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I am trying to compile a list of common reasons why users don’t move from a big centralized evil™ service to either a self-hosted solution or another more “freedom friendly” option (say Gitlab.com vs Github.com) or some other thing altogether.

While there are ofcourse common regular reasons like “all my friends use it”, I wish to collect reasons specific to particular well-known services.

Here is a list of friendly suggestions for answers which could help the discussion, IMHO:

  • Post reasons you, or someone you know actually have and not ones you feel could be one of the possible reasons unless they are clearly applicable.
  • Please keep reasons specific to a service and not generic over all centralized services.
  • Feel free to share reasons for more than one service in the same answer.
  • Would be super cool if the service you are talking about is well-known among the average Joe (yeah, like Facebook) and not just devs. It should however be well-known among atleast one of the either groups.
  • Feel free to repeat reasons/services posted by others unless ofcourse they all are exactly the same.
  1. 14

    Gmail: migrating email is always a pain. You have to find every service ever that you use. And everybody you ever sent email. In practice, you can’t actually migrate away. You set up forwarding and hope for the best.

    Downloading a few years of email from gmail and importing it into a new service is also major work.

    Blogspot: moving to another service means all the existing links that people have shared and posted will break.

    GitHub: similarly, your project files become the upstream source from which people download (bsd ports, etc.).

    Facebook messenger: I don’t have everyone’s phone number. Not everyone has whatsapp. Approximately nobody has signal.

    In many cases, migration is possible if you register a domain and make an effort to control URLs from the start. But this is rarely done, and only after you’ve been burned once. Also not for casuals.

    One can set up forwarding, burning down the old account to nothing more than a note to check the new location, but it’s work. Both to do it, and for people to follow.

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      Facebook messenger: I don’t have everyone’s phone number. Not everyone has whatsapp. Approximately nobody has signal.

      Does nobody text anymore? I feel so old.

      1. 3

        In order of priority: iMessage, FB Messenger, WhatsApp, SMS text. I’m somewhat agnostic, but that’s the observed preference for most of my nontechnical friends as well. iMessage is definitely the favorite if everyone has an iPhone. If not, the group moves to something else.

          1. 1

            I text with my local friends, but not my non-local friends due to it costing money.

            1. 1

              I tend to text my closest friends that I’ve known for years. Even then, we tend to use messenger.

              Family tend to text me too.

              1. 1

                I have a Blackberry Curve and only text my closest friends/relatives. It can’t even browse the web. I feel positively ancient. And curmudgeon-y.

                But man oh man, am I less distracted.

              2. 6

                I managed to migrate off gmail, and it honestly took over a year (with forwarding enabled). I use a password manager, and fairly dutifully record what email I used for creating each account (even if the login name is different). Thus I was able to update nearly all accounts with my new address over time.

                Eventually I was only getting junk mail forwarded, and finally nuked the gmail account. Occasionally I get someone telling me out of band “I sent you an email but never got a reply blah blah”, and it turns out they used the old one. I tell them the new email (again) and they say something like “oh right! I guess have this one in my address book…just used the wrong one I guess (due to address autocomplete in the ‘to’ field)”. sigh

                1. 4

                  I migrated off gmail (… well, onto another gmail account) somewhat incautiously, because I’d grown unbearably aggravated with people in my life who refused to stop calling me by my birth name even after I’d changed it legally (because they were hoping that if they bullied me sufficiently, I’d give up on the idea of gender transition).

                  I had a whole migration planned where I was going to run down every account mentioned in my password manager, change that, and still have it forward for a year. I put the forward in place and downloaded all the old emails via Takeout. The plan failed when I got so angry at being contacted via the old one that I just deleted it one day.

                  I did get locked out of a few things, and found out only months later when I tried to access them. They were primarily things I discovered I cared about a lot less than I had assumed I would.

                  It’s years later now, and I suspect that most of my coworkers at Google don’t understand why I have such strong personal feelings about Takeout, or about how smooth the account-deletion flow is. :) It was the one part of that whole mess that went well.

