I predict a problem:
Currently mastodon is being run as free software by hobbyist and enthusiasts. They're piggybacking on infrastructure built for much larger projects and customers. You don't build a server hall for a thousand low-tier payers of $15 / month. You build it for the two of those that will need to scale up to the enterprise level, and eventually (now) fedi software will have to scale to that same tier
As the web matures as an industry profit margins will decrease, which will increase the pressures to extract more rent for existing capital in the form of infrastructure. If this happens then fedi is dead unless it can blow for blow match the price ratcheting. This is dubious without a strong culture of donations and support.
The only long term solution is if admins and users own the means of infrastructure. Anything less is a holding pattern or active decay.
Hi there. I'm fairly new to mastodon but know a bit about web infrastructure.
Making sure projects are financially stable (and stable in terms of capacity) is very important to be concerned about.
Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on a company like 1984? ( https://1984.hosting/about/ )
So far, though, over the years, when it comes to web hosting, the trend has always been towards allowing people to do more for less money.
If this does change though, in the way that you say, the economy as a whole will likely be pretty fucked, I imagine.
@benx Hi! Sorry for just going to bed straight after posting! 🌳
Welcome to Mastodon! I'm going to set this to public just to keep going on my own thread.
What I want to emphasize is that currently small projects can piggyback off of the infrastructure that is required for bigger projects hosted on cloud providers. There are two reasons why things are cheap for small project at the moment, and there are two strategies that can be taken. Both are bad.
@benx Let's do the reasons for cheapness at the current first.
There is a fine balance between ludicrous profit margins and destitution for companies in narrow industries. Cloud infrastructure is one of these institutions.
What has tipped the balance over the last decades has been the culture of open-sourcing of infrastructure tooling, and Moore's Law. Because of the fact that the servers run open source software, there is little startup cost for software for a competing cloud provider.
@benx What is needed however, is human capital in terms of educated workers for the management, and hardware capital in the terms of CPU's, RAM, Storage, and server hall equipment. These aren't cheap, but they're not mainframe, rocket-science level hard to pull off. As a provider you can also start small and ramp up gradually as your customer base grows.
Now for the reasons why it's been smart for these providers to provide low-cost hosting to people looking to run smaller projects.
@benx 1) The half-life of existing capital invested into CPU, Storage and RAM has been short. This is Moore's law in action and it has tipped the balance in favor of new competitors, because they can recruit the educated workers of the previous cycle, thus not paying for training them, while at the same time getting more performant hardware per dollar than their older competitors. The only thing that matters long term is customer loyalty, and recruitment of the next big thing.
@benx 2) Because of the fact that recruitment of new projects is the lifeblood of cloud providers there's been an enormous need to make it easy to provision new environments for new tenants, because the one that provides the easiest and cheapest setup has the highest chance of getting the golden egg. The one that has the most startups on its customer lists has the highest chance of getting to host the next TikTok, and that is where the big bucks lie.
It is a marketing strategy.
@benx Now, #fedi is paradigmatically different than what the providers are used to. For one, instances do not need to grow their own user bases to be viable because of the fact that instances are interconnected. The fediverse breaks the upgrade cycle that the cloud providers want because we have no interest in growing.
Secondly, instances do not have an inherent revenue stream which scales with activity, so if computing were to become scarce we cannot compete against better paying customers.
@benx Computing has historically been cheap, but that is because profits could be extracted from technological breakthroughs in developing better CPUs. And now Moore's law is petering out, which means that in the near future the incentive to produce more and better CPUs will decrease, and capital will try to find investment elsewhere.
But the cloud providers still want a return on their now much more long-lived hardware investments, so they will have to squeeze the market.
@benx Instances have, as I see it, two options here. We either stay small, or try to grow. Both are problematic.
Many Smaller Instances: The problem here is that if cloud providers find that the amount of smaller long-term instances on their lowest tiers doesn't cut it for their profit goals, they will change the contracts. This is unsustainable for instances that live on donations.
I also have my doubts that smaller instances can handle the mass of people now fleeing Twitter.
@benx So some big instances are required, but they're going to get the other end of the stick if they keep hosting contracts with arms-length providers. Those higher tiers cost more than a hobbyist can afford and I have a feeling that as an instance grows in users, the $-amount / user in donations decrease. Gains from scale exists, but ratcheting of price will still happen.
I am just opposed to the idea of wealth transfers just for the sake of being able to maintain our own public squares.
@benx So, to me, the only solution out of this squeeze, which again is just inequality and private property by another name, is to #ownthemeansofcomputing by which I mean co-op server providers that run at break-even for the benefit of the community.
We need commonly owned infrastructure (just as with roads and bridges) or otherwise capital holders will start putting up toll-booths.
Anyways, thanks for coming to my TED-talk. Interested in what @forestjohnson would think of this 🌿
Hey, so, like I was saying I do have some familiarity with web server hosting already.
This is because I helped run a hosting provider for over a decade, and throughout that time we made an effort to try and make the hosting more secure over and have more control over the resources.
I wasn't entirely clear about what you meant by rent for infrastructure because there are different levels of infrastructure (1/?)
Web architects is one co-op, I know of, set up by people from the political activist scene. I don't what their current setup is but I know they have maintained their own physical servers in the past. https://www.webarchitects.co.uk/
Security wise the best place to host servers is a country with good data protection laws which is why I mentioned 1984. Web architects has provided hosting on 1984 as a more data secure option. (2/?)
There are many other activist run hosting collectives that are out there, who will have different structures and different levels of infrastructure control. I will try and find a list later and post it here.
If you are more mainly worried about cost, though, you may find that is probably cheaper to utilise the large cloud services that are available.
And then, if needs be, shifting to a different server, whether that be for cost or security reasons.
If you don't trust your web host from a data protection point of view but it's the only affordable option for what you need then I would try to set your system up to encrypt as much as you can. That itself is a whole other thing.
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