LibrePlanet 2022: The Net beyond the web

by on 20 March 2022
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Today I gave a talk at LibrePlanet 2022 about the internet and the web, giving a brief account of the web's past, its current state, and ideas for better futures.

In this talk I go over the old web (of 1990s and early 2000s) and how websites looked back then, fast-forwarding to the present day and the sad current state of the web, and some possibilities on where we could go from here if we would like to have a better net/web in the future for user freedom, privacy, and control.

Here is the abstract for my talk, also available on the LibrePlanet 2022's speakers page:

The modern web is filled to the brim with complexity, no shortage of nonfree software, and malware. Many, many people have written and spoken at length on these issues and their implications and negative effects on users' freedom, privacy, and digital autonomy. With the advent of technologies like WebAssembly, the modern day web browser has effectively become an operating system of its own, along with all the issues and complexities of operating systems and then some. Opening arbitrary websites with a typical web browser amounts to downloading an executing [mostly nonfree] software on your machine. But is all of this complexity really necessary? Is all of this needed to achieve the web's original purpose, an information system for relaying documents (and now media)? What if there was a way to do away with all of these complexities and go back to the basics?

In this talk we will examine the Internet beyond the modern web, some possibilities of what that might look like with concrete examples from protocols like Gopher from time immemorial, and more recent experiments and reimaginations of it in today's world, such as Gemini and Spartan. The talk will give a brief tour of these protocols and their histories, what they have to offer, and why one might want to use them in the 21st century.

Presentation slides: txt | pdf | bib
Speaker notes: txt
Video: webm

I will add the presentation video once the conference recordings have been processed and published by the Free Software Foundation. You can watch the presentation video below:

LibrePlanet is a conference about software freedom, happening on March 19-20, 2022. The event is hosted by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and brings together software developers, law and policy experts, activists, students, and computer users to learn skills, celebrate free software accomplishments, and face upcoming challenges. Newcomers are always welcome, and LibrePlanet 2022 will feature programming for all ages and experience levels.