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                    Facebook messenger: I don’t have everyone’s phone number. Not everyone has whatsapp. Approximately nobody has signal.

                    That right there is what situation I’m in. People will NOT change so I’m stuck with it. I’ve got people on telegram too so I’ve got too many messengers.

                    1. 2

                      I migrated away from Gmail by doing something rather radical that, admittedly, not everyone can do: I just deleted it all.

                      Lest you think this is insane, I will point out that upon careful reflection, I realized I rarely, if ever, needed the old stuff. Now I frequently get rid of old mail without even checking it. I’ve done this for a few years and it’s not really been a problem.

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                        I was able to get away from Gmail relatively easily because I never advertised my Gmail address and always used an email alias that my university gives to alumni. So when I switched to Fastmail I continued using the same alias and had basically no interruptions or anything.

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                          In the case of gmail and blogspot, it basically comes down to needing to own the domain. Both of those work great in situations where you point your own domain to their service, which offers a lot more flexibility down the line at the cost of a bit more up-front work. (Same with gtalk before they nuked the XMPP federation.)

                          Something to think about before creating a new account.

                        2. 7

                          I think the only large centralized services that I use are ones where I benefit from the social aspect of them being centralized, such as Github, Twitter, Vimeo, and IRC. I use a couple services specifically because they are hosted by 3rd parties, such as Tarsnap for offsite backups (so I have some redundancy) and Tumblr for the Pushover weblog/status page (if all of my own stuff is down, I can hopefully still update that site where people can see it).

                          I use Mailroute for e-mail filtering because it’s a hassle to reinvent that myself, and I have a bunch of customers that I host e-mail for that need a web interface for viewing quarantines. I used to use Postini but Google bought them and ruined it, so I had to switch to Mailroute.

                          For Github, I only use the social parts of it for my open-source projects. I rarely ever use it to manage my own code like reviewing history or diffs, it’s mostly just for the issue tracking, pull requests, and so others can easily view the code. I host a ton of my own Git and CVS trees on my own servers.

                          I host my own e-mail, web sites, DNS, RSS reader, Twitter client, Jabber, etc. on my own servers. I guess I use Lobsters and that is a centralized service, but I host it myself so does that count?

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                              After some experiences, I’ve concluded that discoverability may be an anti feature. (Not is, may be.)

                              I’m not sure how I discovered OpenBSD or libz or SQLite or Luajit, but I am sure it didn’t involve GitHub. Similarly, people have found software I’ve written despite my efforts to prevent that. Conclusion: discoverability is not essential.

                              On the other hand, there have been times when I did “discover” some library or module, only to find 27 different forks, and having no idea which I should use. Or people will direct me to some obviously defunct incomplete project that they previously discovered. GitHub (and SF and gcode) aren’t just libraries, they’re junk yards. Conclusion: discoverability is not helpful.

                              In short, I wouldn’t worry about people finding your project. Build it and they will come. :)

                              1. 7

                                I complained about this somewhere else, but it’s basically Github’s ease of forking that causes the problem you describe, not really the discoverability. On Sourceforge if you wanted to create your own version of a project, it would take a lot of work to register a new project with a new name, upload the code, change the README, etc. That barrier to entry forced a lot of people to just email a patch instead, which maintained a single upstream tree.

                                On Github it’s trivial to just fork a project, commit your own code, and claim to be “project plus fixes!” and then people look at the fork network, see that new one is a few commits ahead of upstream, and then start using it.

                                1. 3

                                  GH putting project names under a user namespace is definitely part of it. On SF, there could only be one libanana, at the top level. If I went looking for libanana, and found sf.net/libanana, I knew that’s the one I wanted. GH projects can spend years at username/project before “graduating” to project/project URLs, if ever.

                            2. 6

                              It’s not a huge burden to setup and maintain a self-hosted solution for any one service, but doing so for the 10-15 services I use would be a full time job.

