One of the great outcomes of the storage-neutral-app firefight (besides Tom’s  lyrical comment) was Pat Lockley pointing me to the Unhosted site.


As we move from an era of browser-based web apps to one that is increasingly about client-side/server-backed apps, one of the very real concerns people have is whether hackability disappears. Unhosted is very fringe, and not exactly poised for wide adoption. But it’s a great example of how the technological shift we’re seeing can be seen as *more* empowering than what we live with now, if we chose to engage with that shift. Unhosted embraces the “one server per human” concept, but pushes the much of the functionality of these servers up to client apps written in a broswer-based, locally run javascript environment. Apart from the browser-based nature of the apps, the idea is similar to what I was discussing in my post — make the server piece dumb enough that apps using it don’t need special server code. The server, in this case, is just a big dumb resource, like a hard drive, CPU, etc. It doesn’t need to know what app you are running any more than your RAM needs to know you are running Microsoft Word or Reason 7.

It’s a classic seperation of concerns (SoC) solution:

The unhosted web apps we use can be independent of our personal server. They can come from any trusted source, and can be running in our browser without the need to choose a specific application at the time of choosing and installing the personal server software.

When you dig into it, you start to see how radical an idea storage-neutrality is.  Our assumption that because we need 24/7 access to our data via servers we also need to run server code is so deeply ingrained in the public consciousness that when you challenge it people don’t tend to comprehend what you’re challenging. But it’s this idea — that because our data is on Server X our code must be as well — that is at the heart of the corporate control of what Jon Udell calls our “hosted lifebits“.  And if you want the sorts of freedoms people care about, that’s the piece you have to attack.

This is not a “compromise solution”. It’s a much more radical rethinking of what needs so happen. The future is server-backed/client-based apps, one way or another. That can serve to increase our freedom or to lessen it, depending on how we approach the next several years. I don’t really know what the correct answers are, but it seems to me this is the right fight.

6 thoughts on “Unhosted

  1. It’s the right fight, I just wish it were a fight that didn’t already seem lost. The future indeed lies in expanding client-side apps, but I suspect it will only be in conjunction with parallel expansion of use and dependence on the cloud as data and computational service *too*. In other words, a radical rethinking doesn’t feel like it’s in the cards . I hope I’m wrong.

    • History is not necessaily on our side. But I think the situation, right now, today, is still very fluid. And as I stated in another post providers like Amazon S3, MS Azure and others have some interest in the Big Dumb Server market, so one hope is that they would be allies, in an attempt to become the platform (which would be fine, because to them it would just be hosted bits, not data).

  2. It’d be interesting to know how much data facebook has on you in terms of GB, or hard disk SI units. And then think how many algorithms or data processes are ran over it.

    How much of us now lives as a data self?

  3. Pat — honestly, the most worrying thing to me is not that the people at Facebook have the data, but that they are so ignorant when it comes to understanding social systems and political dynamics. They really do not comprehend why people are worried about their data collection, even *after* getting punk’d by the suits in the government for *years*. After years of being fed Ayn Rand mush disguised as philosophy, they refuse to understand anything as a trade-off.

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