An Open Letter To My Mom About Urbit

Hi Mom.

You know how you're always asking me why I didn't comment on your Facebook post about that one thing that your friend from high school shared?

I didn't see it.

Seriously.

Facebook doesn't show me everything that you post. It doesn't even show me everything that Ashley posts.

In fact, Facebook doesn't show me most of what my friends share.

Facebook, as a company & a project, centers around this question:

"How do we get people to want to use Facebook more?"

That's the question that makes the shareholders happy. That's the question that makes the guy who started Facebook happy. That's the question that makes the people who sell stuff and want to advertise on Facebook happy.

How do they get you to spend more time on Facebook?

Facebook pays a lot of very smart people to keep track of what you respond to, and the stuff you pass right by.

Then they wonder, "What's the common thread to all the stuff you responded to? What's the common thread of all the stuff you ignored?"

Then they tell some fancy computer programs to show you more of the stuff you read, share, or comment on and show you less of the stuff you don't respond to.

Notice this isn't a question of what you like, or what makes you happy, or what makes your life a better place.

The question is: what makes you react, so we can do more of that.

What makes you react is probably stuff that makes you scared.

Or furious.

Making you upset makes the owner, the shareholders, the advertisers, and every employee very happy.

Why don't they show me what you're posting?

Facebook thinks they can keep me on the platform longer by showing me something else.

Facebook is not interested in keeping a son in touch with his mom.

They're happy when their users are on the platform, and making them miserable seems to be the best way to do that.

Now I think you can see what the problem is.

I mean, part of it is that I don't call often enough. I admit that, and you're right, I should have written a thank you card to your cousin I met once a long time ago who sent $5.

Apart from that, though.

The real problem is that our relationship is directly affected by a service that wants us to do something other than stay in touch.

Since it's Facebook's house, it's Facebook's rules, right?

Facebook wants us to spend time there so advertisers can feel good that they just paid Facebook $5 to get you to click on their ad for healing crystals.

Basically, we're both using a service that we think is designed to help us connect when really it has turned into a place where we can all freak out together to make the creators happy.

That's demented.

And it's not just Facebook.

This is exactly what's happening on Gmail, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and every other place where you've found yourself.

Every single one of those places literally makes money off keeping you coming back like an addict with drugs, or a gambler in Vegas.

They are palaces built off the good will and trust of their users.

And they sell us out.

Every day. All day long.

That's the real reason I don't see your posts. Facebook doesn't show them to me.

And there's another reason.

I've mostly stopped spending time there. Or on Instagram. Or anywhere else online.

The whole place is built with some weird priorities that aren't lined up with what I know makes for the best life.

What do I do instead?

There is one place that makes sense. One place that is built the right way.

It solves a lot of problems I've talked about here, and a lot more I haven't even gotten into yet.

And I don't even really need to go into how it solves it.

I've spent nearly every day for the last year figuring it out for you.

At its heart it's a server, but that doesn't really explain anything so let me back up just a little bit.

You know how it's awesome that we're living in the future, and we can get in touch with anyone at any time?

That part is awesome.

And the thing that makes it all possible is called a server.

Basically it's just a computer that "serves" information that it has to another computer that would like to have it too.

A server is really one of the most important possessions you can have in the 21st century.

With your own server we wouldn't need Facebook to decide who gets to see what.

If I own my own server, and you have your own server they can talk to each other with nobody else involved in the process.

So that's what I've been working on for the past year.

I've been figuring this stuff out.

There's a better way for us to live in the digital future, and this is it.

Ultimately it's a lot more than just a server, and there's a lot of cool stuff to like about it. What I like most is that it's mine. It doesn't work to make some shareholder happy.

It doesn't succeed by making me miserable.

Instead, I now get to hang out with some of the smartest, most impressive people I've met in my entire life.

It's called Urbit.

I have one for you.

When you're ready.