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Free Software To Save Us From Social Networks

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the wall-warts-unite dept.

GNU is Not Unix 249

Glyn Moody writes "Here's a problem for free software: most social networks are built using it, yet through their constant monitoring of users they do little to promote freedom. Eben Moglen, General Counsel of the Free Software Foundation for 13 years, and the legal brains behind several versions of the GNU GPL, thinks that the free software world needs to fix this with a major new hardware+software project. 'The most attractive hardware is the ultra-small, ARM-based, plug it into the wall, wall-wart server. [Such] an object can be sold to people at a very low one-time price, and brought home and plugged into an electrical outlet and plugged into a wall jack for the Ethernet, and you're done. It comes up, it gets configured through your Web browser on whatever machine you want to have in the apartment with it, and it goes and fetches all your social networking data from all the social networking applications, closing all your accounts. It backs itself up in an encrypted way to your friends' plugs, so that everybody is secure in the way that would be best for them, by having their friends holding the secure version of their data.' Could such a plan work, or is it simply too late to get people to give up their Facebook accounts for something that gives them more freedom?"

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249 comments

I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543136)

....and suggest that most people don't care.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543168)

You beat me to it. Most people don't give a damn about "free software", they just want to have their stuff work. That goes for social networks, too. People want their social network to do what it's supposed to do (whatever that is... I still haven't figured out the point, if there is one), and they don't really care what software it runs on.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (4, Interesting)

calibre-not-output (1736770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543262)

More than that, they don't care about their online privacy either.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (5, Funny)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543586)

What people do care about is letting me know they have acquired a purple pony. They care ALOT about that.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31544002)

What people do care about is letting me know they have acquired a purple pony. They care ALOT about that.

What I do care about is proper use of English. I care A LOT about that.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (4, Insightful)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543618)

More than that, they are endeavouring specifically against their online privacy.

Grandparent comment said "still haven't figured out the point, if there is one", and you have indirectly advanced it.

Facebook exists for the express purpose of escaping anonymity and privacy. That is just what personal publishing is.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (2, Insightful)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543708)

It isn't that they don't care about "online privacy", it is that they've joined a site specifically to share certain information. Any information they post on Facebook, etc is clearly information they're ok with Having in public.

My profile on FB has a lot less information than most other peoples. Does that mean I don't care about my online privacy? no, I just don't care if people know that I like Belegarth MCS, and Dungeons and Dragons.

Facebook is essentially public space, don't expect things you do in public spaces to be private. It's not that hard to figure out.

As for GP not knowing what it's for: keeping in contact with people you might not necessarily see every day? Is it that hard to figure out?

Caveat: I don't play facebook games, I don't install apps, etc. My FB profile is very minimal.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (1)

calibre-not-output (1736770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544064)

You disregard your privacy precisely to the extent of the information you share on Facebook. I also have a minimum-disclosure FB account. Pardon me if I wasn't clear. :)

Still, many people share much more with strangers online than they'd share with strangers offline, and among these, several do so because they don't fully understand/care about the risks of what they're doing. So they obviously won't buy this thing, even if they're told exactly what it does.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543912)

More than that, they don't care about their online privacy either.

Whether or not they care, in some kind of general sense, about "online privacy", they are certainly using social networking systems specifically because they wish to share some things, not keep them private.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (3, Interesting)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543354)

What people might care about is a way to build up a "friend list" across websites. That could serve as both a filter-out-the-trolls convenience, and eventually an actual trust network.

Some sort of FF plugin that allows you to rate userids or even individual content items, share your ratings anonymously, join or administer a "tag team" that aggregates ratings from people with similar interests, and pull in ratings from other people. But to make it worth using it would have to be a hotkeyed mode that overlays a live website session and gives you mouseovers and easy dropdown actions.

The pain would be keeping individual website profiles up to date as the developers for those sites are constantly changing their markup. But then, a good number are running on a small number of CMS/forum systems without entirely that much customization.

Trying to get people to buy a "wall wart server" is a decade away, a futile attempt to stay the "cloud computing" fad. The best effort is something that people would actually want to use, and through using, makes them more security conscious. "Cloud computing" will just have to run its course.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (3, Insightful)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543594)

Gah posting off the top of my head there and skipped over the topicality which is this:

These people need to focus on building popular projects that aren't purist, but which develop the building blocks for a system much like what they are describing. Facebook got people started on building trust networks, for a lax definition of the term. The next step is something like that, which is cross-site, has minimal centralized services, and allows the "backup-encrypted-to-a-friends system" aspect. Trust lists are small enough to make that acheivable as a peer-to-peer application in a browser plugin, which is why I suggested it. Then comes spoof protection (did X actually post this?) which gets people into digital signatures.

It has to be candy coated to get people to care.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543692)

One idea I've seen suggested and I've repeated here before is a trust metric that gives higher credence to ratings from users that rate other people similarly to the way you rate them.

This makes it harder for individuals to game the system.

I have been toying with the idea of such a system but including the opposing concepts of an anonymous profile, and CA verified 'real person' with public/private keys.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (5, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543286)

Not only do most users not care- but the few who do aren't going to want an either-or system that blocks out their friends who are less technically adept.