                              1. 3

                                Setting up self-hosted email for a residentially hosted domain is a pretty huge burden. In the US, you can’t just turn on a mail server on port 25, slap up some MX records, and expect to get email delivered to the server hanging at the end of your ISP’s modem. Even if your ISP hasn’t filtered out the standard email ports, most mail servers won’t talk directly to anything located in an ISP residential subscriber address block, and many upstream filters will either spambox or silently discard your mail if try to send it that way.

                                One typically ends working through the ISP to get outbound mail accepted through their local outbound servers, and then then still having to employ a third party (fourth party?) service to do authenticated relay for your domain.

                                Its doable (I do it) and its really nice to be able to set it all up the way you want it… but It costs money, its complex, and the details are different depending on your ISP and your relay provider so its not like there is a simple recipe for it. Even if you know what you are doing, setting up email is a burden. :‘/

                                1. 2

                                  I used to run my own, well, almost everything! (SMTP, XMPP, HTTP, CalDAV, etc.) But it was just more work, more money, and more hassle. But my migration choices were to providers without lock-in. (Fastmail, nfshost, etc.)

                                2. 8

                                  So, first, I’m going to break your suggestions a little before going with it:

                                  The main reason I don’t switch services once I’m on them is that I’ve already lost. It doesn’t matter to me, for example, that a different email provider is “freer” or whatever than gmail–Google already has all my shit, I’ve already lost, and if it’s worth fixing, it’s worth running the entire kit myself. If I’m not going to run the full kit, then the hassle of switching away outweighs any perceived benefits.


                                  That said, some service-specific ones:

                                  Facebook has a lot of people and serves as a decent way of meeting people/following up on folks. That said, it’s primarily an intelligence tool, and that’s why I left it years ago. There are no free software equivalents of which I am aware that solve the core issues of privacy associated with Facebook; even if there are, they don’t have the same network at all.

                                  Github solves the “how do I make this visible to collaborators” problem where self-hosting doesn’t, and is reasonably secure (haha, sort of).

                                  Gmail already has an extensive corpus on me. There is some slight benefit in moving to my own hosting, but even then most of my damned email touches their servers anyways. Also, the search is quite handy.

                                  G+ is stupid and I’ll never use it, though they make it some unholy wart on hangouts.

                                  Google Hangouts/Skype have no compelling alternatives because reasons. The entire modern fuckup of telecommunications and bandwidth basically means that actually connecting one client to another is damned near impossible, because of stupid historical architectural reasons. Network engineering has failed everyone.

                                  AIM was awesome and then I forgot my damned password–I’d still use it though, and there appear to be other useful substitutes. Oh, wait, interop with other folks still sucks. :( :(

                                  Slack is just IRC with better paint. That’s fine, and setting up a proper self-hosted alternative would be a bigger pain in the ass than it’s worth–and all the folks that I’d like to see use it are too technically ignorant to do so.

                                  OKCupid has no open-source equivalent of which I’m aware. Furthermore, it has a large population that wouldn’t exist on another site–and even if there were an open-source solution, in the field of dating/courtship I’m rather certain that the whole endeavor would catch on fire because reasons.

                                  1. 1

                                    G+ is stupid and I’ll never use it, though they make it some unholy wart on hangouts.

                                    Fortunately you no longer need a G+ profile to use Hangouts.

                                  2. 4

                                    I’ve grown tired of hosting my own email server (it’s a lot of upkeep and anti-virus and counter-spam hogs up most of the resources on the dedicated server) and using Gmail, but I can’t a service that I can actually trust with my email.

                                    1. 4

                                      A lot of mine have been said already, so iMessage. Apple honestly did a great job on it, for text as well as images and even regular files. I probably share more files over iMessage than anything else, even stuff like dist tarballs. And the interface is nice, clean, minimal, and efficient. Every other chat program is clunky, bloated, or difficult in some way or another. My only complaint with iMessage is it can take a minute to sync after waking up my computer, if I’ve been talking on my phone a ton.

