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Bring On the Decentralized Social Networking

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the node-distinction dept.

Social Networks 238

Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "The distributed-social-networking Diaspora Project recently announced that their software will be released as open source. I don't know if Diaspora specifically will be the Next Big Thing in social networking, but I hope that social networking moves to a decentralized model within the next few years, where anyone can set up and run a hub to administer profiles for themselves and their friends or clients, and where profiles can interact with each other in a distributed fashion instead of on a centralized system like Facebook." Read on for Bennett's thoughts on how that model could work.A decentralized social network infrastructure would bring a number of benefits, such as:

  • the end of horror stories about accounts and company pages being shut down arbitrarily by Facebook
  • privacy settings that give you fine-grained control, and that are not forcibly changed for you
  • an ad-free viewing experience (depending on the policies of the node hosting your profile), and
  • the easy implemention of desirable features in the interface, without waiting for a single company like Facebook to adopt them.

(Not to mention an interface that stays relatively stable until you decide you want to change it -- no more waking up to find out you've been "timelined".)

Consider the main things that we use Facebook for today:

  • Finding old friends and re-establishing contact with them.
  • Receiving a stream of updates from your friends, viewing photos, posting comments, etc.
  • Creating events and inviting friends.
  • Creating branded pages for your company or product that other people can "like," and receiving updates from pages created around other people's companies or products.

There's no particular reason why any one of those functions could only be carried out on a centralized system. I can envision a distributed protocol with many different servers, or 'nodes,' run by different hosting companies, and each 'node' can be used to store many accounts; users pick a hosting company and a node to create their new account, and their account on that node could be used to store their friends list, their photos and status updates, and any events and groups that they had created. I'll get to the protocol design in a second, but let me emphasize something more important first: to make the protocol censorship resistant, it would have to be possible to move your entire account from one node to another node at a completely different company, without breaking any of the existing links with friends, your events, etc. That way, the node hosting your profile wouldn't be able to lean on you by saying, "Delete that one photo you posted, or I'll delete your entire profile and you'll lose all the friend links and events that you created."

To make a profile "seamlessly portable" in this manner, my suggestion would be to have the profile associated with a domain name owned by the user, with a URL like http://yourdomainname.com/profileprotocol/yourusername/. The domain name could be hosted with any hosting provider, as long as you paid their hosting fee (or as long as you were willing to display their advertisements to people who viewed your profile). But if your hosting company ever kicked you to the curb, you could simply change the domain name to point to a different hosting provider, and be back up and running after just a few hours of downtime (assuming you had backups of all of your data!).

No one would be able to shut down your profile permanently, unless they wrested control of your domain name away from you, or convinced every hosting provider in the world not to host you. (A user who didn't want to bother with their own domain name, could still host a profile under someone else's domain. This would probably be the default option for most casual high-school users, and thus companies like Facebook could still exist to serve them by helping them create new profile accounts in two minutes. But then those users would have to accept the risk that the domain name owner could shut their profile down.)

Thus I'm distinguishing here between two levels of censorship-resistance that could be provided by a distributed model. In the weaker type of censorship-resistance, profile-hosting companies would compete for your business by providing more permissive hosting policies, which would enable people to post edgier content than Facebook currently allows -- but once you're hosted with a given company, you couldn't easily switch without breaking all of the inbound "links" from your friends' accounts, so your hosting company could force you to self-censor, by threatening you with the loss of your account. In the stronger type of censorship-resistance that I'm advocating, you could switch seamlessly from one hosting provider to another, as long as you kept control of your domain name.

Of course this is exactly the type of "censorship resistance" enjoyed by people who run their own websites under their own domain names. The challenge would be to bring the same freedom to an open social networking protocol, but I see no technical reason why it couldn't be done.

Consider a protocol where "Bob" creates a new account on a social networking hosting node (together with a public/private key used to authenticate his actions to other nodes — if you're not a crypto geek, don't worry about that, it just means that users wouldn't be able to forge friend requests, "likes," event invites, etc. from other people). "Bob" could then find the profiles of his friends, and add them to his own "friends list" (which would be stored on his node). If Bob adds Alice as a friend, then Bob's node can also download Alice's current friend list (unless Alice has disabled this feature, or unless Alice has customized her friend list so that only portions of her friends list are viewable to other users — something not currently possible with Facebook). That way, when Bob searches for new names of users to add as friends in the future, the search will first default to searching the friends-of-friends lists that he's downloaded from his own friends.

When Bob signs in to his account on his node (either through a web interface, or a dedicated application, or a mobile app), his "news feed" consists of the comments, photos, and other items that have been published from his friends' accounts. He can post comments on any of his friends' items, which are then transmitted to his friends' accounts and stored on their node along with their content, unless they choose to delete the comments. And of course he can publish his own photos and status updates just like we all do on Facebook today, which would be downloaded to his friends' news feeds. (I'm hand-waving over whether the notifications would be "pulled" by users' nodes periodically polling the nodes of their friends to check for new content, or by their friends' nodes "pushing" the content to all known subscribers.)

