How to make self-hosting and local-first software work

For a while, I really thought I could be a self-hoster. After months of talking to people about platforms and security and what it means that we really don’t own any of the data and apps we use every day, my big plan was to buy a mini PC and run my life off my own device.

A lot of Docker experimentation later, I pretty much gave up. (As one person put it to me, if you ever find yourself typing in an IP address and port number, you’ve officially exited the realm of “things most people will ever do.”) And so this episode of The Vergecast, the fourth and final in our series about connectivity, became about something else. Self-hosting is a nice idea and a totally impractical reality for most people; signing into cloud services and downloading apps is just so much easier to do!

But there are plenty of people out there who think we don’t have to choose. They think it’s possible to build software that both belongs to us and works across all our devices, that is collaborative and user-friendly and has an offline mode. They even have a term for this — local-first software — and point to apps like Obsidian as proof that it can work.

After that, we get to one more idea about software: that the solution isn’t to change the way we acquire and access software but rather to change the things we can do to that software. In his book The Internet Con, activist and author Cory Doctorow argues that interoperability might be the solution to most of our tech woes. Interop could turn the internet from a series of walled gardens into a teeming forest of interconnected services that are only as successful as they are good. But that requires some legal changes and some big new ideas about how we build and use software.

Software has connected us and connected everything. So how do we connect to our software? That’s the question of this episode. The answer doesn’t quite look like Plex servers and NAS systems, but it might be the next best thing.



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