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A Call For an Open, Distributed Alternative To Facebook

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the privacy-revolution dept.

Privacy 363

qwerty8ytrewq writes "Ryan Singel, writing for Wired, claims that Facebook has gone rogue: 'Facebook used to be a place to share photos and thoughts with friends and family and maybe play a few stupid games that let you pretend you were a mafia don or a homesteader. It became a very useful way to connect with your friends, long-lost friends and family members. ... And Facebook realized it owned the network. Then Facebook decided to turn "your" profile page into your identity online — figuring, rightly, that there’s money and power in being the place where people define themselves. But to do that, the folks at Facebook had to make sure that the information you give it was public.' Singel goes on to call for an open, distributed alternative. 'Facebook’s basic functions can be turned into protocols, and a whole set of interoperating software and services can flourish. Think of being able to buy your own domain name and use simple software such as Posterous to build a profile page in the style of your liking.' Can Slashdotters predict where social networking is going? And how?" Relatedly, jamie points out a graphical representation of how Facebook's privacy settings have changed over the last five years.

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363 comments

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We have it. It's called the World Wide Web. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146390)

With this so-called "World Wide Web", you can create your own web page, showing exactly the information you wish to reveal about yourself. You can show a profile picture, your name, your location, your birthday, your likes and interests, any pictures you want to share, any movies you want to share, and so forth. You can even change the appearance of it to suit your own tastes!

You can use something called a guestbook that'll allow other people to leave messages for you, and you can use other people's guestbooks to leave messages for them.

It's not related to the World Wide Web, but you can use something called "e-mail" to send a private message to a specific recipient, and they can even reply back to you!

Maybe this "World Wide Web" technology will catch on some day.

Re:We have it. It's called the World Wide Web. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146436)

That's crap try this.

Re:We have it. It's called the World Wide Web. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146476)

Maybe this "World Wide Web" technology will catch on some day.

Nah, the internet is just a fad.

Re:We have it. It's called the World Wide Web. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146640)

Sorry that is no longer available we have a new version that is not backwards compatible I believe it is called web 2.0 or possibly sucker net

Re:We have it. It's called the World Wide Web. (4, Insightful)

blai (1380673) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146654)

so how will you be controlling who sees what, unless you're planning to make everybody register on your site, which doesn't really work anyway?

Re:We have it. It's called the World Wide Web. (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146712)

so how will you be controlling who sees what, unless you're planning to make everybody register on your site, which doesn't really work anyway?

OpenID might work. There are already quite a few registrars that are pretty large, so odds are a lot of people already have an OpenID account and don't realize it.

Re:We have it. It's called the World Wide Web. (5, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146868)

Centralized, proprietary services are gradually displacing standards on the web - web boards over usenet, twitter over IRC, gmail over email, hulu and youtube over (innumerable generations of filesharing protocols from ftp to bittorrent).

And on a larger scale, we have highly proprietary mobile devices (foremost Apple) displacing PCs altogether.

Re:We have it. It's called the World Wide Web. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146902)

This sucks so much :( what can we do about it?

Facebook works fine... (3, Insightful)

Odinlake (1057938) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146888)

..for me and I never really understood this bitching about privacy - if I post something (on facebook or pretty much anywhere on the internet) I expect that it is public. If it's posted to "friends only" it's still public. Honestly, if you have a secret and tell it to your 100-200 or so "friends", is it reasonable to expect that no one else will hear it? No, there are only two levels: "private" (don't post) and public. The misstake of facebook was to pretend otherwise, so now people seem to think they have a God-given right to intermediate privacy levels that logically can't exist since you can't really stop individuals from spreading whatever you give them.

Re:We have it. It's called the World Wide Web. (2, Informative)

zash.se (1342685) | more than 4 years ago | (#32147098)

Add http://onesocialweb.org/ [onesocialweb.org] and you have status updates and privacy control too!

I like this idea (1)

DarkIye (875062) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146402)

This would seem to pave the way for the erosion of anonymity on the internet, except for those who want and know how to keep it. This satisfies both those who call for accountability on the internet (most people will be accountable), and those who want to stay anonymous.

Re:I like this idea (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146606)

Think of being able to buy your own domain name and use simple software such as Posterous to build a profile page in the style of your liking.

Except having individuals do this stuff for themselves will result in hundreds of millions of insecure, poorly managed and eventually abandoned sites.

People probably aren't willing to pay a minimum monthly hosting fee for their own domain/site. And if they were they'd rather pay it to a company to put their crap up rather than have to do it themselves. And why pay for it when they can get it for free* at Facebook?

Can Slashdotters predict where social networking is going? And how?

A pay-to-play social networking platform? No tracking, no "surprises" after you add a piece of personal information, no selling your soul just to 'socialize' online so you don't actually have to do it in person?




*free as in "only for the cost of all my personal information, web surfing habits and privacy".

Re:I like this idea (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146866)

People probably aren't willing to pay a minimum monthly hosting fee for their own domain/site. And if they were they'd rather pay it to a company to put their crap up rather than have to do it themselves. And why pay for it when they can get it for free* at Facebook?

That's all well and good, except the "Facebook" part. Email is already just such a distributed system. I run my own mailserver, but it's far from a requirement -- GMail is there for whoever wants it. But there are alternatives to GMail, and GMail has to play nice with them.

It's not the free service that's a problem, it's the walled garden.

Re:I like this idea (0, Offtopic)

siride (974284) | more than 4 years ago | (#32147068)

I think it's funny that you seriously think email is an acceptable replacement for a social-networking site. Maybe it is for you, which is fine, but you aren't everybody.

