Is There an Exit from Search Hell?

Larry Sanger
Search Hell.

UPDATE (March 14, 2022): like DuckDuckGo, Qwant has also decided to censor RT and Sputnik (Russian state media). Text slightly changed below.

UPDATE 2 (April 2, 2022): as noted below, Gibiru routes their results through Google. So, no. But I discovered Seekr.com, which seems like a possibility. Need to evaluate the extent to which they use Google and Bing.

The Problem: DDG Has Jumped the Shark

I would not use Google; it’s both censorware and spyware. And I would not trust Bing, or Yahoo, which is powered by Bing, for the same reason. Such reasoning is why many of us switched to DuckDuckGo in the last few years, despite the fact that Bing is one of their sources. In addition to supporting user privacy, when I switched, they seemed to be of decent quality and, importantly, not to be censored.

Unfortunately, that seems to have changed. Read this from DDG’s CEO:

Very well, now DuckDuckGo’s CEO has as good as declared that they, too, have been censoring their results (I’ve been wondering, frankly) and as a company are not afraid to announce censorship policies.

Now, let’s be clear. I have no issues with search engines using a wide variety of methods of determining the most relevant and useful search results. A search engine need not be strictly a popularity contest, for example, a la Google. But when a search engine specifically declares that it will censor (yes, down-ranking is a kind of censorship) “sites associated with Russian disinformation”, that signals that they have set themselves up to be arbiters of what counts as political “disinformation.” That is not a role I want a search engine to play; as a conservatarian, I would not even want a search engine to weed out left-wing establishment views from results, because I want to know what those people are saying, too.

The Alternatives

It takes a while to create a good search engine—we saw that in the late 90’s with Google, and then much later with DuckDuckGo itself. Are any other search engines (1) competent (surfacing many relevant search results) and also (2) unbiased? This is hard to determine, and one cannot make any conclusions without actually trying them out.

Let us review some of the more interesting alternative search engines on offer, comparing them on a variety of searches: (a) encyclopedic/general info (are the results relevant/useful?); (b) current news related (unbiased/balanced?); (c) technical (do they actually find good StackOverflow or other forum answers to problems?); (d) other assorted searches, including philosophy, theology, and geography/local.

I will look at Brave and Qwant in detail, and Gibiru, Gigablast, and Mojeek briefly. I will not be reviewing StartPage for the simple reason that they use Google, nor Swisscows or OneSearch, because they use Bing. (By the way, if you want a family-friendly search engine that doesn’t use Google data, Swisscows might work for you or your kids.) In fact, one of the dirty little secrets of the world of alternative search engines is that most of them are just the biggies repackaged—but not all. I am also not going to consider the English Yandex, because it’s run by Russians. I certainly have nothing against Russians, but I also don’t want a Russian point of view and, indeed—they do engage in propaganda, just as Google does.

So here goes. I will focus on the desktop experience. I will begin with the search engine so many people on Twitter were recommending in response to a recent tweet of mine:

Brave Search

Brave Search is associated with the Brave browser I’ve been using. Both were founded by JavaScript developer Brendan Eich, who was canceled by Mozilla for giving money to the anti-gay marriage side in the California proposition 8 debate. Brave Search does its own indexing but also makes use of other search engines as well. They are focused on privacy and, one might expect, offering a broader ideological landscape. But the latter, not so much.

George Washington

  • Nice pre-search results! Neat!
  • I’m not French. Why the heck am I getting this at the top of my results? But this might be a temporary glitch, because I didn’t see this message when I tried the search later (I don’t think I dismissed it either).
  • But when I search “GAFAM” on Brave, apart from pushing Wikipedia right to the top, the results seem rather good to me: a nice variety, sources seem credible and the offerings useful.
  • Anyway. Back to Brave’s “George Washington” results. Ugh, here’s Wikipedia right at the top!
  • Then comes GWU, a history.com page, the Mount Vernon museum, Britannica, GWU law school, the Mount Vernon museum again, the Miller Center (on the presidency), etc. Not bad, on the whole.

catcher in the rye summary

  • Actually quite good, as far as I can tell. A lot of relevant information. SparkNotes #1, Britannica #2, Wikipedia #3.

Where do ducks go when ponds freeze over?

  • Only OK. First two results are from answers.com, ugh. The first answer isn’t bad, the second sucks, the third is autogenerated SEO-gaming nonsense, and the rest actually seems to be OK.

Now some current news-related topics.

Ukraine

  • In order, the results (below) are: Wikipedia, ABC News, then comes an “In the News” section (from CNN, NYTimes, and NBC News…ugh), Britannica, a Guardian category page, a NY Times recent update, a CBS News category page, a CNN recent update, the State Dept. page.
  • This is surprising and disappointing in two ways. First, there are no conservative sources among the news results: I checked, i.e., on the first page, not a single news result from anything that wasn’t obviously liberal/progressive. Highly favors CNN, NY Times, CBS, and NBC.
  • Second, since the search phrase didn’t specifically concern the news, I wasn’t expecting to find such an extremely high concentration of news-related results. If I had wanted news, I would have clicked on the news tab. The general search should not give me news predominantly.

inflation and gas prices

  • While my search is fairly generic (the relationship between inflation and gas prices is a fairly important topic in economics), again, most of the results are news. Not my preference.
  • Sources in order: CNBC, LA Times, Pew Research, NY Times, WaPo…ugh again.

trans terf controversy

  • The thing I’ll look for here is pretty much anything that isn’t in favor of the trans political agenda. And…yeah, it’s almost all news and explainers told from a pro-trans political agenda (the NBC News seems relatively even-handed between trans and feminist), and all Dave Chappelle and J.K. Rowling, who cause old liberals difficulties because they’re not exactly conservative but they refuse to get in line with the trans agenda. But maybe pro-trans folks are all who are actually, you know, writing about this?

Now some technical searches.

java.lang.IllegalArgumentException: An SPI class of type org.apache.lucene.codecs.PostingsFormat with name ‘Lucene90’ does not exist. You need to add the corresponding JAR file supporting this SPI to your classpath. The current classpath supports the following names: [IDVersion]

  • This is a search recently performed in this household. No results from Brave. DDG does fine with it.

How to initialize an array of the first ten integers briefly ruby

  • Generic results only. Does not actually answer the question, but plenty of specific answers are available. DDG is much better.

Now, for special interest to me, I’ll do some random searches on topics of interest to me: philosophy, theology, geography/local, and Irish fiddle.

Thomas Reid theory of perception

  • Wow! Really not bad at all! SEP is #1, then two academic sources, then a book by a guy I went to grad school with, then IEP. Well done!

“God was with him” (in quotes)

  • Wow again! Quotation pages from the Bible, followed by specific commentary on the meaning of the phrase.
  • Moreover, despite the fact I used quotation marks in my search, the results also (even mainly) include pages about “The Lord was with him.”

pizza near me

  • I’m reasonably pleased with the map that I get as a result (below). Glad they don’t depend 100% on Yelp.
  • This is not where I live, but it is probably close to the Verizon server I’m connected to.
  • When I substitute the name of the nearest town to me, I get an auto parts store and an apartment building as #2 and #3. That’s weird. The rest of the results are OK.

‘Shamrock Hill’ reel

  • The page from thesession.org should be in the #1 place, but #3 is OK. DDG is better. Not very good results, but far from not useless. But:

“Shamrock Hill” reel (with double quotes instead of single quotes)

  • I tried the search again now with double quotes, and lo and behold, the results are pretty much perfect. Just the results I would expect, in the order I’d expect.

Summary of findings about Brave Search: for a relatively new search engine, it was better than expected. Several times, the search had results that were as good as DDG’s. It is still a bit rough around the edges, though. The biggest issue I have with it is in the news topic related searches: they could have been delivered by Google, they were that focused on mainstream liberal-left news. If I am going to abandon DuckDuckGo because they are pushing a liberal-left viewpoint now, I don’t see why I wouldn’t draw the same conclusion about Brave Search. Sorry, Brave. I have to call it as I see it.

Qwant

Qwant is French, nine years old, and another search engine that is highly focused on privacy. They’re supposed to do their own indexing. Last I checked, long ago, they definitely weren’t ready for prime time. But maybe they’re better now. I’ll comment at the bottom about the claim that they depend on Bing. I’ll try the same searches I did before.

But first, an update, as a tweet came to my attention the day after first publishing this blog post.

So apparently, Qwant too has decided to decide for its users what ought to count as “war propaganda.” Make use of that information as you will; but for me, as with DDG, this is a decisive count against them. Again, this is not because I hold a brief for Russia or Russian media in particular, but simply because, if a search engine presumes to make such a decision on my behalf, then I cannot trust them not to make other censorious decisions as well.

George Washington

  • The results, even with Wikipedia right at the top, are very similar (including many of the same results, in a different order) to Brave. Not bad.

catcher in the rye summary

  • This is a bit better than Brave. It has all the lit sites I’m used to seeing: SparkNotes, LitCharts, ThoughtCo, GradeSaver, WritingExplained, CourseHero, etc. Wikipedia is there, but in spot #7.

Where do ducks go when ponds freeze over?

  • Again, quite good answers. Has something from Parlia before the two Answers.com answers (ugh), and the rest of the results seem plausible. Better than Brave again.

