The denial-of-service attack that took down several social networking sites (including Facebook, Twitter, and Livejournal) certainly seems to have caught some attention, especially after the revelation that the attack was primarily aimed at a political writer called "CYXYMU," which I assume makes more sense in Russian. Evgeny Morozov calls him the first digital refugee, and points out the very real danger that other digital activists could be silenced this way--not by direct attack, but by removal from social networks for terms-of-service violations (you know, for all the bandwidth they're "using").
It's in this environment that I've been thinking about PubSubHubbub, an HTTP/RSS-based push distribution system. Anil Dash calls it the start of the "Pushbutton web." Here's how it works, as far as I can tell:
What interests me about all this is that it's potentially a really smart, high-level proxy/federation system, one that's built for the modern web, and that might have real implications for activists. Under PubSubHubbub, any given node in the distribution network can play multiple roles--a publisher or hub can also be a client, and vice versa. As this develops, it might be possible to build hubs that are capable of talking to each other to locate publisher feeds, thus adapting to outages or blocks--similar to the way that peer-to-peer protocols may share lists of working leaf nodes with each other upon connecting to the network for the first time. At the very least, it will be possible to enable realtime communication/distribution on a decentralized platform--one that's harder to block with a single rule, and can't necessarily be shut down by DOS attacks on the central distribution point.
Of course, right now, none of this is part of PubSubHubbub's plans. Right now, this is a technology for making sure that your shared items in Google Reader get pushed out to FriendFeed as fast as possible--thus fulfilling the golden rule of Web 2.0 technology: all the interesting stuff will be invented primarily to buff up the shiniest service (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) in the room. Indeed, this particular pushbutton protocol may never develop the way I'm hoping it will--and it probably doesn't solve the problem of DOS attacks entirely (seems like the original source is still vulnerable)--but it looks to me like the Internet zeitgeist is taking steps in the right direction. Potentially, that's good news for prospective digital refugees.