Alternative Web Services

 AZ last edited: Thu, 04 Oct 2018 23:57:38 +0200  
I dislike having my information controlled, sold, and manipulated by a select few entities. Nothing is free. If any entity provides something that is "free," then it is being paid for through selling you information or advertising which effects you whether you like it or not.

By nature of the internet, data that resides in "the cloud" actually physically is located on owned property, and whoever owns that property is responsible for that data (be it privacy or lawsuits). So by creating protocols that allow servers to communicate with each other (Email, for example), it allows people to choose who they want to be responsible for their data. And by creating open-source software that implements those protocols, it allows anyone to use their own computer and internet connection to host their own information and be responsible for their cloud storage.

It is not hard to protect your information but still keep all the conveniences that we desire. I have put forth the effort to know how to do this so that a I can help others do the same.

Here is a list of replacement services and products that I suggest. Security for services and products can be implemented using proper protocol, encryption, or both. I've rated the security for my suggestions from 0 to 5:
0. Public: Visible to all
1. Public: Visible to anyone with enough motivation
2. Basic: Privacy settings exist, but easily hacked. Admins have access
3. Good: Safe for people "not of interest". Admins can't access.
4. Great: Hacking the user's device is easier than hacking the service
5. Ludicrous: The user's device is the only way to hack in

Nothing is unhackable. Your information is only as secure as those you share your information with and all devices that process the unencrypted data; and chances are that the US, Russia, and China can easily hack most devices, but hopefully good security will at least prevent mass data collection and they would have to specifically target you to gain access to your data

Image/photo

Email Services/Alternatives:
Disroot.org
- Cost: Free (Donations)
- Security: 2-4
- Difficulty: As Easy as Google
- Devices: All
- Software: Open-Source

Disroot.org is an amazing service that implements many open-source software packages to provide quality security to all there users while providing an entire suite of modern software. Disroot does email, Nextcloud, Diaspora* and Hubzilla, and XMPP thereby entirely replacing Google Contacts, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, Gmail, Facebook, Facebook messenger, and other social networks. Each service has its own security rating, but in general disroot.org uses encryption that prevents anyone you don't want, even the admins, from accessing your data. This generally means that if you forget your password, they can reset it, but you'll lose access to most of your data.

Lavabit.com
- Cost: $30/year (free options coming later)
- Security: 4/5
- Difficulty: Easy (uses IMAP)
- Devices: All
- Software: Magma Open-Source

Lavabit.com is a great service. Back in 2013 the owner chose to shut down his company rather than give all his users' information to the US government. He started his service back up when he found a way to prevent anyone including admins from being able to access his clients data. He is creating a new email protocol to prevent anyone from collecting email metadata.

ProtonMail.com
- Cost: Free OR Paid Services
- Security: 3/4
- Difficulty: As Easy as Gmail
- Devices: Most Devices and Web Based
- Software: Open-Source
- Providers: protonmail.com

Protonmail.com also has good security and encryption that prevents their admins from seeing the data. Their service is open-source in some areas, but it seems to me that they still have the same weakness that lavabit.com had before they shut down. It does encrypt email whenever possible.

Tutanota.com
equivalent to Protonmail

Twitter Alternatives:
Mastodon
- Cost: Free (Accepts Donations, or self host)
- Security: 2
- Difficulty: As Easy as Twitter
- Devices: Most Devices and Web Based
- Software: Open-Source
- Providers: Mastodon.social, mstdn.io, many others, or self host

Mastodon created an open-source twitter like protocol, which makes twitter like social networking like email. You have your account on a server that you like. This prevents any single entity from owning and controlling social environments the way that  twitter does with Shadow Banning. Owners of any given server can still block or ban users or posts on their systems. But those users can just switch servers. Anyone can host their own server without too much difficulty because the code to run the server is open-source.

Gab.com
- Cost: Free
- Security: 2
- Difficulty: As Easy as Twitter
- Devices: Web Based

Gab.com was created in response to people being shadow banned on twitter. They have dedicated themselves to never censor their posts. There is still a problem that they own the content that resides on their server, and can still be sued for libel or copyright infringement. Since they are just another single entity, they or another entity could shut them down, which has been attempted more than once. They are dedicated to what they do, and are still going.

Reddit Alternatives:
Voat.co
- Cost: Free (Donations)
- Security: 2
- Difficulty: As Easy as Reddit
- Devices: Web Based
- Software: Open-Source

Voat.co became popular in response to Reddit changing their algorithms to suppress certain opinions on their service. Its code is open-source, but its still only a single entity that like Gab.com has been attempted to be shut down because they refuse to censor their users.