                                      In short, I value the quality of the product more than its “freedom friendliness”. Tech is a big part of my life, but not my whole life, and I don’t want to go out of my way to use (sometimes) inferior technology on principle. Truth is, companies make money because they provide value above the free options.

                                      1. 3

                                        There is only one reason: To the user, the benefit provided by the service outweighs the cost of using it.

                                        For example, if you hold the opinion that big centralized servers are always evil™, and evil should always be avoided at all costs, and that any curtailment of “freedom friendliness” is unacceptable in any circumstance, then you are going to have a different cost benefit analysis of a particular service than people who hold a more moderate, mainstream opinion. Developing a list of reasons why people don’t move is only going to give you half of the story. You’ve also got to consider why they stay, or you’ll never really understand how people value a service.

                                        Here are some specific examples:

                                        I host my own email because I don’t like my data sitting around on other people’s systems and I have the technical ability to self-host it, despite it costing real money and being kind of a pain to maintain.

                                        I use Google Search because it gives excellent results, despite it using my searches to advertise to me.

                                        I self-host OwnCloud because i don’t like my data sitting around on other people’s systems, despite it being slower to serve the data than a large service located more centrally in the cloud.

                                        I use Linkedin because it makes recruiting easier, despite its constant requests for more private information from me.

                                        I use linux because I like the feeling of being able to fix anything that might go wrong, despite having to fix all of the things that do go wrong.

                                        1. 2

                                          Twitter, WhatsApp: I have yet to see a PoC of a decentralized alternative that doesn’t leak all user data of every server to all other servers (lol Diaspora), gives all servers write access to your account (lol pump.io) and is also reasonably usable (lol everything). It may be theoretically possible, but I can only see it happen with strong funding, and that would probably require economic incentives not in favor of me, the user.

                                          In the case of Twitter, I don’t see a strong reason since all data is already public. I simply don’t use DMs.

                                          And WhatsApp due to the network effect. Signal is a non-option because of that.

                                          Email: I currently self-host my stuff (used to host on Gmail), but am considering switching to FastMail. The single biggest thing you can do to avoid lock-in is to use your own domain, regardless of whether you host it yourself.

                                          Feed reader: I have yet to see a self-hosted synchronizing feedreader that is not written in PHP and/or whose UI is a total trashfire. Currently I use Feedly, but I haven’t done extensive research.

                                          GitHub: There is no private data on my GitHub. All repos are public. That doesn’t make it seem worthwhile to switch.

                                          1. 2

                                            Twitter - Because good UI and network effects. Lack of a good decentralized alternative (to my knowledge).

                                            1. 5

                                              Interestingly enough I think this is the first time someone on a forum like this has said Twitter has good UI. Most of the time it’s quite the opposite!

                                              Not trying to start an argument :) just making an observation.

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                                                Hey it’s all relative. Show me a decentralized alternative with UI/UX at least as good and I’ll gladly hop onto it! :D

                                            2. 2

                                              I’ll stick to anything that has real network effects and doesn’t abuse trust.

                                              Some specifics:

                                              Github has pull requests, understands cross-repo ticket references in comments, and the API is clean and crisp.

                                              Slack works well between my various devices, and has been the only group chat thing I’ve ever not reflexively thrown away. IRC has never been tolerable in the ~10 years I’ve intermittently tried, while Slack’s various current competitors are missing something ineffable in the user experience.

                                              Tumblr is joyful and interesting. I’ve bounced among image sharing services over the years, and I think Ffffound and Tumblr got the feeling of light sharing and tiny interactions with other users just right. Pinterest eventually just made me sad and angry when I used it, mostly due to the non-friend users.

                                              Heroku nails the tiny-app flow perfectly; they expose exactly enough functionality to get a small simple thing running and then handle all the rest quietly behind the scenes.

                                              Nobody ever got fired for choosing AWS.

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                                                I use Fastmail, github, Facebook, and iCloud. I’m pretty happy with them all; yeah, I’d be happier if I could run my own messaging services, but the nature of email basically precludes any real advantage. I think iMessage is excellent, and the photo sharing service is grandparent accessible, which is the real minimum bar to clear. Facebook is the most objectionable, but it’s also where everybody is, so, eh.

