real question is, can you read PROLOG?

@freakazoid @Shamar I've studied it long before I've seen it in the wild (I actually haven't yet), so I don't know if it'd say much if I can.

But yes, there is a remarkable similarity between programming languages.

@freakazoid @alcinnz

> I would love to think that everyone could learn to write code, but I suspect that would imply pretty fundamental changes in our society that made it very difficult to grow up as an intellectually incurious person.

I can't parse this sentence, sorry.

Mind to elaborate?

People don't learn to write because they like it, but because they are forced to at school.

@Shamar @alcinnz Sorry, common problem with stuff I write.

I think that a lot of people end up as intellectually incurious adults, and once they're at that point, they're just not going to use anything that requires them to learn. Maybe there's some way to fix this without fundamentally changing society, but I don't know what that would be. Heck, I don't know how to fundamentally change society to do it either, except that I think that it happens far less in cultures that value learning.

@alcinnz @Shamar It's not true that people learn to write because they're forced to; in fact, forcing someone to learn something is precisely how you wind up with intellectually incurious adults.

My children are not being/will not be forced to learn. I have a 7 year old who can't read, but I guarantee you he will learn, because he's bumping against the limits of what he can do without reading and it's bothering him.

@freakazoid @alcinnz

People learn well what they like.

People like what is teached with love.

But if you ask a kid "here is a pen and here is a bike for you to use now, pick one", there's no way he will take the pen.

@Shamar @alcinnz Kids need guidance. They do not need to be forced to learn; curiosity is literally a drive to learn. You can guide that curiosity, but if you force kids to learn when they don't want to, there's a good chance they will grow to hate learning, and they will pretty much stop learning the moment they become adults.

Perhaps there is more of a genetic component to this than I realize, but I'd be very disappointed to learn that.

@freakazoid @alcinnz

I don't think there is a gene (or a set of genes) of #curiosity. I think it's _part_ of what qualify our specie, but I've seen it on all kind of people, including people with all sort of mental diseases. The difference is what people are curious for. But this is fine: it's dumb to all look in the same direction, humanity needs people learning all sort of different things.

#Math is the art of learning

And #Informatics too.

@Shamar @walruslifestyle @freakazoid @aral Isn't this what Anti-trust is for?

How I long for that concept to be taken seriously again.

@alcinnz @walruslifestyle @freakazoid @aral

The problem is that people don't want to see.. the sky.

Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Mozilla... are weapons. Weapons that sometimes backfires, but that are hield very well from the same country that... well... defines what #Capitalism is.

How they can split their own weapons?

China is in no way better, but it's the only nation that resist to become a US colony.

We need alternatives!

@alcinnz @Shamar @freakazoid @aral yes. regulating monopolies used to be done more ime, but barely occurs now. when it has, eg to Microsoft, it had a beneficial effect

@Shamar @alcinnz @freakazoid @aral applying antitrust law to Microsoft did not result in the dominance of the Chrome web browser. that is a historically false suggestion. can you please at least try?

@walruslifestyle @alcinnz @freakazoid @aral

No wait, I was there.

IE6 had 92% of the market.

Without that "antitrust" sentence, today #JavaScript would still be a toy to do little to nothing on the client side and all elaborations would occur server side. The #Web would be completely different simply because #Microsoft was actively hurting it as an app dev platform.

I hate to admit this, but had they won we wouldn't have this dystopia.

@Shamar @aral @alcinnz @walruslifestyle No, we'd have a much worse dystopia where every site uses ActiveX and you can't use most of the web without Windows.

@freakazoid @walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral

ActiveX weren't doing much well back then. The two contenders for the "#Web as a Application Deployment Platform" were #Java Applets and #Flash.
And later, Microsoft moved to .NET and WPF: they didn't consider the Web as a viable architecture for a distributed operating system. They were right, but nobody want to admit this now (not even them).

But mostly, back then, there was a huge movement towards the #Accessible and #SemanticWeb that #JS killed.

@Shamar @aral @alcinnz @walruslifestyle WASM turns the web into a viable application deployment platform. Or will when it finally escapes JS's broken security model.

@freakazoid @walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral

No it doesn't.

What make you think that executing a #WASM binary that a stranger serves over #HTTP (which is designed to serve cacheable hypertext) and potentially customizes for you can be safe?

To me it can only be worse, from a #security perspective, than #JS because any unintended behaviour is way easier to hide in a binary.

@Shamar @aral @alcinnz @walruslifestyle It seems like the goalposts have moved from what application deployers view as a viable application deployment platform to what YOU view as a viable application deployment platform.

@freakazoid @walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral

You said

> WASM turns the web into a viable application deployment platform.

This is not a theorem proof or a scientific result. It's just YOUR own opinion.

An opinion that is very hard to sustain technically (at least if you give a shit about users' security) but if you want we can discuss the matter: it's possible than in 20 years of Web development / deployment practice I missed something.