Facebook Alternatives:
Diaspora*
- Cost: Free (Donations, paid, or self host)
- Security: 2
- Difficulty: Medium difficulty like a blog
- Devices: Most Devices and Web Based
- Software: Open-Source
- Providers: Disroot.org, many others, or self host

Diaspora* is currently the most popular distributed/federated social network. What that means is that the code is open-source and it implements a protocol that allows all the servers to talk to each other, thereby distributing the ownership of all data to a community that is dedicated to freedom of information and communication. This service is intended to be a replacement for Facebook and has many cool features. But it has its limitations. The hardest part of the system is that if you want to change servers/nodes then you have to reconnect with all your friends again. Also the security of this system is not the best, except that not a single server has access to everyone's data.

Friendica
- Cost: Free (Donations, paid, or self host)
- Security: 3
- Difficulty: Medium like Diaspora
- Devices: Most Devices and Web Based
- Software: Open-Source
- Providers: nerdica.net, many others, or self host

This distributed/federated social network in principal is the same as Diaspora*. The difference is that it utilizes encryption to protect your information and ensure that only the people you choose can see your information.

Hubzilla
- Cost: Free (Donations, paid, or self host)
- Security: 3/4
- Difficulty: As Easy as Facebook
- Devices: Web based
- Software: Open-Source
- Providers: disroot.org, hubzilla.eu, many others, or self host

Hubzilla is a smaller federated social network, but is by far the best! It has features similar to nextCloud, and has more features than Facebook could dream of. It uses tough encryption to protect all information to ensure only those you want can see your posts and other information. One of the best features of Hubzilla is that your identity is not tied to a server. You keep a backup of your account, and it uses encryption to identify who you are. You never need to reconnect to your friends if you change which server/node/hub you use. You can even use many hubs at the same time! This way if one hub with your information breaks, goes down, or is unavailable, then your profile and account are still there on the other hubs that host your account, and your information syncs between them automatically. NO ONE, no person or entity can take down your information, unless they are willing to attack multiple hubs simultaneously. Your information is also very secure, but remember that your information is only as secure as those you share your information with.

SMS/MMS/iMessage Alternatives:
Signal
- Cost: Free (Donations)
- Security: 5
- Difficulty: As Easy as SMS or iMessage
- Devices: Almost All Devices
- Software: Open-Source

Signal uses data and their server to connect people. The service uses your phone number as your identity and makes it feel like the service replaces your texting and phone calls to others that also use Signal. The user interface is different from iMessage but the concept is the same. Differently from iMessage, its security is top of the line. The biggest security people that work in or previously worked with government security trust its encryption. It uses a double latching encryption method to prevent anyone from accessing your communication. It also uses a principle of off-the-record which means that not only can no one read a message, they cannot prove that the message is even a valid message. You can deny that the message ever existed. In simple terms, this Signal uses the principal of physical possession of your phone, where your phone number is the username and its encryption code is the password, to connect you an authorize who you are. This service allows you to communicate encrypted through txt, calls, and video calls. It also allows you to send pictures, sounds, or any other attachment securely to another person.

Silence
- Devices: Only for Android
Same code as Signal but it uses SMS messages instead of data, whereas Signal uses data like iMessage.

Cloud Storage (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) Alternatives:
Keybase.io
- Cost: Free (Donations)
- Security: 4
- Difficulty: Easy
- Devices: Web based with some device application support
- Software: Open-Source

Keybase uses PGP as its main method to protect your information. The problem with PGP is that most people get scared of using it because it does not make sense to them. Keybase makes it as easy as any other online service you use. It allows you to chat and store files encrypted on their server. This service connects multiple of your devices to it's service. If you have at least one of these devices or a private paper key, then you can recover your information if you ever forget your password. This service makes robust encryption as easy as social networking. It also connects with your other social networking accounts to prove your identity using encryption signatures. This service allows you to store and share files publicly and privately. Anything you share publicly is provable that it came from you. And anything and everything private is always private.

Nextcloud
- Cost: Free (Donations, paid, or self host)
- Security: 2 - 3
- Difficulty: As Easy as Google
- Devices: Web Based and Support for All Devices
- Software: Open-Source
- Providers: disroot.org, spryservers.net, qloudit.com, many others, or self host

Nextcloud is an open-source easy to set up server that allows all devices access to a variety of services including but not limited to file sharing/sync, contacts sync, calendar sync, chat, video calls, online office document editors, email clients, and much more. You can set up your own server, use a friends, or use a public service which operate on donations or a fee. I have provided some options above. Disroot.org is by far the most advanced and easiest to use offering in combination with Nextcloud many other services with great instructions and support.

