Protocols, Not Platforms

Aug. 22, 2020 [technology] [proprietary]

Imagine for a moment the absurdity of an email service which only allowed emails to be sent or received among its own internal users. If somebody wanted to communicate with you, they would also need to create an account with the service instead of using their own existing email with another provider. This unfortunate scenario has sadly become the norm among online video chat as well as some other online communications solutions.

I wouldn’t advocate anyone to use these clients but, how nice it would be if users of Skype could seamlessly enter video sessions with users of Zoom, Whatsapp or any other video software, proprietary or otherwise. This could have been a reality if online video chat were built around protocols instead of platforms. Protocols facilitated things like IRC and email to flourish wherein each user chooses their own software client. This is the power of the protocol model.

Conversely, the platform model has been pushed so hard by industry because it delivers such granular control over users. Victims of platforms are entirely dependent upon that platform’s operator to continue to access it. These users can be uniquely tracked and, more importantly, monetized. The platform ensures that all users are stuck within the confines of a service with no way to escape. This is great for maintaining user retention. However, all of these things are anti-user and anti-freedom. How did we arrive at this hellscape?

Here are some areas where I find that standardized, free protocols are badly needed (or already exist but, sadly, are not commonly used):

And here are some areas where free protocols were once absent but have been created to address the issue: