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How To Keep Big Tech Out Of The IndieWeb

"The endgame for centralised tech is always money. The promises of paradise are just a means to fatten up the goose for slaughter."

Bob Leggitt
12 June 2022

Problem... Utopia attracts its own destruction. The more utopian a community, the more it will be beseiged by grasping thugs who want to strip it of all its value and place that value in their own bank account. For those who are excited about the future of the "IndieWeb", this presents a sobering question...

If we build an alternative to the excrutiating glob of broken, control-crazed, repetitive, braindead spam that the existing Web has become, and that alternative begins to offer real value, it will just be invaded and taken over by the same exhausting, spamming, stalking, wallet-chasers who ruined the Web as we know it.

So how does the IndieWeb exclude commercial tech? It might sound easy in theory. I mean, you ain't gonna put GAMCAM trash on your small home server and neither am I. But in practice it's a bit more complicated than that. If the IndieWeb gained real traction, GAMCAM would be kicking at the door like the cops in a crack bust. GAMCAM, in case you missed the memo, is an updated version of the former GAFAM - now standing for Google Apple Meta Cloudflare Amazon Microsoft.

"Doomsday for Big Tech will be the day the world becomes as fragmented and private as it was before the Internet arrived - but with a technological twist."

We've already seen Automattic angling for a place in IndieWeb culture, with some all-words-no-action posturing from Tumblr. And this has shown us how trusting some people can be of these $$$-chasing organisations. Matt Mullenweg has shown us his endgame with WordPress.com. No one would have believed in 2009 that WP could morph into the spyware-bloated, near-unusable, spam- and scam-infested hellscape it became.

So we need to stop imagining "it'll be different this time", because we're seeing exactly what we saw before. A nice guy, telling us he's all about making the world a better place, while he secretly plots to sell that "better place" to the Devil. The endgame for centralised tech is always money. The promises of paradise are just a means to fatten up the goose for slaughter.


"Let's face it - Big Tech does not know when to stop, and it will eventually create a monster that even the mainstream can no longer stand."

In recent times I've abandoned the study of achieving privacy on the existing Internet. Surveillance culture is now so deep-rooted as to be unavoidable. This year, my study of privacy has moved toward strategies which involve building entirely new ecosystems. Completely separate networks, which deliberately sever themsleves from the monopolistic monoliths.

This is not to dismiss the existing Web. That will be impossible. The existing Web is something we've increasing been forced to use, and the gatekeeping drives that eliminate our choices in mandatory online processes are being ramped up further. As I speak, bossware-pumpin' Microsoft is trying to position itself as the new global arbiter of ID verification, while trying (as ever) to exert greater control over the hardware we're allowed to use, and "sunsetting" any last remnants of non-bossware in its inventory.

"Small, localised wireless networks would be hard for Big Tech to infiltrate."

Cloudflare, meanwhile, starts its long-predicted shift from CAPTCHA-based blocking to a system based on device-recognition - which it seems to have either convinced or paid It's FOSS to believe is a good idea. This will, I guarantee, end with Cloudflare withdrawing widespread Web access to anyone who doesn't use approved, user-identifying hardware. And guess what, duh... FOSS-LOADED, INCOGNITO HARDWARE IS NOT GONNA GET ITS PRIVACY-FOCUSED LITTLE ASS APPROVED!

So yeah, the existing Web is doomed to abject, authoritarian dystopia. It will soon be little more than an additional, vastly more interefering government, if it's not already. We won't have the option to reject it, and that's been Big Tech's plan all along. But we can restrict it to necessary use only, and head to new ecosystems for pleasure and escape.


I've looked at alternative ideas like expanded wireless intranets, in which neighbours link themselves through wireless hubs that do not connect with an internet access point and thus exclude all external parties, including the ISPs. For those old enough to remember the 1970s craze, this concept might have a similar ideology to CB radio, where the technology saw improvisational upgrading to boost the connectivity range. Had you ever considered that with just one, standard, disconnected wireless router, you could email your neighbours without involving either the web or an internet service provider?