Instant Message Alternatives:
Hubzilla
Signal
Keybase
nextCloud

XMPP
- Cost: Free (Donations/self host)
- Security: 4
- Difficulty: Easy
- Devices: Compatible with most Devices
- Software: Open-Source
- Providers: Disroot.org, many others, or self host

This is widely usable open-source software that is well developed and actually provides great encryption and security. The previously mentioned phone app Signal shares some of the same principals and encryption methods. They are much more different now than it use to be. It has good support. Disroot.org also provides this service.

Video Chat Alternatives:
Signal
nextCloud: Chat

Internet Search Alternatives:
StartPage.com
- Cost: Free
- Security: 2
- Difficulty: As Easy as Google
- Devices: Web Based
- Software: Google Search made private

This Web search uses google's search results but strips out all self identifiable information like IP address, web browser, cookies, etc.

DuckDuckGo.com
- Cost: Free
- Security: 3
- Difficulty: Easier than Yahoo
- Devices: Web Based
- Software: Yahoo search made private with extra features by DuckDuckGo

This is similar to Startpage.com except it's based on yahoo's search engine and has many extra features that are very nice.

Web Browser Alternatives:
Brave
- Cost: Free (Donations)
- Security: 1 - 4
- Difficulty: As Easy as Chrome
- Devices: Most Devices
- Software: Open-Source

The original founder of Mozilla Firefox didn't like where the organization was going. So he left and created his own web browser with as blocking built into the web browser which is many times faster than an add-on. The base engine of the web browser is built off of chromium, but then with many added security features. But even though it blocks adds, it has a method to help website owners gain revenue through micro-donations from users. It's primary focus is to protect the user while also promoting content owners.

Firefox
- Cost: Free (Donations)
- Security: 1 - 3
- Difficulty: As Easy as Safari or Edge
- Devices: Supports Most Devices
- Software: Open-Source

This has been a well know web browser for a long time. It is still worth supporting.

Netflix Alternatives:
VidAngel.com
- Cost: Cheep
- Security: 2
- Difficulty: As Easy as Netflix
- Devices: Web Based with Apps for Most Devices

This service is as easy to use as Netflix. Their focus is in filtering content tailored to your exact needs. An entire article could be written about their importance, history and legality. I highly suggest.

Plex.tv
- Cost: Free (pay for pro)
- Security: 3
- Difficulty: Easy
- Devices: Supports Most Devices and has Web Client

This service is about taking all movies, music, pictures, family home videos, and all other media that you own and being able to access all of it anywhere from any device. You gain all the convenience of Netflix but with all content that you already own. If you own it, then why shouldn't you be able to enjoy it anywhere you want. You can share your media with friends. It much better then letting them borrow your fragile disks and risking them getting broken.

Youtube Hosting Alternatives:
PeerTube
- Cost: Free (Donations, self hosting)
- Security: 2
- Difficulty: Medium
- Devices: Web Based
- Software: Open-Source
- Providers: framatube.org, peertube.mastodon.host, many more, or self host

YouTube likes to control all the content on their service. If you want to host videos that YouTube won't allow or restricts, then PeerTube is what you need. It hosts videos and content similar to Mastodon. It also has the viewers of videos share the videos with each other thus reducing the server from needing to be powerful enough in order to send millions of copies of a video to all viewers.

Truecrypt Alternatives:
Truecrypt
- Cost: Free
- Security: 5
- Difficulty: Medium Difficulty
- Devices: Many Devices
- Software: Open-Source

This software was by far the best encryption software out there for the public. It uses government quality encryption. It is a little difficult to use, but once you figure it out, it's easy. The best part about this software was 2 things: it made it possible to deny the existence that any encrypted data at all, and if forced through unjust means to reveal the password, can provide a decoy encrypted volume, thereby providing protection in the most extreme of cases. You can even create entire encrypted operating systems of which you can deny the existence. In the end the creators of the software were compromised and they shutdown the product, but the last version they released before they shut down is believed to still be secure. See VeraCrypt

VeraCrypt
- Cost: Free (Donations)
- Security: 5
- Difficulty: Same as Truecrypt
- Devices: Most Devices
- Software: Open-Source

This organization took the open-source code of Truecrypt and started updating it, fixing a few identified weaknesses of Truecrypt, which were only minor weaknesses. But VeraCrypt has put forth the effort to support many devices. And it is able to read old Truecrypt volumes. VeraCrypt may occasionally have security issues, but they are usually minor.
  last edited: Thu, 04 Oct 2018 23:56:12 +0200  
I was told that veracrypt currently has a security issue. It looks like the issue is already resolved. Veracrypt normally doesn't have any significant security issues.