Data decentralization & Mozilla

The fine folks at the Mozilla Paris office took the opportunity of our presence (Alexis/Remy/myself) to organize a "Meet the Cloud Services French Team" event yesterday night. Among all the discussions we had, one topic came back several times during the evening.

How do we let people using our services, host their data anywhere they want

I built the first Python version of the Firefox Sync server, so I had an answer already - you can tweak your browser configuration to point to your own server.

But self-hosting your Sync server requires quite some knowledge. I provided a Makefile to build the server back in the days, but the amount of work to set everything up was quite important.

And it got bigger with the new Sync version, because we've added dependencies to other services for authentication purposes. Our overall architecture is getting better but self-hosting Firefox Sync is getting harder.

Alexis is quite excited about trying to improve this situation, and suggested building debian packages to make the process easy as in "apt-get install firefox-sync".

There were also discussion around remoteStorage and the more I look at it, the more I feel like a product like Firefox Sync could rely on a remoteStorage server. That would make self-hosting straightforward.

The only thing that's unclear to me yet is if remoteStorage is heavily tied to OAuth or if we can plug our own authentication process. (e.g. Firefox Account tokens)

Another problem I see: it's easy to build client-side applications that directly interacts with a remoteStorage, but sometimes you do have to provide server-side APIs. In that case, I am wondering how convenient it would be for a web service to interact with a 3rd party remoteStorage server on behalf of a user. If both parts are different entities, it's a recipe for technical nightmares.

It feels in any case that those topics are going to be very important for the web in the upcoming months, and that Mozilla needs to play an important role there.

Looking forward to see what we'll do in this area.

Tristan Nitot, who came by during the meeting, has sparkled this discussion and is planning to organize recurrent meetings on the topic at the Paris community space - helped by Claire and Axel. They are also zillions of other cool stuff happening at the Paris space this summer. Like, several meetings per week. I'll try to update this blog post whenever I find a good link to the events list.

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