Whenever this topic comes up, I’m used to seeing other programmers declare that the solution is simply to make something better. I understand where this thought comes from; when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and it’s comforting to think that your primary skill and passion is exactly what the problem needs. Making better tools doesn’t do anything about the backwards profit motive though, and besides, have you tried using any of the centralized alternatives lately? They’re all terrible. Quality of tools really isn’t what we’re losing on.

No, the solution has to be political. That’s uncomfortable for me, as it probably is for you too. Software I can do, politics though? That’s hard. Something needs to change about these profit motives though. I’m not arrogant enough to declare that I know the one true answer here, I doubt there even is one true answer.

An example I bring up that people sometimes don’t know about is that when Time Warner bought AOL in 2002 one of the conditions from the FCC was that AOL open up its instant messenger platform before going into videoconferencing. The Bush administration ultimately just decided to just ignore the condition. But you can imagine another universe where instead of jumping from AOL to GChat to Slack to Discord every few years, we could just… use an instant message client and expect it work with whatever servers our friends and companies happen to use. We don’t live in that world because there wasn’t the political will to create it.