Here’s an excellent column by Bruce Schneier on what he calls “internet feudalism”:
Some of us have pledged our allegiance to Google: We have Gmail accounts, we use Google Calendar and Google Docs, and we have Android phones. Others have pledged allegiance to Apple: We have Macintosh laptops, iPhones, and iPads; and we let iCloud automatically synchronize and back up everything. Still others of us let Microsoft do it all. Or we buy our music and e-books from Amazon, which keeps records of what we own and allows downloading to a Kindle, computer, or phone. Some of us have pretty much abandoned e-mail altogether … for Facebook.
These vendors are becoming our feudal lords, and we are becoming their vassals. We might refuse to pledge allegiance to all of them – or to a particular one we don’t like. Or we can spread our allegiance around. But either way, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to not pledge allegiance to at least one of them.
We do this because “feudalism provides security…. A critical aspect of [the old feudal] system was protection: vassals would pledge their allegiance to a lord, and in return, that lord would protect them from harm.” And we’re banking on the same deal:
In this new world of computing, we give up a certain amount of control, and in exchange we trust that our lords will both treat us well and protect us from harm. Not only will our software be continually updated with the newest and coolest functionality, but we trust it will happen without our being overtaxed by fees and required upgrades. We trust that our data and devices won’t be exposed to hackers, criminals, and malware. We trust that governments won’t be allowed to illegally spy on us.
My feeling is that for most computer users, this is not a bad deal; and that’s because most computer users aren’t trusting their feudal overlords with anything essential to their lives or livelihoods. If their lords betray them, they’ll get by. But the more you’re living and working online, the more important it is for you to own your own turf.