                                                1. 1

                                                  I avoided Facebook for the longest time. Unfortunately it’s annoyingly useful sometimes.

                                                  Other things though like gmail I have moved away from.

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                                                    Email/gmail/zoho: I like having my mail highly available, and doing that for email takes more resources than I have and I’m not 100% confident I could keep such a system secure. I also like that my friends already use these, so its easy to share documents with their integrated document systems or quickly IM if they are online.

                                                    Image hosting like flickr/instagram - I don’t have the disk space to save large volumes of images on a server of my own and its cool to look at friend’s image streams and comment/favorite things which you can’t really do on a self hosted gallery.

                                                    Tumblr - I like being able to subscribe to other blogs and get a stream of posts to read, and I like the social/interactive aspect of it. You can’t really get that in a self hosted blog.

                                                    1. 1

                                                      e-mail/calendar/contacts: I pay for Fastmail. Fast, reliable, and non-sketchy.

                                                      github/visual studio online: No reason to switch. Center of mass is with Github for OSS and for my work VSO.

                                                      facebook/whatsapp/similar: My friends are on Facebook, or at least most are. Many are international. No reason to switch.

                                                      medium.com/blogspot.com: Center of mass is here. I don’t want to keep a WordPress installation up to date.

                                                      slack: Center of mass. No reason to switch.

                                                      1. 1

                                                        iCloud: I can easily share reminders, calendars, photo libraries with a tiny group of individuals. Apple’s privacy attitude, reliability, technical abilities and usability is vastly better than, say, OwnCloud or Movin running on a machine in my house.

                                                        Google Apps: Email for various hosted domains, mobile device management. I could run an SMTP service but IMAP has nothing on push-based email and notifications. I hate the fact that Google has my mail and has the financial motivation to use it to learn as much about me as possible.

                                                        Facebook: ‘Deleted’ my account some years ago. Invited close friends and family to above-mentioned iCloud photo sharing, iMessage group texts and Signal texts.

                                                        Feedly: I migrated from Google Reader and I am not happy with the poor syncing between my devices and the lack of offline support. I just don’t know of better alternatives. I used to use rawdog years ago but I have so many RSS feeds now that one big list of items just became too much. I am hoping Apple’s upcoming News app might be worth while.

                                                        Twitter: For now, I could take it or leave it. I mostly follow some science geeks and security folks.

                                                        GitHub (for personal and business): The ease of collaboration is huge and using the API to do semi-automated billing in my side-business is a major timesaver.

                                                        Billysbilling.dk (for my side-business): Hosted accounting service. Nothing open source I’ve found has contained the ‘rules’ for doing business in Denmark and the reasonable API takes away many boring tasks.

                                                        Email (for my side-business): I don’t have to worry about how other people like to read their mail, so self-hosted and I use (pledged) mutt on the MX systems. The amount of HTML-only email in the B2B world is insane.

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                                                          RSS to email adapters work very nicely for keeping things in sync. If you google “rss to maildir” you’ll find a million implementations. I have my own here but some things have broken with recent Haskell versions and I don’t have permission from my employer to release the fixes yet.

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                                                            I just don’t know of better alternatives [to Feedly]

                                                            I use Feed Wrangler with my RSS client (Reeder), and it works great. I’ve never had sync issues.

                                                            1. 1

                                                              Apologies for resurrecting such an old thread, but tt-rss works really well for me. Yes, it’s written in PHP, but it does all I need, including synchronising with Reeder via the Fever plugin.

                                                              I do like the look of NewsBlur but haven’t tried it.

                                                          2. 1

                                                            Changing from a centralised service seems like shifting homes. I suppose if “redirects” are available I would drop gmail.

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                                                              Github: network effect is a real, I create github account to share my package/library. For private project I prefer to use gitlab.

                                                              Gmail: State-of-the-art spam filtering for free. I use gmail because of the simplicity and easy to use.

