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LoFi software and inverting our relationship to The Cloud

The CTO of my company appeared in a recent Wired article about Local-First Software. Gotta say, it is pretty exciting to be in the pages of Wired. “LoFi” is something Fission is trying to enable with the protocols and SDK we have been working on. The Wired article is a good primer on how The Cloud has dominated development over the past decade or so and what some people are trying to do about it. Other than our CTO Brooke, it highlights Ink & Switch and of course the excellent Local-first Software “manifesto”.

Illustration of a rainbow coming out of a cloud and landing in a pot of gold and the title "The Spectrum of Cloudlessness." Surrounding the illustration are various terms, loosely lined up from the illustration of the cloud, in a spectrum until the pot of gold. In order from left to right (from Cloud to Gold) they are: 

Cloud computing
Ambient (Ubiquitous computing)
Edge "Native"
Offline First
Local First
On Device
A rough little spectrum that I have been working on to try and place various cloud and cloud-adjacent terms in relation to one another. Not by any means authoritative or done! (CREDIT: modified Image by gstudioimagen on Freepik)

Cory Doctorow picked up the Wired article as part of his latest on “enshittification” called Cloudburst. Some choice quotes:

Today, “The Cloud” is a flashing warning sign, the harbinger of enshittification.

The finance sector loves The Cloud. Add “The Cloud” to a product and profits (money you get for selling something) can turn into rents (money you get for owning something). Profits can be eroded by competition, but rents are evergreen

And yet, The Cloud is undeniably useful.

Our relationship with The Cloud is fraught as it is simultaneously one of convenience and control.

Another fellow-traveller, Bernhard Seefeld, has a draft up considering three key relationships we need to invert for the future of computing, especially as AI becomes more widespread. Bernhard points out that rethinking the architecture of apps actually shifts “the power balance away from services to users and their communities.”

Today’s market is top heavy and it’s very difficult for new entrants to be successful. This can’t be explained by just the high cost of writing software nor the lack of ideas, opportunities or unsolved problems. It’s a consequence of today’s prevalent architecture that centralizes data and trust in services.


this model is also what leads to the ever growing data silos in the previous point: Once a service gets past this hurdle it has a major advantage over other services: Network effects from more data generated that only feeds back to the service itself. That is, the data silos called out in the previous point are a direct consequence of protecting user’s privacy!

Bernhard’s three relationships to invert are:

  1. Services comes to the data (instead of data going to services)
  2. Guardrails on data use are attached to data (instead of each service individually permissioned)
  3. Trust originates at the edges (instead of services deciding which clients they trust)

Bernhard digs into each and it is very much worth the read. I would like to highlight the very first one since this is something that Fission has been pursuing for a long time with WNFS, a nice little user-controlled web storage system with public and private files. WNFS is very handy for things like syncing and keeps your app files local, connecting to different apps which could even be on different Clouds.

Circling back to Cory Doctorow’s post, he has this nice line:

Interoperability – the ability to leave one service for another – is technology’s secret weapon, the thing that ensures that users can turn The Cloud into “the cloud”

This neat little trick of capitalization which I think parallel’s the thinking of many people in the LoFi movement. It is not that we are “anti-cloud” but “anti-hypercloud”, meaning domination by the concentrated power of monopolistic cloud companies.

These three articles that I came across in the past few days all link together and point to the deeper issues we have with the modern unsatisfactory internet experience we have all been experiencing. But better than that, the articles also provide solutions and point to some of the people trying to build a better internet future, which gives me hope. I’d love to see this corner of the internet community, this movement, grow.