" and it goes and fetches all your social networking data from all the social networking applications, closing all your accounts."

Is not a reasonable way to go about it.

Replace that line with "and it goes and fetches all your social networking data from all the social networking applications, and syncs it daily, giving you an always-on local server *combining* updates from several social networking sites" and I'd consider paying up to $500 for such a device.

Re:I'm going to go out on a limb here.... (1)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543700)

Yep. Everybody wants Freedom. And Security. Ask them and they always say they do. But when it comes right down to it, they don't really care that much about it. Certainly you can't get most people to pay for it (would you pay $1 for this encryption...?) And getting them to understand even the most basic principles of how to be secure is an infinite task. When you hear people say, "I don't want people looking at all my information on Myspace/Facebook/etc." you have to wonder why they put it out there in the first place.

And as for Software Freedom, I suspect that is so abstract and esoteric a concept they will assume you're speaking Klingon. Most people can't be bothered to configure their own software, let alone worry about what rights are encumbered, or what might prevent them from using someone else's.

Uhh... (4, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543146)

You mean people would actually have to SPEND MONEY? And even worse, on an actual PHYSICAL OBJECT? No way, not in a million years would something like this replace a simple, free online service.

Re:Uhh... (2, Insightful)

Jazz-Masta (240659) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543308)

If only we already had devices that we could hook up to a wall socket, plug into an ethernet port, and configure with a web browser...

If only we could invent some sort of encrypted storage area for our social networking information...

If only we could adapt these useless boxes...the ones we have hundreds of millions of already, to do the same thing. What are they called? Computers? Hah! They aren't powerful enough to do what the OP is talking. No way.

Oh well, we can dream, one day.

Re:Uhh... (2, Interesting)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543424)

Ya.....
I'm looking at the summary and I cannot for the world of me work out why the wall wart crap is part of the idea at all.
It just adds a pointless layer of complexity to an already overly complex idea.

Re:Uhh... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544054)

If only we already had devices that we could hook up to a wall socket, plug into an ethernet port, and configure with a web browser

If only we had home ISPs that didn't block inbound HTTP connections.

I want a vpn device: an F&F server network (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543504)

Small, headless, set top size, external usb storage

Running:
tinc
web proxy
samba/gnutella
Myth

some other stuff maybe.

Course. I can build my own easily & as you say, I doubt anyone else needs anything similar.

Re:Uhh... (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543704)

In the future several people will have access to those devices. They will hold a list of your friends, your messages, your pictures, your favorite music and a bunch load of other information. You'll be able to type messages and send them to your friends, or make voice... maybe even video chats. People will refer to them as cell-phones.

Now, what about adding a webserver and let you contacts have remote access to a limited amount of that information?

No. (4, Insightful)

snarfies (115214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543162)

Seriously, its a dumb plan. My girlfriend is on Facebook, and I'm pretty sure she would have the following objections:

1) New people couldn't find her.
2) This new plan is already WAY too complicated. She can't point a browser at some weird piece of hardware that she has to install herself, no matter how "easy" it is to install or point to.
3) She can't play with her facebook farm(s).

Re:No. (3, Funny)

zerosomething (1353609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543208)

Yes but... umm ... I got noting.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543304)

Yes but... umm ... I got noting.

Well when you're done noting, let us know what you've noted. Thanks

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543712)

not even an 'h' key

Re:No. (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543266)

Seriously, its a dumb plan. My girlfriend is on Facebook, and I'm pretty sure she would have the following objections:

1) New people couldn't find her.
2) This new plan is already WAY too complicated. She can't point a browser at some weird piece of hardware that she has to install herself, no matter how "easy" it is to install or point to.
3) She can't play with her facebook farm(s).

What about 4) Who's going to randomly click on the cute pics that turn up while I play 'Facebook Roulette'?

Re:No. (3, Insightful)

Bri3D (584578) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543370)

This just doesn't make any sense. People who are using a social network are using a social network because they want to be found - because they want an easy way to keep in touch with a lot of people. Changing to a darknet model completely eliminates all these benefits. The only people who would buy such a device are people who shouldn't using online social networks anyway (making the import aspect odd).

Re:No. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544030)

In theory, it's a nice idea. The idea, as I understand it, isn't a darknet, but rather a P2P network. Presumably, there would still have to be some central server that has at least enough information about you to make people discoverable, but the bulk of the data would be on your own machine under your control.

Want to know what you have to do to make this actually get adoption? Make it also support computer-free VoIP where you plug your home phone network into it, it provides a dial tone, and you use it like a normal telephone. This solves two problems. First, it gives the product a reason for existing even for non-geeks and makes it worth the effort to set it up. Second, your phone number becomes an easy means of discoverability. Maybe build the interesting bits on top of XMPP.

The next step after that is to get decent cell phone integration for voice calls (through your home), text messaging, and accessing the social network, all in a single app. Once you get to that point, it should be mostly downhill as far as getting adoption if you have a good UI.