Just don't use facebook and stop crying (2, Insightful)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146414)

What's the issue you are complaining about here? Everyone knows that everything in facebook is public, we know it from the very beginning, and it's been years that we know how evil they are. Why don't you just post content on your personal website were you can control everything? I can't see ANY of the things you do with Facebook that you wouldn't be able to do with instant messengers and a web server.

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146478)

I can't see ANY of the things you do with Facebook that you wouldn't be able to do with instant messengers and a web server.

It's called "having all your friends and many of your potential friends on the same network". You're not going to build and operate that yourself on the 486 in your mom's basement. Why not just not give facebook any private information, and use facebook?

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146488)

> Just don't use facebook and stop crying

Couldn't have said it better myself. People act like using Facebook is mandatory, or the world will implode if they can't scribble the latest drek on their wall. It's just Facebook, it's not your fucking pacemaker. Just stop using it. If you do use it, don't snivel about how they're data-raping you and your profile. That's what they DO. That's their business model. If you don't enjoy the butt-raping that Zuckerburg is giving you, stop using his service.

I never opened a Facebook account, and at this point I'm damn glad I didn't.

Popular Facebook apps (1, Redundant)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146564)

It's just Facebook, it's not your fucking pacemaker. Just stop using it.

And switch from farmville to what similar game?

Re:Popular Facebook apps (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146626)

And switch from farmville to what similar game?

Start with an ant farm, move up to a fish tank and maybe someday, just maybe, we'll get you a puppy.

Re:Popular Facebook apps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146966)

Or even a monkey [wikipedia.org]

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (1, Insightful)

adosch (1397357) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146496)

Agreed. I see no added value to even use a service like Facebook to keep in contact with friends and family. Most of the people I want to keep in contact with have my cell phone number, know my address (or e-mail) and know where I work. Out of those three things, if you want and have the ambition to keep in touch, now you have it.

The reason Facebook has even worked so well for that is luck, popularity, publicity, hype and curiosity. And curse Ryan Singel for even proposing there should be an 'alternative' to Facebook. Hello, McFly! You just got done bitching about Facebook, why would you want yet another down the internet block that will be solely driven to 'improve' on what you already hate about Facebook? Hypocrite.

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146628)

"Agreed. I see no added value to even use a service like Facebook to keep in contact with friends and family. Most of the people I want to keep in contact with have my cell phone number, know my address (or e-mail) and know where I work. Out of those three things, if you want and have the ambition to keep in touch, now you have it."

I mean, honestly, Facebook's core mechanism does what it does extremely well. I just got an account in January, keep my info there very stripped-down, and even with the ill-willed privacy changes, I'm pretty glad I did so.

The ability to push short status updates to all my friends and get a comment thread going is really nice. Likewise, getting status updates from friends I'm not closely in touch with, and thereby seeing what they're up to in life, is very nice. One-to-one communications like phone and email don't do the same thing. Sure, I run my own web and email server, but Facebook fills a different need.

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146500)

It isn't about us , it is about shifting the focus for MySpace Mums and Facebook families, make controlling their personal info easy. In the old days you use to worry that your Mum would bring out the baby album when you brought a new girl home.

  Todays generation wont have the choice to maintain any privacy. In a few years we will have 16 year olds whos' whole life has been documented with images and personal info online without forethought or understanding by their aunts, uncles and parents.
  Make it easy for their families to control their own info, not a corp that will never let you truly erase something.

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (5, Insightful)

bmajik (96670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146554)

Just don't use facebook and stop crying

I don't.

Problem is, everyone else does.

Now, far be it from me to whine about how everyone else has to conform to my preferences, but there _is_ a legitimate problem here. Nothing that facebook does is especially interesting or novel. They don't even have first mover advantage. Yet they have the "normal person" social network graph locked up.

When one decomposes facebook into its constituent parts, one sees that each of them has equivalent or superior implementations elsewhere.

Isn't facebook really just an aggregation of parts, parts which having a best-of-breed alternative outside facebook? Yet this is what everyone is beholden to?

facebook reminds me a lot of classmates.com [which absorbed or was born from highschoolalumni.com].

I spent a lot of time trying to curate my highschool "social network graph" and for all my troubles, the company kept my data and then locked me out of it with a paywall. CDDB did the same thing.

So, fuck these companies who expect me to freely toil to build _their_ relevence, and then think they "own" my data and change their policies.

There is no reason _we_ should submit control of our social graphs to other entities. The shape of the problem is fully federated, with every relationship being potentially asymmetrical and many to many. And when one considers the "problems" that are solved in one spot with facebook [directory, content publishing, commenting, distribution groups, photo sharing, etc], there are superior solutions already out there.

What is needed is just a formalization of these technologies into a bag, and a variety of platforms/vendors that host an individuals online participation in this graph.

Basically, if you have a wordpress/blogspot, a flickr/picassa, an email address/home page, you should be able to "plugin" to something that gives all the functionality of facebook.

Yet you would be free to expire/migrate/manage your data as you see fit.

There is already a market place for different facebook related tools. Imagine how that will expand as facebook is teased apart into its constituent parts and competing yet interoperable implementations show up.

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (1)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146674)

AGAIN, you are talking about proprietary tools that you shouldn't be use. Why even mentioning wordpress, blogspot, flickr and picassa? What is it that you need in them? Isn't there enough open source solution to publish your content out there? Last time I had a look, there was multiple dozens of gallery, cms and blog software that you could use instead. Sharing photos? Well, can't you just send a link by email? Having a list of friends profiles? It's called "bookmarks" and it's one click away. Want to add them to your site, so everyone can see who's your friend? Well, add a link into your HTML page, and you are done.

