Sorry, Dave, I Can’t Download That App…

I have a theory. That theory is that a lot of the major tech companies in the world want to create, essentially, their own “World Wide Webs” by creating massive digital (and sometimes not so digital) ecosystems. And you read that correctly: “Webs”, as in, plural. (I often talk about this on my tech show: Sovryn Tech.)

This really isn’t anything new. Think back to the 90’s (if you can) when people had the “options” to use America Online, Prodigy, Compuserv, or MSN. All of them used the internet as their infrastructure, but each of them offered things that you could only get by paying for their service (chat rooms, exclusive entertainment content, etc.). Personally, I like the idea of multiple internets (yes, again, plural), but what was being offered by the examples I listed was not multiple internets (as in, the infrastructure), but just multiple service ecosystems, much like we have now with Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Amazon.

Honestly, I don’t mind all of these ecosystems existing. They don’t go far enough (yet), but we really are starting to see these companies building their own infrastructure (Facebook taking interest in drones, Google’s Project Loon, and even Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework could be a mesh network solution for the company creating a private Apple “internet”). I actually want multiple “internets”. I want totally independent infrastructures. Mesh networking, landlines, Outernet, independent fiber networks, satellite networks in space, good use of dark fiber…all of it. Anything to allow the storage of knowledge and information, and the pathways to human interaction and communication to be as resilient as possible (and peer-to-peer preferably), and that can best be achieved by not relying upon one singular “Big Bad Internet”, as I like to call it.

Now, before people start freak out thinking that I’m somehow saying let’s turn the World Wide Web (which is different than the internet) over to these global corporations that don’t have their users best interests at heart (and they probably don’t, assuming privacy matters to them), understand there is a solution to all of this: what should be called the “World Wild Web”, which is all of those independent websites that offer so much, but people may not know are out there. From these independent sites (like the one you’re reading now), incredible online experiences can be had, and you can often get a lot of the services, features, and connections with others that you expect from those large corporations’ ecosystems, and you can independently download software from those sites, no app store or repository required. Also, as there is more than just a World Wide Web available via the internet, things like IRC chat rooms, BitTorrent, Usenet, and even email (as well as many other future technologies), are all very robust options that an intrepid user can take advantage of with their laptop or desktop computer–Facebook, Google, and Apple be damned.

However, there is a very popular platform that much of this isn’t really true for. Mobile devices. Unfortunately, outside of the aforementioned independent websites (many of which don’t work very well on mobile screens yet), you’re hard pressed to do much with your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet without some kind of “app store”. Unlike with laptops and desktops (where, sadly, app stores are starting to rear their heads), it’s very rare that you can find an independent app that you can download from a site and use. Of course, these independent–or “rewilded”–apps do exist, I know, but no one is really leading the charge on it.

The initial concern is security, of course. Without app stores like the iOS App Store, or Google Play, how do we know that a certain app is secure or has met certain standards? Well for starters, thousands of apps get put onto app stores that are malicious. Having app stores with some degree of standards may stave off malicious content a little, but it’s just that, “a little”. I dare say that app stores actually do more harm than good, because the “protection racket” of app stores and repositories swings both ways: Great, solid apps can also be kept from you.

Case in point, Amazon has removed Kodi Media Center from the Amazon Appstore. For those that don’t know what Kodi Media Center is, it’s the rebranded open-source media application (it can play and organize nearly everything) that was once known as XMBC. It’s open-source, very secure, and has been popular on PC’s for ages. Few pieces of software have better track records.

So why did Amazon take Kodi down from its app store? Simple. It was competition. And competition, in the eyes of many a corporation, is bad for business. The bogus claim made by Amazon that Kodi “facilitated and inspired piracy” is just more of that aforementioned “protection racket”, but in this case it doesn’t protect you, it protects Amazon and their little media empire. Amazon has limited your options, and thus they have–in admittedly just a small way for now–taken away your ability to choose. And choice is freedom.

Keeping you from easily downloading Kodi Media Center shows the importance of not having to rely on one company’s ecosystem. But I think it goes much further. Ecosystems like app stores don’t need to exist. We know this because computers have survived for decades without them, and people get done what they need to get done, and they enjoy what they enjoy. I’m not saying app stores necessarily need to be done away with, if you want that sort of thing you should have the option to use one. What I’m saying is that the ability to download apps independently of app stores and repositories needs to become far more commonplace.

Granted, there are a few places that offer independent downloads of .apk files for Android devices, but often even those require you to attach it to your Google account, and thus needs the Play Store, and so the app also isn’t really independent in that case.

We’ve even seen other recent cases like with the controversial game “Postal 2“, which shows even greater lunacy on the part of Amazon and Google, where they have no problem having Grand Theft Auto games in their app stores, but…oh no! The violence in “Postal 2” is just too much! We must remove this from our app stores! Which they did, and it’s ridiculous if one were to compare the games, and Amazon was even still selling “Postal 2” on its website for PC at the time! How much more hypocritical could it get?

Which raises another point: this can often go beyond mobile app stores. While some game distributors have taken on my own PC game–“HYPERCRONIUS“–many have not due to the (relatively tasteful) “adult content” that it contains. And because people are becoming so reliant upon these repositories, anything that exists outside of them can often be considered anathema, which is another side effect of this whole matter.

But I’m getting sidetracked. Again, the main idea that I want to suggest here is a “rewilding” of apps and software. Create the “World Wild Web” that removes the barriers between you and getting and doing what you want on your devices, mobile or not, because only then do you really have the most important thing in every aspect of life…choice.

Carpe lucem!