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The danger of “Software as a Service” and “Infrastructure as a Service”

Eric Raymond blogged about the danger of using “Software as a Service” (SaaS) in light of Salesforce.com recently banning customers from selling firearms. From The Seattle Times, “Tech giant brings software to a gun fight: Salesforce bars its customers from selling firearms” (May 30 2019):

SAN FRANCISCO – On its website, Salesforce.com touts retailer Camping World as a leading customer of its business software, highlighting its use of products to help sales staff move product. A Camping World executive is even quoted calling Salesforce’s software “magic.”

But behind the scenes in recent weeks, the Silicon Valley tech giant has delivered a different message to gun-selling retailers such as Camping World: Stop selling military-style rifles, or stop using our software.

The pressure Salesforce is exerting on those retailers – barring them from using its technology to market products, manage customer service operations and fulfill orders – puts them in a difficult position. Camping World, for example, spends more than $1 million a year on Salesforce’s e-commerce software, according to one analyst estimate. Switching to another provider now could cost the company double that to migrate data, reconfigure systems and retrain employees.

The change in Salesforce’s acceptable-use policy shows how a technology giant that is mostly unknown to the public is trying to influence what retailers in America sell and alter the dynamics of a charged social issue.

Salesforce’s new policy bars customers that sell a range of firearms – including automatic and semiautomatic – from using its e-commerce technology. The policy also precludes customers from selling some firearm parts, such as “magazines capable of accepting more than 10 rounds” and “multi-burst trigger devices.”

As Raymond writes on his blog:

The reason this ban has teeth is that the company provides “software as a service”; that is, the software you run is a client for servers that the provider owns and operates. If the provider decides it doesn’t want your business, you probably have no real recourse. […]

This is why “software as a service” is dangerous folly, even worse than old-fashioned proprietary software at saddling you with a strategic business risk. You don’t own the software, the software owns you.

It’s 2019 and I feel like I shouldn’t have to restate the obvious, but if you want to keep control of your business the software you rely on needs to be open-source. All of it. All of it. And you can’t afford it to be tethered to a service provider even if the software itself is nominally open source.

I’ve recently also blogged about companies such as PayPal, Stripe and Patreon banning users from their platforms, and social media platforms like Slack, Facebook, YouTube and Medium doing the same. Just like Raymond does above, I kept mentioning that you cannot trust any of these corporations with your business. If your income depends on them, you should look for alternatives as soon as possible.

We see that Silicon Valley, in trying to push forward a specific social agenda, keeps trying to coerce their users in the direction that their controllers — the financial elite —  want. Anyone who doesn’t fall in line is banned based on “community standards” and other arbitrary and subjective policies that — certainly as we’ve seen with Salesforce.com in the above case and Patreon in the past — can change on a whim. Even if you don’t violate any of these policies today, you have no idea what’s to come in the future and you’re taking a serious risk.

Even if you’re using software like Microsoft Office360 and applications from Adobe which are sold based on a monthly/yearly subscription via the Internet, you might want to think about the risks that you’re taking. These companies can decide to block you from using their software and there will be little you can do about it. You might wake up one day to find that you’ve lost all access to your important data and your money. Microsoft already have their policies on “hate speech” in place, and they have used it to coerce a user of their Azure hosting platform in the past. Even Linux already became a victim of the “diversity” agenda, and I can imagine a future where companies start blocking people from using (their version of) Linux and/or updates to Linux. If you think that’s impossible, you should pay close attention to how Google recently blocked Huawei from using their Linux based Android OS and what kind of impact that had.

There is no future in centralized and hosted systems (“Software as a Service” (SaaS) and “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS)). The future of the Internet is peer-to-peer (P2P).

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