Ukraine

  • We get a flag, map, and infobox in the left column, above the regular results, which frankly makes some sense to me. Pretty attractive.
  • Despite being French, Qwant knows I’m American and shows me American news sources. Like Brave, the results are mostly news, but not entirely. Sources: NBC, Sky, CBS, CBS Local (LA), MSNBC, the CIA World Factbook, State.gov page on Ukraine, Fox country landing page, MSN page on “war in Ukraine,” and finally a page on Ukraine from PremierChristianRadio.
  • While again there is not enough general info, and too much news/orientation from liberal sources, but at least they actually had Sky, Fox, and PremierChristianRadio—all three establishment conservative sources. Interesting. Better than Brave.

inflation and gas prices

  • This leads with the gas prices page from USInflationCalculator.com, which seems very appropriate. The other sources are USN&WR, CNBC, CNN, Fox Business, Motor Trend, NY Post, a radio station, CBS Local (Boston), and finally an economist’s blog that actually addresses the question, “What happens to gas prices during inflation?” Dang, Qwant is just leaving Brave in the dust here. Where Brave had nothing but establishment left and local sources, at least Qwant has CNBC and USN&WR (maybe more centrist), Fox Business, and NY Post. No big complaints here.
  • But several results match perfectly with Bing, albeit in a slightly different order.

trans terf controversy

  • Now we enter real controversial territory, and Qwant is like Brave: different selection of articles, but 100% on the trans side (see below).
  • I find it hard to believe that the “terfs,” i.e., the (typically) radical feminist and especially lesbian commentariat has nothing to say about the controversy. But it’s not implausible that their stuff is mostly buried in relatively obscure blogs.

ame ‘Lucene90’ does not exist. You need to add the corresponding JAR file supporting this SPI to your classpath. The current classpath supports the following names: [IDVersion]

  • Very poor. At least it had some results (unlike Brave), but they are useless. Seems partly based on Bing.

How to initialize an array of the first ten integers briefly ruby

  • Returns good StackOverflow pages in the first two results. The rest are more general, but that’s not worse than DDG. Only Google is better (and there I’d recommend using StartPage instead since they give you Google results without the spyware).

Thomas Reid theory of perception

  • Here we have the first instance where the Qwant results are significantly worse than Brave. Result #1 is a student paper, a PDF; then come some academic sources which are fine, and finally we get some relevant SEP and IEP articles in positions 8 and 9.
  • Seems to be derived from Bing.

“God was with him”

  • This is a bit different from Brave. The results are: a blog on the meaning of the phrase; a collection of Bible quotes; two sermons; etc. Anyway, not too bad, but I like Brave’s results more here, too.

pizza near me

  • Interesting. Qwant is so averse to making use of your personal information that they do not even make use of your IP address to give you personalized results. That’s quite OK by me.
  • When I do “pizza near [a town near me]”, I get some pages, not its own results, giving “The 10 BEST Pizza Places in …”. I like this more. These are actually useful results.

‘Shamrock Hill’ reel

  • Excellent results, in the order I’d prefer. The double-quote version is not the same, but also good. The latter in particular are quite close to Bing’s.

Summary of findings about Qwant: I could see switching to Qwant, but their use of Bing is a sticking point. The results are better than Brave’s in most cases, but they do still seem to make heavy use of Bing; still, they appear to use data not reflected in Bing’s results. I would need to study to what extent Qwant uses Bing. A bit too much for my taste, I think. And my updated conclusion is the fact that Qwant decided to censor Russian state media for me is a reason to think they’re not above censoring all sorts of other things. That sort of controlling behavior is not a thing I can support or endorse, so it’s a firm “no” from me to Qwant.

Briefer reviews

Other search engines present some interesting options, but ultimately, I was disappointed. Gigablast had its start in 2000 and since 2013 has been open source. It claims to be an independent web crawler. The front page sports a U.S. flag and the tagline, “F*** all dictators!” (without the asterisks); search results are shown with a rather bizarre design. But the results are OK, as far as I can tell. They still place sometimes Wikipedia on top as in the case of “George Washington”, but the results for “Ukraine” were different: CIA Factbook came first, then U.K. travel advice, Twitter hashtag #Ukraine, and lo and behold, between Ukraine Tax Treaty Documents and HuffPo, there is the Ukraine landing page at Epoch Times. “Inflation and gas prices” ranges from Democratic Underground to Daily Mail, with everything in between; the results are certainly more diverse than the others. Meanwhile, “trans terf controversy” has even more radical trans sources, but also more articles from the Daily Mail. The long Java error message generated simply “Error = Query too big”, while the Ruby query generated useful results. The ” ‘Shamrock Hill’ reel” results were embarrassingly bad.

Gibiru…stop the presses! Update! I just noticed that all their search results are actually routed through Google. Avoid. Anyway, Gibiru bills itself as not just another privacy-oriented search engine, but also as “uncensored.” The latter is strictly marketing, however, and probably means very little; the results I saw were pretty typical. Its results do appear to be comparable to Brave and Qwant in terms of relevance, but sometimes a bit strange (the “George Washington” search didn’t inspire confidence, but others were OK). They are still dominated by establishment news, though with perhaps more centrist and factual Establishment sources. I could find no information about the sources of their index, but it was frequently similar to Brave. It is harder in their case to demonstrate that they use other search engines, but they might. (I could find no information on this.) Update, again: avoid Gibiru. They route their searches through Google.

Mojeek gives plenty of info about itself, and it claims to be entirely independent, having built its own index. So, that’s nice. How does it do? “George Washington” results are pretty spotty; it begins with Wikipedia, and five of the next six results do not actually concern George Washington, but things (or people) named after him. It does well with “catcher in the rye summary”, but poorly with “Where do ducks go when ponds freeze over?”, though it is entirely clear that the results are very different from other search engine’s, which is nice, as far as it goes. “Ukraine” has neither very much nor high-quality info about the country in general, nor even a decent selection of news, though mostly it’s news. In short, the rest is mostly of poor quality and not really ready for prime time; it reminds me of the also-ran search engines of yesteryear, full of puzzling, irrelevant results.

One more search, just to double-check

Frankly, the main reason I am disappointed with DDG is its move toward censorship and ideological filtering—which was one of the main reasons I had for abandoning Google in the first place. So you might do several ideological searches, comparing DDG, Brave, Qwant, Gigablast, and Gibiru. (I’m not going to bother with Mojeek because its results are so often useless.)

Well, I’ll try one, because this takes a long time. What search term shall I try? How about…

gay marriage

I am not suggesting that there’s something wrong with gay marriage. I’m using this as a sharp divider between Establishment liberals and disaffected conservatives.

  • DDG: This was weird because I ended up refreshing the page a few different times and my results changed very slightly each time. It always begins with Wikipedia and History.com, but in the third place is ProCon.org, which I can vouch is scrupulously neutral (I know the founder). Then Wikipedia again, IGLTA (International LGBTQ+ Travel Association), once I saw The Knot.com (an interest group for gay marriage), GotQuestions.org (uber-conservative), once I saw Brookings.edu (uber-DC Establishment), tfpstudentaction.org (blog of a “Tradition, Family, Property Student Action” group), an IMDb movie page, a Georgetown academic page, and a pro-gay marriage Psych Today article. So, DDG is certainly on its way to liberal orthodoxy, but it does have two firmly conservative pages and one studiously middle-of-the-road pages; all the rest are quite liberal in point of view.
  • Brave Search: sources include Wikipedia, ProCon again (wonderful), Council on Foreign Relations (pretends to neutrality and factuality but is of course firmly in the pro-gay marriage camp), American Psych Assoc (very pro), New Yorker, Pew Research (5 facts, all good news for gay marriage, but does seem to be factual), Human Rights Campaign (pro), USN&WR (factual page on same-sex marriage around the world), Britannica, History.com. Of these, I would count 1-3 as neutral, none conservative, and all the rest strongly pro-gay marriage. OK then. And that’s supposed to be our replacement for DDG because DDG has abandoned principle? Hmm.
  • Qwant: here we have Wikipedia, History.com, ProCon again, an IMDb movie page, the TFPStudentAction blog from DDG, a Georgetown academic page, Wikipedia again, the Psych Today pro article, an attempt at a neutral “pro and con” article from Marriage.com, and TheKnot page. That’s it. The results are very similar to DDG.
  • Gigablast: sources include NY Times (three articles), Obergefell v. Hodges itself (nice!), Gay Wedding Blog on Facebook plus two other Facebook pages, CNN Money (touting the “big business” of gay weddings), a page on the conservative Christian blog All About Worldview, two IMDb movie pages, three Pew Forum research pages (mostly factual), two activist GLAAD pages, The Atlantic, three (pro) Amazon book pages, another Obergefell law page, three EventBrite “Gay Wedding Show” pages, SCOTUSblog (law, factual), Newsweek (three different URLs pointing to the same pro article; embarrassing), three Politico pages…and it goes on. Well, here again we have one conservative blog post, several more or less factual (or perhaps more subtly biased) law and polling pages, and all the rest, the vast majority of the pages, are wildly pro. OK dokey.
  • Gibiru: here we have Wikipedia, ProCon, Obergefell itself, NPR, ABC, CFR again, Human Rights Campaign again, another Obergefell law page, Pew, Britannica, Pew again, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services FAQ page, a YouTube video embarrassing to Hillary Clinton, a SSA (U.S. gov) page, a YouTube song (it’s funny I guess), Pew a third time, BBC, Gallup, the Georgetown academic page, and Gallup again. Now, this is interesting. Gibiru actually focuses on supplying mostly (i.e., the majority of the pages) polling info and sociological and legal facts. So frankly, maybe this should be called the winner on this search; if you actually wanted to learn about the topic, as opposed to absorbing opinion, Gibiru would be a better source than the previous four.