Now, about other people using facebook. Well, first, it's their call to use it, you can't force them into having privacy concern. But the fact they do use Facebook doesn't mean you have to use it too. You can create an empty profile without information just to see their page. Then, you're going to say you need to be "friends" with them to see it. Doesn't mater, you've used a fake ID to login, so it wont hurt your privacy.

Being able to migrate your data from one big brother to another will NOT solve your issue. It will just make you wrongly believe that you are in the control, when in fact you wont really be able to check if the data you entered were deleted when you closed your account (if you even are able do so).

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (5, Insightful)

bmajik (96670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146776)

I mentioend those out of convenience. They exist and solve their respective problems acceptably. I don't have a knee jerk opposition proprietary software and non-open-enough websites.

The point is that _i_ want to aggregate and orchestrate the component silos into the facets of "my" online existence. If I find the policies of flickr good enough, then why NOT use flickr for my photo publishing needs?

The key difference is that when I tire of flickr or its policies, I can migrate my data easily to some other photo publishing silo and update some pointers in my "profile" [which I fully own and control] and be done with it.

I don't want to use Facebook to be some sort of anonymous stalker of other peoples information, yet never share or publish anything myself. THat's not a meaningful connection. Certainly anon-to-anon social connections are interesting, but only in certain circumstances. Yes for survivalists, yes for crypto researchers, yes for sabotuers.

Sharing photos of family gatherings? Not so much.

The basic issue is this: IMO, facebook is fundamentally a new type of paradigm for communication, like SMS, and like email, and like the long distance phone call and the postal letter before it.

But facebook is merely an implementation of this new paradigm. What is the general case? How should it be created and adopted?

I want to communicate with my mother in law, using a technological/communication/social paradigm similar to facebook, the website.

I don't want facebook, the entity, to own the terms under which I do so.

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (1)

Dirtside (91468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146914)

I don't.

Problem is, everyone else does.

And yet, somehow people managed to be social back in the day before we had shared communication spaces like Facebook. If you wanted to hang out with your friends, you called them to see what they were doing and made plans.

Until Facebook is the only way people are willing to communicate, you still have the choice of not using it. (And even then, you can still choose not to use it, because no matter how pervasive it becomes, there's still going to be a substantial number of people who don't use it. We think of these things as universal, but that's usually because people tend to know people like them, and so if you use Facebook, so do the people you know. There are entire disconnected graphs of non-Facebook-users out there.)

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (1)

bmajik (96670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146990)

Well, my other post goes into this, but IMO, facebook is the most popular implementation of a new communication _mode_ or paradigm, like SMS, Email, cell phones, land lines, telegraphs, and snail mail before it.

The reason i say this is that the communication dynamics are different, and how people use it is different.

There are still a lot of people that don't use SMS. But nobody will deny that SMS is a pervasive communication technology, and that it has different connotations than a voice call or a hand written letter.

I think facebook "style" communications are the same: a new [or at least newly popular] paradigm of communication.

So while I currently don't "have" to use it; there is a social cost of not doing so. I simply miss out on some things that I'd otherwise like to be involved in or aware of.

To make this real and not theoretical, My wife is a facebook user; I am not. A co-worker of mine is a facebook "friend" of my wife. She approached me at work and wanted to discuss the latest thing my wife posted [which was a status update on our babies who are in the NICU right now].

Other people are hearing information about my own family before I am. And this isn't an isolated case.

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (1)

Geoff-with-a-G (762688) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146584)

And that right there is why Zuckerburg will keep making millions and the answer to "Can Slashdotters predict where social networking is going?" is "no."

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (1, Flamebait)

Orp (6583) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146586)

Yep. Any "open distributed alternative" will fall flat because what makes the mother of all social networking site useful, is that everybody frickin' uses it. You could delete your account in protest and start up OpenFrobnitzBook or whatever and have fun updating your status to the other pathetic losers who also deleted their facebook accounts out of protest.

Two easy facebook rules:

1. Tweak your privacy options to your liking
2. Before you post, pretend your future (or current) employer is reading

This will assist you in deciding whether it's a good idea to post those hilarious drunken half-naked pictures of you groping that dude dressed up in a Grimace costume.

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146860)

But if the other major IM and e-mail players implemented it to keep themselves from being marginalized by Facebook, the solution has instant share (think of it as ... oh, I don't know ... a social networking standard). If browsers get involved for identity purposes, it's got critical mass.

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (2, Insightful)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146608)

I can't see ANY of the things you do with Facebook that you wouldn't be able to do with instant messengers and a web server.

Have you ever tried to get your friends (I'm assuming you have non-programmer friends) to send you stuff encrypted with your PGP key? Yeah, theoretically technology gives you the possibility of ultra-secure communications, but in practice, being able to implement the technical solution doesn't get you anywhere at all.

Likewise, there's simply no way I'm getting the several hundred people on my friends list to communicate with me by any means other than facebook. I can code up the most amazing web-interface ever and it won't matter unless it catches on with the public in general.

Re:Just don't use facebook and stop crying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146648)

Well, it's a little more difficult than that. I don't use facebook but I log in periodically to make sure no-one has tagged me in an embarrassing photo from 4 years ago. Even if you "deactivate" your account people can still tag you in photos and write on your nonexistent wall. And you still receive emails anyone does anything that you probably don't care about. Also any of the information that you entered in your profile is still there somewhere.

Relax (1, Insightful)

wombatmobile (623057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146428)

Facebook is not compulsory.

Re:Relax (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146634)

Facebook is not compulsory.

I'm afraid you'll need to post that on Facebook so the right people will see it. Posting it here on /. is like shouting "pray" in a house of worship.

