Free Libre alternatives to GAFAMs Internet a review of French Initiatives

De April MediaWiki


Titre : Free/Libre alternatives to GAFAMs Internet a review of French Initiatives

Intervenant : Marianne Corvellec (April) and Jonathan Le Lous (April)

Lieu : LibrePlanet 2016

Date : mars 2014 [ou 2016?]

Durée : 0h44mn23s

Page de la vidéo : [1]

Lien vers la vidéo : [2]

00' transcription HlnBo

Marianne : Well, first of all, thanks for having us. It’s a pleasure to be here, we were here last year, also representing April. We’ll say a few words about this french organization in one slide, but today we'll speak about free – in the freedom sense [meaning] as we know – alternatives to GAFAM's internet. "GAFAM" stands for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. And we'll kind of report on initiatives that has happened in France where we used to be activists. So it's not work that we necessarily directly got involved with but we were reporting on it. April was founded in 1996 in France, it has been super close to the FSF ever since. The mission is to promote and protect free software. It's an advocacy organization so it's very much like on a protocol level, institutional, with expertise, legally... [revoir la formulation ?] We have 3600 members, 3 full time employees and a large community and it's a french speaking organization. We're actually based in Canada.

Jonathan : Yeah and after you heard me, I think you know I'm a french speaking guy because... you know... when you hear Marianne [?]

Marianne : Should we say a few words about ourselves ? Well, we're both members for April and we actually also pay a tribute to an initiative that inspired another french organization called Framasoft that we'll introduce a little later. [They are] two separated organizations that don't [really] have the same purposes but we're aligned obviously in values and in missions, just so we don't get confused, but we'll come back to this later.

Should we review a bit what's happened over the past year ? There's been a lot ... of...

Jonathan : ... Last year, I think that all of you know that last year was a specific year for France. We had two attacks in Paris, we had many terrorist attacks. (Sorry, each time I start in English, I need to reboot my English brain.) That's been really a strange year because we also fought in Europe for many things in April. We fought against patterns on the software, as you know, in Europe, patterns are not applying on software, we are free, we could use software without patterns. But last year, I think French Government has made a move for more protection, after Paris attacks and when you motivate your decisions with fear, it's really hard. You take bad decisions, you would like to close more things, you would like to close internet, and that was a big issue last year to fight against the move the French Government went to.

Marianne : ... So, unfortunately, in the name of the fight against terrorism – and I'm sure that you guys in America are often [dealing ?] with this – there's been a lot of policy making in the wrong direction in the recent past. Unfortunately, as free software activists, we feel like five or ten years of battles that we've carried out are kind of being currently backlashed right now. That's kind of topical. There's also a bill called "Pour une république numérique" which stands for "For a digital republic"... So, many issues around the internet and around software are being discussed but unfortunately in the context of the fight against terrorism.

What is "Free libre software" is an exhibition, it's a current campaign by April where, well, everyone want to print out those boards and to reach out the general audience to explain what free software is and what it can do for digital freedoms.

Jonathan : That's really important to continue to educate people with what's exactly free software. You know in France, it's very easier because you don't have the double [meaning] of "free". In France we say "Logiciel libre" ("Libre software" directly) and it's really important to say, in moments like that : "When you share something, when you open something, we are not threatened by that. It's only more secured, you could both secure and continue to share, continue to open your borders even if you have some risky issues.

But we did many many things in one year because full employees [feel very involved ? want to feel rewarded ?], we [achieved] many works with political guys, that's really interesting but this year, we would like to focus more on initiative in France, as Marianne said, initiative against all the service oriented solutions. We have today all the web-centric internet. As you know, many years ago, when Google arose, [when] the Google area [came], [we've seen] a new vision of the software. Before that, we were focused on a laptop and a server, you have your [somewhere???], you need to install that and at this time, many companies like Microsoft would have liked to lock you on your laptop or to lock you directly on your machine. Today it's not the same thing, we change the mindset of all the market, the internal market or all the big companies. After that, we will see, we will focus on what exactly that move means for many industrial big companies in...

Marianne : ... online services.