Alice could meanwhile create an "group" of users would would be stored as an object on her node, and invite other users to join the group. Then any messages or content posted to the group would show up in the news feeds of all users who had joined. And Alice could create "events" which are also stored as an object on her node, and send out invites to her friends or other members of her groups. Pretty much any Facebook feature could be duplicated in this distributed system, with the benefit that users wouldn't run up against aggravating limitations imposed by Facebook — like the fact that Facebook used to block you from messaging the guests of your own event after it reached 5,000 attendees, and then removed the ability to message guests of an event entirely.

There's only one Facebook feature that I think could not be implemented on a distributed social networking protocol, and that's the practice of accruing hundreds of thousands of fans for your company fan page, basically as a form of "social proof" to show potential new customers that you're serious. Under Facebook's model, if you see a fan page with hundreds of thousands of fans, your first instinct is to assume that the company must be doing something right in order to be that popular, since Facebook makes it difficult for a company to create hundreds of thousands of fake users just to be fans of their product. On the other hand, in a distributed model, suppose I run across a company's fan page which claims to have 1 million fans. It's not just a case of the company lying about having 1 million fans — you could use digital signatures to verify that 1 million "users" really are "fans" of the product — but since anybody can set up a profile hosting node, you have no way of knowing how many of those 1 million "users" are real. "Acme Soda Company" could have just set up a dozen profile hosting nodes and created 100,000 fake users on each one, and have each of them sign up as "fans" of their product. (I just made up that company name, but this is incidentally something the real Acme Soda Company is apparently not doing.)

But how useful is it for regular users, after all, to see that a company has hundreds of thousands of fans? I've never assumed that a company makes a quality product just based on the number of Facebook fans that they have. I'd be more interested in checking out a company if a high proportion of my own social networking friends are fans of the product — and that is something that could still be implemented in a distributed model, since if a company claims that 3 of my 100 friends are fans of their page, I could use their digitally signed "fan" relationships to verify that this is true.

So I hope that the future of distributed social networking arrives soon. It may or may not be in the form of the Diaspora Project (in true Dr. Evil fashion, their most recent press release announced that they've already attracted "thousands" of users), but there's no particular reason that a distributed protocol would have to be a grass-roots effort. My guess is that if it took off, it would have to be started as a side project by an established company that gave it name recognition, and which could possibly provide free hosting for the first wave of users. Google+ never gave most people a compelling reason to switch, but imagine if it had been released not as a website but as an open protocol, complete with an open-source implementation that could be installed anywhere. Thus, complete freedom to create pages with whatever content you want, to amass as many fans and subscribers as you could legitimately earn, without having to worry about it all being controlled by a single entity who could mine your data or delete your content. I definitely would have given it a closer look.

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238 comments

One question (5, Insightful)

should_be_linear (779431) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248627)

Joe Sixpack has one question: WTF you are talking about, who is centralized, and why should I care? Seriously, geeks are 1% of Facebook audience, 99% couldn't care less about "decentralization".

Re:One question (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248661)

But the 1%ers are evil and must pay for their crimes. Oh wait, wrong /. article.

Re:One question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248733)

When you put all the humans in one place, it makes it easy for the Cylons to find and destroy them. Better to split them up into say 12 or so groups and send them out in different directions.

Re:One question (4, Insightful)

sixtyeight (844265) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248739)

Thirty years ago, the idea that non-geeks would ever start using computers themselves seemed absurd.

Forty years ago, the idea that people - rather than corporations and governments - would use computers themselves seemed absurd.

Re:One question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248845)

There's a big difference between using something and caring about how it works, see: Magnets.

Re:One question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249259)

I care very deeply about how magnets work. I'm just not going to talk to a scientist about it.

Re:One question (3)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248867)

How was it considered absurd in the 80s to think non-geeks would be using computers? The 80s was all about making home compurs for the masses. It was in fact NOT considered an absurd idea.

Re:One question (1)

sixtyeight (844265) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249101)

Sure, the geeky masses. WordStar. Spreadsheets. In other words, business needs at home and in the small offices.

For personal use, the geek stigma was only overcome once people found they could play decent computer games.

Re:One question (3)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249157)

No, the home computer was being created for the masses not for geeks. You are rewriting history

Re:One question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249257)

You are rewriting history

DuckTales! Whoo ooo!

Speaking of 80s.

Re:One question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249387)

No, the home computer was being created for the masses not for geeks. You are rewriting history

This. Personal computers were pimped heavily for managing household finances, for example.

Granted, the mid 90s are when things really took off - but that was due to the Internet and the sudden existence of unlimited marketability, rather than, "Buy our overpriced calculator! It'll manage your budget and, uh, do things!"

