Politics and Interoperability Standards

So, at the end of the day, it’s all about politics. And gosh do we have dirty politics here. To conclude, here are the current “factions” running for “power” in the interoperability standards game:

  • Luddites which want the grid to continue to be a LL closed standard with proprietary protocols, technology, and applications (thus dooming LL to become irrelevant in a decade, as open standards will dominate the metaverse of 2020, no matter what the Luddites think)
  • LL and IBM, who wish that the protocol defines technical aspects, and that policies are based on the transmission of packet data with digital signatures to establish non-repudiation in a court of law
  • Programmers and developers, who focus on interconnection first, and worry about policies later
  • Content creators, who are fine with interconnection (it will give them a larger market and more customers) so long as DRM can be remotely enforced (a technical impossibility that is classified by the Luddites as “excuses coming from lying bags of ratshit”); note that few are actively participating in the proceedings (a fact that has allowed a few Luddites to claim to “speak for the content creators”)
  • Left-wing ideologists of the content-is-free mantra, happily adoring Richard Stallman in their free content areas (hint: their actual number is widely overestimated)
  • Script kiddies that laugh at the current copyright protection and who are not part of the discussion (hint: their actual number is actually also widely overestimated, in spite of everything; freebies hurt the content economy by way more than pirated content, but since freebies are politically correct to give away by talented content creators, the SL media tends to minimise their impact in the economy)
  • Crackers and professional software pirates and piracy gangs, who will subvert any DRM system if they can reasonably see a profit in it (hint: cracking DRM for “fun and glory” is hard; when the consequences are that you can be banned on all interconnected grids, the rewards need to be quite high to be worth the trouble — way higher than just “getting the fame for being a cracker”. A few piracy gangs and rings do, indeed, exist in SL, and are incredibly efficient and profitable — even though LL has done a reasonable job in catching the major ones and expelling them out of SL, there are always more of them)
  • Entities external to the LL/IBM group (like Forterra and others) with their own agenda: they already scorn user-created content anyway; the serious ones are, of course, leaning towards LL/IBM’s policy enforcement mechanisms
  • IETF moderators and senior members, who are more worried about people keeping to the rules of establishing an Internet standard (and who have decades of practice in dealing with similar antagonistic goals when starting a discussion on any new Internet standard)

At first glance, it seems that this hardly will read to any results. Or at least you’d have to be very optimistic to believe that a result will come out of this.

For me it’s a bit too early to say. The MMOX moderator is doing a hard job of trying to push “ideology” out of the standards discussion. A small group is actually doing some real work on defining the protocols (and yes, of course they embed permissions in the metadata). Nobody, so far, is discussing the policy implementation by Zha/Zero (probably because it hasn’t been published yet, or if it was, I’ve missed it) — which, if seriously discussed, might start to ease a bit the fear of the Luddites and the content creators — although the left-wing ideologues will very likely dislike the idea of having a “Global LL ToS for the Metaverse” being enforced by LL without discussion (after all, LL will, by the end of 2010, be the largest grid operator, even if there pop up a thousand new tiny mini-grids: and it will be LL’s ToS that will be enforced on those willing to interconnect to LL’s own grid, have no doubts about that).

At least there are some concrete proposals on the table. These are purely technical discussions and not political. If there is any chance that this working group ever provides an IETF RFC for interoperability, it means focusing on those proposals and less on the quibbling between the many factions.

Alas, computers and networks might be ideologically neutral, but people using them are not.

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