Regarding the setup issues, that doesn't have to be hard. 99% of networks have DHCP. Make the device connect to a central server somewhere and provide its local IP and a code number from the bottom of the device. The instructions then tell the user to go to http://myobscuredevicesetup.com/ [myobscuredevicesetup.com] and enter their serial number. The server then issues an HTTP redirect to the right local IP number, and you're configuring the device.

Re:No. (1)

epp_b (944299) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543398)

I think those are moot points on the basis that you post on Slashdot and claim to have a girlfriend.

Re:No. (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543500)

I think those are moot points on the basis that you post on Slashdot and claim to have a girlfriend.

Beware: there are indeed outliers among us ... and they may be the ones who are reporting our clever-yet-misundertstood posts to the fairer sex. That's the only reason I can think of that Heidi Klum's younger, hotter sister hasn't wandered down these stairs into my parent's basement yet.

Re:No. (1)

K-Man (4117) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543474)

3) Farmville would be happy to make accounts portable. Game makers aren't happy about being dependent on Facebook either.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543550)

1) New people couldn't find her.

Create a searchable distributed bittorrent style network on which people share whatever information they want to make public.

2) This new plan is already WAY too complicated. She can't point a browser at some weird piece of hardware that she has to install herself, no matter how "easy" it is to install or point to.

Buy hardware. Plug it in. Insert CD. Let autoplay take you where you need to go. Still not as easy as creating a Facebook account but as easy as any bit of hardware you care to buy.

3) She can't play with her facebook farm(s).

Who says there can't be a apps for this system? It's apps with everything these days isn't it? And think of the million things a home server could do - VoIP, media server,... um... damn, I lack imagination. But you get the idea. It would be the king of app platforms, with webified interfaces for everything so you could get at your apps at work or on your phone.

now go out there and be somebody! (1)

sucko (257144) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543176)

this is an excelent solution to a problem no one has.

great job as always.

Too little too late (4, Insightful)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543188)

Remember that facebook is now the #1 site when it comes to traffic. You aren't going to get it's 500 million or so users to migrate to a self configurable system simply in the name of privacy. What percentage of the users on facebook actually care? On quarter of one percent? Even that would be a stretch. People aren't going to leave their hard earned farmville accounts because facebook is using their personal data to market to them. It's not a concern in this day and age.

Re:Too little too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543448)

No it's not. re-read the /. post about that. Facebook traffic (all of it) is > googles SEARCH traffic. Total google traffic is ~%4 more than the stat they cherry picked.

Re:Too little too late (2, Informative)

jwietelmann (1220240) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543492)

Remember that facebook is now the #1 site when it comes to traffic.

No, it's not. Lest you forget, those "traffic" stats came with many qualifiers and caviats, which basically rendered the whole "OMG Facebook got more traffic than Google!" assertion false. (Of course, that didn't stop Katie Couric from reporting as a fact, with no reference to said qualifiers and caveats.)

I don't really take issue with what you're saying here. I just wanted to point out that the report was bogus, and we of all internet communities should not parrot it.

Re:Too little too late (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543630)

Remember that facebook is now the #1 site when it comes to traffic.

Only when you ignore, IIRC, ~40% of Google's traffic; Google is far ahead of Facebook, except when you exclude Google's "non-search properties".

Demand depends on the price. (1)

nikomo (1338131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543190)

If it's cheap, sure I'll get one, I like new obscure hardware designed to do weird things. And that's not sarcasm. But social networking sites as Twitter and Facebook are free, so the hardware would have to be extremely cheap. If it's over 75-100€, the only people buying them are people who want to hack it so they can use it for something else and paranoid people.

Re:Demand depends on the price. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543736)

If they could be made for ~$10, I could see them actually taking off. Otherwise... not so much.

Too late? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543220)

is it simply too late to get people to give up their Facebook accounts for something that gives them more freedom?

Yes.

Re:Too late? (3, Interesting)

thms (1339227) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543414)

Maybe. This kind of P2P social networking could take off if a certain biG company took up this idea ran with it. Not that this would improve the currently horrible privacy situation. But for bells and whistles they could piggyback another P2P technology on top if it (for your pictures and family videos!), and auto-harvest/safe your data from facebook.

If these wall plugs are fast enough, they could provide CPU time and crawl the net in the meantime while someone else pays the electricity bill. And if all your internet traffic goes through it as well...
I think i better stop giving them ideas.

P.S.: How decentralized can this Wave thing actually run, it seemed like an interesting concept.

Re:Too late? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543592)

a certain biG company

I see what you did there...

and I don’t think it’ll go over well.

Seriously? Google? “improve the currently horrible privacy situation”?

Re:Too late? (1)

thms (1339227) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543844)

Yes, I think Google Corp. will be the savior of us all! Not! Re-reading my comment, I actually wrote "Not that this would improve the currently horrible privacy situation.", vulgo: worsen.

It's always darkest just before it gets pitch black.

But I do thing the biG was smart, I hope it catches on like the M$ did! =) (btw, how did we spell IBM back then?)

