In the vast territory of the Internet, five names are set in 2021: Netflix, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Akamai (1). According to the Arcep report, between them five, these companies collected more than half of the French traffic. In other words, even if an archipelago of resources and services exists on the Internet, all Internet users live on the same islands.
Personal data and shared services
Admittedly, the services offered by the digital giants are practical, easily accessible and free. Except, as the saying goes, “If it’s free, you are the product”. “The real service that Google sells is not their search engine or their map; this is user datarecalls Christophe Masutti, co-president of the Framasoft association, which has launched a campaign for him “What’s the Internet” in 2014. This data is bought by intermediaries, to ultimately sell advertisements and products. »
Strange paradox to talk about the commons in this situation: no one wants their personal data to become a common good. It is precisely in order not to see them go into other hands, sometimes unwittingly, that it is necessary to restore joint administration. “Whether we speak of natural or cultural commons, the resource changes, but it remains produced or at least maintained by a community, under common ownership and under collective governance.” says Sébastien Shulz, specialist in common digital policies at the CNRS Center for Internet and Society.
“The principle of the Internet was that everyone was both a client and a serverrecalls Daniel Le Berre, teacher-researcher in computer science at the University of Artois. There, users are just customers. » To reclaim the web, it is necessary to become an actor again, not just a consumer. “But not everyone will turn into a systems engineer overnight, know the specialist. Simply using alternative services would already be fine. »
Just like the agricultural world, where amaps represent an intermediate solution between big brands and growing your own vegetable garden, digital enthusiasts have launched their own “amats”. “Chatons” (for “Collective of Alternative, Transparent, Open, Neutral and Supportive Hosts”) unites about a hundred associations, micro-entrepreneurs and cooperatives that offer web hosting.
These small structures offer, for example, an email service, making it possible to avoid the messages of a digital giant. Just as it is possible to send an Outlook email to a Gmail contact and vice versa, it is a matter of going through other, less frequented, but interconnected and reliable paths. “If we compare, WhatsApp is down much more often and for a long time than us,” argues Adrien Bourmault, member of the “Libre en Communs” association. Big ups to the volunteers, not all of whom are technical experts. “Involvement does not necessarily require computer skills, we can also provide translations, provide moderation or communication”, lists the student.
Paid services not to sell your data
“L”Thegoddess is recreating chains of trust between a user and a supplier, explains Christophe Masutti. Since not everyone has the capacity, time and desire, the Chatons offer their services with a collective charter, which provides, among other things, the lack of commercial exploitation of the data and the possibility of meeting their host. »
“I started by creating an infrastructure for my needs, and then I offered it to my family and it grew. traces Thomas Bourdon, who manages an alternative host. Today, I have a hundred clients to whom I offer turnkey solutions. » Like the others, its service is paid, from €25 per year. Because digital is not a magical world of spontaneous generation. Solutions must be developed and deployed in the hands of experts, and hosting requires infrastructure and electricity.
“If you don’t want to pay with your data, you have to invest in other ways,” insists Christophe Masutti. “The cost of energy has been the big shock in recent months.” says Agnez Bewer, of the Belgian cooperative Nubo, which has servers on the outskirts of Brussels. Here the rates are adjusted according to consumption and cooperative membership. “It exists a host of funding opportunitiessays Sébastien Schulz. The digital culture of free access still needs to be developed. Maybe it will come, when we see the flood of advertising on the Internet…”
Recreating “digital biodiversity”
However, none of the Kittens wants to become a super-profitable multinational. “If we reach 3,000 customers, we will go to other cooperatives. Figures Agnes Bewer. The same story with Antoine Coquand, who manages the accommodation of about sixty individuals. “JI don’t want thousands of usershe says. The goal isn’t to compete with the big boys, just to offer an alternative and make others want to try it for themselves. »
Within the L’Autre Net association, we are even pleased to have slightly fewer users. “That’s good because it means there’s more to offer, that we’re recreating digital biodiversity,” explains Chantal Bernard-Putz, a member of the association which has been providing services to its members for twenty years. Everyone hopes that awareness raising and technical equipment will make it possible“go to the bottom of logic: for everyone to have their own internet services”.
and me, me and me…
What tool other than Wikipedia best symbolizes the Internet’s initial utopia, that is, free and universal access to knowledge? Twenty-one years after its creation by Californian entrepreneur Jimmy Wales, the online encyclopedia has earned its stripes of credibility thanks to the vigilance of its contributors. All can become one, by creating a file or editing existing files. The steps to be taken were simplified in 2019. The encyclopedia is updated daily by a hundred thousand volunteer contributors worldwide. You can even become an administrator, with the role of tracking “fake news” and trolls.