Francisco Fuentes

Person who happens to code and also loves music and books

Cooperatives: Collective property of IT means and the self-hosting trend

24 Dec 2020 » software

(This is a translation of a post written in Cooperativas: La propiedad compartida de los medios informáticos y la desgooglización)

Ever since I graduated as a computing engineer I always thought that we could use the model of cooperatives to work better than almost any other in cooperative environments and yet it’s a rare sight. However, there are other uses for cooperative models and needs people have that exist and that could be interesting to explore and think about.

Problem: Centralization

Not long ago, Google had a blackout for an hour leaving a lot of users both domestic and organizations behind. People without their home automation, companies without e-mail or authentication, anything. It was just one company what failed for a while and no one knows how or why but the end result was a disaster. Cloud computing has lots of advantages but the overdependence on just a few companies (not just Google) has worried a lot of people. On Reddit there’s a growing community called r/selfhosted which tries to help people to host certain services on their own they would otherwise use through these almighty companies.

A possible solution

There are many possible ways to solve this overdependence. One of these would be to take, let’s say a Raspberry Pi that’s hanging around at home or rent a VPS and host certain services in those. However, this assumes you have certain prior knowledge and some time not everyone has. Also it requires a certain infrastructure because there are things where a Raspberry Pi or a home server wouldn’t perform so well. It also requires sometimes fighting over ISPs if you choose to host at home. Imagine someone struggling with a restrictive ISP.

Given that I wonder: Why don’t we better take a collective approach to this issue? I’m not an anticapitalist or antimarket kind of person and income incentives in the market usually work well. However, this doesn’t happen all the time and ultimately it isn’t always necessary. In this case let’s take a look at what’s called a consumers cooperative. A consumers cooperative seeks to satisfy members needs with the collective work and resources of their members themselves. A relation among people like this is not vertical or based on distrust but rather on a common need and the capacity of producing this synergy allow us to achieve the same end result we’d get in the market and even better due to scale economies.

A consumers cooperative of IT could work in these ways:

  • People who rent a server and share it adding new services to it (like a big NextCloud or a mail server)
  • People sharing and connecting Raspberry Pis in a network to create clusters that provide services without relying on a third party

I think this idea is pretty obvious but underrated. Tildes (like or the SDF are examples that a network which is not commercially intended can work. A community which was based on the principles of a consumer cooperative would be much better for these other and heavier expenses.