Small Technology

Small technology, smallnet and smolnet are associated with communities using alternative network infrastructures, delinking from the commercial Internet. They are using alternative networking protocols such as Gopher and Gemini or communicate on a server itself when logged in, instead of through publishing, like on a Public Access Unix System (PAUS or pubnix). Gopher and pubnixes have been around since the late 80s and early 90s, and are currently experiencing a revival due to an increasing amount of people feeling frustrated with the state of the commercial Internet, both for privacy and environmental reasons. Even though Gopher fans, pubnix and tildeserver visitors are not necessarily the same crowd, they have some common goals and practices that align with many of the terms mentioned in this Catalog.

The smallnet crowd is DIY-minded, they self-host community-run servers and community-built services, often using limited CPU, memory, disk space and bandwidth by choice, using simple protocols, formats and tools. The smallnet uses cohesive and modular tools in classic Unix style and is home to small communities that engage in close communication instead of broadcasting to an anonymous mass 1. A Gopher enthusiast who goes by the name of Solderpunk has created a protocol called Gemini, that expands Gopher with TLS encryption but is leaner than the web 2. His protocol makes additional network transactions impossible in order to avoid bloat. The protocol is free of in-line images, external style sheets, fonts, scripts, iframes and more. It is attracting a growing number of people looking for more privacy, a smaller environmental footprint and a more close-knit community. Resource minimalism and the decentralised nature of the smallnet, and the awareness within the community of the links between privacy and environmental impact of technology makes it worth paying attention to within the context of Computing within Limits. This community approaches everyday (network) practice as a site of political struggle. Something Silvia Federici puts forward in Re-enchanting the World: Technology, the Body, and the Construction of the Commons: "we are beginning to recognize that the new paradigms may come from those who in fields, kitchens, and fishing villages across the planet struggle to disentangle their reproduction from the hold of corporate power and preserve our common wealth" 3.

  1. spring. 2019. Small Internet Manifesto. gopher://
  2. Solderpunk. 2019. Project Gemini.
  3. Silvia Federici and Peter Linebaugh. 2019. Re-Enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons. PM Press, Oakland.