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Re: [GNUnet-developers] iOS victims being late at the GNUnet party

From: Ed Baskerville
Subject: Re: [GNUnet-developers] iOS victims being late at the GNUnet party
Date: Thu, 16 Jul 2015 12:23:10 -0700

I appreciate you all continuing to engage with me on this, as I might be 
getting annoying. If this is taking the list too far afield, let me know and 
I'm happy to take the conversation elsewhere.

> On Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 10:46:37AM +0200, Jeff Burdges wrote:
>> No.  Revolutions are never about appealing to everyone.
> Indeed, Ed. People who favor convenience will not be interested in
> a distributed social network anyway if they already have a broad
> choice of apparent alternatives to Facebook that come with fancy
> apps that make a true libre alternative hard to stand out.

You're right, not everyone. Perhaps I overstated the case regarding people that 
don't care about privacy. I think there's a small core of people that will 
choose their platform for privacy, but that there's much bigger group that will 
take smaller steps, because they don't care enough yet and don't see any 
options, but they have the potential to move in the right direction. But the 
network is still going to have to stand out on non-privacy dimensions. Facebook 
helps to some extent here: they actually hurt their user experience by 
optimizing for ad revenue (addiction) rather than what users--when stepping 
away from their compulsive clicking--would actually ask for.

I also think the situation differs between Europe and the United States, and 
I'm sure that's part of why I see things slightly differently. I remember 
reading a poll, which I can't find right now, saying that both Americans and 
Europeans were more concerned about privacy post-Snowden, but that Americans 
were far less likely to do anything about it.

> They way to get these folks could be completely different: We
> build a momentum of people who do care and organize strong
> enough that a distributed social network is a fully integrated
> natural experience on all libre platforms. That makes millions
> of people happily enjoying a degree of privacy no-one would hope 
> for today. Then the iPhone peeps will get the feeling they are 
> missing a trend.. THAT IS WHAT HURTS.. BEING LATE TO A PARTY!!1
> So they will suddenly be interested in a single practical package
> that jailbreaks the phone and installs gnunet/secushare on it,
> and even feel cool about having done something naughty.

An appealing narrative, but I don't buy it. Let's say the distributed social 
network gains traction among on libre platforms. Then your plan is to implement 
a jailbreaking tool that iPhone users will install in order to connect to their 
friends, and then maintain a jailbreaking arms race with Apple until every 
iPhone user has switched to unencumbered free phones? I don't think so. It's an 
invasible strategy.

Being distributed means you have to operate based on open protocols. That means 
anybody can implement the protocols on any platform. The upfront cost of 
reimplementing the protocols may be higher than a jailbreaking tool. But once 
they work, they'll keep working, and the more successful the network is, the 
greater the incentive will be to implement them. Especially if there's a 
mechanism to connect to the network without implementing the full GNUnet 
protocol stack.

So you'll end up connecting the network to (non-jailbroken) iPhones anyway.

Also possible: someone implements a distributed social network based on similar 
underlying principles that *doesn't* interoperate with your network, but that 
has slick apps on non-libre platforms. Which one gains traction?

I think the better strategy is to deploy your code on those platforms upfront 
(or with some short lag), or at least allow others to do so. Compromise the GPL 
only for the sole exception of App Store distribution, nothing else.

> Should that prove wrong we still have option two: mandating a
> libre distributed social network by law since whatever is out
> there today is anti-constitutional. In that case Apple will have
> to comply if it intends to continue selling iPhones in those
> countries that adopt such a law.

This is an interesting idea, and you might be able to pull it off in the EU...

More straightforward: just require app marketplaces to be compatible with the 
GPL. I think there's a clear "national interest" angle here too, since 
government grant-funded scientific code (of which there is plenty with GPL 
dependencies) should be distributable on mainstream app marketplaces. I suspect 
there are a lot of scientists that would be willing to say that.

> In either case it is a losing strategy to try to play by the
> rules of the market and the market owners, putting libre users
> at risk (one iPhone friend could be enough to expose your privacy)
> for the gain of hardly catching the attention of the distracted
> average Apple consumer.

You're not playing their game just by distributing through their channels. 
You're not trying to make money, which has already freed you from the most 
important constraints (violating your users' privacy for the sake of money and 
trying to keep secrets). And the gain of making good, appealing, usable apps 
isn't just for the "average Apple consumer"; it's also for non-technical 
privacy advocates; and for technical people too.

As for the App Store compromise, I still feel like I'm missing something here. 
What's the difference between someone with an iPhone and someone running 
Windows or OS X or Samsung-shipped Android for the verifiability of running 

>> We should instead worry that people to actually enjoy using our tools.

Yes, absolutely. But I'm worried they won't even perceive the opportunity to 
try them.

>> I suppose this means eventually moving towards the TextSecure
>> development ideology :

Definitely, I think you should. But not eventually--as soon as possible.

(I will pass over the fact that TextSecure interoperates with Signal on iOS, 
which is available in the App Store, because it need not be mentioned.)


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