Jonathan : That's really important to understand [that] today, like TV channels, Google would like to sell your brain, your identity, they would like to sell more and more about you. They don't care about the software, they don't care about what we're going to pay to access to technology. It's really important because that changes everything in your fight. We can't be only focused on "Against proprietary software", we need to move [to] other visions. That's really interesting because [in] the end of the last year, we had a very interesting paper from Wired, some arty newspaper who are [which is] ...

Marianne : ... setting the trend.

Jonathan : [Yeah setting the trend] They're not used to speak about Open Source and they said : "Open Source software went nuclear this year" That's true. Open Source today, it's nuclear. If you walk in IT – I walk in IT everyday – Open Source is everywhere. I walk [on] the infrastructure side if Open Source is everywhere. Yeah we could think we win about our [???] but we're not talking about open source today, we're talking about free software. And that way, yes for sure, open source contributes [to] media open source software, Facebook is one of the famous contributor in [it ---side?] the same thing with Twitter, all of the companies like that. But what we really win with their contribution in terms of freedom ? In terms of privacy ? We lost many many things. And that's why today we need to [keep] in mind : "Okay, we are not in the same battle. So last battle [was] about proprietary against free software, today it's more about privacy against ...

Marianne : ... control and surveillance.

Jonathan : And that's really hard because, as you know, that changes many things. And today the biggest example of the move : Microsoft free many of their codes, many of their technologies last years. You know, Microsoft, the leader of proprietary software says : "Okay, we're going to open source...

Marianne : "We love Linux !" and stuff like that...

Jonathan : Yes ! "We love Linux !" "We'll free the darknet." "We're talking about SQL database..." [?? ------ ??] many things...

I think we're really close to the next move which is Windows : "We're going to open Windows." Why ? Because today they don't care about technology, they're talking about your brain, they would like to sell your brain, they would like to sell your identity, they would like to [get your] ...

Marianne : ... personal data...

Jonathan : ... personal data and they would like to [enable you to] avoid [paying them for online] technology. That's why today we really appreciate the initiative of Framasoft...

09'33" transcription HlnBo

Marianne : Exactly, so, to dress [?] this changing paradigme, it's not really about installing and running software locally, it's more like "I'm using online services". Framasoft came with this campaign "Let's de-Google-ify the internet". It's not only about Google or against Google, it's more general but obviously Google is the dominant player there, so it's gonna catch you too to name the campaign after them.

Framasoft [was] founded over ten years ago, they also promote free software, free culture and now free services because that has become important. But unlike April who are more politically oriented fight on a legal and protocole way, they stand for popular education ("popular education" being the translation of the latin term, so not like pop culture but like empowerment, social justice, etc.). They have three full time employees and a large community of users and contributors. Their flagship project is "Let's de-Google-ify the internet" and their goal is to offer free libre alternatives to dominant proprietary services.

The "Why" first. The fact that GAFAM are so dominant causes a threat to healthy competition, innovation, it's very hard to play the game when your orders of magnitude are smaller and start ups [skipped ??] enquired independence (i.e. we can realize that we're all dependent on services that we use everyday like Gmail or GoogleDrive or Dropbox). And this really goes against our initial notions of an open and decentralized web and of course it threatens our privacy as well. So, what Framasoft wants to do, obviously, is not to compete directly with Google... although actually why not ? The bet is like super arrogant, that's the French stereotype so that's fine ! (Laughs). The initiative is mostly about raising awareness, at least realizing that "Oh ! We're dependent on a few dominant players whose revenu are so large that they're standing the rule beyond any nation and any other entity." It's about coming up to the proof of concept and then inspire and disseminate because, I think Framasoft have 17 servers, so it's not like : "Let's move away from Google and start using Framasoft services instead !", it's more about taking a stand, realizing this, carrying and then showing everyone they can do it themselves.

It's very arrogant, it's very ambitious so it's a long shot. [Their] roadmap [was] starting in October 2014 and will go through October 2017. The project is to offer a mutual non-agressive non-commercial space to promote self-hosting to decentralize the internet. So there was kind of a long term and global vision. In practice, it comes in the form of more than 25 alternative services.