Sheeple (2, Interesting)

CranberryKing (776846) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543244)

It's a fabulous idea. Sign me up. However in terms of penetration, it will be the rare paranoid slashdot reader that values privacy enough to take such measures. Social networking is here to stay and is possibly the most effective tool for destroying freedom. Why should the NSA go after people when they can simply get the people to come to them?

Re:Sheeple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543722)

Why should the NSA go after people when they can simply get the people to come to them?

Yeah! just the other day, I got an email from Osama Bin Laden to be my friend! I guess all the NSA would have to do is invite him to be their friend.

"freedom" (5, Insightful)

Sub Zero 992 (947972) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543246)

I am getting pretty tired of other people telling me what freedom should mean to me.

What freedom means to me, what I am frightened of and / or prepared to sacrifice is not a temporally static concept. 10 years ago I wouldn't even publish my mail address online. Now I have my entire cv on xing. These are rational decisions I made according to costs I perceive (correctly or not) with publishing personal information, or not.

Sure, some people make poor choices about publishing personal information (sexting, anyone?). But some times openness is an indicator for a "safe" society.

Just my thoughts.

safe society (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543468)

This openness is an indicator of the population perceiving it as safe. That may be due to the population's lack of education or refusal to acknowledge the associated dangers, not necessarily due to an actual safe society.

For example, everyone has had no problem filling out their SSN on employment forms, gym memberships, cable signup, phone signup, electricity forms, insurance forms, dentists or doctors forms, etc, despite that the ways to abuse of that information were obvious. The ones refusing to put their SSN were labeled troublemakers and would just slow down the process for everyone.

Now that ID theft is rampant, everyone wants to "do something about it" and are becoming more conscious of who they give personal info to.

At no point during this entire process was the society more safe in that respect. It's just that it takes a long time and many victims for people to get hammered into their head that certain things they do are dangerous.

Re:"freedom" (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543512)

People seem to confused the "freedom" "slavery" continuum with the "privacy" "openness" continuum.

There's no contradiction in Facebook being build using free software, and then being completely open with people's data.

Re:"freedom" (1)

guanxi (216397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543850)

I am getting pretty tired of other people telling me what freedom should mean to me.

Your choice to use Facebook has nothing to do with freedom. You are free to use Microsoft Word, but it's not Free Software. Freedom and "Free software" have specific meanings, whether or not you choose to care about them.

Will the fact that Facebook is not FOSS have an big impact on your life or on others? It's not a matter of opinion; it will or it won't no matter how you feel about it. I will say this: Society is almost always "safe" for the majority; it's the minority who do unpopular things that suffer. Freedom is not that you can do what you want, but that the people you dislike can do what they want.

Free vs Free (3, Insightful)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543250)

Let's just go with how the conversation with any non-geek person/friend/spouse/family member would both start and end: Wait, Facebook already is free. I don't get it.

Re:Free vs Free (2, Funny)

Spewns (1599743) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543460)

Let's just go with how the conversation with any non-geek person/friend/spouse/family member would both start and end: Wait, Facebook already is free. I don't get it.

And watch them uncomfortably smile and nod and say "ah" when you come off sounding like a lunatic trying to explain the four freedoms of free software. Make sure you refer to them as freedoms 0-3 too. And when they don't get that clever joke, you can explain arrays to them.

People use social networks because they WANT to. (2, Insightful)

Sowelu (713889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543256)

Who the hell would use this? How many people are really that desperate to escape social networks? People who REALLY didn't want them would never have signed up in the first place. People who used to like them and don't anymore, can just spend a couple hours tracking it all down. Mightn't people who use this want to customize its exact effects? Isn't the easiest way to do that...to just close your accounts yourself?

This sounds like something a sixth-grader would come up with...

Doesn't make sense (3, Insightful)

guspasho (941623) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543268)

The problem is free software is used to voluntarily erode privacy rights.

Not anymore! Now we have a server that looks like a night-light, just plug it in and it will do all your social networking for you! It's magic! No longer will you have to give up your privacy rights! ...

Do I have the argument right?

Re:Doesn't make sense (1)

ianezz (31449) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543658)

In a nutshell, I understand it as
  • run your own server in your home;
  • keep your data on it (on encrypted storage) instead of keeping it in some remote datacenter;
  • use a policy to carefully select who can access to it (i.e. your friends);
  • in case of emergency, unplug it from the wall;
  • encrypted backups go onto your friend's servers.

Basically, Freenet on a wall-plug computer.

What about the networking site? (2, Interesting)

lgarner (694957) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543274)

So, you've got all your personal data backed up from Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, whatever, and your accounts are closed. Now what? Does this thing actually run a usable social networking site? And, even if it does, is it one that everyone will want to use?

I don't see this happening, ever.

Freedom? (2, Insightful)

Glendale2x (210533) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543280)

Could such a plan work, or is it simply too late to get people to give up their Facebook accounts for something that gives them more freedom?

This plan assumes that your average Facebook user wants freedom and/or privacy.

Re:Freedom? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543518)

More to the point, it assumes that the average Facebook user even perceives a privacy or freedom issue; even those that do care may simply be unaware of the implications that Facebook use carries.

