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Songs on the Security of Networks
a blog by Michał "rysiek" Woźniak

Apostasy in Poland

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

It’s finally done, I’m an apostate. Well, almost – I just need to get the baptism certificate with proper annotation by mail. I am no longer institutionally tied to the Catholic Church and it feels great.

It all started about 3 years ago. I got to the conclusion that I do not believe in the guy up in the sky, and even if I did – I would not need the Church for that. What logically followed was that a nice “thank you Godbye” note was in order, as I strongly disagree with policy, methods and actions of this organisation.

What was needed

According to a document issued by the Polish Episcopal Conference (Rules of conduct concerning the formal act of leaving the Church, original here), what was needed was:

  • a letter of resignation from the Catholic Church;
  • baptism certificate duplicate;
  • two witnesses;
  • at least two visits to the rector of “our” parish.

Two, as during the first visit one is supposed to reveal the will to leave, rector then has to (according to the document above, and I cite):

(…)should in a personal, full of concern, pastoral conversation establish what are the real reasons for such a decision and with love and prudence try to change that decision and awaken faith seeded in the sacrament of baptism. Hence as a rule the act of apostasy – if it goes through regardless of undertaken efforts – should not be done the same day the person wanting to leave the Church announces their intent to the priest, but after a time rector prudentially sets for making the final decision, having such dire canonical consequences.

Apparently nobody seems to care that when I decide to take apostasy the last thing I fancy doing is “a personal, full of concern, pastoral conversation” with a representative of an organisation that I am trying to leave.

Preliminary steps

I got the baptism certificate, found a few templates of the letter (sorry, they’re in Polish only), based on those I created a short, succinct version and gone to the rector. That last thing was not an easy task, as the poor overworked man only had a single duty hour on a single day of a week, and exactly when every normal working person is either at work, or at school.

That, I suppose, should be a good sign of priest’s “you-are-a-mere-supplicant” take on our case, but I must have ignored it. After all, the conversation was supposed to be full of “love and prudence”…

First StationConversation

Obviously, rector was not amused. Thankfully I don’t recall all the details of our conversation, but I do remember that: 1. an attempt was made to convince me that a person not heeding the One True Faith is completely irresponsible, immoral and generally a scoundrel; 2. having taken a course in Logic (and a good one at that) I was shocked to discover that a person in such a high office as the rector, being in a position of authority to many, is unable (unwilling?) to comprehend the difference between an implication and if-and-only-if.

All in all it was both funny and scary. The “personal and full of concern” conversation consisted of him announcing his truths and their supposedly “obvious” conclusions, after which I in a calm manner was showing the gaping holes in his reasoning (no, I will not agree to an assumption that if I am Catholic somehow automagically that makes me moral; and even if I did, it still does not follow that only Catholics can be moral!..); after that the priest would either repeat his reasoning or pound his fist, or – for added rhetorical effect – do both in any order.

Basically the whole conversation was lost time, as rector finally just stated that my letter was too short. Simple statement of intent of leaving the Church is not enough, one “needs to justify”. I’ll just quote here in response:

Engaging with world-view issues of third parties or justifying to another person one’s religion is in our opinion unacceptable in a law-observing state. It is also not required in other countries.
Polish Association of Rationalists.

Long break and a nudge

After that delightful conversation I didn’t get back to the topic for about 3 years. I didn’t want to drag my witnesses to the end of the charted lands (where I lived) just to hear, e.g., that the justification must be different. Besides I just lost interest. In making any further contact with rector, for example.

Then one day a friend reporter from Sweden wrote that she’s going to Poland due to impending Polish EU Presidence and is supposed to write a few articles on social issues (including the Church) – and might I know anybody that would be willing to do apostasy and go on record with it? I asked around, suggested her to write to the Polish Association of Rationalists, and when her desperation to find somebody reached it’s zenith – “ah, what the hell” (sic!), thought I, and we decided I will be the guy.

A long expected party

This time I was prepared perfectly. I had three witnesses (one of whom decided at the last moment); I had my (Catholic) girlfriend by my side; I had two Swedish journalists on-board; and I had the letter, calling on the canonical code, the Freedom of Religion Bill, and the Protection of Personal Data Bill (and here is a pdf version; sorry, both in Polish). I have established the “working hours” (up 400%! now whole 4 hours a week!) and the whole gang was afoot with the idea that – after all the sacraments I took – the time is high for my first profanment.

