Indie Tech

Independent Technologies are beautiful and easy-to-use consumer products that are free & open. They help protect our privacy and other fundamental freedoms.

Corporate surveillance has become the dominant business model of the Internet. Because of this, our privacy, civil liberties, and human rights are under threat.

This is an unacceptable state of affairs.

As concerned individuals and organisations, we are working to challenge this status quo by creating alternative consumer products that are design-led, free and open, and independent.

Indie Tech is…

1. Design-led

We must design the organisation before we can design the product.

The battle against corporate surveillance will be fought, lost, or won in the consumer market.

In the consumer market, features are commodities and products are differentiated by user experience. Our products must be able to compete on user experience with the products of design-led closed silos.

To win, we must build design‐led organisations to create consumer products that are experience-driven, accesssible, seamless, secure, and social.


Experience‐driven products have a design vision. They are built using iterative processes where design leads development and development informs design.


Accessibility cannot be separated from usability. Our products treat accessibility as a core design concern, not an afterthought. To design accessible products, we must design accessible organisations that value diversity and equality.


The experience of a product is greater than the sum of its features. Our products seamlessly integrate hardware, software, services, and connectivity. The combination of these four elements is what makes up the experience of the product. Control over these elements means control over the end‐user experience.

Our products have beautiful defaults.

We layer the seams.


Encryption and security of people’s data cannot be an afterthought. We must include encryption at the core of our designs and make sure that it is as seamless and easy to use as possible.


Our goal is not to cut people off from their existing networks. Instead, we aim to wean them off by making the canonical location of their data a place that they own. We must enable people to easily weave their existing networks and tools into their personal data stores. Conversely, we must also enable them to easily distribute their content to existing networks. When interacting with existing corporate surveillance networks, we must treat them as untrusted networks and strive to protect the privacy of the person to the highest degree possible.

2. Free and open

Our products will be free (as in liberty) and open source. Being free and open (F+O) is a prerequisite for Indie Tech, but is not, by itself, enough to meet the definition of Indie Tech.

To own your own data, you must also own the tools and services by which you create, manipulate, and analyse that data. These tools and services must be free and open source. This is a prerequisite for Indie Tech but is not, by itself, enough to meet the definition of Indie Tech. The ecosystems we build must also be independent. They must not rely on the use of existing closed silos for storing our data.

The Free Software initiative demonstrated that there could be alternatives to proprietary systems. Free Software today is a huge success with enthusiasts. Open Source took the Free Software movement and stripped it of its core ethics and morality to make it palatable to businesses. Subsequently, open source has been a great success with enterprises. F+O technologies power much of the infrastructure that makes the Internet possible.

This is not surprising.

It is a problem of culture. It is a problem of organisational structure. It is a problem of development processes.

Traditional F+O organisations are just not equipped to make consumer products that can compete.

Indie Technology is the next evolution of free and open source technology.

3. Independent

The canonical location of people’s data will be a location that they own.

We must create ecosystems to enable people to own their own tools, services, data, and connectivity.

These ecosystems must be:


Building easy to use distributed systems is one of the greatest design challenges of our time.

Our products will incorporate distributed, peer-to-peer architectures at their core. This will not be easy but it is the only way to ensure long-term structural change. We may support this core with always-on backups to guarantee availability and findability. (Otherwise, we may not be able to match or exceed the user experience of centralised systems).


We are not against profit or against creating successful, sustainable businesses. What we are against is the excessive greed of venture-capital-backed business model of corporate surveillance.

We must adopt alternate business models that are transparent, simple, and easy to understand.

We must create sustainable businesses that grow organically.

Our businesses cannot be truly independent if they are sponsored by purveyors of corporate surveillance.

We will spend our time creating businesses that we love to work in, not dreaming up exit strategies.

We will sell products and we will sell services to help users maintain their tools and data. We will sell seamlessness, we will sell ease-of-use, we will sell time saved.

We will never build business that monetise people’s data or violate their privacy.

Our Goal

Our goal is to enable all people to own their own tools and data. This, in turn, will empower them to protect their privacy, civil liberties, and human rights.

Indie Tech will help create a more distributed Web and bring the architecture of the Web in phase with its founding philosophy.

The revolution will be beautiful, free, and independent.


This is a live draft version of the Indie Technology Manifesto. It was originally released by Aral Balkan for public consultation on April 10th, 2014 during his talk Free is a Lie at The Royal Society of Arts.

View the revision history and source code.

Please send thoughts, feedback, and suggestions to .

The manifesto will be launched for signatures on 4 July, 2014.