Too late (2, Insightful)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543282)

The network effect has already kicked in. If you want to replace Facebook it will have to be with a product that offers more value on an individual user basis AND can interface with Facebook so users will have access to those social networks as well as access to the additional functionality. If you start there you can wean people off of the older application. While the approach you describe may give users more freedom from corporate/government/whoever control it gives them less freedom to do the activities they now do on the social networking site.

Nobody actually cares. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543310)

Go ahead, do a survey on the street. See how many people are worried about this.

Not sure I understand (2, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543322)

So what is this "your data" that he wants to fetch? I don't think most people are aware of having any "data" on social networks. Their favorite bands, their favorite movies... that's not "data," it's information about themselves that they post to social networks because they want other people to know it.

The problem with commercial social networks is their interpretation of what "your data" is. The stuff they're interested in has less to do with whether you say you like Blink 182 and more to do with who all your friends are, how often you communicate with them, what keywords show up most often in your posts, what groups you join and who else is in them, and all that other stuff that can be data-mined. In other words, it's the record of your social interactions that's the "data" -- so why would you want to preserve that in a brand-new network?

Re:Not sure I understand (1)

jwietelmann (1220240) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543638)

It's weird because I described almost the same idea to someone about 2 days ago (without the goofy server appliance part; in my version people had it built into their UMPCs and set-top boxes because we're all going to have them eventually).

Basically, it's a p2p overlay network that mimics the social connections you have on site like Facebook. It's a way to free you from bondage to any particular social networking site. You choose who gets to see what because you host your information. Then you could provide selected bits and pieces to various websites, which could map out the parts of this unified social network to which you the user have granted access. Of course, this probably would have to include a convoluted scheme of digital certs and whatnot, but it's all technologically feasible for the future. The real barrier is user inertia.

No more relying on the non-existent good will of Facebook.

Re:Not sure I understand (1)

guanxi (216397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543932)

why would you want to preserve that in a brand-new network?

Because the user would control the data and access to it. The data would be on your computer, not a commercial business' servers.

I don't like it. BUT! (2, Insightful)

Luke has no name (1423139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543324)

I have pondered the idea of a decentralized Social networking protocol, similar to email/Jabber/etc. Standard IM protocols along with standard (XML based?) data formatting for social information would be used to allow socialnetworking servers to talk to each other, and find friends.

The issue is that SOME sort of centralization is probably best for this kind of online interaction; the question is to what extent your secure content is hosted and in your own control.

Best option: Don't put private shit in a public place.

Re:I don't like it. BUT! (2, Funny)

homey1337 (1656791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543612)

Best option: Don't put private shit in a public place.

... which explains Luke's toilet habits.

Re:I don't like it. BUT! (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543828)

I have pondered the idea of a decentralized Social networking protocol, similar to email/Jabber/etc. Standard IM protocols along with standard (XML based?) data formatting for social information would be used to allow socialnetworking servers to talk to each other, and find friends.

Plenty of such things exist already. In terms of communications protocols covering parts of this space, you have (among others):

E-mail
HTTP
XMPP
PubSubHubbub
Google Wave Federation Protocol
WebFinger

For social content, you have (again, among others):
Atom
FOAF
XFN

Re:I don't like it. BUT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543882)

Doesn't it stink after a while, keeping all that private shit around?

Personally, I flush my shit in private, even if that means it goes into public sewers...

Social Network Hardware? (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543332)

When I first looked at that, I thought we were suggesting a 'social networking console'. That would certainly be interesting. Buy a console to socialize on just like we buy a console to play games on. It might be a possible way to break into the market, but I'm sure Facebook and everyone else already have plans for social hardware. Google Wave and Android are good examples of that happening soon.

Is it to late? (1)

s122604 (1018036) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543404)

is it simply too late to get people to give up their Facebook accounts for something that gives them more freedom?

Yes.

Next thread please...

The most Rube Goldberg solution to a non problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543480)

Since that guy who proposed blinding yourself to avoid cases of pinkeye.

I'll Second the Motion: It's Stupid (1)

vinn (4370) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543502)

1. You'd have to out-Facebook Facebook. Good luck building a better social networking site. Look at the morons at Linked-In and MySpace, they can't get it right and they both had a headstart.
2. Good luck getting someone to purchase hardware.
3. Why would anyone think the NSA didn't have a backdoor built into it anyway?
4. Even most of us geeks long ago gave up caring.

Re:I'll Second the Motion: It's Stupid (1)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543752)

to be fare LinkedIn isn't targeted for the same things as Facebook.

Facebook is a social network.
LinkedIn is a "professional network" - networking for business/IT/etc professionals.

they don't have the same stated goals, but both seem to be the best in class for their stated goals.

I have profiles on both.

Re:I'll Second the Motion: It's Stupid (1)

jwietelmann (1220240) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543908)

And MySpace is still arguably better for musicians than Facebook, despite all of its amateurism and chaos.

azazazazaz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543516)

How is this categorized as news? This reads much more like an "ASK SLASHDOT" article than anything else.