There is so much overlap here—when I am very sure these pages that just keep coming up have no great justification to keep coming up—that I am curious what Bing has. Let’s have a look, shall we?

  • Bing: …yeah. A lot of articles we’ve seen above. Wikipedia, history.com, ProCon, GotQuestions, TFPStudentAction (i.e., the two conservative articles I was impressed to see in DDG), Psych Today, the Georgetown page, WorldPopulationReview.com (the only one found only here), a pro YouTube video, and another Wikipedia page (shown to me because Bing knows I’m in Ohio).

And a quick check of Google also surfaces many of these. So what does that show? It shows that DDG is still using Bing results heavily; but, to a slightly lesser extent, so are Brave, Qwant, and perhaps Gibiru too. They might all also use Google as well. Only Gigablast is very different, but it’s very biased. Gibiru, as I said, focuses on facts and seems to downrank opinion, which is better at least than results stuffed with left-wing opinion.

Tentative Conclusion

According to this highly unscientific and small amount of testing, if you want to avoid ideological bias similar to Google’s, switching from DDG to Brave Search will not actually be an improvement. DDG still seems to make heavy use of Bing, which is why it’s so similar to Qwant, which also uses Bing. Gigablast will give you something different, for sure, but it has a weird design and is just as left-wing as the rest. Gibiru might make use of other sources for its index, and it is not so obviously based mainly on Bing; and it is sometimes more focused on facts over opinion, but not always.

These are all my vague impressions based on hours spent staring at and comparing search results.

My overall conclusion is not good news for people who are interested in neutral and factual information: We do not really seem to have any meaningful choices when it comes to search engines. These are all better than Google, though, in terms of ideological bias.

Sorry. Wish the news were better. I really wanted to like Brave, and failing Brave, then something else. Heck, in terms of simply giving the conservative Internet a voice, DDG and Brave seem no better than Bing. But it should of course be better in terms of privacy.

(But I’ll tell you what. As I constructed this, I frequently made use of the KSF-run encyclopedia meta-search engine EncycloSearch, because I knew I wanted a basic encyclopedia article, and this is actually more useful in surfacing a good variety of such articles than general search engines do. It won’t replace a general search engine, but sometimes it’s better than one.)

“But Wait,” You Say

Some people will look at the conclusions and say—as they often do, regarding bias in the news media, Wikipedia, and academia—that this state of affairs is simply a reflection of reality. These information sources all seem to be biased because, as leftists sometimes smugly and laughably say, reality “has a liberal bias.” Similarly, the reason all search engines seem to have a bias toward left-wing information is that there is simply more left-wing information online. Most people writing substantive material online, which might be linked-to from a search engine, just happen to share views that I would describe as “Establishment left.” And so what? I am asked.

I do not know if the latter claim true. Maybe it is. On certain topics (such as some of my searches, like “trans terf controversy” and “gay marriage”), of course there is a lot more written on the topics from a left-wing point of view. This is easily spotted and not hard to acknowledge.

But does that mean search engines must be designed so as to reflect the proportion of an ideological weighting among all possible search results? Of course not. We can design search engines however we like. As with news, reference, and education, I would prefer that the information I get from search engines be scrupulously designed so as to make it easier for me to make up my own mind about controversial topics, not harder. We might not agree on what ought to be controversial; as a philosopher and free thinker (very broadly speaking), I would like to be exposed to a very wide variety of points of view. The thought that search engines, like those other info sources, are designed to manipulate me—as they manifestly are—makes me livid. I am not a programmable robot. I am a free and critically-thinking citizen of a republic, or I would like to be, anyway.

Look at it this way. Among the responses to searches on politically charged topics such as “Ukraine” and “gay marriage,” there are boatloads of relevant pages, from a wide variety of sources, that I would want placed higher than just these. Why on earth should we constantly see Wikipedia, New York Times, Britannica, Vox, Pew, ABC News, CNN, etc., come up over and over and over again? I don’t mean I want to see more of Fox, WSJ, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail. I mean, that wouldn’t hurt, but that’s not my point. I would like to see high-quality material (there is a lot) from the long tail of downranked websites. I saw the Epoch Times once, and the Federalist, Breitbart, and National Review never. There were very few relatively obscure websites.

The broad overlap in most search results is a massive smoking gun that search is wrong. Massive amounts of useful content can only be found by drilling down into individual sites. It’s systematically hidden.

It seems to me there is a wide open opportunity for fresh, new kinds of search engines, with obvious features such as:

  • Ideological sliders. Why can’t I just specify that I want to see more conservative results, or more liberal results? And why stop there? Why not allow users specifically to give more weight to results that are Christian, atheist, traditionalist, feminist, libertarian, communist, techie, lawyerly, academic, etc.? We’ve been robbed, people. Why haven’t they done this? I’ll tell you why. It’s not because giant corporations like Google and Microsoft can’t make such a product. Of course they can. It’s because they don’t want to. They want to control you. That’s rather the whole point, for the oligarchs in control of the Googles of the world.
  • Easy switching between nationalities, and blending. I’d love to see a combo of American, English, Canadian, Australian, and Kiwi results.
  • Opinion search. We need more intelligent and deep indexing and results from blogs, Reddit, Quora, and the like.
  • Use of user ratings of content. With, of course, the absolutely essential ability to control which categories of raters that one will trust. This is how many social websites work internally (Amazon, YouTube, Twitter, etc.); why not the entire web, then? There is an answer: it’s because Google and Microsoft don’t actually want you to weighing in on certain information sources; you might come to the wrong conclusions.
  • In short, lots of settings. Who the hell decided it was a good idea to make the search experience the same for everyone in an entire country? I’ll tell you who: people to whom it is very important that they retain the ability to make entire countries (and ultimately the whole world) think the same way.

We’re very far from such search engines. I don’t know what I’m going to use going forward. I’ll probably switch off among the above until I settle in with one that I like best. But I won’t be happy about it.

What I’d really like to see is a statistical measurement of the top, say, 20 results from the top dozen or 20 search engines, on 1000 different quite various queries. Questions I want answered:

(1) How different are the results, on average, from Google and Bing?
(2) How many of the results are unique or very rare (compared to other search engines)?

Basically, I think there are boatloads of great content that rarely show high up on any search engines. Of course, this is necessitated by the sheer size of the web versus the limited real estate at the top of search results. But still: my contention is that, very often, there are better results that never float to the top of any of these search engines.

And that’s a problem they should have solved by now.

The Era of Centralized Social Media Is Over

Larry Sanger

For too long, we have made what has amounted to a Faustian bargain. If you post your comments, your pictures, your videos, your essays, your reviews—your content—on Big Tech’s enormous centralized platforms, then Big Tech will give you free hosting, an audience if you compete well, and some content development tools. It seemed fair. At least, that is how they encourage you to think about this bargain.

But we have now awakened—only half-awakened, most of us—to the real costs of the arrangement. They are higher than we thought.

We donate much more than temporary use of our content. Since content hosting has grown more complex and your audience is built into their product, and especially since it is difficult if not impossible to move most of our content and audience to other platforms easily, we have also effectively donated control, if not ownership, over our content and our audience.

But we also donate ourselves. We donate our valuable attention. We donate our freedom and autonomy, when the corporations decide what we may or may not upload or view, and whether others may or may not view our contributions. We donate our good name, our public support, for the very medium we use. We rent out our very minds when we open ourselves to manipulation by the controllers of these platforms. By our participation, we endorse this treatment as legitimate, no matter what indefensible things these corporations do.

There is also another thing we receive—another important part of the Faustian bargain—that is worth dwelling on. We receive a shot at popularity. We get a chance at an audience, at “friends” and “followers,” who “like” what we produce, who amplify our voices. Who doesn’t want friends and followers liking and amplifying us? And so we are hooked.

Is this exchange really worth it? Really?

We have been assuming that it is. I say it is objectively speaking a terrible arrangement that benefits them and mostly harms us, or most of us. Why do we agree to it, in that case? Because “they” have control over our social lives. We will be lost without the audience, the attention! And because the threat of that loss is so terrifying that most people will put up with increasingly obnoxious treatment as “the price you gotta pay.” It seems like a good example of the Stockholm syndrome.

I think the exchange is not worth it. I will not speak for you. But I can say confidently that it is not true of me. Since, last year, I declared that what I really wanted was decentralized social media, I have felt rather dirty as I used Twitter and YouTube. I admit it—I made excuses myself. “This is the only way I can get my voice out there effectively,” I told myself. Of course, I knew it was not true. I could write for publication. I could use my blog. “I’d be abandoning my peeps!” But nah. Nobody needs me there very much, and if they love me that much they can always come to the blog. “I would be giving up the fight (on Twitter) for freedom and justice!” I’m not Superman, and if my voice is really needed, I can probably fight more effectively on my blog and for publication.

All of those things strike me as being excuses because I liked the attention. The real bargain, and what makes the bargain demonic (so to speak), is that it involves receiving the attention of others, which merely feeds our ego, in exchange for something much more valuable: control over us by people we despise. When you get down to it, most of us are slaves to their system in exchange for the main thing we are after: evanescent, ultimately unimportant narcissistic pleasure. Is that what you really want and need?

It took this latest outrage by YouTube, threatening to delete any video that talks about the 2020 election fraud, to make me rethink my attitude toward contributing in any way to the Silicon Valley monsters.

