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Let’s build a better web

This post is only partly connected to Kirby. It's something that keeps on haunting me for months and I need to share it with you.

In January I wrote a blog post about my vision of the future of the web for The Nitty Gritty: http://thenittygritty.co/the-future-of-the-web-a-draft I wrote about my idea of a completely decentralized web, where centralized platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Co. will be replaced by our own servers with our own self-hosted applications, which communicate in a secure, distributed way.

That was long before we all learned about the NSA scandal and all the following scandals. When I wrote that post I wasn't even considering something as absurd as what has happened in the meantime to become reality. I was just afraid that we spend too much time on centralized platforms on the web and that we loose our freedom.

The situation we are currently in changed everything for me. That future vision, I was writing about, is no longer something I hope will maybe become true some day. It is something that has to become true better sooner than later – in whatever way. We are at a point where we urgently need to change the web we have, if we want to keep our freedom: our freedom of thought, our freedom of speech.

We need to make it easy, convincing and enjoyable to move our personal data away from the big players. We need great self-hosted applications, which we can use to manage our emails, personal pictures, documents, private messages with friends, blog posts, etc.. All that kind of stuff needs to be in our control and on whatever server or device we decide to host it on. We need a truly distributed and encrypted way to communicate, which isn't controllable by any secret service or government and at the same time is as easy to setup as a Gmail account. We need this to be well-designed, open and with a fantastic user experience.

This can all be true, but we need to shift our attention to building it. It's frustrating to see how talented designers and developers waste their time on cloudy todo and weather apps or to redesign iOS7 icons. It's frustrating to see how yet another walled-garden, non-sense project gets millions of funding. But it's exactly the right time to change this.

I'm 100% guilty of not following what I'm preaching so far. I'm on Facebook myself, I have multiple gmail accounts, I use Dropbox, Kirby's source code is hosted on Github.

I will change some of this in the next weeks. Gmail will definitely have to go, I'm moving away from Dropbox and I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to keep administrating the Kirby Facebook site without having a personal account. But to be honest there are still a lot of central services I cannot or don't want to move away from right now. Github is definitely one of them. Twitter is another one. But I really hope that the time will come when there will be adequate alternatives for those as well.

I'm not saying that everybody needs to take the same steps. The majority of users don't seem to care about this issues at all. That's why we – developers and designers – need to do our best to offer alternatives, which are so convincing that the majority of users just wants to move – not because it is more secure or distributed, but because it's way more awesome than the old stuff they used. This is possible! I strongly believe in this. We all have to see this as a new market. A market which doesn't really exist yet. A market for open, self-hosted, well-designed software. Just let me make it clear, open-source does not mean it has to be free. Kirby's commercial open-source software license works very well and I think this can be adapted to many other projects. In general we should get rid of the separation between open-source and paid software and somehow find better ways to get paid for what we do and yet keep the source code open.

If you are a developer or designer I can only encourage you to start your own self-hosted project. What I'm trying with Kirby 2 is to do way more than an update for the CMS for exactly that reason. I'm developing an entirely new framework, which I hope will give developers tools to come up with their own ideas for self-hosted applications more quickly. We need lower entry points for building great applications. Not by more complex setups and server technology, but with the same simple stuff people are already used to. I really want this to become reality and I hope Kirby can help.

Thanks for reading!

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