To the author, social information isn't very social if its private. If you don't trust your data in a centralized place, then stop using a computer period.

Appleseed (1)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543530)

Imagine, if you will, a cross between a Facebook style interface and an Apache style implementation: that is, something that will let you (as a user) connect to any other user and not give a damn about how or where, and at the same time let anyone run their own standards-compliant server with the exact settings that they prefer.

To get this right, it needs to take a long hard look at user data privacy *as the first thing*, and that's exactly what the Appleseed Project (http://appleseed.sourceforge.net) was intended to showcase.

One reason why Facebook made it big is because they got their commercial model right (don't tell anyone, but the users are actually the product, not the customers).

The trouble is not so much that an Appleseed style implementation won't work (we know it does, because that's how the whole everyman's Internet got off the ground) but that it's not a pioneering effort (citing the same example, because the crummy early-day Internet had no competition other than itself). In this day and age, such an effort needs to stack up against Facebook -- imagine Mosaic trying to get market share from Chrome!

Freedom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543556)

I'm not sure how Facebook takes away my freedom. I am perfectly free to not use almost any private service or good if it does not meet my needs. People don't have a "right to Facebook" and then get to decide that that right includes ironclad privacy protections (unless those protections are imposed on industry by legislation, which, in the US they really aren't in any meaningful way.) That's what consumer choice and the market are for. I personally decided that I like Facebook's features and don't really have much of any fear over its privacy implications. Unlike some, a mega-corp having transactional and or behavioral knowledge of me is not my worst nightmare, it's a mild inconvenience compared to the other risks in my life. I don't quiver over it, nor am I outraged by it, nor certainly would I engage in some sort of effort to protest, prevent, or circumvent it. If you would like to go to those lengths because of your concerns, more power to you, but I really doubt that there's a silent majority just waiting for someone to say something. Really, I couldn't care less, and most people, I think, are with me.

Two things popped into my head (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543558)

1)

Free Software To Save Us From Social Networks

Who said we WANT to be saved?!?

2)

and it goes and fetches all your social networking data from all the social networking applications, closing all your accounts. It backs itself up in an encrypted way to your friends' plugs, so that everybody is secure in the way that would be best for them, by having their friends holding the secure version of their data.

So basically you want facebook, but torrented?

Re:Two things popped into my head (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543616)

"Who said we WANT to be saved?!?"

Some of us do. Most people do not care enough to even read about the issues though...

Re:Two things popped into my head (2, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543960)

Well, I for one wouldn't have any use for that, because I'm not on facebook & co. anyway.

It's essential - is FOSS movement dying? (1)

guanxi (216397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543648)

I've been wondering for some time why social networking is not already a priority for the free software movement. The benefits of FOSS, open systems, and putting control in the end users' hands apply just as well to social networking as they do to any other application. It enables innovation (good luck building your own apps based on Facebook), it protects privacy (I know, it's trendy to disregard it so it must not be consequential - like housing prices and .com stocks), enables inter-operability between applications, and also long-term data integrity (good luck migrating your Facebook data to another platform).

Where are the FOSS social networking competitors? The peer-to-peer application that gives users control over their own, most personal data. The open source code and open systems that allow innovation and easy integration with new apps? The open data formats and protocols? The end-user control that allows users to do whatever they want, whenever they want, with their data and systems?

Is there still a movement? Has there been a major new project since Firefox? I wonder if the mass popularization of the web resulted in a class of users that don't understand these issues. If so, the FOSS movement has failed, so far, in its most important task, which is educating this new generation of users. There are not enough FOSS advocates to do it themselves; it needs to be a priority in the public's mind.

I have a Linux wall-wart plug (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543666)

Perhaps my imagination is limited, but I've never thought of the wall-wart as something that might "save me from my Facebook account".

They don't make a JVM that works on top of the ARM processor, so you're stuck with python, php, and C++. (For its part, Facebook lets you run "Facebook apps".)

I mostly use it for samba and svn. I do have a webserver set up on the plug but I've never posted a link to it anywhere or I'd be uploading warez and tunez all day.

what on earth are you talking about? (4, Insightful)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543672)

Here's a problem for free software: most social networks are built using it, yet through their constant monitoring of users they do little to promote freedom.

So, the people at facebook "constantly monitor users" and "do little to promote freedom"? And we wonder why the FSF is written off as a fringe organization?

Social networks are for sharing information. (1)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543676)

Social networks are where you go to share information, if there is information on that social network that you don't want in a public place you shouldn't have posted it in the first place.

Social networks are like public spaces, don't expect anything you do there to be private information.

The entire idea of privacy on a social network is moronic - that's not what they were designed for. The only things I've put on my FB account are things I'm fine with people knowing.

Common fucking sense people.

Why? (4, Insightful)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543702)

Speaking as one who uses Free rather than Open Source to characterize software, and admires Richard Stallman....

Why does every piece of software on the planet need to promote freedom? Isn't it enough that a whole lot of it does? And why shouldn't I feel free to put selected information about myself in the public view? (Seriously, you're all welcome to whatever is on my Facebook account. There are things I don't want the whole world to know about, and they're not on FB. I trust FB to respect my privacy in much the same sense that I trust mousetraps to catch and restrain blue whales, but I don't have to put stuff on it.)