When we got there we were treated with 25 minute wait, a procession (basically about 20 people walking around the church) and some 2 persons waiting in line.

When our queue came I entered the parish chancellery, the rest of the group with me; I tried to explain the rector who all those people were, but he got extremely agitated (taking a photo by one of the Swedish journalists was a bit counterproductive in the circumstances) and showed everybody but me and the witnesses the door (while loudly stating his disapproval and waving his finger).

Insulting Comrade as a supplicant

Either way we got straight to business, I took four copies of the letter out and stated that I would like the additional witness (the one that decided late, so her name was not printed on) to write in; It was a bit superfluous, but I wanted her to be part of the process too. Then it started and Logic raised its ugly head once again.

Namely, the rector asserted that there should be just two witnesses. I steadfastly stood by the notion that there should be at least two – so that there can be three. After quite a bit of back-and-forth between the two of us (“nowhere does it state that there has to be three witnesses!”/“yes, but nowhere does it state that there cannot be three of them.”/“but here it states that there should be two!” and so on and so forth) I used the “proprietor” argument: this is my document, prepared by me and presented to you, but I retain the right to change it and make it look the way I wish. And this is the moment we got our first great quote!

You are a mere supplicant here and you should act accordingly.

To be honest I was completely awestruck. First thought: get out, shut the door. But too long it all took already, so as calmly as I was able I explained that “I must strongly protest what has just been said”, that I am simply exercising my constitutional rights, and that in no way, shape nor form am I a supplicant here. But I decided to back off the “third witness” thing, abiding the age-old rule that “one should not argue with a fool; he will be brought down to fool’s level and beaten with experience”.

A short verification of identities ensued, followed by re-writing of witness’ data by the rector (even though part of that data was already present on the papers), and finally – signing.

During the whole visit a discussion was underway and I – as surprising as it may seem I do not have much to do with priests – habitually kept calling the priest “Sir” (instead of “Priest” as is apparently customary), to what he vehemently protested. That caused next two great quotes. After yet another “Sir”…

Stop or I will start calling you Comrade – that caused short bursts of laughter from witnesses’ direction. I simply opened my arms and said “please do”. Unfortunately he was unwilling to take that opportunity.

And the third great quote, after yet another “Sir” in place of “Priest” – Stop offending me! Things should be called by their true names.

That was the quote I honestly did not know where to start with. First, never ever in the Polish language and culture calling anybody “Sir” was considered offensive; quite the contrary, it was an expression of some elemental, fundamental respect. Second – oh how tempted was I to indicate that had I wanted to call things by their true names, precisely that would be something that rector could feel offended with!..

But the papers have already been signed, I got my copy, so we went in peace.

Summary and conclusions

After the whole exercise a few conclusions come to mind. First, apostasy in Poland is an extremely arduous process, requiring closer contacts with genuinely troublesome people. Not much fun. Conversation with the rector cased sudden outbreaks of facepalm every single time. Bureaucracy is absurd – do I really need to go, in person, to my baptism parish, then two times to “my” parish (which could be miles and miles away) simply to leave an organisation I never actually said I want to join (the decision was made for me in infancy)?.. Then there is the royal treatment one gets from the people one has to talk to – as a supplicant, a scoundrel, an immoral person. “With love and prudence”.

Nevertheless I believe I made the right choice. Now nobody can manoeuvre me into anything faith- or Church-related. Church statistics (counting the “number of baptised”, as manipulative as it is) as far as I know will sadly still include me, but fighting that is the next step.

Report based on my apostasy will be published in a Swedish newspaper. As soon as that happens, I’ll link it here.


I believe I should thank a few people:

  • Pixel, Kasia, piorek, Kondzi, Sasza, czesiek – thanks for the support and the will of being my witness (and actually doing that where applicable);
  • Basia, My Dear Parents – for support and understanding, discussions and conversations, openness and positive take on it all;
  • Kinga and Kalle – thanks for the nudge and going along with the plan in a fun and relaxed manner.