Here is a map : we'd like to recall the reference to Asterix, maybe you know this little guy in his gallic village resisting the romain invasion ? For instance, we can see that there's an alternative to Google search that is [which is] Framabee, an alternative to Google Spreadsheet that is [which is] Framacalc, ... And I need to emphasize that, typically, those projects are not developed from scratch, they're based upon existing free softwares, the free software technologies are there so it's just about making good use of them and spreading the World and bringing them, taking them to a general audience.

Jonathan : That's really to reuse existing software, to work on that, to facilitate [That's really consisting in reusing existing software, working on [it], facilitating] the use of this software for all people, not only for Framasoft but if you would like to take this software and put it [on] your server, if you would like to offer a technology like that [this kind of technology], you could do the same thing locally in your country, in your city, and that's really interesting because today as we discuss, we discuss about how we could offer to the end user a new technology without [any] [enq---???] of techni[que] but also privacy. It's really important. I'm not sure you have an idea [how] huge this project is (laughing) : when you have to start against Google, you know you have many free software technologies [that] you can use today, but that's important to see [to the const---- to the consumer??] : "Okay you could use this thing with this thing, you have a range of technologies you could use instead of, you could use Google or another technology...". That's why we think it's really interesting. You could use all these technologies as you want, you could ...

Marianne : ... at home.

Jonathan : (Both laughing) At home. And you could install ... – and if you would like to go [on] Framapad just today during the discussion, you could see it – that's really important to guarantee the access [to] these technologies, we're not talking about theory, we're not talking about thinking, we are talking about how we could permit the access for the end user of the free software in the cloud computing world, in online services world, because that's the new, new war to be for free software : how we could [give] access easily to the end user.

Marianne : For instance, Framapad is actually an instance of hyperpad [light ??] that, probably, you might be familiar with, and it's a starting point because obviously you cannot just walk to anyone and everyone and tell them : "Well, just run your own cloud !". Those services are existing there and they're readily usable and it can support the discussion around those issues.

So what's next ?

16'19 transcription HlnBo

Jonathan : [...] I know I never remember the name of Facebook creator but I don't care, that's not so important (laughs)... It's like a sugar I think, something like that... And I like this idea ["Well intentioned high centralization of the web"??]. They would like a web like [where] Big Brother would like society, you know ? [At] first, he offers you, for free, speech and beer [on] the web and afterwards he decides you can't talk about that because you need to respect "My good [vision] of the World" ...

Marianne : ...and what's good for you ...

Jonathan : ... that's the beginning of the hell. That's why, in this world, you need to have a citizen driven initiative based on free software technology and respect, digital commands data privacy because we know, all of you know, maybe Facebook can have... I think they would like to have a good move [motivation?] but ... well... that's a private company...

Marianne : We shouldn't rely on them then, we can't trust them...

Jonathan : That's really important. That's why, today, the idea we have is more to discuss about local players. How we could compete with global corporations with more local players [and] local solutions ? How we could help companies to make self-hosting ? To let [every m-----ing???] serve their own service ? You know the mirroring, when we start with a new Linux, we have to help people to install and to update Linux : that's why we create mirroring. We can do the same thing with open source, to [make] all the free software today not to be only open source but [newer] technology...

Marianne : ... and being empowered...

Jonathan : ... empowered by standards and by [porting?] technology.

Marianne : And I guess – just to tie back with this morning's amazing keynote by Edward Snowden – maybe doesn't scale but maybe it doesn't have to scale and maybe it shouldn't scale : we are small enough, we are smaller than the [mash???] size of that great [full mass?] surveillance. So it depends, it's a case by case issue, like be itself hosting for an individual or like at the scale of their community, at the scale of their local company... The solutions are not only technological, it's about how / what we make out of these technologies because the free software is there and it's good and it's better, as we know. And then, once you have done it in your community maybe you can share with the World how you've done it and other communities can do it, and maybe things that are done here in Boston, you know run on a server that is located in Boston and not across the country. Cambridge ! Sorry... (Laughs)

Jonathan : That's really important to understand [what] we're talking [about]. I'm a cloud computing specialist in my real life and only with free software. That's really important to have this picture in mind : today, if we would like [to go more deeply -> further ?] on what kind of processus we could have, what kind of technology we're talking about, [there are] three levels of technology today we have. When we discuss about the first example about Ring software, we discuss about [a] distributed software, we are a software of the service we have a service software. We have two views when you're talking about software service : one software on a distant server and you apply it with your [browser] or another technology, that's the first way you could use [it] ; after that, we have another software, basically more distributed – we're going to talk about Ring.