So I am going to stop using my Twitter and YouTube accounts. I am not entirely sure what I will do with them. As to Twitter, I might keep it operational but just use it as a way to promote this blog and nothing more. I might completely shut down my YouTube channel. I am fairly sure I will be moving all my YouTube videos to my Bitchute channel (the move has already started), but whether it will be their final destination, I am not sure. I really want to support fully decentralized networks, so that I can have total control, right here in my own web space, of everything I want to put out there. Wouldn’t that be nice? Is it really too much to ask?

In any event, I am highly motivated right now to leave the Big Tech monsters behind. I am exiting their Faustian bargain. I am 100% committed to owning and controlling my own content and audience in the future. I have talked a lot about this, but it is finally time to make the last, necessary, hard changes to make it real.

How to Solve Email

Larry Sanger

Universal problem, circa 2000: you move around from school to school, job to job, Internet provider to Internet provider. They all give you email addresses, which of course constantly change. What a headache. If you’re over 30 or so, you remember having to tell people regularly about how your email address has changed. Annoying.

The 2010 solution was oh-so-clever: use some giant, professional email service like Yahoo!, but soon it was Gmail. For a number of years, Gmail dominated email services because, as everybody seemed to say, it just had the best design. But then, around 2011, stories started appearing that Google was spying on your email. That is still happening; they let other companies read your mail, too. Are you happy about that? Of course not.

So in 2020, we have a new set of problems—and a new (but old) solution. Yes, we expect the same email to be the available on different devices, as we did in 2000. Yes, we expect a more-or-less permanent email address and email clients that are super-easy to use, as we did in 2010. But today we also expect to be in control. We expect not to have to compromise on privacy or (shudder) on basic freedom of speech in our own private communications. It is absolutely frightening that we must now actually consider the possibility that even that basic freedom might be under threat.

In response to these worries, naturally, a lot of people have left Gmail and other Big Tech mail services. I did, and I never looked back.

The 2020 solution: buy your own domain, and pay for hosting. Owning your own, permanent domain is not as hard as you might think. You just have to pay a small annual fee for your own domain ($10-15/year) and mail hosting (could be $12/year, more typically $30/year, and up). And since your correspondents’ mail to you can be read by Big Tech if you are on Gmail (and a few others), you really owe it to them to leave.

By the way, you might say, “But I love Gmail. No other app is as good!” That might have been true in 2010. It is no longer true today. There are loads of great email apps with fast search and loads of great features.

“But…host my own email? How?” Glad you asked.

(By the way, I have no financial connection to anyone doing business on this stuff. This is my 100% uninfluenced, honest, and considered opinion.)

STEP ONE: Buy your own domain name for email. Mine is sanger.io. This can be the domain not just for you personally, but for your whole family, even your extended family.

If YourLastName.com is unavailable (try searching on something like NameCheap.com), try something other than “.com” (that is a “top level domain” or TLD). People in nonprofits might like “.org”. Geeks (maybe especially crypto geeks) might like “.io” or “.net”. There are a zillion TLDs (.xyz, .me, .news, etc.) available today. I rather like my family’s domain, sanger.io, which registered almost two years ago now. My email address is my first name @sanger.io. Pretty cool and easy for people to remember.

Another option is to add “mail”, “net”, “post” to your name. Like, I could buy sangermail.com if I wanted; it is available.

Buying a domain name is easy. You can do it through many, many different services. I would avoid GoDaddy. I use NameCheap, but there are many others that I am sure are excellent. Shop around.

STEP TWO: Choose a mail hosting provider. In other words, if you own MyLastName.com now, you need to pay a company to receive and store your email (at your new domain!) and make it available to you. I have already written about this. There is quite a bit of cheap email hosting out there to be had, and that would help you (a) have a personalized, permanent email address, and (b) escape Big Tech. But if you also want to (c) guarantee your privacy, then you need your email encrypted, and for that you will have to pay a premium, it looks like (the price is €6.25/mo/user on Protonmail, $5.99/mo/user on Hushmail, but you might find cheaper ones). I expect the cost of encrypted email hosting will come down further; prices have certainly come down since I was last shopping for this a couple years ago.

STEP THREE: Set up your new hosting, and actually make the move. You do not have to be a geek to set it up. Your hosting provider should be able to do most if not all of the set-up for you, if you have trouble. I mean, they are making money from hosting you, so they make it pretty easy. Just remember to follow instructions carefully and you will be fine. If it gets very complex and technical, just have the hosting company do it for you. If they will not, other hosts will; you can check in advance. This is how I set up my hosting and made the switch, but your experience may be different. Hosts do have different instructions, so pay attention to what they say, or you might have trouble with mail delivery. Make sure that your mail will not go into your friend’s spam folder; your mail hosting company should be experts at setting this up for you, with all the SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records and whatnot. You should not have to set it up for yourself; that piece of the puzzle really is complicated, so they will do it for you.

Exporting email from Gmail (and other email hosts) to your new service is a common sort of task, and it is not that hard. You can do it. Many hosts will help with this too, and might even have automated tools for doing it. You do not have to import your mail at all, by the way. You can just leave it all there, on Gmail, and tell people to use your new address.

Of course, you will have to go to all your accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, etc., etc.) and give them your new address. This might sound like a pain, but when I did it, I found it to be remarkably pleasurable. “Another company that will not be sending me mail at my hated old Gmail address! Instead I am telling them to use my new, permanent, personalized address!” It really gives you a feeling of being in control of your destiny.

You still have the freedom to do this. Use it!

This is another installment in my series on how I’m locking down my cyber-life.

My new book is launched in paperback: Here are some quotes

Larry Sanger

I am announcing that my book is now available on Amazon in paperback. Please show your appreciation for this blog (and my other attempts to enlighten the world) by buying it!

Here: Essays on Free Knowledge: The Origins of Wikipedia and the New Politics of Knowledge, Sanger Press (my own imprint), ISBN 978-1-7357954-1-6. 12 essays. 270 pages. $18.75 for the paperback. The ebook version is best purchased on Gumroad ($9.95), but it is now available on Amazon as well (same price). I will make an audiobook version if there is much demand. So far about four people have requested an audiobook version. If the number of requests goes over ten, I guess I will make an audiobook.

Wikipedia celebrates its 20th anniversary in January, but as I explain in this collection of essays, it began by organizing a decentralized, global community to catalog their knowledge neutrally, with minimal rules. The results were amazing, sparking debates about whether amateurs really could declare “what we all know” and whether all this free knowledge could replace memorization. A decade later, as control of knowledge has become more centralized and closed, I ask: should we decentralize knowledge once again, and if so, how?

What do you get? In addition to front and end matter (including a full index), these twelve essays, which I include with some perhaps representative quotes:

The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir

The focus on the encyclopedia provided the task and the open content license provided a natural motivation: people work hard if they believe they are teaching the world stuff. Openness and ease of editing made it easy for new people to join in and get to work. Collaboration helped move work forward quickly and efficiently, and posting unedited drafts made collaboration possible. The fact that we started with a core of good people from Nupedia meant that the project could develop a functional, cooperative community. Neutrality made it easy for people to work together with relatively little conflict. Finally, the Google effect provided a steady supply of “fresh blood”—who in turn supplied increasing amounts of content.

Two Early Articles about Wikipedia

Wikipedia’s content is useful, and so people are starting to link to it. Google and other search engines have already discovered Wikipedia and the daily traffic they send to the project produces a steady stream of new readers and participants. The greater the number of Wikipedia articles, the greater the number of links to them, and therefore the higher the rankings and numbers of listings on Google. As they say, “the rich get richer.” So it is far from inconceivable that the rate of article-production will actually increase over the coming years—in fact, this seems rather likely.

But why all this activity and interest? Surely that is puzzling. Wiki software must be the most promiscuous form of publishing there is—Wikipedia will take anything from anybody. So how is it possible that so many otherwise upstanding intellectuals love Wikipedia (some, secretly) and spend so much time on it? Why are we not writing for academic journals, or something?

Wikipedia’s Original Neutrality Policy

Wikipedia has an important policy: roughly stated, you should write articles without bias, representing all views fairly. This is easily misunderstood. The policy does not assume that it is possible to write an article from just one point of view, which would be the one neutral (unbiased, “objective”) point of view. The Wikipedia policy is that we should fairly represent all sides of a dispute, and not make an article state, imply, or insinuate that any one side is correct.

Why Neutrality?

To … put it metaphorically, neutrality does not give us a free ride. It throws us into the issues and requires us to swim through them under our own power. This can be difficult and frightening (thus Kant’s injunction, sapere aude) but it also makes us feel empowered to decide for ourselves. Neutrality supports us both intellectually and emotionally in the act of exercising autonomous judgment by presenting us with all the options and providing us the tools to judge among them for ourselves. …

When you write with bias, you are treating your readers as your pawns, as mere means to your ends. You are not treating them as autonomous agents, capable of making up their own minds rationally. You are not respecting their dignity.

Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism

There is a deeper problem—I, at least, think so—which explains both of the above-elaborated problems. Namely, as a community, Wikipedia lacks the habit or tradition of respect for expertise. As a community, far from being elitist (which would, in this context, mean excluding the unwashed masses), it is anti-elitist (which, in this context, means that expertise is not accorded any special respect, and snubs and disrespect of expertise are tolerated).