YAFR (Yet Another Facebook Rant)

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

Let me start off with this:

I’m not even on Facebook and I hate it, because everybody stopped sending personal emails. Everything is getting too centralized.
timeOday on Slashdot

I agree wholeheartedly. See, this is a bigger problem than most of Fb’s (or any other single-company-network) users are willing to admit: the minute the best interest of the $Company stops being aligned with users’ best interest, guess who gets screwed. Yup. The users. As in: You.

And what could make such a change, you ask? Government/law enforcement for one. If something’s centralized, that means that the Police (or whatever force of your choosing) have to go to a single entity to establish a way of accessing data on lots and lots of users. Quite convenient – for the law enforcement. Not that much for users.

On the other side there’s e-mail. Everybody has it and use it on a daily basis. It’s de-centralized, meaning that there are lots of providers; you don’t like yours, you can go to a different one. You’d have to change the address, but it’s a small price (and not always, actually, it has to be that way), and you still can retain your address book and send everyone info on that.

Getting back to the Bad Gummint scenario – with de-centralized systems, like e-mail, the Police would have to go to every single e-mail provider to eavesdrop on all e-mail users. But that’s not possible. You can create your own e-mail server in your closet. Good luck tracking down all those (me included) that did so.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg in regards to advantages of de-centralized systems. And the only benefit of Facebook over those? The user base. Yes, the one that will soon be shrinking.

Where should this user-base go? Well, I’d say “go de-centralize yourselves”. Instead of Facebook – there’s Diaspora; for all you Twitterlings – have a look at and more generally StatusNet; and as far as AIM/ICQ/GaduGadu is concerned – Jabber/XMPP is a great answer. So good, in fact, that Google uses it for it’s GTalk; the IM blurb on the left of your GMail? That runs on Jabber/XMPP.

That’s why you won’t ever find me on Facebook (nor Google+, nor any other centralized social network). You will, however, find me on Diaspora*.


Oh look. Facebook bans Google+ app and Google removes Twitter from real-time search. Case in point.

Another Update

Seems like for Facebook your personal data are their own trade secrets and hence they “cannot” give you them.

Let me repeat that: you will not get your own personal data from Facebook, as they are deemed Facebook’s trade secrets.

Important meetings, fun meetings

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

As always, lots of work, not enough time, late /me is late and hasn’t got the time to publish on the brag…

And much to publish there is indeed. Last week I had the pleasure of quarreling with the Police HQ and Fundacja Dzieci Niczyje (“Nobody’s Children Foundation”; they’re whole argument can be summarised in short thus: “Won’t somebody think of the children!”) at a meeting in the Ministry of Justice, about Network Censorship; I met Billy B. from TechSoup (hint: there might be an event co-organised by TechSoup and Brama, but with Autumn/Spring timeframe); and I had the priviledge of participating in the “Res Publica 2.0” conference (co-organised by Centrum Cyfrowe Projekt: Polska).

Some changes are also visible on the site – slowly working towards enabling missing functionality, like accessing older entries or selecting the preferred language of the entry, where available. Also, have a look at the shiny new Multi-URL Shortener. ;)

Meeting at the Ministry of Justice

That was Monday, 06.06.2011. In general, I had the feeling that our whole argumentation (of which we had quite a lot with Panoptykon Foundation, Internet Society Poland and Kidprotect) had absolutely no effect on our interlocutors (the Police and FDN). Every single merit-based argument we summoned was duly countered with short “But children!”. Temperature went up, voices followed, but still not a step stride was made to resolve the issues.

Either way, the Best Statement of the Meeting goes to… representatives of the Ministry of Infrastructure, who sat completely silent throughout the whole few hours of the meeting up until when the Ministry of Justice representative asked them directly for their take on the topic. And they did. In two sentences they basically said we’re right and the other side is just plain wrong. Game, set, match.

Tech Soup

…is a very large organisation striving to connect NGOs with technology. Much of that technology is closed and costly, supplied by corporations giving TechSoup beneficiaries huge discounts; still, there are quite a few open solutions in their portfolio.

For about a week Billy B. (don’t get discouraged by the website) visited Poland, so we took the chance to meet. That was the fun meeting, with the talking, and the getting-to-know, and so on. One thing led to another and there might be an event organised together by TechSoup, Brama and FWiOO.

