Percloud status update, November 2013

Welcome to the percloud proposal! To know more about its author, and how to support his current work, please click here

In the past 5/6 weeks I have received many suggestions, compliment and critiques about this proposal of mine for personal clouds for the masses. Thanks to all this interest, I am now even more convinced than when I started of two things:

Percloud feasibility #

The percloud as I originally proposed it may be even more feasible and easy to implement than I thought initially, exactly because there are so many projects with similar goals that are already putting a great deal of effort on the same Free Software components. I refer to, just to name a few and in no particular order: arkOS, Cloud|Fleet, FreedomBox, Cozy Cloud…

Validity of the percloud approach #

I am convinced that the “percloud way” solves problems that may seem trivial, and that those other projects mostly ignore, but are the only ones that are already relevant for many Internet users, like having a permanent online presence, or protecting minors by abusive profiling and advertising.

Above all, I also remain convinced that the percloud is a better approach than those other projects to “Big Issues” like real online Privacy, Anonimity, Security etc…, exactly because it “attacks” those problems gradually, and from the opposite side.

What follows is a generalization and simplification, but what I see is projects working from the bottom to build or invent new perfect, ultimate, complete, flexible “platforms”, sometimes entirely alternative and separated by the Internet and Web of today.

Personally, instead, I agree with this approach of reinventing wheels only when it is absolutely necessary. Even more important, I am convinced that starting from the bottom isn’t productive. This is explained in more details in my other posts on this topic, but here is a summary: as far as I can see, those other projects put real integration of all the interfaces of a personal cloud and real federation of such clouds pretty low in their todo lists, if they even mention these issues.

Real people, instead, need above all stuff that:

  • has as little buttons and configuration options as possible, and the same look whatever they are doing (upload files, blog, read friends status updates, email…): they do not want to notice that one function is handled by ownCloud, another by Mailpile and another by WordPress (integration)
  • knows by itself how to connect to other personal clouds to exchange notifications of status updates. The reason people use, or remain in Facebook is that it lets them know what their contacts are doing, and vice-versa, without setting up hundreds of RSS feeds manually (federation)

So, if I could start Phase 1 of the percloud today, I think I would work almost exclusively on the top layer (=unified interface and federation), without bothering at all to build a whole, stand-alone Linux system from day one. Because once that “unified Web interface” (which is, see above, THE REAL ISSUE) were ready, then “attaching” it to pieces of arkOS or anything else, to build one complete system, would be much easier.

Status #

I have already done everything I could do on this as a toy project. The next step should be a meaningful, reusable feasibility study, in the shortest possible time, of the percloud as explained in this page and in Phase 1 of the Roadmap.

As far as I am concerned, that is serious work that requires concentration, and the assurance that it can be done from beginning to end, otherwise (again: as far as I am concerned!) there is not much point to start it.

Personally, however, from now on I cannot afford to work on the percloud (or, for that matter, on any other project in this space) for free more than 1 or 2 hours per week, that is practically nothing. I have to give precedence to stuff that pays the bills.

I’ll do my best to stay updated on what is happening in this field. I will continue to answer email about the percloud. In general, I remain available to start Phase 1 as soon as funding comes to do it all. And of course, if anybody else wants to work on it, that’s great, really! Please let me know. For the moment, this is it, and thanks for your attention.

Final note: I had started writing a percloud overview that explains in more details, but in the simplest possible way, how perclouds would work, their advantages and limits, and the “validity of the percloud approach”. For the same reasons I already explained, that document is still a draft not ready to be published online, but if anybody wants to read and comment it, just send me an email.



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