These three levels are really important because when you're talking about oriented service[s], under that underneath you're talking about technology based on service oriented technology. You have software as a service technology, you have platform as a service technology (a platform service technology is like your App Store on your smartphone, that's a platform permitting you to deploy easily and very quickly a software with all the [environment fed / environment feedings]), and [lastly] you have the infrastructure of the service.

When you talk about infrastructure as a service, you're talking about all the strategy of the big actors today in IT. We're talking about Cisco move, HP move, Dell move, all the companies, you never heard those companies manage all the political decisions, all the companies decisions with IT. In that world where we have a distributed infrastructure, you virtualize all the infrastructures to create some barriers between your software, your hardware and your application [... and your abstraction layer]. To have exactly in mind what we're talking about, we have an example of a software – I think we have one of the developers here, or member of the team –

...Marianne : They have a booth outside ! Check them out !

(Both laughing)

Jonathan : – Would you like to introduce your side ? I think it's [easier] (laughing) – No, tomorrow at eleven, you have the session about Ring, it's really interesting, it's a really great initiative, [we'll talk] about torrent or peer-to-peer communication solutions. You have Skype or another solution that are based on a decentralized model. You have endpoint to communicate with, endpoint with security access okay. We don't use another server, we don't use another level of communication and [that avoids/you avoid] all the spy aspect of the communication : if you don't have the security key of the communication, you can't spy the communication.

At this [point], we're really talking about the first part [which is] "Software as a service". That's the way you could manage your software to create some privacy, some data privacy, some security to guaranty the freedom of your application.

23'03" transcription en cours HlnBo

In the other way, you have another example of what you can do : [as] I said just at the beginning of the conversation, Microsoft has made a big move last year about open source but they never talk about free software you know. Why do they do that ? They did that only because their business model is still not based on the end user.

They don't want to install the new Windows version, they don't want that thing, they would like you to go [on] the cloud, and after that, they'll manage all the World. When you are [on] the cloud of Azure, you have no power. On your GNU Linux you deploy on Azure, on your application you deploy on Azure, you have only services and user services, no data, nothing. And that's the same thing with Google cloud platform with AWS, that's the technology and all oriented services you have today. When you're talking about Gmail, you're talking about Google cloud platform...

Step after step, theses IT companies go to Governments and say : "Come to us, give us all your data about your citizens." And many public organizations in Canada for example go [on] that platform. That's a threat, a big threat for your security, because when your government says : "We agree to go [on] Microsoft Azure, [on] Google platform AWS.", they say : "We're okay to share YOUR data (showing the audience) with a company, a private one."

Marianne : So we would like to reclaim the cloud computing for ourselves, in interest of citizens and [for a safer?] privacy.

Jonathan : The question is : "What about community cloud ?". Today, for many of people [walking] on infrastructure, [they] say : "No OpenStack or [--??]." Today, that's true, open source dominates infrastructure. Free software technologies are used in every company today. We have all the stacks we need to build cloud computing solutions based on free software today. You know, you have OpenStack, you have [--??], you have Puppet, you have GNU Linux, you have all you need... And big companies made a move and the idea we would more like to talk about for this side is to create your own community cloud. How we could help organizations to build a cloud solution with recipes and use only free software – companies, organizations, non-profit... we don't care – but help local actors to deploy a cloud platform [respecting] some [charters as] you could do when you use GPL licensing. You could say : "I'm engaged at this moment [in] some GPL cloud licensing and after that, I could use recipes to build a local, a regional cloud infrastructure." And this technology [would] use EPI, standards, [it would] respect free software use... That's not a big issue to deploy that, the issue is more about how we could create the community. That's the same thing when we [were] talking mirroring at the beginning of the project. We could today build a mirroring but with a PaaS. You know : SaaS, PaaS, IaaS. Today we have the [capacities / we are able] to build Iaas and PaaS platform only with free software and, on that, offer some projects like Framasoft did.