Res Publica 2.0

What can I say! You get an invitation to the Belweder, you take it! Obviously the conference was more of a media thing than anything else, but then again that was the main aim – to announce and promote the Open Government Roadmap for Poland report. And that aim was achieved.

As an added benefit, please help yourself to a Find Rysio Photo. Also, the videos are available on Kamil Śliwowski’s website (who was responsible for the videotaping the event for Projekt Polska).

Ooops I

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

My brain tends to visit strange venues… During a short discussion about xirdal’s fixie on the Warsaw Hackerspace mailing list “I accidentally” the following:

I did it again.
...I played with your parts
Got lost in the frame
Oh bikey, bikey!

...You think I'm a pro.
That I'm in the know...
I'm not bike repairman!

I’ll just leave that here.

Playing with Node.js

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

Łukasz Anwajler (of Warsaw Hackerspace fame) wrote a short, informative and generally fun to read article on Node.js.

For those of you living (like I) under a rock last few months – Node.js is an I/O framework enabling writing programs in JS. Yeah, no browser needed. Yeah, with filesystem access, sockets and the like. Yeah, one could write an http server in it (or, for that matter, a webapp, server-side).

Mozilla, Google and the Location Bar

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

Lately much discussion was caused by Google’s decision to hide the Location Bar in the next Chrome/Chromium version. Seems like Mozilla wants to follow suit. I believe Location Bar still has its important place in a browser, and would like to offer a better solution for Mozilla.

The Problem

Reasons for Location Bar hiding/removal are those:

  • users do not know how to use it;
  • it takes up valuable vertical space;
  • Google (or any other) search works almost just as well, and users use that instead anyway.

Additional reasons for Google are obvious: more search data – instead of going directly to a website, users will have to actually use Google Search.

The Solution

…is simple. Make a huge and visible, window-centered Location Bar (that can work as a searchbar too) the default homepage in Firefox. This has many benefits:

  • new users will get a nice, visible UI as soon as the browser starts, without loading any page (and exposing any data to Google);
  • power users will get the Location Bar at their fingertips, and won’t lose an important, valued tool.

Moreover, Mozilla will be leading the charge instead of following in Google’s footsteps.

At Sector 3.0 conf

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

Yesterday and today I have the pleasure of participating in the Sector 3.0 (gotta love the wordplay) NGO-targeted conference, as a FLOSS Foundation representative. Great fun!

Loads of fantastic people, loads of fantastic organisations, loads of awesome ideas. Knowledge flows wide and untamed in both directions. Such initiatives are much-needed in Poland, as are NGOs in general.

One important result of me being here is refreshing or making new contacts with Fun People. Fun People tend to do Fun Stuff. And we all love Fun Stuff.

The second result – well, I’m writing this about an hour before my workshop on Free Software. From what I see I’ll be having quite a few participants, so we’ll talk about more results in about 3 hours. I hope I’ll be able to transfer some knowledge to others, in exchange for the whole knowledge I got in those two days from all the great activists.


My workshop was a total success – about 20 people attended, seems like I was even able to keep them interested throughout the whole 1.5h deal. It turned out to be more of a presentation, though, as the attendees had next to none exposure to FLOSS before. Somehow people got involved anyway and spoke up, we had a nice discussion about pros and cons, and what FLOSS actually is.

I was at least a bit surprised when after the workshop the attendees started to come to me and congratulate on it. I was doing it basically unprepared (it got on the agenda the night before), so it was really gratifying.

By the way, I think I found a great way of promoting FLOSS. It starts rather classically:

  • ask who among the attendees uses FLOSS;
  • show them that most of them actually do (Firefox, OpenOffice, Wikipedia’s FLOSS engine…);
  • define FLOSS (the Four Freedoms, some more general description.

Now, here’s the fun part:

  • ask attendees to create two lists – pros and cons of FLOSS;
  • then, ask them to classify those according to whether they differ among the projects (like support quality), or are FLOSS-definition-related (like ability to share with others).

Guess what? Almost all if not all of the cons differ among the projects. Almost all pros – are definition-related. The kicker is: when using FLOSS you might get the cons, but you always get the pros.


The workshop was being recorded – why Kamil Śliwowski decided to record it is beyond me, though. Anyway, video is supposed to be on-line in a couple of weeks, I’ll post a link as soon as I get it.


First video is up at YouTube. Longer video, only fro my workshop, on its way.