Re:Relax (5, Informative)

wrook (134116) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146680)

I used to feel that way back when I was a programmer working the normal 100 hour weeks. Then I quit my job and did something else. But without the constant security blanket that was work I noticed I was missing something. I later learned it was called a social life. I talked to somebody and found out that groups of people were going to parties and meeting people, possibly even hooking up for sex (and not just looking at pictures on the internet, it seems). Anyway, I asked why I never got invited to anything like that. Well apart from my slovenly appearance of unkept hair, rolls of fat and poor fashion sense (hint: wearing the same T-shirt every day is no good even if it is a Star Wars one), I needed to be on Facebook. Despite having a perfectly good email account, it turns out that you wont get invited to parties unless they can simply include you on the event list. But even more than that, people check out your activities to make sure you are cool enough to be invited to the parties. Basically you have to pretend that you are doing something amazingly interesting and take pictures of it. It helps to have other people in the pictures too so that everyone thinks you have friends (but it's pretty easy to fake it with pictures of strangers, so don't worry about it). Oh, and don't forget to frequently update your status saying, "I'm having the best day ever!" so that people think you're always doing something interesting. Finally, even with all your friends and amazing activities, you have to appear uber-organized by having enough time to play stupid farm games and flooding everyone's screens with updates about your progress. After you do all this, you will get invited to parties and get laid (well... maybe -- it turns out that shirt thing is really serious).

Re:Relax (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146926)

I love that the parent is modded Informative rather than Funny. :D

Re:Relax (4, Insightful)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 4 years ago | (#32147008)

Oh, this rings so true. It sucks, though, having to choose between not having a social life, or having one comprised of people who really think in these terms.

Re:Relax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32147056)

Bahahahaha. Pure awesome. I was wondering what was keeping me back. Naturally it's the t-shirt, cause I got this facebook thing down pat.

Re:Relax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146784)

Until you want to know what is so funny about this photo of you on Facebook... that is when I joined.

Diaspora (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146434)

This has only just started, but hopefully it will go somewhere: www.joindiaspora.com

Diaspora (5, Informative)

flimm (1626043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146438)

Diaspora [joindiaspora.com] is a project that aims to be that open and distributed alternative. The four students and graduates that started it have already managed to raise $16k to work on it this summer.

Re:Diaspora (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146456)

With a name like that, it's doomed to fail.

Re:Diaspora (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146720)

Not really, the web doesn't really care about names - Amazon, EBay, Google, Bing, DailyKos, MySpace, I could go on, but the point is that name doesn't really matter for internet success on the internet.

Re:Diaspora (1)

insertwackynamehere (891357) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146930)

Wow...with the exception of Bing and DailyKos you just named some of the original web businesses whose names truly stuck and were actually great.

Re:Diaspora (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146976)

It has nothing to do about the silliness of the name. It has to do with its political/religious connotations.

"Diaspora" is one of those generic terms, like "holocaust", that has become closely linked with Jews. That'll immediately alienate almost all of the 3 billion Muslims around the world. So there's 50% of their potential market gone already.

Privacy (3, Interesting)

jameson (54982) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146440)

Well, there is some work going on towards a distributed social networking protocol [seldo.com] .

Personally what I'd want would be something that involves all personal data being encrypted on the server side according to a private key that only the user has, with shared sub-information being encryped with shared sub-keys. Thus, even if the distributed social networking server is compromised, private data will remain (largely) private. Some more thought needs to be put into ensuring that it's not easy to infer the presence of shared keys, or otherwise even the encrypted data would allow an attacker to infer part of the structure of the acquaintance graph (which can then be used to infer other information).

I've been contemplating this myself... (1)

$1uck (710826) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146444)

Not that I'd ever be motivated to do it.. (well maybe unemployment would motivate me). The tools seem to be there RSS/XMPP/Open id etc. Someone just needs to create an implementation of the client/server (node?) that ties it altogether. Opera's Unite looks like a promising start.

Already Exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146452)

We already have an open, distributed alternative to Facebook and it is better than Facebook. In fact, there are many to choose from. Start with WordPress. Do it at WordPress.com if you don't want the tech stuff. Do you're own install from WordPress.org if you want full control. There are many other open blogging platforms. Facebook is lame.

Re:Already Exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146928)

Start with WordPress... Facebook is lame.

And Wordpress isn't?

something like opera unite could do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146480)

using opera unite API or modifications to the mini httpd daemon for firefox could make such a decentralized social network possible

I keep deactivating my accounts.... (2)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146484)

I can last about a week before I get really annoyed and shut it down. I've even tried multiple personalities. It all really ticks me off...I hate constantly having to confront their obfuscation and find no end to their "Bait and Click" corporate scum baggery. Its totally Zucks, if you know what I mean. I have not been back for three months now, since before they enacted recent changes that essentially put it all social data on the bathroom wall for all of eternity. Death won't be any excuse for them to stop marketing your data, since they never really cared if you live or die or even have a life. They sell your profile, whether or not you actually exist is irrelevant. Take it from all four of me.

Trust the diffusely-owned data? (3, Interesting)

MessyBlob (1191033) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146494)

Here's a question: Can any diffusely-owned project or data be trusted? Does it require that all members of the project or support infrastructure are also trusted, or must there be a certificate-based identity/trust system to unlock the data on various levels?

Re:Trust the diffusely-owned data? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146668)

I go with the level of trust with keys / certs. But like a PGP email network you lose or screw your key you're screwed because facebook won't be there to clean up your drool.

Key exchange is the bitch. How do you send a key to someone and yet remain mostly anonymous. I was to some extent able to do that with PGP key servers but what luddite butt munch on facebook even comprehends that?

Ah. I share everything anonymously. And I vanish if need to. If I want to find my classmates I just need to look through the crosshairs.

