Agyx - Logo
M. Coxiestraat 22
B-2800 Mechelen
110 Wall Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10005-3817
United States of America

Archive for October, 2008

Richard Stallman says cloud computing is a trap

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

There’s been some buzz on the web about GNU founder Richard Stallman’s statement that cloud computing is a trap and that Web-based programs like Google’s Gmail will force people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time. Many of the Free software advocates seem to agree and so does most of the Slashdot crowd (which, as we now, is entirely representative of the world’s geek opinion ;-) .

Stallman’s point is that in cloud computing, information is not free (‘free’ in the sense of liberty, not ‘gratis’). The application provider has full control over your data and you don’t have unlimited access to it. If the supplier should go bust, you lose your data. He argues that people choose convenience over freedom. I argue that it is becoming impossible to keep all your data at home and that often data becomes more valuable when it is kept by others.

First of all, we accept similar systems in other domains without thinking. If we were to follow Stallman’s train of thought, all of us would have to keep our money at home, take courses in investment banking and trade our shares and bonds ourselves to get a 3% return on our savings. Oh, yes, and we would of course need to buy vaults to protect the cash from disasters such as fire or burglars. It is not only more practical to bring it to the bank, it is also safer and it becomes more valuable.

The same goes for data: more and more business models are built on the concept of user-generated data and the increase of its value through the network effect. YouTube would be non-existent if people kept all their videos at home.

The main difference between data in the world of cloud computing and our money in the bank is legislation. Now I’m usually not an advocate for additional laws and rules, but our data is becoming almost as valuable as our money, so it should be protected by laws. One of the things the current financial crisis has learned us is that governments will go to great lengths to protect the money of the common man. If they would see that the common man’s data is equally important, then they could take appropriate measures to keep it free as well…