Layout, CSS and RSS/Atom

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

During the weekend I spent some time (almost the whole Sunday, actually) polishing the brag. The One Big Change Everybody Was Waiting For is obviously this – we now have RSS and Atom feeds! Loads of smaller or less visible ones got through, too.

For starters, now the whole layout actually behaves properly when on small screens. The min-height CSS properties are properly set and as I moved from position:fixed-based layout (which was much harder than expected), those now do their work.

We’re still bound to Firefox and Chrome/Chromium, unfortunately, but that’s the price I have to pay for the oh-so-cool horizontal layout (curtesy of CSS3 Multicol). And gradients. Let’s not forget gradients.

And speaking of gradients – have you noticed how there’s no official support for CSS3 Transition with gradients? Well, don’t move your mouse over the header area above, or you might get surprised…

Also added today: single-node layout. Yes, that really needed additional work, as the horizontal layout was not easily tamed for that. Well, it’s done.

You might also notice some CSS3 Transition effects (aside from the magical gradient transition on top) with links and images. CSS3 is fun!

Planned for inclusion sometime this year:

  • more traditional layout for more traditional browsers;
  • per-tag/per-category feeds (yup, I have tags/categories here, they’re simply not exposed yet);
  • and maybe Twitter integration (the backend’s already there);
  • comments.

Startup Weekend Network Fun Fun Fun

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

To all the newcomers here – this is alpha version of my brag, and things will break. Please use Firefox or Chrome/Chromium to have the best experience; Opera will work too, but will not be as nice. Rekonq, Konqueror, other KHTML/Webkit-based browsers – newer version probably needed. To all the Internet Explorer and Safari users out there – please get a real browser, it’s free and it’s fun.

During the weekend I was responsible for the network and tech support at Startup Weekend Warsaw co-organized by my lab at Warsaw University of Technology. I cannot say I did a stellar job, but then again, I cannot say I didn’t try and do my best to keep the network alive and kicking. So…

The Scenery

100+ participants. Every single one of them with at least one laptop. Most - with some mobile, WiFi-enabled device in their pockets, too. Many with some third device - tablet, second mobile, etc. All in all, probably more than 200 devices trying to connect to the Internet. Quite a bunch.

The Setup

2 Access Points (Linksys WRT-54GL; one with vanilla Linksys software, the other with DD-RT), two 8-port gigabit switches, loads of cable, and the Faculty infrastructure. And it’s always about the infrastructure, ain’t it.

The Plan

The Plan was simple enough and looked quite well:

  • set-up two different WiFi networks, on different, separated channels;
  • get as many people on the wired network as possible.
  • ???
  • PROFIT!!

As always, the “???” turned out to be the crux of the whole thing.

The Unexpected

As per Faculty Network Policy, many outgoing ports were blocked. Obviously, in that NAT-ed network, all the incoming ports were filtered. I decided to set-up a tunnel (an SSH-based VPN) for those few of our users that would need some “exotic” ports (like, oh you know, 25/tcp if they would fancy sending an e-mail). That was supposed to be far from mission-critical and just a courtesy towards the technically-inclined guys and gals in the room – so, basically, 90% of them.

However, it became uber-critical as soon as it turned out the (important) live audio/video stream that was supposed to allow more people to participate on-line actually uses some of the blocked ports. Whoopsie! The quick-and-dirty solution became a very important piece of duct-tape.

Fun with Streams

And there were loads people watching this stream too! Problem was, many of them were in the very room the stream was transmitted. Now, sending a video stream was enough of a network hog to cause minor hiccups; when people started watching it within the same network, basically all hell broke loose…

Oh, and let’s not forget the great job Skype was doing to help our network tank even deeper. Yay for that.

The Fa(c)ulty Infrastructure

To be honest we had some real faith in the Faculty’s solid backbone. And with good reasons too. It is a solid backbone, so why shouldn’t we? Ah, faith, you are a funny thing. There comes a moment that reality catches up and, say, the Faculty’s DHCP server goes down. Good for us we had a nice Ubuntu box (yes, the one with the SSH tunnel/VPN running). 5mins with apt-get and dnsmasq.conf and we were back on-track to the next failure in the string.