How the Internet Is Changing What (We Think) We Know

[T]he superabundance of information makes knowledge more difficult. … [F]or all the terabytes upon terabytes of information on the Internet, society does not employ many more (and possibly fewer) editors than it had before the advent of the Internet. When you go to post something on a blog or a web forum, there is no one called an editor who decides to “publish” your comment. The Internet is less a publishing operation than a giant conversation. But most of us still take in most of what we read fairly passively. Now, there is no doubt that what has been called the “read-write web” encourages active engagement with others online, and helps us overcome our passivity. This is one of the decidedly positive things about the Internet, I think: it gets people to understand that they can actively engage with what they read. We understand now more than ever that we can and should read critically. The problem, however, is that, without the services of editors, we need our critical faculties to be engaged and very fine-tuned. While the Internet conversation has made it necessary for us to read critically, still, without the services of editors, there is far more garbage out there than our critical faculties can handle. We end up absorbing a lot of nonsense passively: we cannot help it.

Who Says We Know: On the New Politics of Knowledge

[T]he public deserves a seat at the table it did not have throughout most of history. Wikipedia’s tremendous usefulness shows the wisdom of that policy. Still, it is no exaggeration to say that epistemic egalitarianism, as illustrated especially by Wikipedia, places Truth in the service of Equality. Ultimately, at the bottom of the debate, the deep modern commitment to specialization is in an epic struggle with an equally deep modern commitment to egalitarianism. It is Truth versus Equality, and as much as I love Equality, if it comes down to choosing, I am on the side of Truth.

Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age

The educational proposals and predictions of the Internet boosters described above point to a profoundly illiberal future. I fear that if we take their advice, in the place of a creative society with a reasonably deep well of liberally educated critical thinkers, we will have a society of drones, enculturated by hive minds, who are able to work together online but who are largely innocent of the texts and habits of study that encourage deep and independent thought. We will be bound by the prejudices of our “digital tribe,” ripe for manipulation by whoever has the firmest grip on our dialogue. I see all too much evidence that we are moving headlong in that direction. Indeed, I fear this is already happening. I honestly hope that I prove to be an alarmist, but I am a realist reporting on my observations. I wish the news were better.

Is There a New Geek Anti-Intellectualism?

The more that people have these various [anti-intellectual] attitudes, the more bad stuff is going to result, I think. The more that a person really takes seriously that there is no point in reading the classics, the less likely he will actually take a class in Greek history or early modern philosophy. Repeat that on a mass scale, and the world becomes—no doubt already has become—a significantly poorer place, as a result of the widespread lack of analytical tools and conceptual understanding. We can imagine a world in which the humanities are studied by only a small handful of people, because we already live in that world; just imagine the number of people all but vanishing.

But is this not just a problem for geekdom? Does it really matter that much if geeks are anti-intellectuals? The question is whether the trend will move on to the population at large. One does not speak of “geek chic” these days for nothing. The digital world is the vanguard, and attitudes and behaviors that were once found mostly among the geeks of yesteryear are now mainstream. Geek anti-intellectualism is another example.

Introducing the Encyclosphere

A few thousand people work regularly on Wikipedia. But what if millions more—orders of magnitude more—wrote encyclopedia articles and rated them, as part of a completely decentralized knowledge network, with no individual, group, corporation, or government in charge of the whole? That is surely possible. There are surely that many people who, if given the freedom to do so, would be highly motivated to volunteer their time to add to the world’s largest collection of knowledge.

We could create a knowledge commons, defined by neutral, open, technical standards and protocols: a network that decentralizes encyclopedias, exactly as the Blogosphere has done for blogs.

Declaration of Digital Independence

We declare that we have unalienable digital rights, rights that define how information that we individually own may or may not be treated by others, and that among these rights are free speech, privacy, and security. Since the proprietary, centralized architecture of the Internet at present has induced most of us to abandon these rights, however reluctantly or cynically, we ought to demand a new system that respects them properly.

The Future of the Free Internet

Even more fundamentally, what the decline of Wikipedia and social media have in common is the concentration—the centralization—of authority on the Internet. This centralization of Internet authority has many and terrible consequences. It turns out that placing so much power in the hands of Internet executives undermines us, our relationships, our minds, even our sanity, and ultimately our politics. Who knew this would happen, even ten years ago? Some open source software stalwarts foresaw some of it. But as to the general public, they had little notion, perhaps beyond a vague inkling. It is all too plain now.

Buy it!

The Future of the Free Internet

Larry Sanger


I AM—I flatter myself—a truth-seeker. That is part of the reason I have spent so much of my life studying the standards of truth. So, when given the opportunity to start a free encyclopedia, I began to philosophize about free encyclopedias; I developed a vision. The task is fascinating since an encyclopedia is, after all, a compendium of truths.

You might well think my vision came to fruition. After all, Wikipedia now stands triumphant, seemingly, as the largest, most popular, most global encyclopedia in history. But, like a reflection in a funhouse mirror, my vision appears to me in a twisted, monstrous form, which I disown. Wikipedia is of no great help to truth-seekers. I would prefer to be known as the project’s ex-founder.

Wikipedia now defends Establishment views, and the Establishment loves it for that reason. But it began as an idealistic, democratic project, one that would bring the world together to represent all of human knowledge, in all its messy, fascinating glory, on a neutral playing field. No more. It has been transformed into a thuggish defender of the epistemic prerogatives of the powerful. It began as an outgrowth of the open source software movement and its deeply decentralizing and democratic tendencies. In time, its operations became a black box, an enigma thriving on anonymity and the dark arts of dishonest social games and back-room deals. It is a mockery of an “encyclopedia anybody can edit.”

Wikipedia’s moral decline—for its decline is as much moral as epistemological—reflects that of the larger Internet. The short text and visual nature of social media is a poor replacement for the relatively long-form intellectual discussions we used to have on blogs, Usenet, and mailing lists. This is not necessarily what all users wanted, but it is what Big Tech corporate executives pushed on us with their careful experiments in gamification and user experience. It is a machine, of which so many of us are cogs, brilliantly and dangerously addictive and attention-hogging, dumbing us down, radicalizing us,1 and amplifying voices in our ideologically separate silos. This state of affairs is similar to that of Wikipedia, which promotes a single silo, that of the Establishment. It absolutely refuses to consult the opinions and needs of readers, and in so doing, radicalizes its true believers and would simplify our grasp of complex many-sided truths, if we let it.2

Even more fundamentally, what the decline of Wikipedia and social media have in common is the concentration—the centralization—of authority on the Internet. This centralization of Internet authority has many and terrible consequences. It turns out that placing so much power in the hands of Internet executives undermines us, our relationships, our minds, even our sanity, and ultimately our politics. Who knew this would happen, even ten years ago? Some open source software stalwarts foresaw some of it. But as to the general public, they had little notion, perhaps beyond a vague inkling. It is all too plain now. [more]

Excerpt From
Larry Sanger, Essays On Free Knowledge, Ch. 12, “The Future of the Free Internet”
Purchase here

New book: Essays on Free Knowledge

Larry Sanger

Update: Available in paperback on Amazonas an audiobook read by the author

I published my first book this morning. The current cost is $9.95. It is a 270-page ebook, first published on Gumroad, where I’ll get a higher percentage.

Buy via the embedded ad below, and after that, I’ll have a few notes for my regular blog readers.



I first had the idea of making a collection like this over ten years ago. The fact that Wikipedia is going to have its 20th anniversary this coming January means the book should have a better audience than it would otherwise.

How and Why to Decentralize the Internet: a Course

Larry Sanger

I am thinking of offering a new, independent online course about decentralization and freedom. The focus would be social media; perhaps a future course would focus on free encyclopedias. Or maybe we would do the encyclopedia course first. A proposed reading list is below. Interested? Have ideas about what we should read for this?

This could be considered an outgrowth of last year’s work on the Declaration of Digital Independence and the social media strike. As I said in this Wired article, at some point after we do the strike, we should organize mass try-outs of a bunch of social media tools. I wanted to, but I never did this last year because doing it properly would take time, and time takes money.

A course could help pay for this, though. Maybe we could fund proper deliberations over social media tools by combining such deliberative work with a course. That seems like a good idea. My worry has been that I’d be on the hook to offer a course that not many people were interested in. But a friend just told me about a Gumroad.com feature: you can let people pre-order a product, but the user is not charged until the course begins. If enrollment gets up to a certain number, I will green-light the course, and people are charged when it starts. If there is insufficient interest, they are never charged. Perfect!

Combining deliberation about the best social media tools with a course seems like a good idea for an additional reason: I do not actually want to deliberate seriously about this important decision with people who are ignorant of the relevant issues. Indeed, I would like to seriously review all the relevant issues myself. We got into this Big Social Media mess by going in half-cocked. I propose that we should not do that as we decide what to replace Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter with.

General Course Information (tentative)

Tentative title: How and Why to Decentralize the Internet

Description: A two-to-three month upper-division-to-graduate-level course. focused on reading and discussion. You will read and closely analyze and evaluate many important source texts that go into understanding, appreciating, and making decisions about component projects of the free, decentralized Internet in general and social media in particular. There will be a dual focus on the relevant technology and on practical philosophy (or applied theory). The technical decisions before us must be made based on deep principles.

Instructor: Larry Sanger (Ph.D. philosophy from Ohio State, 2000; ex-founder, Wikipedia; serial Internet project starter-upper; Internet consultant). Maybe also guests/interviewees.

Possible course requirements: most importantly, weekly readings as well as online written, moderated discussions in a forum, blog, or mailing list (haven’t decided yet), focused on the readings; probably a weekly video session; maybe 2-3 short papers (feedback offered if desired); probably, participation in choosing and trying out various social media tools, and then later helping to launch larger try-outs of our top choices of social media tools.

