Big data companies (aka GAFAM) have centralized our services, our data and our digital lives. Over the last two years, the French non-profit organization Framasoft has been demonstrating that FLOSS can be used as an ethical and user-respecting alternative to widespread services such as Dropbox, Skype, Facebook, Google Agenda, or even Minecraft. Time has now come to share this experience so that it can spread into a network of data-friendly and user-respectful service hosters.
2016 is a milestone: Google Apple Facebook Amazon and Microsoft (also known as GAFAM) are now ranked as the 5 largest companies by market capitalization in the USA. Big Data has become more important and powerful than Big Oil or Big Pharma. Web centralization, profiling advertisement, government enablement to carry out mass-surveillance, shrinking diversity and innovation, and even bevahioural hijacking: here are only a few of the numerous issues that arise with these huge centralizede powers
Even though a wider audience is becoming aware of these issues, their answer is always the same: "What else can I use?"
Framasoft is a small French non-profit association whose aim is to promote Free-Libre software and culture to the general public through practical projects: a Free-Libre software directory, a user-friendly USB stick filled with portable FLOSS, a publishing house for Free-Libre books… In October 2014, we made public this impossible challenge: over the next 3 years, we would provide Mr. and Mrs. Everyone with more than 30 alternatives to the main GAFAM services, all based upon Free-Libre and Open-Source softwares while respecting the users privacy. We aimed at a triple goal : to inform the general audience of the stakes, to provide viable alternative as a proof of concept to mainstream users, and to spread this experience by promoting self-hosting and helping other data-friendly services hosters to grow.
More than two years later, a wider audience is being aware of the data-centralization issues. We are on track to win our bet since only a few services remain to be launched. We are currently initiating CHATONS, a network bringing together hosters who respect privacy and provide ethical services.
Here is the story of what we did and how we did it. We would be thrilled if our experience could be useful to non-French speaking projects and communities.