more communities for federated RTC?

Paul Hänsch paul at
Mon Jun 29 10:36:02 UTC 2015

On 2015-06-25 16:18, Paul Hänsch wrote:
> [see below]
I accidentally sent this mail only to Daniel at first and he has been 
so kind to point this out in his reply. I'd like to take the discussion 
to the list again. Daniel countered some of my points, maybe he could 
take this reply to the list as well. The field in general is very 
important to me, which is why I couldn't let it go even after so many 
weeks ;-)

On 2015-05-31 14:44, Daniel Pocock wrote:

> On 31/05/15 12:12, cyberesprit wrote:
> > Don't forget the TOX project (no servers, all encrypted data,

I too think that we have to step beyound federation to a truly 
distributed network. As far as I can see TOX looks most promising in 
that respect.

> "no servers" is not accurate.  The DHT Nodes are effectively like
> servers in SIP or XMPP networks:

What you link to is a list of bootstrap nodes. Other than servers 
those are only importent for a client to initially join the network. 
Once it has learned of other nodes, they may fade from the peer list. 
In a federated network you commit yourself to the use of one provider, 
which will then become a hassle to change (e.g. people still send me 
mail on very old mail accounts). In a distributed network the nodes you 
communicate with are arbitrary which decreases the amount of power in 
the hands of service providers by an order of magnitude (in addition to 
the decrease that happens when you federate a centralised 

> While there are several interesting solutions like this (TextSecure
> was another example) they are not getting traction in organizations 
> like large companies, universities or public bodies.  SIP and XMPP 
> may  well be the only open solutions having the right profile to 
> serve institutional needs.

Providers of highly centralised solutions assert the same for their 
respective services with just as little substance. That's a blatant 

In fact Skype used to cover this field quite well, when it was still 
a highly distributed protocol. A pity that the vendor enforced single 
control points that were purely artificial and not strictly necessary 
for the technology to work. A pity that it was never open.

> There are also proprietary solutions trying to service those
> institutions: Microsoft Lync, Google Hangouts, vendors like Avaya
> offering products that claim to do SIP but only work with other
> products from their approved partners.
> Sooner or later, I can imagine Facebook, LinkedIn and Salesforce all
> offering their users WebRTC too.

Like they offer XMPP today - in a way that has nothing at all to with 
federation or user independence.

> Just as Google dropped XMPP support, I doubt any of those vendors 
> will be keen to enable federation or interact with open source 
> clients if they can avoid it.  The only thing that will make them 
> consider remaining open is if some large organizations or public 
> bodies do actually deploy standards-based SIP and XMPP.

They *are* the large organisations. They became so large *by* locking 
in users. The last thing we need is an even more powerful one for them 
to submit to. We as users must escape this powerplay among giants. We 
can do so by dwarfing them in comparison to an infrastructure that 
doesn't require giants to run. While federated providers can grow into 
giants, like Gmail did for email, distributed networks keep all their 
users at eye level. They can only grow as a network while no 
participant can increase his share over the system or even cut off all 

The control points of WebRTC do not only lie in the TURN servers and 
confrence proxies, they even start with the web interface which a 
provider delivers to its users.
If the server software is Free Software I can become my own provider. 
But if the giants won't peer with me, I can only try to become another 
giant, or submit to one and and stay the dwarf. 
Only a distributed technology put's me on eye level.

WebRTC is a revolution to the depressing void before which we stand in 
regards to video telephony. I think it has a little more danger of 
beeing sucked up by a large provider than SIP and XMPP, ironically that 
will also be the incentive for those players to aid in its development 
and distribution.
I'm happy to see systems like WebRTC getting adopted, and it's good 
when FSFE doesn't stay behind there. My vision however would be that 
people communicate without the aid of distinct providers.
Incidentially, in FSFE that would also mean less services to maintain 
for the system-hackers ;-)

Paul Hänsch                     █▉            Webmaster, System-Hacker
Jabber: paul at    ▉▉     Free Software Foundation Europe
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