Bookmark: "Local-first software: You own your data, in spite of the cloud"

Sebastian Greger


In this article we propose “local-first software”: a set of principles for software that enables both collaboration and ownership for users. Local-first ideals include the ability to work offline and collaborate across multiple devices, while also improving the security, privacy, long-term preservation, and user control of data.

This proposal for a design paradigm of “local-first” (in regards to user data) – framed as “a new way forward for software of the future” – by Martin Kleppmann is rather technical in its details but holds inspiring ideas for privacy-by-design and privacy-by-default:

Local-first apps, on the other hand, have better privacy and security built in at the core. Your local devices store only your own data, avoiding the centralized cloud database holding everybody’s data. Local-first apps can use end-to-end encryption so that any servers that store a copy of your files only hold encrypted data that they cannot read.

Not surprisingly, breaking the dominance of the cloud paradigm and instead pushing fresh approaches to more privacy-centred applications is the final conclusion of the essay:

Today it is easy to create a web application in which the server takes ownership of all the data. But it is too hard to build collaborative software that respects users’ ownership and agency. In order to shift the balance, we need to improve the tools for developing local-first software.

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

My monthly email newsletter has all of the above, and there are of course also an RSS feed and Twitter.