August 31, 2022•585 words
As you probably can see, I have been firmly in the self-hosting crowd since a few years ago. To say the least, I have my own self-hosted "cloud" storage, music streaming server, Git frontend, email server, social network (Mastodon, Misskey), and messaging apps (XMPP, Matrix). One main reason of doing so was, of course, for privacy, just like many others who are on the same boat. I just can no longer trust my personal data to big companies, especially if the product handling said information is free.
Of course, as a long-time full-suite Google services user myself (before starting to self-host), I completely understand why self-hosting is not for everyone. To begin with, it is understandable that big companies are just not in the threat model of many people. As much as I would like to argue against it, one has to admit that incidents related to privacy, at least those that have been publicized, are no more than a minority. For 90% of users in 90% of the times, it may simply not be a concern whatsoever. There is always the risk of practices that have not been publicized, of course, but for 90% of users, it might simply not be a good investment of their time to delve into the complicated world of self-hosting.
What I have started to realize in the recent one or two years is that the benefits or reasons to self-host goes far beyond just privacy. Even under the assumption that one does not consider the service provider companies as a threat, there have been countless cases where people get locked out of everything they depend on due to (true or false) accusations of violations of the terms of just one of the company's services. For example, you may be locked out of Gmail, your only main email address, due to a payment in Google Play being flagged at fraudulent. Or your phone service may be terminated due to a photo in your Drive account being falsely flagged as child abuse by the AI algorithms.
When we start to depend on one company for everything we have, whether it is for our digital life or not, something like these cases is bound to happen at some point. As the number of services we use go up, it is increasingly, or even overwhelmingly likely that we would run into terms violations even if we do not mean to do it. If all the essential services are connected via a single company, then each single one of them may become their own single point of failure that can knock out one's entire online presence. And self-hosting is just one among many ways to reduce such dependence and thus to minimize such a risk.
This also reminds me that self-hosting on its own is never the solution to everything. When you host everything on one server or at one location without backups or standbys, you are again effectively creating a single point of failure. It might not be as bad as, say, with Apple or Google accounts, but it is still a huge risk of losing everything due to one single incident. On the flip side, you can definitely eliminate many of the points of failures without self-hosting -- by simply using more than one service providers, so that you always have something to fall back upon. The old saying that goes, "don't put all your eggs in one basket", is still a rock-solid piece of truth even in the information age.