WiFi Mavericks

Well, obviously, the wireless quickly started getting quirky. As in, not working properly. Or at all for that matter. When suddenly 100 devices try to connect to a single AP in a matter of minutes, the AP will go down in a matter of those same minutes. Vicious circle.

So people started using 3G connections, which would not be that bad, as it would lessen the traffic on the poor battered APs, right? If only those were used via Bluetooth or USB. But guess what? Setting up your own ad-hoc WiFi mininetwork is sooo coool, right? Hence, suddenly, we had about 15 different ad-hoc networks interfering with the two Startup Weekend official WiFi nets. Guess what, that was not helping.

How it all played out?

or “putting the fires out”

To be honest - not well. There were simply too many points of failure. Too many fires. Often times the APs got in some strange mode in which connectios already established work passably, but no new devices were able to connect. Should we reboot such an AP to get the new devices on-line, or just go with the flow and let the already connected use the network without interruptions? Damned if you don’t, damned if you do.

Lessons Learned

So, “mistakes have been made”, moving on with the knowledge. In particular:

  • QoS! next time each and every single user will get a dedicated, albeit small, bandwidth channel.
  • less security can buy quite a nice amount of reliability; seriously, we did not need WPA here, we could have gone with WEP – or no security at all.
  • in-house as much as you can: get your own network segment, your own DHCP server, etc. – this way at least you are in control if something goes awry; and believe me, it will.

We got a few things right, a bit more on that further on down.

Blaming and Name-calling

We already know I was responsible for WiFi, but far from being able to do it all by myself. Special thanks for all the hard work go to Piorek and Karolina. Piorek was helping me all the time with tech stuff (and doing a great job); Karol was the bureau and chancellary, making everything go as smoothly as possible.

Many thanks to Kamila, Konrad and Krzysiek for the great atmosphere at the conference. You guys should have been pissed a few times, but weren’t, and that went very far in helping us deal with the Wireless Notworking rather than interpersonal stuff. Seriously, to all the conference organizers out there – take heed, as this may well save your WiFi!

Last but not least - [@zstanska]( and [@mpaluchowski](, doing the social media and video streaming, were usually the first to nag inform us about any problems. And in style! Also made fun of us on twitter. Really, you guys could have used a better service.

Finally, heartfelt thanks to all the people at and around Startup Warsaw.

Icing on the cake

Microsoft reps doing a presentation on a Linux box (that was our presentation box, simple as that)… I am not even sure they knew that, to be honest. Ah well, fun anyway. If and when I get the video, I will drop it here.

Actually, quite a few people had Linux on their lappys. Interesting times.

Follow Up

Today Shot sent a great article about making conference WiFi work. Better late then never – but hey, turned out we actually did many, many things right! I’ll try writing a follow-up bragpost on that later, when I sleep a bit.

World's Smallest Open Source Violin

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

This is exactly I would like to tell millions of Skype users today, when Microsoft bought it. This is a perfect example why giving away control over entire communication in a given area to a single entity is not a good idea.

So, what could happen now? Let’s see:

  • Skype client for Linux development might halt;
  • same goes for the Mac client.

But, because of all the contacts that Skype users only have accessible via Skype, it’ll be hard for them to move to any other solution. In other words, damned if you do, damned if you don’t… Suddenly it turns out that a situation where all three elements – the protocol, client and server software – are in one hands is a very bad one.

How it could have been

A perfect example of a better world, or how it could and should have been, is e-mail. Because the protocol is an open standard, because anybody can set-up their own server – the situation is much, much better:

  • there are multiple providers;
  • there are multiple clients to choose from.

That means that regardless of the luck or ideas of a single provider or vendor of a single client, we can always go elsewhere. We can choose the client software, regardless of the service provider we use; we can change the service provider without changing the familiar client software we have grown accustomed to. We have a choice.

Had we all been using a standardized, open VoIP protocol, like SIP or Jingle, we would simply change the provider – without losing our contacts, having to learn new client software nor wondering whether our friends and family chooses the same new solution we will.

Who’s next?

Facebook, of course. Had I been using it, I would seriously start considering Diaspora. It’s alpha, a lot of to-do’s still down the road. But it works and is attracting more and more users. And most important of it all it works according to those few simple rules:

  • standardized, open protocol;
  • anybody can set-up a server;
  • anybody can use any client they choose to.