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What if all the files and all the information you store on your computer could be shared by all the applications you use? If you installed a new music player, it would have all the configurations, preferences, playlists and music collection you had in the previous one. If you received an event by e-mail, your calendar application could mark the day and send you a reminder.
What if information access didn’t depend on any specific application, and was instead built-in? What if you could specify any information you wish? You could sort your music by album, artist and year, even without installing any music player. You could mark the movies you’ve already seen, and document your impressions, regardless of whether your video player supports this. You could ask your computer to show you the pictures from some event you participated in, but only the ones you gave high rating and marked as not too embarrassing to show to colleagues.
What if you were in control of your information? Instead of storing all your private messages, e-mail, contacts, events and albums on servers operated by companies whose employees you never met, and who secretly collect and use your information in ways you never intended, your data would be stored where you have full control. Instead of typing in passwords just to access what was yours in the first place, these websites and applications will be the ones who need to type in a password in order to get permission to access your data. What if you could freely share information with friends in a secure, private and unlimited way, without depending on centralized services? Nobody except the intended recipient would read your e-mail. Nobody would censor event announcements you publish, just because they interfere with some company’s plan to cut forests or sell genetically-modified food.
Partager is a vision, in which all of this is possible. There is no scientific challenge anymore: The technologies required to implement these ideas exist, and many software tools already exist, which realize the vision step by step. But some parts are still missing.
Partager is therefore also a software system design and implementation. Its development is done entirely on a voluntary basis without any funding from companies (currently without any funding at all), in order to be independent and keep clear judgement and decision making. The past and present prove this is very important: the W3 consortium has inserted DRM into HTML, IETF proposed to allow ISPs to decrypt users’ internet connections, Canonical inserted spyware into their Unity desktop, Microsoft inserted a CIA backdoor into Windows and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even Mozilla is inserting proprietary DRM technology into Firefox, which is very disappointing.
The only way to develop software (or do any other work) truly for the benefit and advancement and happiness and progress of humanity, is to not have anything more important than that. While some companies value numbers in the bank more than cooperation, openness and honesty, Partager is and will always be independent and intended for nothing but good, for everyone. By the people, for the people.
The only arguably acceptable source of funding is crowdfunding, in which many people participate but each donates just a small amount. Then funding doesn’t depend on any company, and nobody can demand anything in return of donation. However, in the ideal case even this is not needed, because it’s still a dependency on money and banks. Currently Partager is not funded at all, and will keep going like this as much as possible.
Partager is a free software project. It means you can get the source code of the software, the documentation source, all the designs and all the diagrams and plans. You can publish them and share with friends. You can edit them and make improvements. You can publish these improvements, contributing to the community. Partager does not use business dual-licensing or proprietary software licenses of any form, and never will. The only possible change is moving to, or adding as an alternative to the GPL, public domain licenses such as CC0. CC0 is compatible with the GPL, which would make the change easy for both Partager itself and for other people and projects using the code.
In order for different applications to share information, they all need to use a common information management system. At the beginning the intention was to reuse existing frameworks and tools, but many of them are developed for other purposes and didn’t fit, or are developed by companies and participation requires being an organization or an invited expert. I was neither, and still am.
Of course the fact that the W3 consortium (which developed RDF) and many other foundations and officially-non-profits are mostly selfish-interest companies also affects the goals and designs, e.g. focus on the web and on mobile users and not on the desktop (follow the money…), and rude insertion of DRM handcuffs into core web standards. This kind of decision making is hard to trust as a user, even if you are an invited expert.
I decided to rebuild the information model from the bottom up, and use this chance to improve it, fix problems and eliminate weaknesses in existing models, which due to standards and/or lack of commercial interest are unable to evolve. Existing models are used as a basis, which means things are not reinvented when unnecessary.
The model is implemented through a desktop data storage system. It’s meant to be fast for desktop usage, user friendly and flexible. Users can define information in one of several friendly computer languages, and all the keywords and concepts can be (and are) translated, so you can do this even without knowing English, in your native language. Computers can then work with files written in these languages.
The system will be enhanced with a distributed network backend, which allows to share data with friends and online services securely, and without any required distinction between clients and servers: each user of the network a peer, i.e. both a client and a server. This makes censorship and overall control of the network impossible, and encryption of data, whether sensitive or not, built-in. Hopefully, combining this network system with mesh networking will also lead to removal of the personal-account-based dependency on ISPs and allow people to share their internet connections.
There are many other components, such as GUI widgets, domain-specific languages, ontologies, a query model and applications.
At the time of writing most of this is in the design phase, but code is already being written in parallel to new designs.