Federation doesn't work anymore

Federation doesn't work anymore

Federation is the interchange of cleartext data between fixed address servers that authenticate each other by DNS and X.509 and optionally wrap everything into TLS. This describes, non exclusively, SMTP, XMPP and HTTP federation overlays such as OStatus, GNU Social and Diaspora.

Still think Federation is better than staying on Facebook in the first place? Think again. Here's yet another reason why:

Diaspora pods are almost exclusively run by male heterosexuals. Let's take an exemplary look at it from the perspective of a ficticious girlfriend. If I was the girlfriend of a pod administrator, I wouldn't want to use your server because then you can read everything I talk about you with my other girlfriends. I also wouldn't trust my university administration. If I was tech savvy enough to set up my own server, then I can host all of my girlfriends! But wait, they also have secrets from me! And if I'm not tech savvy? Well in that case I will just go to Facebook as I presume that company will never care about my private affairs and I also don't mind the American government as I really don't have much to hide.

So next week the administrator of the pod gets a friendship request on Facebook from his girlfriend (and possibly gets in trouble if he does not accept it and pay attention to her posts on it).

End of story. No federation.

…. But if my social software was just something I click and install, then whoops I can add all of my friends and it just works. Just like Facebook, only it is cooler because it can do nifty things like download the photos from my camera itself, then ask me if I want to share them with anyone. I don't need to learn how to get photos from my camera and upload them to Facebook. I don't even need to be online at the moment of sharing things. And the journalists even tell me it's safe.. not that I had anything to hide, but if I can have absolute privacy for free, I'll surely take it and feel much better, like when I bring down my organic trash.

The Legend Of Federation

Remember the days when you could have your own e-mail server? Well, you luckily still can, but more and more people are just using the web-based offerings from Facebook, Google or Microsoft (Hotmail).

If you send messages to several people, there will almost always be someone who reads mail at one of those companies. You call that privacy? And don't say you can encrypt your correspondence with PGP as that is not sufficient.

We've been doing federation for twenty years and came to the conclusion that it's not part of the solution. It is part of the problem. Federation is a broken model that you shouldn't strive for but rather get over with.

Everyone needs to be in charge of her or his own communication node, not depend and not have to trust anyone other's except for just that data that was intentionally shared to them. Sounds simple, but it is actually complicated and cannot be achieved with the federation architecture.

So what should we do instead? Well, you can read the rest of the website about that, or look at the comparison for some Best Practice recommendations. See also what else is broken about the Internet.