Towards Online Autonomy

oz, 2021-06-06

Smartphones have become the "personal computer": a computer in your hand, solving most of your consumer computer use-cases (e.g. communication, (re-)search, navigation, shopping, photo, video, music, social and other media).

Ever since, I'm annoyed, that we don't (can't) really own smartphones like we can own other computing equipment. Smartphones have hard- and software obsolescence built-in. They are tailored towards consumption and guided interactions, most of the time they are inferior tools for creation. Users may perceive value from interacting with a smartphone, but the majority of interactions generate more revenue/profit for other entities through attention economy (making platforms more attractive for other users, network effects, data classification, entry and generation etc.) If you don't use your smartphone to make money (media creator, influencer?), you are paying -sometimes premium- for being used and distracted.

Tech is Getting Consolidated...

This entire development didn't start and won't end with smartphones. RMS has been anticipating and warning about it for decades already (see his definition of "Useds"). It's common knowledge by now, some examples:

Expiring computers may be fine for most companies leasing or cycling every 2-3 years and some users, who rotate in a similar fashion to "stay on the edge". In my opinion, sustainable, exhaustive tech usage should be preferred, which is also dependent on user-serviceable, secure hard- and software. State and malicious actors may like loopholes, but insecure infrastructure ultimately harms everyone.

The general population (not just the nerds) is spending more screentime consuming social media, streaming content and games. Thus we are increasingly exposed to and determined by the above developments.

...and Boring

Starting in 2019, I noticed how I barely got any value out of Twitter anymore. Of course, there was the occasional interesting tech news, story or funny pastime, but interacting with it felt like a chore. So I stopped using it, social media isn't there to connect us anyway. I'm still in the process of migrating my content away from the platform.

Another wake-up call has been Google Photos' changed storage policy: Unlimited photo storage and sync has been so convenient. Google profited greatly from all the training data! Now that the noise is increasing and the value is diminishing, economics are back to remind us all: "Useds" of a free service don't own anything.

So, this sped up my migration away from my previously central address towards my own domain in 2020. I evaluated my exposure to and reliance on "big tech", too.

Progress so Far (to Be Updated Over Time)

Autonomy gained:

Stopped/minimized using:

Kept using:

Educate others:


Certainly, I'm not the first to be alienated. So here are a bunch of other nice, informative websites/blogs by people following the same idea of an independent internet. Even more resources and tools: