[linux-elitists] Google uber alles

Jason White jason at jasonjgw.net
Sat Jul 11 19:02:57 PDT 2009

Rick Moen  <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:

>A Linux distro configured for hosted proprietary applications:  I'm just
>overcome with excitement.  

I share Rick's sentiment. My larger worry concerns the whole "cloud computing"
craze, with its associated aim of turning everybody's desktop system into
little more than a terminal accessing corporate-hosted server-side
applications. This very much reminds me of the corporate driven publicity ten
years ago surrounding Java: the idea was supposed to be that we would
eventually be running server-side applications on thin Java clients.

The difference this time is that the "terminals" are already deployed in the
form of millions of Javascript-capable Web browsers - a mess so far as
standards compliance is concerned, but this can be largely worked around at
the server end to the point of making the Web applications usable by a lot of
people, a situation that will only improve with advances in client-side
technologies. Google's move here is predictable: let's minimize the operating
system by installing only what is needed to run the user agent and connect to
hosted applications (with, presumably, some capacity for off-line use, but
still with dependencies, ultimately, on the server).

My concern over the long term is that, if this succeeds any more than the Java
client initiative did, we need to ensure that those of us who want to opt out
of it by running our own free operating systems and software on our own
independent, fully equipped, machines, will be able to do so easily, and that
this doesn't adversely affect the ability of the Linux and free software
community to thrive. Turning the client side into terminals would involve a
huge concentration of power in the hands of the server operators...

I think there are many organizations and individuals who would be unwilling to
hand over their data and applications to third parties, especially large
service providers, but then again, the extent of stupidity, ignorance and
short-term self-interested thinking always has the capacity to amaze.

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