GNU Social + FOAF (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146502)

There is work being done on GNU Social ( http://groups.fsf.org/wiki/Group:GNU_Social ) which aims to be totally decentralized distributed social networking platform.

It is going to leverage already 10 years existing FOAF project: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FOAF_(software)

Currently it is mostly in phase of figuring out the protocols, which is correctly way more important, than having x lines of code, since when we find ourselves in a position where there is ton of different decentralized distributed social network platforms (ok) with each their own protocols (BAD), we may find it even less favorable than today...

Re:GNU Social + FOAF (3, Insightful)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146906)

There are at least four groups trying to do this. Can't they at least get together to agree on how the standards that get us 95% of the way there (OpenID, ActivityStrea.ms, etc.) get glued together, then go work on their code? We don't need four or five competing, incompatible standards trying to get uptake from the massive monopoly that is Facebook.

Hmm Let's see here (1)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146508)

Think of being able to buy your own domain name and use simple software such as Posterous to build a profile page

What a great idea! We could post what we're doing, where we are and what our plans for the next day could be! This sounds like it needs a snazy new name. Let's think hard about this hmmm... I know we should take the words LOG and WEB and combine them into BLOG! Yet another great and origional idea from Wired Magazine. Honestly how do you still trick people into subscribing to you?

What is the solution? The cost of Free? (1)

MessyBlob (1191033) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146510)

I'm not sure what the author wants to make, in real terms. Is it the user base, the third-party integration, the hardware infrastructure? Yes, all of the above, as they're all necessary, but that requires a new build, with different policies. However the viability reduces to the reality of money: money to build it, and money to sustain it. Facebook is now starting to explain the cost of Free.

already happening (4, Insightful)

miruku (642921) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146524)

a suite of protocols and formats have been developed over the years to achieve this. look for the Data Portability movement for one or the largest groupings of like minded folk, although the dev action is fairly distributed.

the current two interesting things to watch is the development of OAuth 2, for distributed apps, which will help with the sharing of the various open standards of profile information and the like, and the Google Buzz method of using Salmon and PubSubHubbub to aggregate comments to an article.

i'm looking forward to being able to connect WordPress, Drupal, etc, sites together to aggregate community content.

Back to basics (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146538)

Think of being able to buy your own domain name and use simple software such as Posterous to build a profile page in the style of your liking.

You mean like a personal website? And forget the Posterous.

The cycle is complete (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146552)

Personal websites are dead, long live Geocities!
...

Geocities is dead, long live MySpace!
...

MySpace is dead, long live Facebook!
...

Facebook is dead, long live personal websites!

Re:The cycle is complete (3, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146852)

Shit, I just realized we're about to enter a new era of Geocities 2.0

Re:The cycle is complete (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146970)

No you clod, it's called Cloudcities!

Re:The cycle is complete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146922)

My personal website was on Geocities (you insensitive clod)!

here's the problem in a nutshell (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146558)

The intersection of
      set of people who use facebook
      and the set of people who care about open computing
is essentially the null set.

Facebook? Friends & family? (-1, Offtopic)

Weezul (52464) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146576)

Facebook is simply a dating site that connects people with romantic prospects they already know. If you ain't look'n for new tail, you've really got no business using facebook.

(writing random text towards the end of this post is necessary for slashdot's edit window to work in Safari)

Re:Facebook? Friends & family? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146718)

I don't know what you mean by "random text towards the end of this post is necessary for slashdot's edit window to work in Safari", I don't have to do anything special to post with Safari here. Are you on Windows or Mac OS X? Which version of Safari? Did you install anything for Safari or is it a plain install? Are Java and plug-ins disabled?

Re:Facebook? Friends & family? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146932)

I've found that you can't correctly select text or accurately click in the safari comment textarea box sometimes. This only happens on slashdot and not consistently, but it does happen.

Re:Facebook? Friends & family? (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 4 years ago | (#32147094)

I'm often unable to position the cursor using the mouse, use the contextual spell checker, or select text. I've a fairly vanilla safari configuration on Mac OS X, pop-ups are disabled, no crazy css that I remember. I now use ClickToflash but the issue predates that.

Irony (4, Insightful)

lyinhart (1352173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146592)

I totally agree with replacing Facebook with a new, open alternative that respects privacy. And we can start by removing the "Like" button from TFA.

Public Place (-1, Troll)

tpstigers (1075021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146600)

It's not just Facebook. The internet is a public space. Just like walking down main street or going to the mall. What you say and do on the internet is out in the open for all to see. Face it folks - your privacy stops at your modem.

And? (0, Troll)

dniq (759741) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146614)

Maybe I'm an idiot, but isn't the whole point of being SOCIAL in sharing info with others? I mean, it wouldn't be a "social" site if it just locked all information up. If you don't want others to learn things about you you don't want them to learn - don't post them online.

Duh!

Just nationalize it (3, Interesting)

gig (78408) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146616)

The problem is, they have something that's non-commercial, so to make it commercial, they keep selling their users out. It would be better to just have the government buy it and turn it into facebook.org with the privacy settings as they were in 2005.

Re:Just nationalize it (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146802)

It would be better to just have the government buy it and turn it into facebook.org with the privacy settings as they were in 2005.

Facebook would have to go bankrupt first. The government only buys bankrupt companies.

Now that's a real brilliant investment strategy.

Re:Just nationalize it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146878)

It would be better to just have the government buy it and turn it into facebook.org with the privacy settings as they were in 2005.

Facebook would have to go bankrupt first. The government only buys bankrupt companies.

Because it only wants to do that. They can call it a matter of national security (it kind of is!) and force them to sell.

Re:Just nationalize it (1)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146804)

Yeah, that will work great given how much governments respects privacy. Presumably we'll get a "add this person to the terrorist watchlist" button right on each US profile?