That's really important and today, that's the idea we have [or that's what we believe] :

...Marianne : To have cloud computing options that are ethical so that tomorrow a charity wouldn't have to choose between AWS and Google Cloud but alongside those solutions as they could go to something maybe based [out of?] OpenStack but where they know it's local and they've signed a charter in both ways that respects users privacy etc.

Jonathan : Yeah, we don't care about exact technology we have under that, it could be open [source] but if we standardize the platform with free software, after that we could guaranty to the user when you would like to use this email solution – because many email solutions exist or free software email solutions – you could use that for example, you're going on your [browser], you say "I would like to create a new email address, an email account, I create that" and after that, it says to you : "Well, we would like to have your hosting provider for your email address , you say : "I would like a hosting provider in Boston area for example or Cambridge !" And [then] you could create an account with a [trustworthy] account email cloud provider. That's the way we would like [it]. And we're very close to [this] way because we already have the technology used by companies or organizations.

...Marianne : So we mean that's what technical foundations could help out with and get involved with. That on the government and public policy side, we don't know that [it] could also be an option, so might be worth knocking on some doors but that's kind of what we want to leave you with.

Jonathan : Because you have two... If you think like an American, you think you need to find some new people to create something, if you think like a European, you think you need to have an impact on your public governments and public sectors to be sure they'll help organizations to create that. [There are] two different points of view. That's why in many ways it could be easier in Europe because if you have the agreement of public actors, after that, you could have cash to create something like that.

But the idea is more about mirroring. How we could create something without the help of companies, of organizations already engaged in other negotiations with Google and Azure or another company. That's really more an open door, that's more a reflection we [are thinking] today and that we would like to share with you, it's about a new vision, a new strategy we could have to offer [to] citizens and [users of] free software today.

...Marianne : ... through services, because that's the practices nowadays yeah...


This is pretty much it ! So we're happy to take your questions...


[Technical instructions]

30'44" transcription en cours HlnBo

1st man asking a question : Ok so, I'm impressed, it's an excellent start. I'm curious of the services we have in place now that you offer on 17 servers or something, but what's the [hole role?] funding model ? We hardly knew of... [??--] I mean... you're going to intense [??--] eventually...

Marianne (awkward laugh) : Well... It's not going very well... Framasoft, I think their annual budget last year was like 158 000 euros but that [???] even plain-full time employees, so it's very low and actually, they had a deficit, they were losing like 10 000 euros at the end of the year. So I guess I will call to action, could also be a call to donations because they're really in need, so visit Framasoft outward, please. And if you start using Framapad or Framadate (Framadate being an alternative to typically Doodle poll), definitely drop a [???] too ! I mean, it's not a business model vision in that case, again, it's more like a proof of concept, then we have 17 servers, most of their admin sys people are volunteers, so it's hardly sustainable, it relies on donation. And they don't want to be accountable for providing a service the way companies do with their customers. So it's more about, again, raising awareness and kind of "do it at home" and "do it yourself".

Jonathan : Yeah, that's really difficult because that's not your mission when you are a non-profit organization to make money with services, you know... You are more like a starter : you start something, and you help to start something, and you help to empower people to understand what we would like to do exactly. That's why after that, we could have another foundation, could be [followed] by many companies [that] could be interested [in] local [initiatives]. But more ["plus" /or/ "further"], that is very interesting to have one volunteer people to [use?] some technologies for... If you have only one server (not per country but) per city in US, you have in mind, if you have one server in US for each city [which] hosts 25 services, you know what the power is today, that's a great opportunity to offer some services. But you know, against us, we have big, big companies with big cash, big marketing campaigns. You're not going to win all the market and if you do that, I think it's another question you have (laughs)... More technically difficult.

The same man asking further question : So, on that point, you were advocating having local control, small organizations, some kind of different model for local [??--piece??] maybe that's [??-??], non-profit, maybe small businesses... Do you know of any examples of small local infrastructure ?

Marianne : Please share... Yeah ? Jonathan : Yeah next one ? (Laughs)

2nd man asking a question : My question was related to decentralization in all this thing. (To answer the question I think (looking at the 1st man)... maybe some people here might know RiseUp which is kind of coop', it's a service that people can use, you donate, and it's getting bigger and bigger...)