There's mileage in extending the range of that, and small networks of this kind would be hard for Big Tech to infiltrate. But the connectivity would at best be limited to local community. Even if greater range could be achieved, governments would quickly pounce on the technology and regulate it. Which would probably involve adding some peephole doorway through which Big Tech could gleefully march as per usual.

So what about worldwide connectivity? How do you set up an independent Web that is not vulnerable to a Big Tech gatekeeping grab? One sentence...

"Take away the money, and you take away the incentive."


When you strip away all the posturing, stalking the public for data is based on just one basic motivation: money. That's the only reason business gets involved in anything. Remove the cash and they don't wanna know.

Pulling out all potential revenue streams would make it pointless for either Big Tech or the e-commercial circus to descend upon a given wing of the IndieWeb. But the use of money in the ecosystem would have to be completely eliminated - and that includes cryptocurrency. The circus doesn't care whether the payments are in cash or crypto. It doesn't care whether they're sales or donations. If there's money changing hands, the circus wants to be involved.

"There is no technicologically-aware authority to dictate mainstream Web standards who doesn't have a massive finger in the surveillance pie. That's why the existing Web will only now become more closed to humane technology."

So to reclaim a good level of privacy, we'd need to leave our financial interests at the door of our new ecosystem. No donations. Everything is motivated purely by enthusiasm, and we fund whatever we need to fund through external revenue channels. A day job, a separate project on the mainstream Web, or whatever else.

What an incredible world that would create. There would still be issues to address - like the prospect of "digital marketers" plundering the IndieWeb for content, cheered on and backslapped by GAMCAM. But a new network could adopt the gameplan of an exclusive club, where only members get access. The concept of small, closed, online clubs, which cannot be accessed by bots, strikes unprecedented fear into Big Tech. As a content parasite, Big Tech relies on everything being fully open to the boundaries of its own gatekeeping mechanism.


Small, closed communities would also give the likes of Cloudflare a taste of their own medicine. Ya wanted a gating system, Cloudflare? Here's a gating system! And now who's on the wrong side of the gate? There's only a small world behind each individual gate, but if the concept took off, there could be millions - perhaps billions - of individual gates. This is doomsday for Big Tech. The world becoming as fragmented and private as it was before the Internet arrived - but with a technological twist.

"Now is the time to begin learning. We don't want to wait until Big Tech has us 100% trapped, and everyone with the knowledge to build an alternative ecosystem has disappeared into one, never to return."


The problem of alienation through mass distraction could also be solved by localising communities once more. This is the classic social media paradigm in which everyone has an infinite number of potential "friends" to chase. The result is that only those with the highest profiles get any real attention, and most people end up feeling alienated and ignored. Limiting electronic communication to a localised region only could prove to be a good thing socially, making the whole community visible again. A good thing for mental health too, one would suspect.

As I mentioned previously, we should also seek to change our publishing standards to accommodate small browser developers - although this would not be necessary in extended intranet groups, because nothing is connected to the WWW. If the whole thing connects through short-range wireless, it doesn't matter how many times a minute the browsers are trying to contact Google or Mozilla. No internet service, no data for the preds. The easier we can make it for new browser providers to get into the market, though, the better.


In time, we will probably see communication heading in this more localised or exclusive direction, because let's face it - Big Tech does not know when to stop, and it will eventually create a monster that even the mainstream can no longer stand.

It's a question of when, rather than if. But why wait? If you haven't already? Why not start exploring the idea of networking and home servers? It's pretty straightforward to install a server using Apache. And extended server packages like YunoHost and FreedomBox let you add functionality if you don't code. It may take us all a while to get up to speed with this stuff, but that's why now is the time to begin. We don't want to wait until Big Tech has us 100% trapped, and everyone with the knowledge to build an alternative ecosystem has disappeared into one, never to return.