Grading: n/a
If you want a grade, I am willing to give you one based on written work.

Prerequisites: None checked, but you should be able to do upper-division college-level work, including (especially) coherent writing and careful reading; you must also be a “power user,” someone who is not afraid to read about sometimes difficult technology concepts

Texts: all distributed free of charge; Larry Sanger’s first book, Essays on Free Knowledge, will be given to all students.

Reading/Topic List (tentative, unfinished, additions requested)

NOTE: the following is not finalized in any way. If there are topics and readings you want included, please let me know!

I. Background

Internet Governance: History and Recent Developments

  • Laura DeNardis, The Global War for Internet Governance selections
  • Standards-setting bodies: W3C, IETF, IEEE, etc.
  • Governance/policy bodies: ICANN, WSIS, IGF, Dept. of Commerce, etc.

Technical Background: Internet Protocols and Standards

  • Laura DeNardis, The Global War for Internet Governance selections
  • SIntroduction to the Internet’s protocols and standards
  • Languages in which standards are written: XML and JSON
  • Decentralized content standards: RSS and Atom
  • Older identity standards: oAuth and SAML
  • Self-owned(?) identity standards: DIDs
  • ActivityPub, ActivityStreams

Technical Background: Content Networks

  • Laura DeNardis, The Global War for Internet Governance selections
  • Old-fashioned P2P networks
  • CDNs
  • Modern torrent networks
  • Blockchain content networks and IPFS

II. The Theoretical Principles

Internet Freedom: Principles and Software

  • The very idea of Internet freedom
  • Eric Raymond, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”
  • Larry Sanger, “The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir”
  • The rise of git, Github, and modern open source software

Free Culture and Self-Ownership

  • The GNU FDL
  • Selections from Creative Commons website materials
  • Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture, selections
  • The “own your own data” movement

Internet Privacy

  • Wacks, Privacy: A Very Short Introduction maybe
  • Schneier, Data and Goliath selections (maybe)
  • Selection from Mitnick, The Art of Invisibility
  • What is digital privacy?
  • Why is digital privacy important?
  • European and Californian legislation
  • The NSA’s spy programs
  • The Chinese social credit system

Free Speech, Censorship, and Neutrality

  • Mill, On Liberty, Ch. 2
  • Sanger, “Why Neutrality”
  • Assange, Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet selections (maybe)

Online Anonymity and Pseudonymity

  • Selections from Mitnick, The Art of Invisibility
  • What encryption is, what it’s for, why it’s important, whether it’s “too dangerous”
  • (maybe) Larry Sanger, “A Defense of Real Name Requirements”
  • (maybe) “The Rise of Digital Pseudonymity

Digital Autonomy

  • Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget selections
  • Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion selections

Decentralization and Digital Identity

  • What is decentralization, anyway?
  • Gilder, Life After Google selections
  • What is “self-sovereign” identity mean and require?
  • The essential necessity of DID
  • The grave dangers of DID

III. Social Media or maybe Encyclopedias

Critique of Social Media

  • The Social Network (2010 film)
  • Carr, What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains selections
  • Jaron Lanier, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now selections
  • Shoshana Zuboff, Age of Surveillance Capitalism selections
  • Newport, Digital Minimalism selections (maybe)

Decentralized Social Media Projects

  • IndieWeb and Mastodon
  • Conservative social media: Gab, Minds, Bitchute, and Parler

What Next?

  • Larry Sanger, “Toward a Declaration of Digital Independence” and “Declaration of Digital Independence”
  • Fair methods for organizing mass try-outs of social media tools

Wikipedia Is Badly Biased

Larry Sanger
The Uncyclopedia logo. Maybe more appropriate for Wikipedia itself now.

Wikipedia’s “NPOV” is dead.1 The original policy long since forgotten, Wikipedia no longer has an effective neutrality policy. There is a rewritten policy, but it endorses the utterly bankrupt canard that journalists should avoid what they call “false balance.”2 The notion that we should avoid “false balance” is directly contradictory to the original neutrality policy. As a result, even as journalists turn to opinion and activism, Wikipedia now touts controversial points of view on politics, religion, and science. Here are some examples from each of these subjects, which were easy to find, no hunting around. Many, many more could be given.

Wikipedia’s favorite president?

Examples have become embarrassingly easy to find. The Barack Obama article completely fails to mention many well-known scandals: Benghazi, the IRS scandal, the AP phone records scandal, and Fast and Furious, to say nothing of Solyndra or the Hillary Clinton email server scandal—or, of course, the developing “Obamagate” story in which Obama was personally involved in surveilling Donald Trump. A fair article about a major political figure certainly must include the bad with the good. Beyond that, a neutral article must fairly represent competing views on the figure by the major parties.

In other words—and this is the point crucial to evaluating an article’s neutrality—a neutral article is written not to take sides on issues of controversy. It does not matter whether one or both sides believe their point of view is totally factual and supported with incontrovertible proof. How many times, in politics and in many walks of life, have we seen controversies in which both sides can cite apparently rigorous studies, or chapter and verse, or original source material that, they claim, show their view is absolutely certain? In such cases, a neutral resource like Wikipedia is bound by policy not to take a side. Yet it does.

Political scandals are a good example where sources are carefully lined up on both sides. There were many controversies over “scandals” plaguing Obama’s presidency. But in fact, the only scandals that I could find in Wikipedia’s Obama article were a few that the left finds at least a little scandalous, such as Snowden’s revelations about NSA activities under Obama. In short, the article is almost a total whitewash. You might find this to be objectively correct, if you are a Democrat; but you cannot claim that this is a neutral treatment, considering that the other major U.S. party would, citing other ostensibly credible sources, treat the subject very differently. On such topics, neutrality in any sense worth the name essentially requires that readers not be able to detect the editors’ political alignment.

Not Wikipedia’s favorite president

Meanwhile, as you can imagine, the idea that the Donald Trump article is neutral is a joke. Just for example, there are 5,224 none-too-flattering words in the “Presidency” section. By contrast, the following “Public Profile” (which the Obama article entirely lacks), “Investigations,” and “Impeachment” sections are unrelentingly negative, and together add up to some 4,545 words—in other words, the controversy sections are almost as long as the sections about his presidency. Common words in the article are “false” and “falsely” (46 instances): Wikipedia frequently asserts, in its own voice, that many of Trump’s statements are “false.” Well, perhaps they are. But even if they are, it is not exactly neutral for an encyclopedia article to say so, especially without attribution. You might approve of Wikipedia describing Trump’s incorrect statements as “false,” very well; but then you must admit that you no longer support a policy of neutrality on Wikipedia. More to the point, Republican, Trump-supporting views are basically not represented at all in the article on Trump.

I leave the glowing Hillary Clinton article as an exercise for the reader.

On political topics it is easiest to argue for the profound benefits—even the moral necessity—of eliminating bias in reference works. As I argue in my 2015 essay, “Why Neutrality” (updated in Essays on Free Knowledge) we naturally desire neutrality on political and many other topics because we want to be left free to make up our own minds. Reference, news, and educational resources aimed at laying out a subject in general should give us the tools we need to rationally decide what we want to think. Only those who want to force the minds of others can be opposed to neutrality.

“Prior to prohibition, cannabis was available freely in a variety of forms,” says Wikipedia, helpfully.

Wikipedia can be counted on to cover not just political figures, but political issues as well from a liberal-left point of view. No conservative would write, in an abortion article, “When properly done, abortion is one of the safest procedures in medicine,” a claim that is questionable on its face, considering what an invasive, psychologically distressing, and sometimes lengthy procedure it can be even when done according to modern medical practices. More to the point, abortion opponents consider the fetus to be a human being with rights; their view, that it is not safe for the baby, is utterly ignored. To pick another, random issue, drug legalization, dubbed drug liberalization by Wikipedia, has only a little information about any potential hazards of drug legalization policies; it mostly serves as a brief for legalization, followed by a catalog of drug policies worldwide. Or to take an up-to-the-minute issue, the LGBT adoption article includes several talking points in favor of LGBT adoption rights, but omits any arguments against. On all such issues, the point is that true neutrality, to be carefully distinguished from objectivity, requires that the article be written in a way that makes it impossible to determine the editors’ position on the important controversies the article touches on.

Gospel reliability is “uncertain,” Wikipedia says, neutrally.

What about articles on religious topics? The first article I thought to look at had some pretty egregious instances of bias: the Jesus article. It simply asserts, again in its own voice, that “the quest for the historical Jesus has yielded major uncertainty on the historical reliability of the Gospels and on how closely the Jesus portrayed in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus.” In another place, the article simply asserts, “the gospels are not independent nor consistent records of Jesus’ life.” A great many Christians would take issue with such statements, which means they are not neutral for that reason alone. In other words, the very fact that many Christians, including many deeply educated conservative seminarians, believe in the historical reliability of the Gospels, and that they are wholly consistent, means that the article is biased if it simply asserts, without attribution or qualification, that this is a matter of “major uncertainty.” Now, it would be accurate and neutral to say it is widely disputed, but being “disputed” and being “uncertain” are very different concepts. It is in fact a controversial view that the historical accuracy of the Gospels is uncertain; others disagree, holding that, upon analysis, it is not a matter of significant uncertainty. In other respects, the article can be fairly described as a “liberal” academic discussion of Jesus, focusing especially on assorted difficulties and controversies, while failing to explain traditional, orthodox, or fundamentalist views of those issues. So it might be “liberal academic,” but it ignores conservative academic and traditional views. Therefore, what it is not is neutral, not in the original sense we defined for Wikipedia.