Re:Why? (1)

guanxi (216397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543986)

Why does every piece of software on the planet need to promote freedom? Isn't it enough that a whole lot of it does?

Is it bad if a major new application is FOSS? I don't understand your objection.

why shouldn't I feel free to put selected information about myself in the public view?

Did someone say you shouldn't? A (completely theoretical) FOSS social network would give you more control over what is public and what isn't. You could do whatever you wanted with it.

Why hardware? (1)

Aggrav8d (683620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543706)

Sell an OS with a webserver already setup + a blog for every user.
Set the browser homepage to an aggregator of their favorite blogs.
Update the software for them through OS patches.
DON'T give them any options to customize the hell out of it.

I am aware of the many security reasons this is a bad idea. My point is that hardware is not needed.

There are no stupid questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543730)

but there sure is stupid ideas! Add this to the list.

He is talking about a home page isn't he? (3, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543746)

Cut all the bull out and he wants to go back to homepages. Oh okay, so this homepage is in your home behind the router to your ISP and not on a server at your ISP, but that is what he is talking about.

And how would you index that? You can't. So you have freenet, the darknet version. A crypto nerds wetdream and unusable.

The problem is simple. How do I join a network from which I don't know anyone? How do I join your circle of friends, if I don't know any in the circle?

Darknet has that problem. Yes, you can exchange files but only with people you know from some other means. And then you exchange files only between that small number of nodes and no way is the secret world government that controls everything unable to just listen in on your connection that goes through your ISP who knows you address and see where the packets go. And that is not a problem even, because they can't look inside the package and that works in places like North-Korea and even China were the secret police is just going to give up if they can't read the package they don't want you to send unless they can open them and not just hit you until you confess.

Crypto nerds, they are like real nerds, but with the practical usage.

This idea of homepage servers, won't work. Facebook works because it allows you to find people that you lost contact with and even new friends.

And if he really wants to test it, go ahead. Try "Opera Unite". No need for a silly plug, your own site, right in your own browser.

Indicies and references are a problem, though (2, Insightful)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543750)

Social networking sites are far more than "informatiuon about a few million people". Their value comes from the relationships between those people. This have value to the people themselves, and, fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on where one lies on the marketting/privacy divide, to others. It's restricting this access to others and controlling information about one's self, that's the appeal of this device.

However, maintaining all those relationships distributed across they myriad of individual servers in each home will prove problematic: one essentially has a distributed database. The first issues that come to mind are location services, mapping "friend" links to their wall-wart servers (yes, this is DNS, but do you want to be that visible?), as well as backups. The network traffic involved in simple "friend of friend" graphing starts to get significant.

In such an environment Facebook would likely spider all the wall-wart servers in a Googlesque manner for (a) marketting, and (b) convenience.

Still, it's a concept I've pondered for a while: I should control information about me, and who I share it with. Replication and backup becomes a separate problem: perhaps I want some storage service provider to host it... perhaps not: connections to port 25 at a server resolved from my domain name have terminated on a PC in my home for years: if my physical mailbox is outside my house, why should my electronic one not be inside (cursing static IP rental costs aside)?

In this model, "Facebook" becomes an "app", that people download to their home servers and use to establish and publish relationships between their friends.

Um. So what? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543756)

Here's a problem for free software: most social networks are built using it, yet through their constant monitoring of users they do little to promote freedom.

How is this a problem for free software?

Eben Moglen, General Counsel of the Free Software Foundation for 13 years, and the legal brains behind several versions of the GNU GPL, thinks that the free software world needs to fix this with a major new hardware+software project.

Um, why?

'The most attractive hardware is the ultra-small, ARM-based, plug it into the wall, wall-wart server. [Such] an object can be sold to people at a very low one-time price, and brought home and plugged into an electrical outlet and plugged into a wall jack for the Ethernet, and you're done. It comes up, it gets configured through your Web browser on whatever machine you want to have in the apartment with it, and it goes and fetches all your social networking data from all the social networking applications, closing all your accounts. It backs itself up in an encrypted way to your friends' plugs, so that everybody is secure in the way that would be best for them, by having their friends holding the secure version of their data.' Could such a plan work, or is it simply too late to get people to give up their Facebook accounts for something that gives them more freedom?

Stallman, Moglen, and others seem absolutely dead set against people using cloud services, including free-as-in-beer services (even when they are also free-as-in-GPL systems, apparently), but what they haven't done is articulated a value proposition that's going to convince the average non-geek user (or, even, the average geek user) to drop off all existing remotely-hosted social networking services in favor of buying and administering their own server.

For users that are so inclined, open protocols for federation with free software implementations already exist, as do low cost server options on which they can run. At most, you need an integration and polishing project to serve the market to which dedicated devices would appeal.

But its not that big of a market, IMO. It may grow if the FCC succeeds in its goal of making high-speed (in both directions) broadband widely affordable, but then I suspect that the applications that will make having your own server worthwhile will also be ones that demand more than a wall-wart.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31543774)

he's already saying this idea is shit:

We can eat proprietary networks and excrete the public Internet.