                                                              Slack: Team communication done right. I can use slack on iphone or macbook which help me keep up to date on my team while on mobile.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                GitHub: the social features are pretty cool, I like having one place to search for projects (although it would be possible to write a search engine that just indexes git repos), and the little green boxes are a big motivator for me :P

                                                                Twitter: I hate it. I hate everything about the service: it’s slow, bloated, and falling away from its original purpose, but again, it’s winning for social reasons. If there were some distributed service that allowed me to view tweets from people I already follow, I might use it.

                                                                Gmail: mostly laziness at this point. I should really set up email on my server, I just haven’t gotten around to it.

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  I just left Signal (after just over a year of on-boarding a lot of friends) to return to WhatsApp. Both moves were precipitated by broken behavior. WhatsApp corrupted its own message store and backups. Signal is unreliable at delivering messages.

                                                                  Otherwise, if the free equivalent offers basic functionality, I’ve left the more closed albeit featureful option many times: Chrome -> FF, Skritter -> Anki, “Spotify” -> Bandcamp, Google Calendar -> Fastmail Calendar, etc.

                                                                  But if you can’t get the basic features working, I will leave in anger.

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                                                                    WhatsApp uses the signal protocol, so it’s like you never left! (Except you can’t signal <—> whatsapp)

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                                                                      In summary: you don’t have a reason to move.

                                                                      I’m guessing you don’t agree with the parent’s big centralized evil™ / “freedom friendly” dichotomy?

                                                                    2. 1

                                                                      I used to self-host ownCloud as an alternative to Google Drive. While it was nice for awhile, I can only afford to pay for the lowest VPS instance at vultr, which doesn’t give you that much storage. Plus, maintenance was worrying me a bit wrt to security; I simply don’t have as much time or money as I’d like to be able to run an ownCloud server anymore.

                                                                      I use GitHub and haven’t migrated to something like GitLab because I like the social aspects of GitHub, e.g. being able to star or subscribe to a repo and such. It’s GitHub’s main selling point for me. Plus, self-hosting GitLab just isn’t an option at the moment, also due to time and money. Wait a minute; let me get back to you on this as I just visited gitlab.com and realized you can sign-up for a free account again.

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                                                                        I’m kind of in a love-hate relationship with Twitter. It’s one of the best social tools out there to interact with friends and keep on tabs with the latest news, conversations, etc. However, I’ve been having concerns over the direction the whole platform is heading lately, especially since Jack thought about the 10k character limit (which I’m glad he didn’t go through with it).

                                                                        I actually tried GNUSocial for about a month or two after the whole #RIPTwitter fiasco, in fact a number of my friends followed suit. After testing the waters for a few days I feel like I’m mostly welcomed there, but unfortunately as time goes, I could never retain as much engagement as I’m used to on Twitter, and most of my friends gave up and went back to Twitter anyway, so I did.

                                                                        Don’t get me wrong, GNUSocial is a nice decentralized alternative to Twitter, but IMO since most of my social circle are based on Twitter, I feel more at home there than on GNUSocial, and I’m not really ready to make the social sacrifice.

                                                                        Oh, and there are also tools like TweetDeck which makes the overall experience much more bearable than the abomination that is the Twitter web client. Perfect for power users like me.

                                                                        1. 1

                                                                          Facebook: You have to have an account in order to develop for Facebook.

                                                                          Years ago I shut down my account for about 9 months and then I got a job that required me to do Facebook Developer stuff. I have thought about disabling it many times since then, but I keep it around because I don’t want to have to go through setting up a fake account, tying my phone number to it, 2FA etc for whatever next job may require it. (We actually might build FB integrations at my current job soon). I guess it is mostly inertia and laziness on my part, but I do find it annoying that the developer account isn’t a mostly separate thing.

                                                                          I had a moment where I realized that I wasn’t actually enjoying Facebook at all, so I try not to use it.

                                                                          Spotify: It has a decent catalog size and I listen to enough new / new to me music that buying and managing files would be expensive and tedious.