Of course, similarly tendentious claims can be found in other articles on religious topics, as when the Christ (title) article claims,

Although the original followers of Jesus believed Jesus to be the Jewish messiah, e.g. in the Confession of Peter, Jesus was usually referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus, son of Joseph”.[11] Jesus came to be called “Jesus Christ” (meaning “Jesus the Khristós”, i.e. “Jesus the Messiah” or “Jesus the Anointed”) by later Christians, who believe that his crucifixion and resurrection fulfill the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.

This article weirdly claims, or implies, a thing that no serious Biblical scholar of any sort would claim, viz., that Jesus was not given the title “Christ” by the original Apostles in the New Testament. The Wikipedia article itself later contradicts that claim, so perhaps the editors of the above paragraph simply meant the two conjoined words “Jesus Christ,” and that Jesus was rarely referred to with those two conjoined words in the New Testament. But this is false, too: the two words are found together in that form throughout the New Testament.

But the effect of the above-quoted paragraph is to cast doubt that the title “Christ” was used much at all by the original Apostles and disciples. That would be silly if so. These supposed “later Christians” who used “Christ” would have to include the Apostles Peter (Jesus’ first apostle), Paul (converted a few years after Jesus’ crucifixion), and Jude (Jesus’ brother), who were the authors of the bulk of the epistles of the New Testament. The word “Christ” can, of course, be found frequently in the epistles, including very early epistles, thought to be the first texts written about Jesus.3 Of course, those are not exactly “later Christians.” If the claim is simply that the word “Christ” does not appear at all or much in the Gospels, that is false, as a simple text search uncovers dozens of instances in all four Gospels,4 and about 550 instances in the entire New Testament. If it is used somewhat less in the Gospels, that would be a reflection of the fact that the authors of the Gospels were, argumentatively, using the Hebrew word “Messiah” to persuade Jewish readers that Jesus was the long-awaited Jewish messiah. But the word means much the same as the Greek title “Christ”: the anointed one, God’s chosen. So, in any event, the basic claim here is simply false. He is called “Jesus Christ” (Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) in the very first verse of the New Testament (Matthew 1:1) and in the first verse of the gospel sometimes thought to be the first-written, Mark (1:1), as well.5

Or if the claim were that Jesus was not understood to be the Messiah or Christ in his own lifetime before being crucified, we need not quibble about that (though it is easy enough to cite the gospel claims that Peter believed him to be the Christ; see, e.g., Mark 8:29). The book of Acts and the epistles make it abundantly clear that the Apostles, setting up the earliest churches, thought Jesus was the Messiah—indeed, the Son of God.

Clearly, Wikipedia’s claims are tendentious if not false, and represent a point of view that many if not most Christians would rightly dispute.

It may seem more problematic to speak of the bias of scientific articles, because many people do not want to see “unscientific” views covered in encyclopedia articles. If such articles are “biased in favor of science,” some people naturally find that to be a feature, not a bug. The problem, though, is that scientists sometimes do not agree on which theories are and are not scientific. This point is perfectly obvious to anyone who actually follows any lively scientific debate at all closely. On such issues, the “scientific point of view” and the “objective point of view” according to the Establishment might be very much opposed to neutrality. So when certain people seem unified on a certain view of a scientific controversy, then that is the view that is taken for granted as the Establishment one, and often aggressively asserted, by Wikipedia.

Neutral information, representing a scientific consensus with no dissent, I’m sure.

The global warming and MMR vaccine articles are examples; I hardly need to dive into these pages, since it is quite enough to say that they endorse definite positions that scientific minorities reject. Another example is how Wikipedia treats various topics in alternative medicine—often dismissively, and frequently labeled as “pseudoscience” in Wikipedia’s own voice. Indeed, Wikipedia defines the very term as follows: “Alternative medicine describes any practice that aims to achieve the healing effects of medicine, but which lacks biological plausibility and is untested, untestable or proven ineffective.” In all these cases, genuine neutrality requires a different sort of treatment.

Again, other examples could be found, in no doubt thousands of other, less exciting topics. These are just the first topics that came to mind, associated as they are with the culture wars, and their articles on those topics put Wikipedia very decidedly on one side of that war. You should not be able to say that about an encyclopedia that claims to be neutral.

It is time for Wikipedia to come clean and admit that it has abandoned NPOV (i.e., neutrality as a policy). At the very least they should admit that that they have redefined the term in a way that makes it utterly incompatible with its original notion of neutrality, which is the ordinary and common one.6 It might be better to embrace a “credibility” policy and admit that their notion of what is credible does, in fact, bias them against conservatism, traditional religiosity, and minority perspectives on science and medicine—to say nothing of many other topics on which Wikipedia has biases.

Of course, Wikipedians are unlikely to make any such change; they live in a fantasy world of their own making.7

The world would be better served by an independent and decentralized encyclopedia network, such as I proposed with the Encyclosphere. We will certainly develop such a network, but if it is to remain fully independent of all governmental and big corporate interests, funds are naturally scarce and it will take time.


  1. The misbegotten phrase “neutral point of view” is a Jimmy Wales coinage I never supported. If a text is neutral with regard to an issue, it lacks any “point of view” with regard to the issue; it does not take a “neutral point of view.” My preferred phrase was always “the neutrality policy” or “the nonbias policy.”[]
  2. On this, see my “Why Neutrality?“, published 2015 by Ballotpedia.[]
  3. Both in the form “Jesus Christ” (e.g., 1 Peter 1:1, Jude 1:1) and in the form “Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:2). “Christ” is found throughout three epistles widely held to be among the first written, including Galatians and 1 Thessalonians, and twice in James.[]
  4. I mistakenly conceded this false point in an earlier draft of this article, after not searching enough. Greek nominative and accusative Χριστόν and genitive Χριστοῦ can be found throughout.[]
  5. If you look at the footnote Wikipedia cites in support of its weird claim, you will find a sensible, not-misleading, and relatively neutral article by Britannica, the context of which makes it perfectly clear that the authors were not making any claim about the use of the title “Christ” but instead the two-word combination “Jesus Christ,” as applied directly to Jesus in his own lifetime. It seems likely that that two-word name was used rarely, but this has nothing whatsoever to do with his having the title “Christ,” but a reflection of the fact that “Ancient Jews usually had only one name, and, when greater specificity was needed, it was customary to add the father’s name or the place of origin.” Wikipedians copying from Britannica may have missed that bit.[]
  6. That it was Wikipedia’s original notion, see the Nupedia “Lack of Bias” policy, which was the source of Wikipedia’s policy, and see also my final (2001) version of the Wikipedia neutrality policy. Read my “Why Neutrality?” for a lengthy discussion of this notion. Both articles appear in slightly revised and footnoted versions in my recent book.[]
  7. UPDATE: In an earlier version of this blog post, I included some screenshots of Wikipedia Alexa rankings, showing a drop from 5 to 12 or 13. While this is perfectly accurate, the traffic to the site has been more or less flat for years, until the last few months, in which traffic spiked probably because of the Covid-19 virus. But since the drop in Alexa rankings do not seem to reflect a drop in traffic, I decided to remove the screenshots and a couple accompanying sentences.[]

Idea: A Bible Question-and-Answer App

Larry Sanger

“I had an idea.” Will I ever stop saying that? Probably not.

I think we—whoever is excited by this idea—need to get together to make the world’s first nonprofit, open source/open content Bible question-and-answer app/website. Think of it as “The Bible meets Wikipedia and Quora, but with responsible editors.” Interested? Read on.

Background. In five days, I will finish reading the Bible all the way through in about 100 days (for the first time). I have had many questions about this fascinating volume. In the last few months, I chased down answers in study Bibles and commentaries, but, well…I think it can be done better. Moreover, I really want a go-to place where I can ask specialized questions that I can’t easily find answered elsewhere.

The basic idea is this: A collaboratively-built clearinghouse of the very best Bible commentary, in which users can ask their own questions, too (but without messing up the resource). “How could this possibly work?” you ask. “The cranks and idiots will ruin it.” No, they would not! Here is how:

  1. Chapter and verse. Each chapter and verse of the Bible has its own page.
  2. Selection and question. It is possible to select any word, phrase, verse, or set of verses, and then ask a question about it. Anyone can submit a question relevant to fully understanding the text (i.e., matters of interpretation, relevant doctrine, problems, etc.).
  3. Question approval. A group of volunteer editors edit and approve public questions before they are posted publicly. (Eventually there would also be “private questions.” See below.)
  4. Quality control through scoring and expertise. Anyone can answer the question, but:
    • The answers must be scored by other users. (We might make a special feature for real Bible scholars so that users could opt to view only their answers and ratings.)
    • An answer does not appear publicly until it has been endorsed with a score above some minimum.
    • Answers are put in rank order by score. How much fun will it be for readers to rate answers? Lots! And Bible scholars can choose to view only those answers rated by their fellow Bible scholars. Maybe there could even be a way to sort answers based on different denominations or theological outlooks.
  5. The same system should organize existing public domain commentaries. It is permitted—indeed, strongly encouraged—to include the content of existing public domain Bible commentaries into the system.
  6. Editors and professionalism. Named and vetted editors encourage volunteer participation, but they are responsible for the final (or rather, ongoing) product, so that it displays professionalism, consistency of style, and usefulness.
  7. Private questions for individual or group study. Ordinary Bible readers would be encouraged, not discouraged, to use the same interface to add their own questions, whether or not they have been asked and answered before, soliciting help from others. By default, these more informal questions would be open only to those who opted to see them, and they would not be displayed by default. Nor would they be open content (or even public) unless the user opted for them to be.