The Free social network already exists (4, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543784)

It's called the World Wide Web. People hated it because it wasn't constrained and limited enough.

I am totally serious. It's one of those things (actually a very common phenomenon) where putting constraints on something, opens peoples' eyes as to how it can be used, and makes it seem cooler. But then they forget that they can still do those same things, even without the limitations present. Life is weird.

Interesting solution, but. . . (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543792)

Freedom from who?

Spam kings, civilian police departments and credit scam goons? (Like banks.) Perhaps. But any group with real technology will be able to see through you from the top down no matter what consumer grade electronic solution you employ.

From that perspective, I don't think people really care about their freedoms. Most of the time, I don't think people realize they are being measured, categorized and manipulated accordingly. It's a fairly convincing illusion we have of freedom, in that the ones we lose we are convinced we didn't need anyway.

-FL

"WikiSocial" (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 4 years ago | (#31543880)

(Disclaimer: as soon as the word occurred to me I googled "wikisocial" and yep, it's in use. I'm not referring to any of them.)

A not-for-profit social network built with a "trustworthiness is our middle name" mindset would be appealing. Run by the sort of people who force you to keep a local backup of your data by default. Who take privacy seriously. Who encrypt all the data wherever possible. Who don't sell your profile info to advertisers and marketers. Who'd sooner throw all the hard drives and backup tapes into industrial shredders that turn them over to The Man. Who have a "do what ya like" attitude regarding content (within the expected no-kiddie-pron etc. limits.)

All it would take it volunteers and time. And a few million dollars for servers and bandwidth.

I have no Facebook (2, Interesting)

improfane (855034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31544028)

I deleted my Facebook. Everyone asks me why, here's why:

  • Privacy: I do not like the fact my photographs are available and indexed by my own name. Someone could find out everywhere I have been based on the album, the photo and the dates.
  • Shallowness
  • The quality of communication on Facebook is poor. The most indepth conversation you can have is what someone is doing and what they have done. You are not promoted to have an intellectual debate (Read: Why the hell am I on Slashdot then?) I much prefer to use email although If my email clients were more like how you send messages to people on Facebook it would make me very happy.

  • Trendy
  • The people on Facebook for me are the wannabe trendy people. One or two years ago I tried to get my friends to join Multiply, it focused on contribution of blog postings, news, links, pictures and videos. It was difficult to get people to contribute things that were worthwhile.

  • Cloud storage
  • All your messages and photographs are stored remotely. Facebook also converts your photographs downward in quality and makes them easier to share with people so most people only ever see the low quality pictures. In other words, it's not a lossless backup medium. At least with email, my email may be hosted but I can still download my own copies.

  • Excessive Openness
  • : You could set your privacy settings very high but your friends will give you away. At least one of your friends will have settings that expose their list of friends, including you. This means people can deduce your whereabouts and who you know quite easily. Another thing is that if public search results are enabled by your friends, you can still be exposed through Google search there! If I were an employment agency, it would be trivial to make friends with one of your application or request happy friends (such as a distant young relative) who accept any request that comes their way. If your privacy settings are set to 'Friends of Friends', I see practically everything. Anyone in the same network has the 'right' to see everything about you.
  • Keyboard unfriendly
  • I may be a Windows user but I love keyboard control, I write this in VIM and my mail client is ALPINE.

  • Slow
  • On all the browsers I have used Facebook is slow. I underclock my laptop and it's annoying to have to return to normal speed just to use a website.

  • Developers
  • Mark Zuckerburg is not very nice. I do not believe in software patents but apparently he stole ideas from his fellow classmates. You can understand if you had an idea and someone stole it, without giving you credit. Zuckerberg sued by classmates [guardian.co.uk] . When some of the Facebook PHP code was leaked (Revealing Errors, Facebook source [revealingerrors.com] , it was rather disturbing what was written: 'put hotties there'. Also the news that the master password was once 'Chuck Norris' (master password [mydigitallife.co.za] ) is rather disturbing. I do not think the developers are competetent. Especially something as privacy critical.

  • Abuse
  • The potential for abuse in Facebook is huge. Law enforcements can request practically all data about you see this Cryptome leaked document [cryptome.org] . The amount of marketing information they can collect on you is more than anywhere else, they have your profiles, your fan pages, browsing habits and internet usage patterns.

  • Applications
  • The applications are insecure and dangerous. Mark Pincus of Zynga openly admits what an asshole his company is in a TechCrunch interview [techcrunch.com] . If a legally recognized company can commit these actions, what is to stop other applications from doing what they want with your information? I think it's horrific that people can be so blindly trusting. They have no idea what is going on.

  • Fad
  • Facebook is a fad. Everything you put there will be in some database 5 or 10 years from now. Will you really regret or believe what you put there? will you look back and regret it?

When you put information online, your surrender yourself to it. Especially if it is to your pen name or real name. Especially your real name on Facebook!

Thanks for reading! Look forward to your replies.

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