Re:Just nationalize it (1)

hodet (620484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146854)

Um no. If government bought it that would surely be its death. Technology changes too quickly and government moves too slow. Something else will come along, do it better, and everyone will abandon it. Then we will all own a multibillion dollar website which has become worthless.

Re:Just nationalize it (2, Interesting)

Jer (18391) | more than 4 years ago | (#32147092)

Government buy it? Why? Is there some compelling reason that Facebook needs to exist? It's not like a loss of Facebook would cause massive unemployment or be a giant hit to the economy. (Hell, losing Facebook might actually lead to productivity GAINS for the economy overall.)

Better to have the government pass a law that says "you know those licenses you click on that say 'we can change the terms any time we feel like it'? Yeah - those are invalid. Stop doing it or you open yourself up to a lawsuit. You need to give your customers 90 days notice of changes to your privacy terms and conditions, you need to actually send them via a paper trail (to make the company actually have to expend some money to change their minds about something), and you need to provide a bullet-pointed summary of everything you intend to sell, everything you intend to make public and everything you intend to keep private every time you do this in addition to the legalese that you provide. When you do that, you need to provide a simple way for customers to decide to leave your system and you need to delete all of their personal data on your servers immediately at their request. And if you fail to do these things, the FTC has authority to prosecute you for criminal fraud - in addition to the civil lawsuits your customers will be able to file against you."

There are many other ways to go about it, but the key ingredients are that customers should always be notified of what information the company is going to be selling or providing public access to, how they can terminate their accounts if they object, and give them a period of time between when the changes are announced and when they are implemented to get their account removed from the system if they choose. Those are the kinds of things that companies should be doing anyway, but without a law on the books there's no incentive for them to do so.

A personal architecture for private communications (5, Interesting)

alexandre (53) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146622)

We need to have a project that aims to unite all the privacy projects out there to make something good come out of it, using the power of the crowd with free software in a privacy respecting matter but in a much more powerful way that can actually serve people...

Here are some projects or ideas that deserves to be noticed:

An openID with privacy features:
http://openprivacy.org/ [openprivacy.org]

P2P social networks / research:
http://www.movim.eu/ [movim.eu]
http://www.peerson.net/ [peerson.net]

P2P search:
http://yacy.net/ [yacy.net]

P2P SIP:
http://www.blyon.com/blog/index.php/2009/06/22/p2p-sip-uri-dialing/ [blyon.com]

Encryption:
http://code.google.com/p/cryptsetup/ [google.com]

P2P encrypted networks:
http://www.i2p2.de/ [i2p2.de]
http://freenetproject.org/ [freenetproject.org]

Augmented reality / group mapping:
http://www.openillusionist.org.uk/documentation/doku.php?id=site:home [openillusionist.org.uk]
http://www.biomapping.net/ [biomapping.net]

Mesh:
http://robin-mesh.wik.is/ [robin-mesh.wik.is]

I envision a setup where our cell phones or little home servers (open ones, like the n900 or better) can connect to each other via mesh, have open social infrastrcture running on them routed over an I2P layer so nobody knows who is talking to who and you have total control as to who/when/what is seen by your peers.

These setup have cameras that can use such network to create massive collaborative networks to document a situation or location. Be it a manifestation where you relay real time camera from all angles with sound level maps and other sensors to augmented reality group interaction and other crazy ideas.

This is more broad that what is discussed here as it touches all OSI layers and ask for a shift toward a p2p infrastructure at all level respecting and working for the user and independance from middle man as much as we can.
Of course a distributed DNS might have to be worked on too. I think these research are fundamental to the survival of freedom online as we knew it ...

Its pure evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146656)

By embedding that 'Like' button onto webpages, Facebook are collecting data about your web browsing habits (whether you click like or not).

Crude solution:

sudo echo 127.0.0.1 www.facebook.com >> /etc/hosts

and rely on the mobile version of the website (http://m.facebook.com/) if you need to access facebook.

Open and Private (1)

hhawk (26580) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146660)

I think it would be hard to do something completely open sourced that also had very strong privacy built in. Some sort of distributed Shamir Sharing coming to mind... As for Facebook people will vote with their feet or not..

It's not going to happen (2, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146700)

The essence of a social networking site is that it is social - a gathering place that draws a critical mass of users.

Most like that sense of connection - and almost none of them are geeks.

"Think of being able to buy your own domain name... Broadcast{ing to) your micro-blogging service of choice."

They aren't thinking that at all.
   

how does an open alternative break even? (0, Troll)

Harlan879 (878542) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146706)

I don't understand how this could possibly work. Web posting and bandwidth is not free. The only reason FB is is because of its advertising and other tie-ins, none of which would work well if they weren't targeted. No web site could get substantial portions of the world's population on board if they had to charge money to cover development and server costs. If you can come up with a non-evil social networking business model that allows your platform to attract and support hundreds of millions of simultaneous users, dominate the single largest sector of the Internet, and the resulting costs, with 99.99% uptime, you're not just a genius, you're a god.

Diaspora. (0, Redundant)

nawitus (1621237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146708)

There's a new project called Diaspora which is just this. They already have more than $10 000 funding for an free software project, and 4 guys will start working on it full time over the summer. http://joindiaspora.com/project.html [joindiaspora.com]

Seriously? (0)

Zebra_X (13249) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146710)

First - usage of Facebook is not mandatory by any stretch of the imagination. However, this guy is seriously off his rocker...

Facebook (to me anyway) has always been about "friends". Right? That's why friends are labeled as "Friends".