A few tech notes. Basically, we would need to reproduce what sites like BibleHub.com and BibleGateway.com have done (a Bible reader with multiple versions), and then add Hypothes.is to it (i.e., a tool that allows users to add annotations to Bible pages), and then add (a) the ability to add multiple competing answers to the same question, (b) the ability to rate answers, and eventually (c) the ability to sort answers based on user categories, especially scholarly expertise. Basing this app on an existing Bible app would probably be the easiest way. If it is built from scratch (e.g., by volunteers), I wouldn’t care what tool you use as long as it gets done!

How will this ever get done? The only way this will happen is if other people step up to the plate and become full partners with me in this project. I am eager to share leadership. While I can serve as project manager/editor, I can’t spend a lot of time on this as a volunteer for the simple reason that I’m developing my consultancy business (hey, need any help?). Roles I anticipate needing filled include:

  • Coders
  • Designers
  • Managers/entrepreneurs
  • Fundraisers 🙂
  • When ready, editors and participants

If you have the resources, you can make this happen. A few rich folks and publisher types follow me. If you are one of those people and you like this idea, you can make it happen. I won’t take a huge salary, but I (and my family) gotta eat. But if you can pay my way, and I am pretty sure I can organize the rest, whether in terms of volunteers or as project manager of a team.

Next steps. Is this going to happen anytime soon? Unless people come up with a bunch of cash or firepower, nope. I will be starting to read the Bible again on March 18, with a new reading group (here, there are 14 of us so far, and you’re welcome to join). This time we’ll go through the Bible in one year (OT once, NT twice). Going more slowly, I (at least, and probably other members of the reading group) will be using the awesome Hypothes.is tool to record my own questions and answers (started here). This should give us a better idea of what we want the tool to be like, and it will help tide over the appetites of those of us eager to start using the tool.

Interested? Add your name and what you might be able to do for the project in a comment below, and if there are enough people…maybe something will happen.

A Response to Jack Dorsey on Decentralizing Social Media

Larry Sanger

Jack,

Let me begin by telling you (and my blog readers) a personal history of decentralizing social media and content generally.

Decentralizing social media

It began in January when I decided to lock down my cyber-life. Among the items on my “to do” list was: “Quit social media, or at least nail down a sensible social media use policy.” I rather quickly decided to get rid of Facebook and a number of others. I grudgingly conceded that I would keep using Twitter for career purposes.

By February, I was still not satisfied with how I was using social media, basically because I did not have control over my own data. When trying to download my own contributed content from Facebook, Medium, and Quora (which did not even offer a tool for downloading my answers), I got seriously frustrated. “This is my data,” I thought, “and they act like it’s theirs.”

I got to thinking. My data was not easy to download. It wasn’t even easy to search—almost all Big Social Media platforms have minimal search tools. And there was no standard, as is there is for address books, blogs, and email, that would enable me to move this data to a competitor.

The latter is probably what gave me the idea, which of course is not a new idea at all, that what we really need to do is to decentralize social media. I wrote a blog post about that, which TheNextWeb printed. The idea was wildly popular on Twitter and in a few speeches I gave last spring and summer.

In one of these speeches, at South by Southwest in March—in a shortened version of this Wired article—I said there desperately need to be open standards for a new system of decentralized social media, and that we should have a social media strike to raise awareness of this.

Decentralizing Twitter?

In the speech, I asked you, Jack, three questions. I reiterated them on Twitter, and you answered “yes” to all three:

  1. Once the standards for microposts are properly settled on, will you, Jack, enable Twitter users to incorporate Twitter-style microposts that are hosted elsewhere inline in their Twitter feeds? [Q] [A]
  2. Will you create tools to let people export and sync their tweets with microposts from outside of Twitter? [Q] [A]
  3. And will you give users a lot more control over their feeds? [Q] [A]

Shortly thereafter, you DM’d me and offered to chat on the phone about Twitter’s plans. Since you are now, nine months later, coming out publicly with your plans, I’m now going to share the notes I took then:


My piece in Wired [i.e., this] is “spot-on”

They’ve had discussions about similar plans for last six months

Run some ideas past you: problems we’re trying to solve; then solutions

CR2019, execute 2020

Pressure testing the ideas now.

Want to encourage greater amounts of healthy conversations

Four leading indicators of health of corpus of conversation: shared attention, shared reality, variety, receptivity. MIT lab is measuring these against talk radio.

Six problems with the poor health of conversation on Twitter: (1) focus on following accounts rather than topics; problems with variety and shared reality. (2) Attention problems, is dissipating. (3) Global enforced policy is not scalable. (4) Burden of moderation is placed on the victim. (5) Permanent bans and takedown do not promote health. (6) Tech trends challenge content hosting.

Principles going forward that address the problem:

  1. An account or tweet can only be deleted by the account owner.
  2. Anyone can follow any account, topic, keyword/question.
  3. Anyone can mute any account, topic, keyword, question.
  4. By default, we’ll only promote “healthy” accounts/tweets.
  5. Everyone can quickly switch off to see all accounts and all tweets in all conversations.
  6. Everyone will have incentive to participate in healthy conversations.

You could use a different recommendation engine purposes of filtering feed.

CTO is working on how to implement principles.


I was cautiously optimistic in March. But now, I don’t think you were sincere. I still don’t after your recent announcement.

We were going to circle back after a month. We never did. I said in my speech that I wanted to organize a social media strike, and I suggested July 4-5 as the date.

Still, Twitter finally gave me a blue checkmark in May, I suppose in an attempt to appease me. (Didn’t work.)

The social media strike

I organized a social media strike and asked strikers to sign this Declaration of Digital Independence. I’m pretty sure Twitter noticed, because it was then that my tweets, ironically, started being throttled as “sensitive content,” which has happened dozens of times since, and when the content was nowhere near being “sensitive”—unless it’s Twitter being quite sensitive about the idea of a social media strike. Throttling. Kind of pisses me off, Jack.

The strike got quite a bit of news coverage, even though it was quickly and informally organized, with no backing organization, no PR firm, no nothin’. By July 6, it was not clear how successful the strike was, because of course the social media companies were not going to supply data. It is possible the strike might have had something to do with outages at Facebook and Instagram, but I heard nothing specific about that.

I’m not terribly surprised that no one at Twitter (or any other social media giant) contacted me about the strike. I’m sure it didn’t help that I went on Fox to talk about the strike:

Or CNN:

Consequences: traffic decline and throttling?

The strike did have one very clear and beneficial effect: it spread the idea that there was something wrong about social media companies having exclusive control over our social media data. I speculate—and saw a fair bit of anecdotal support of this—that people started abandoning social media in general more last summer. I started tracking to the Alexa Rank of various social media sites, as an imperfect way to check up on this.

After Twitter’s rank kept dropping throughout the summer, I looked at other sites in September, and I noticed their ranks, too, had precipitously and noticeably declined recently—and yet, strangely, nobody had reported this remarkable news. So I reported it myself here on this blog. A fair few opinionated techies follow me, but none of them told me this wasn’t news; still, the tech press was entirely silent. And weirdly, within days, the Alexa Rank of my own blog plunged by around 500K places, and did not come back up for a few months, while the ranks of almost all of the sites I reported on slowed or stopped their decline, and started plateauing and even slowly climbing back. Could be a coincidence, of course. But the ranks have not yet climbed past where they were in late September.

Anyway, Jack, I confess that those notices of “sensitive content” slapped on my social media strike-related tweets began to bother me quite a bit. It especially bothered me when Twitter stopped me (for a day) from linking to my own blog. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Of course, I can’t prove that my posts about the social media strike had anything to do with censoring links to my blog: it did turn out someone had been using my blog’s password reset functionality in a simple spamming exploit. But if that was the reason, it was a frankly boneheaded excuse to block the domain; and there was no excuse to ignore my repeated requests for explanation.

So it has become personal for me, not that I wasn’t already thoroughly pissed off about Big Tech encroachments on free speech and privacy.

Decentralizing Encyclopedias

When we last spoke, I was working for Everipedia, the blockchain encyclopedia. In September, I left in order to start a new, independent nonprofit project to define open standards for encyclopedia articles, which will, I hope, create a new encyclopedia network called the Encyclosphere (after the Blogosphere). This was the plan all along with Everipedia, but I figured I needed to develop the standards independently of any for-profit organization, or the standards would probably never enjoy mass adoption. You can learn about our new Knowledge Standards Foundation here:

The plan for the Encyclosphere is very similar to the plan I was proposing for social media. In both cases the proposal is:

  • Define open standards for sharing content.
  • Content is published in a feed; everyone controls their own feed.
  • Content aggregators bring many feeds together and make them available via an API or (probably decentralized) database (such as WebTorrent).
  • Reader apps (analogous to blog readers) make is possible to read (and contribute) the aggregated content.

Your announcement

So I’m going to be honest. When you say you’re going to create “an open and decentralized standard for social media,” I don’t believe it. My reaction to this announcement is similar to my reaction to Mark Zuckerberg giving a speech in favor of free speech: to laugh.

Twitter used an open standard in its early days—then abandoned it. Twitter said they were the “free speech wing of the free speech party,” then started banning and throttling people for political speech.

A lot of people are working on decentralizing content in reaction to your mishandling of social media.

We don’t need Mark Zuckerberg’s “help” to support free speech, and we don’t need your “help” to make content decentralized.

Sincerely,
Larry Sanger