( nks feed nks@nks.sh )

avoiding big companies

I like to be my own person, and one of the ways I like to do this is by not having my whole person owned by a single company.

A couple of years ago I started using mailbox.org for my email. The main reason that I did this was because I wanted a custom domain in my address, and I figured that if I was going to have to start paying then I may as well go for a company which had my pleasant privacy statements. Shortly after this I was checking my email in school (for context, mailbox was orange back then), and the person next to me saw that i was paying one euro a month (in Britain this was less than a pound at that point).

"You know you can get a Gmail account for free," they said.

Wise that I am, I pointed out that servers aren't free, so how could an email address be free? If I wasn't paying with money, I must be paying with something else, in the same way that a soldier gets free lodgings because they are paying with their life.

Unfortunately this didn't satisfy my friend. More people these days seem proud to say that they are "googlifying" their life. They stick all of their stuff - photos, music, email, documents, into Google, and praise the convenience and low low cost of nothing. I wish I could be like these people but I don't want to support this kind of monopoly, however convenient.

I was at a party the other day and as often happens at parties, everyone ends up debating politics and philosophy. Someone criticised me for pirating music, and I'd love to discuss that here some day, but the main point of this story is that I brought up the idea that the ethically right thing to do is never convenient.

I think that Google is a great example of this, because somehow everything that Google make is the best in its class. I think that their start as a search company has made it an intrinsic part of them to stick exceptional search into all their products. I'm not sure which part of their history led to them then shutting down all of the apps that people liked the best.

There are generally two ways to take back control of your data. The first is to use a paid for service, bonus points if you're paying for a self-hosted version of open source software. This way you don't have to deal with managing software but you get the advantages of being able to switch if that particular instance goes down.

Paying for software isn't a bad idea. Everybody loves free (as in beer) software, sure. But on the internet it costs money to host stuff (like I said at the start). Paying a little friendly company shows that you care and keeps them going. Stuff like Pinboard or Miniflux are good and it's good to give them money.

The other way is to stop doing everything through the internet because it is not necessary. Use offline apps, which which don't cost the developer any more to develop when they have more users. It's more difficult to get hacked and your data leaked this way. There are less passwords to remember. And offline there's a lot of quality free software.

More than anything, though, consider if you really need to be using these services. I know someone who has a Spotify premium account and uses exclusively to listen to about three bands. That's ten pounds a month. If they were to buy ten album from these bands, that's ten months of Spotify, and a lot more of the money will go to those bands. And after those ten months, the music is (kind of) free.

Seems a much better route to me.

October 06, 2019