So when he cries about "I'd like to have my profile visible only to my friends, not my boss. Cannot." I have little sympathy. If you want to social network with professionals there is always Linked in. Further he is not correct about this - you can do this by specifically excluding people from viewing your profile, it is under Account -> Privacy Settings -> Friends, Tags and Connections

Further when Ryan says something like "I'd like to support an anti-abortion group without my mother or the world knowing. Cannot." I think, well that's pretty lame. This is like hanging out with the Popular kids in public but secretly attending nerd club and asking all of the Nerds not to tell anyone you went. I personally have no desire to censor every aspect of my "life" on Facebook. Do you *really* want a screen to manage every SINGLE group you belong to and who can see it?

Ryan goes on to say "Setting up a decent system for controlling your privacy on a web service shouldn't be hard.". I'd disagree. It's tremendously difficult. Creating interfaces and a data model for managing these settings is very difficult. Implementing it is a pain as well. From a coder perspective, I find this kind of work the least rewarding around. And Ryan actually admits to this saying "the whole system is maddeningly complex.". I rather think Facebook did a decent job with the current set of options.

Ultimately, if you are not comfortable with the information that Facebook is sharing, then don't share it. Of course you could go and build your own site that has the greatest privacy controls world has ever seen. But that would be awfully difficult wouldn't it?

Lots of pieces of this exist. (1)

muyshiny (944250) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146714)

Some combination of FOAF profiles, StatusNet updates, OpenID, and Drupal 7 would do. Mainly "FOAF" or "Friend of a Friend"---it lets you describe your profile. Drupal 7 is to have some integration with this, and it has modules for galleries and forums and whatnot. Then you'd have a social network you control. Except, I don't think FOAF has any real sort of privacy setting. What I think we need (please point out if someone's taken a good stab at this!) is some similar standard for describing a profile that has good use of public key encryption to allow you to effectively allow different information to different groups, so you can say these few people's friends of friends can see this information, these people over here are coworkers and they can see this but their friends can't see anything except what is already public, etc. without having to trust some central broker to provide this privacy as you do currently.

Helloworld was this ... (1)

altp (108775) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146754)

HelloWorld from YEARS ago was a distributed social networking system. Its a shame that it never took off.

http://www.cooperatingsystems.com/index.htm [cooperatingsystems.com]

Helloworld was way ahead of its time ...

Social network scale and privacy (4, Insightful)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146764)

The value of a social network is proportional to the number of members it has. Facebook started in 2004 aimed at students, grew for a while, and in 2006 opened membership to everyone. It was two years after that (and two years ago) when Facebook exceeded Myspace [alexa.com] , and it's just been pulling ahead since. It's now blown away any previous social network scale now. If you started tomorrow with a compelling site people might use instead of Facebook--the same way that Facebook was a compelling improvement over Myspace--best case it would be two years before you'd even have a shot of being popular enough to be considered a viable alternative here. The unfortunate reality here is that making this sort of site available to most people for free costs somebody money, and that will never go on forever without somebody trying to make a buck. Social networks trying to expand are practically forced into it just to pay for their overhead as popularity increases.

As for the privacy issues, I never told Facebook anything private in the first place; anybody who did is a fool. I didn't care that they were throwing ads in my face that were obviously targeted to interests I listed in my profile to make ad dollars; expected that, all part of getting the site for free, and things like my music/movie likes are quite public information already. But last week when I visited cnn.com to read a news story, and it magically showed me what news stories my Facebook friends had been looking at (and presumably exposing what I was doing to them), that was the point where I felt myself that Facebook had gone rogue. Time to use UnFuck Facebook [userscripts.org] and crank up the rest of my hostile site defenses now. Facebook I'm now treating like a link that might lead to p0rn: I might still go there if because it's fun sometimes to look at, but I won't be adding to their ad income and I expect the site to be hostile. And I'll go out of my way to avoid all the sites they're selling my info to as well.

An open source alternative already exists (3, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146774)

Folks seem to be forgetting that a (mostly) open source alternative already exists - Live Journal [livejournal.com] .

Re:An open source alternative already exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146984)

Live Journal is a blogging site. As an owner of a blogging service, I can assure you the movement is dead. People who want to write blogs still do, but the social aspect of that is gone. None of my friends use Live Journal anymore for their primary communication medium.

Everyone is on Facebook. The killer app on facebook is those stupids games these days. Someone would have to develop a site with none of the limitations of facebook, privacy and stupid games and still make money on it to keep it going. I don't think it's possible.

Google Wave could do this (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146820)

I think Wave (if its ever finished and working well) could form the backbone of this. Since anyone can run their own wave server, and wave servers can talk to each other, you pretty much have all you need for this, which is, a robust way to post and share information in real-time with specific, securely authenticated people. However, what people don't realize is that Facebook is hosting untold petabytes of peoples photos and videos, even if you have only an average number of friends posting an average number of photos and video's the amount of online storage you would (as a group) have to maintain is quite large. Presumably a company could host this for free with advertising, but then the might feel like thats not enough and want to mine your data, and your'e right back where you started from. I think someday you could rebuild something identical to facebook with wave-like technologies, and while the primary implementation would be something very corporate and facebooky, it should have the advantage of being able to host your own profile on your own server. What will actually happen though is people will stop caring about privacy. Whats the historical precedent for internet-based ventures which failed outright because they wanted people to share too much information? I think most of the erosion of online privacy is merely an erosion of the assumption that people are concerned with it. My mom originally thought facebook was too much information to give out to people, but now shes on it, sharing it all with the world. People actually don't care that much about privacy, they seem to think they do though. I hypothesize that the professed anxiety about privacy is actually about something much more subtle, because for all this talk about privacy, its not slowing anyone down. More than facebook too. My town just passed a law to put security cameras all over the place, there are cameras all over campus, all over britain, and people complain about it at first, but then seem to forget. No one really cares about privacy, afterall, isn't our most secret desire to be able to tell everyone all our secrets?