@Shamar @aral @alcinnz @walruslifestyle I'm curious how the alternative you think we'd have had MS won their antitrust fight would improve on any of the things you've mentioned?

@walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral @Shamar And again, we're still talking about what YOU think is a viable platform versus what app deployers would be willing to use. I'm not arguing that it's not a shit show; just that WASM is an improvement over JS that in app deployers eyes will make it sufficient for their needs.

JS is no more transparent than WASM; obfuscated JS is no easier to read than disassembled WASM.

@Shamar @aral @alcinnz @walruslifestyle I guess what I'm really trying to understand is why/how you think the computing world would have come with something better than the web for application deployment rather than just inventing an equally bad shitshow. All the other popular ones, they're all a shitshow on one or more axes.

@freakazoid @walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral

#Plan9 proposed a decent architectural alternative.

FAR from perfect (that's why I forked it! :-D) but got more axes right.

.NET was another potential contender (at least in the vision that I've read Gates had).

Worse than Plan9, but very innovative on several aspects.

.NET had an great weakness: Microsoft.
They completely missed the potential of Open Source marketing and loss the war again.

@Shamar @aral @alcinnz @walruslifestyle I know a bit about Plan 9 but not about their proposal for application deployment.

I agree about .Net. There was a lot of potential there. Through their embracement of Mono there still seems to be a lot, but it keeps moving too slowly to gain enough momentum.

@freakazoid @walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral

Today .NET is like Java in 20 years ago.

The past.

It's not going anywhere (like Java), but it's not even going to change the world anymore.

@freakazoid @walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral

As for #Plan9 as application deployment platform it's very simple: make everything a file system that can be transparently exported through a network and composed of several services all visible as files and folders with properly manageable permissions and visibilities and then... enjoy.

Now the user can safely export a piece of its screen to make a weather service draw the forecast there.

@freakazoid @aral @alcinnz @walruslifestyle

> I'm not arguing that it's not a shit show; just that WASM is an improvement over JS that in app deployers eyes will make it sufficient for their needs.

And again I'm saying that App deployers do not think so (except if you mean #Google #Facebook or #Amazon to which WASM can save tons of bandwidth)

> obfuscated JS is no easier to read than disassembled WASM.

You don't know what you say. ;-)

@freakazoid @walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral

Oh... that's simple.

By now we would have a #SemanticWeb of human readable and machine readable #HyperText. Probably we would have an easy to strip #HTML tag for #Ads, better Web #typography, better #CSS and way, way more browsers simply because #MS didn't care about the #Web.

OTOH, people would be more used to buy applications to install, probably through systems like APT on Windows too.


@freakazoid @walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral

Note: there would still be issues in the world.

Famine, war, low quality software...

But at least the Web would still be an immense public library that people would be able to consume through a browser AND through any other application they could conceive.

But the applications wouldn't be customised on the fly for the user knowing EVERYTHING about him and without leaving any evidence.

@Shamar @aral @alcinnz @walruslifestyle Ok, this makes a lot more sense to me, but I still have questions:

Why do you think an apt-like system would be the way people would install apps even on Windows, versus an even earlier appearance of the platform-specific app stores we have now?

In the absence of on-the-fly customization and spying through the web, why do you think the platform vendors wouldn't have turned the OS itself into a surveillance apparatus much sooner?

@walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral @Shamar The problem is, the absence of surveillance via the web doesn't make people's data any less valuable. In the absence of control by online platforms like Facebook, control of the operating system itself would be way more valuable. I think computers would still be turning into appliances, just for services provided by Microsoft and Apple (Google probably wouldn't exist) instead of Facebook Google.

@Shamar @aral @alcinnz @walruslifestyle This is not to say that the web is great as it exists, just that the market forces that shaped it into the shitshow it is today would still have existed even if the web hadn't turned into an app deployment platform.

And frankly, I doubt stewardship of the web would have been significantly better. I think it's just as likely the web would have been overtaken by proprietary platforms in the same way messaging has.

@freakazoid @walruslifestyle @alcinnz @aral

There's a lot to say here.

Why APT like?
Because App stores mimic APT.
That is a trusted source of software.

Why the OS wouldn't have become a surveillance tools?
Because Microsoft was very profitable selling Windows for money. Any backdoor discovered would have been a loss of market share.

Would we have Linux on smartphones?
Probably not. But I would accept the exchange.

@walruslifestyle @Shamar @freakazoid @aral I've heard a few reasons for this. One being the Nixon/Thatcher ideology that only price matters when it comes to anti-trust. Another compares it to when railways were proliferating, then too most people thought the technology had a natural tendency towards monopolization.

Whatever the reason I want antitrust to be enforced again so that it will be easier to compete against MAGAF.

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