What was my question was that : I use Framadate a lot, and lot of people use Framadate too, this is great ! And I manage some services but I have so much things to do and actually hosting services is quite complicated because you have to do it right. If you don't do it right, it's dangerous. For example...

Marianne : That's like email [will be??] a big [flame??] yeah...

2nd man asking a question : ... Hosting emails is something dangerous on obvious things. But when you get these services like Framadate on the website giving access to everybody, with the shift has gone from the last few years, people using services or what... I don't see how that promotes, actually, decentralizing things...

Marianne : No... we try to address in this point, the message is not like : "Move away from Google and enter Framasoft" because even technically, they would not be sustainable. It's an intro point, Framasoft is very... (And [by the way,] thanks for pointing out RiseUp because I guess that would be the closest kind of network to compare on the international scene.) ... It's a starting point. It's like : first of all, people who are not technically oriented or anything, maybe they don't know where to start. So first of all, they have to realize that it's possible to use something that's not Google Drive. So you start somewhere and then it's a long shot but we try to ... You're [??on a place ?], again, you don't ought to be like the "Well intention centralizing player", at all... So it's a changing paradigm.


35'59" transcription en cours HlnBo

Jonathan : Concretely, I think you need to work on, [as] you see... Today you have an infrastructure, on infrastructure you have to [put] on it some softwares, you have recipes to do that. If you are infrastructure guys, you know you have some tools, you could use software tools like Puppet and [support?]... You could have tools around to [bundle ?] OpenStack, to [bundle?] [Carvian?], to [bundle ?] things, and the way is one of the solutions could be to offer these tools, to offer these recipes, to help people to install easily services on servers. And you're not obliged to have 25 000 servers, you could start with something. The most difficult way we have today is more about – sorry – the authentification side, that's the [modal?]. If you go bottom-up, you say you share infrastructure. It's really hard, as you know, to share infrastructure but you could share central authentification to access on specific infrastructures. For example, if you know a [single? silent?] technology, you could have a [single? Silent?] technology, you plug in that and when you identify you say : "I would like my service in Boston area", and after that, it's finished ! The [stock---???] is created, you are directly connected with hosting provider, or [??], or server, or mirroring, or as you want... Offer [to] use this technology, available on this area and after that, you never ask directly [to] the application SSO. After that, you create [this contact in] your country. It could be one of the [easiest] ways to do that because, as you know, infrastructures federation is not so easy concretely.


Steve, asking a question : Hello, my name is Steve. I liked your talk about Framasoft, I'd not heard of the organization before. I belong to a technology cooperative called "Be first people link" [?]. They're based in New York and Mexico City. But it's a similar model where it's a group of people who have some servers and some [--colos??] and we've got about eight virtual machines ; we operate on a membership model – so members pay dues to use the service – we're on issues [finding?] budget (the hundred thousands euros you...)... Well, that's probably... we're definitely in the same [way?] again. It is challenging but you can provide your alternatives even at small scale to different communities – I don't [necessarily] mean physical communities but – you can provide services at [--?] scale to small communities and do it well. The sustainability aspect is still a challenging work, that's something working on ourselves but, at some point, you have to ...

Marianne : ... [first? Let's?] connect ? For sure, yeah, absolutely...


4th man asking a question : Hi, just wondering, to what extend you are aware of the work that Sandstorm [?] was doing in this regard. I mean, clearly it's a commercial entity. I'm wondering if you can compare and contrast ?

Marianne : Yeah, so, I've heard about it just this morning, so it's a great coincidence because we're in a great crowd. Before them, I had heard of "You know host ?". So I'm not sure that anybody can get their hands on this, directly like this (it's kind of "Run your own cloud")... But, to be honest, I take it as homework for myself, otherwise I 'd have super huge blindspots but I try to do things and then I can tell my sister, and my mom and my dad : "Just think to give it a try !" But I know the way Framasoft position themselves is precisely to bridge the gap between the actual self-hosting and just like : "Hey ! By the way, do you realize that you're dependent on big players providing services ? Do you even realize that you're using their services that are sending your personal data to third parties without any specific ethical considerations ?"

So, I guess, hopefully, these things meet.

40'38" transcription en cours HlnBo

Jonathan :