Strongly Agree (1)

CalcuttaWala (765227) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146834)

We really need an open alternative to Facebook. It is useful no doubt, like Windows, but it is so locked in that I really hope for some open platform. Unfortunately, unlike other software, I cannot move away from Facebook, on my own. I need my network to move along with me.

Protocols might be interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32146972)

While I essentially agree with the first posting, about this being the WWW; we're talking about something that is re-packaged into a different format and presents itself accordingly. I think the protocol idea would be great...

Facebook is becoming "too big to fail" (said with some humor) and I personally do not appreciate the many liberties they take without my consent.

Working up protocols and making sites like Facebook become moot is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you may put people out of work (hopefully not), on the other hand, it will show how the WWW is alive and can live and breath life into seemingly old technologies with the participation of everyone around the world. That's what it's meant to be.

Social Networking Protocols -- someone start an Internet Draft :-)

Yeah, but who will host it? (1)

kindbud (90044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32146996)

And what will prevent that entity from doing the same thing?

The only thing that makes sense is not to put anything private in a public forum, and to regard Facebook as a public forum.

If people aren't doing that already, then no amount of software cleverness can help them.

Somewhat on topic (2, Informative)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32147002)

I have my facebook settings absoloutely locked down as tight as it will allow me yet *they* continue to change what is defined as private or not.
The recent big change (2 or 3 months ago?) which got a lot of media attention, their changes 'accidentally' flagged everyones stuff as insecure again and we all had to re-secure it. (No I'm not being paranoid, it literally went from 'friends only' visibility on some items to 'everyone')

Furthermore, friends of friends can see and or add me now, infact they are prompted to add me and I'm constantly having to ignore unwanted friend requests.
What really bothers me though is this facebook connect business, I've never signed up for it or used it but I recently watched a Starcraft 2 match and it had my full name on the website, I don't know the technical term but my facebook cookie I'm guessing was imported by livestream, just like that - I literally clicked nothing to allow it to identify me.
Apparently gawker does this same thing.

This is where they are starting to really push my envelope of tolerance. I don't have much to hide particularly but these people are starting to get downright nasty and I am beggining to feel potentially violated here. I'm not normally one of those 'must be secure!!!' types but this could be abused, how long until my entire profile is public? How long before a potential employer googles up a picture of me at a party or something with a beer in my hand acting like a tool ironically and they mistake it for being genuine behaviour?

I'm not at the point of closing my account but I've got to say, for the first time it's actually crossed my mind. Why are these people deliberately destroying themselves? If you want to exploit stupid people, go ahead but for goodness sakes please let the smart user lock their stuff down.

Re:Somewhat on topic (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32147032)

Ooops I missed: It was livestream.com - it instantly knew who I was when I went to the stream I was linked to.

P2P needs to take the lead (1)

puppybits (1807674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32147004)

Facebook's progression of privacy has been apparent with its constant policy changes. I've been working my 'solution' to this for about about 6 months called Clusters.

It used Flash/HTML5 with Adobe's stratus service as a back-end for the P2P connection. It only works with when the computer is on, obviously. To get around that limitation the user can choose to have others who are approved to view the content, to also save it locally in an encrypted database and share it when the original users is offline. The content owner can set what and how long the content is allowed to be distributed via another's machine. With each user deciding how much space to allot for saving others data.

The users can create multiple GUIDs to be used for segmenting permissions. So one person can have a family/friends network that has X permissions and a work network that has Y permissions. Each submission can be shared with one or many GUIDs. I'd also like to have plugins for Twitter and Facebook as they are good services but not "the" answer.

This effectively turns your friends into the servers for a private network. With users responsible for their own network. The connection web server only a map of GUIDs to the current stratus IDs. No personal information is saved on the server nor a way to retrieve a stratusID without knowing the GUID. Personal data is saved on one's own machine and can choose which groups can have what information. Users can opt-in for an openID login to store their GUIDs on the main web server so they can access the network from any computer or web terminal.

The display interface is all HTML5 web-standards complicate and using Flash to augment HTMLs shortcoming like VoIP, webcam and P2P. Flash's power has always been to rapidly add new features to browsers without having to worry about end-users installing another plugin and thats where it should stay. Flash is the China to HTML's UN; both have benefits. Also the central web server should be minimized as much as possible. The web server should only be used for sending the stratusIDs to approved users, store GUIDs online for those who opt-in and registering new plugins/themes/skins.

If any slashdotters are interested in turning this into an open source project, have ideas or pessimistic comments; speak up.

Identity ownership (1)

Ironix (165274) | more than 4 years ago | (#32147046)

My friend Blaine Cook (of Rails scaling and Twitter fame), recently wrote an article on this subject as well. He makes some interesting suggestions. http://blog.romeda.org/2010/04/identity.html [romeda.org]

Stop ranting, start coding. (1)

phlawed (29334) | more than 4 years ago | (#32147062)

OK. Facebook sucks. get over it.
I believe most building blocks for a truly distributed, open facebook alternative already exists.
It "just" needs a shitload of glue and polishing. And a fancy projectname. "buttpaper"?

OpenID for id purposes?
Torrents for distributing data?
Some kind of PKI system to regulate access to data in the "cloud". Also holding the tracker location?
(Can this be designed to not rely on central infrastructure, yet be made simple enough to work for the average Jean?)
Must allow for single users running their own site, as well as bigger sites holding larger number of users.
Some way to import relevant stuff from FB.

Build this, eliminate the security flaws, then convince a few million FB users. And be ready to fight he FUD from Zuckerberg & co.

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