Federated Infrastructure: How The Oldest Technologies Are The Most Reliable
In the past year we’ve seen a number of huge tech companies starting to run afoul of world governments. Google, TikTok, Facebook, and others have all found themselves facing bans or restrictions of service in one country or another. The ability to communicate with people all over the world over Facebook messenger, Google Hangouts, or even Twitter might soon find itself segregated by individual country.
The single-company service was never something the Internet was originally built on. The core technologies that power the internet assumes a variety of autonomous governments, companies, and individuals all trying to interconnect. The deeper you dive into the technology of the Internet, the more you see individual products use of old standards and protocols. Nobody can set up, for example, a copy of Facebook in their office to make sure they will always have access to Facebook, but you can set up an email server. Nobody can just deploy a copy of Slack that they control, but the original technology Slack was based on, IRC, still works just fine. Facebook Messenger doesn’t let you talk with non-Facebook users, but XMPP messaging does.
The commercial viability of these standards has diminished as the tech landscape has come to be dominated by only a few very large players. As laws and regulations start to catch up to the online world, though, it has become clear the pendulum of power is going to start swinging back towards governments. The new wave of politicians and policymakers that grew up with these technologies and understand them in ways that our historically 1940’s vintage legislators never did.
In the next decade, I expect interoperability between products made by different companies is going to return to the main stage. We likely will never go back to the days of when every company with more than a few employees had its own computer room. Nationalism based on the fears of cyberwarfare are driving China, the US, and Russia to restrict using foreign products and technologies, though, even as those systems continue to need to talk to each other. In the coming years the savvy information executive might not be looking to the future for solutions. They might be looking to the past.