David Heinemeier Hansson

February 2, 2024

Dare to connect a server to the internet

The merchants of complexity thrive when they can scare you into believing that even the simplest things are too dangerous to even attempt by yourself these days. That without their rarified expertise, you’ll be left vulnerable. So best just to leave ever-more of your burdens to them, and they’ll happily carry (for a fee!). Don’t listen, don’t succumb. You need less help than you think, and it’s not as scary as they’d have you believe.

This is a general, ever-green principle of computing in the age of the emperor’s new clothes. It’s incredibly profitable to dress up what used to be simple problems into complicated solutions, if you can somehow convince the punter that it’s necessary. You see this all over in software, in frameworks, in consulting.

But it applies particularly well when it comes to cloud computing, and connecting your own application to the internet. It used to be common place for people to run applications on servers sitting in the closet of their company. At a time when locking these boxes down and making them secure was actually rather tricky business. But now, a couple of decades on, it’s never been easier to confidently connect a computer to the internet, and have it serve up a web app securely on port 443. Yet the FUD trying to dissuade you from doing this is as thick as ever. Don’t listen.

Tools like Docker have made it trivial to create closed and isolated systems that can be easily updated and kept secure. Gone are the days of manually tinkering with a box, trying to harden it down. Now all that work has been distributed, and most people run the same handful of base images that have been hardened by a million eyeballs looking in the same place for the same trouble. This is a golden age of secure, baseline computing. We should be celebrating!

But where’s the profit in admitting to such progress? Why would someone pay outrageous fees for services dressed up in claims of security, if they’d realize that the fundamentals have so improved? That’s a business problem for some, and they try to solve it by waving their arms like a scarecrow flapping in the wind. Don’t listen.

You can run your own server. You can connect it to the internet. You can own it. You can own the software too. Not everything needs to be a service, not everyone wants a monthly, recurring cost on a million line items to run their business or their life.

Dare to embrace the underlying progress of containers and security. Dare to question the financial equation of renting vs buying. Dare to connect a server to the internet.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.