Re:One question (0)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249433)

WTF? How old are you? You're completely wrong. If you had a computer in the 80s you were a geek.

Yes, even the Mac and Amiga. A few C64 people were simply gamers, geeky gamers.

Re:One question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249395)

I bought my first computer in 1981.

Everybody, except for a couple of hard-core nerds, asked me: what the hell could you possibly want/use/need a computer for?

Re:One question (5, Interesting)

kwerle (39371) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249077)

Thirty years ago, the idea that non-geeks would ever start using computers themselves seemed absurd.

Forty years ago, the idea that people - rather than corporations and governments - would use computers themselves seemed absurd.

You need to update those numbers. 30 years ago Apple was most certainly selling computers to home users.

What we have learned i the past 40 years is that people will use computers. What we have learned in the past 15 years is that people will not admin servers.

Give people a choice (I'm looking at you, too, linux), and people will ignore you. Give people a single (or very few) "winning" options - like Facebook - and they will flock.

Remember when every ISP offered email? I guess they still do - but nobody cares. There are 3ish winners in the west: Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail.

And people suppose - with a couple of gorillas already on the scene - that people will adapt a multitude of social network sites that magically* interoperate? I'm not betting on it.

* I don't buy that any significant number of sites in this space will successfully maintain consistent standards and communicate. Unless there's a whole lot of fairy dust involved

<disillusioned home email/web/etc admin of 15ish years>

Re:One question (1)

0racle (667029) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249229)

Twenty years ago if you wanted to put your pictures online you had to run your own server.

Re:One question (3, Informative)

Seumas (6865) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249341)

If, by "online", you mean "the web", then twenty years ago, you literally had to be the guy who invented the web, to put a picture online, since it was just about exactly twenty years ago that Berners-Lee uploaded the first photo to what there was of the "web" at the time.

And non-geeks are moving away from computers (1)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249383)

The media-hype name for it is "the post-PC era", but the point is that most people, most of the time, don't need a general-purpose computer sitting on their desk. They're happy with an updated version of the TV, a mostly one-way consumption device that restricts their activities to what's safe and easy.

We may look upon the last twenty years as an aberration, a time when the technology advanced to the point of being useful to a mass audience, but hadn't yet been pared back to only what was useful to them. After all, isn't that Apple's whole M.O.? Removing features most people don't need?

Re:One question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249575)

And even 30 years from now, the thought of non-geeks ever learning anything falls flat on its face.

Face it, they'll never care. Ever. And I don't use never lightly. You'll never change these people without changing what makes them them. And doing that considering the current way society works would create such an entitlement generation on levels you could NEVER imagine.
Trust me, it ain't happening.

Unless it is 100% seamless that a person with 50 kinds of mental degeneration can use it, it won't be used.

Re:One question (5, Insightful)

Cid Highwind (9258) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248859)

Everyone (technical or non) has one question: "Are my friends on Diaspora?"

followed by "...then what's the point?"

Re:One question (1)

sixtyeight (844265) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249125)

So the geeks would be the early adopters, and everyone else would probably wait until Facebook inevitably turned the thumbscrews on the users enough for them to become dissatisfied.

Re:One question (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249217)

No, most users will just go to the next user-friendly social network that works like Facebook. They aren't going to go to anything like Diaspora. This is nothing but nerd fantasy.

Re:One question (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249291)

So the geeks would be the early adopters, and everyone else would probably wait until Facebook inevitably turned the thumbscrews on the users enough for them to become dissatisfied.

And which point, "everybody else" would probably move to the #2 centralized social networking system, and the geeks would still be the only ones using the decentralized system.

Unless, of course, what looked to casual users like the #2 centralized system also used (as its core infrastructure, not just incidentally and with limited or one-directional functionality) the protocols of the decentralized system. In which case, yeah, the decentralized system might win. But the problem is convincing anyone that has the interest and skill to build a service that is attractive to Joe User to use the open infrastructure, and to get the people maintaining the specifications of the open infrastructure -- and the various implementations -- to build the features into the specification (and support them in the various implementations) that make the open infrastructure useful for consumer-attractive finished implementations. Otherwise, making the open protocol central is just a drag on attempts to make a service that will attract non-geek/ideologue users.

Re:One question (2)

Seumas (6865) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249349)

The geeks would be the early adopters and everyone else wouldn't care, because a bunch of us geeks is hardly the social network they're looking to associate with.

Re:One question (1)

Dan667 (564390) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249551)

because facebook has been around for 100 years and nothing like myspace existed before them?

Re:One question (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249015)

geeks are 1% of Facebook audience

If your definition of "geeks" means "people with significant technical knowledge about computers", then I doubt it's anywhere near 1%. Geeks are generally smart enough to stay away from it.

Re:One question (2)

somersault (912633) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249573)

Geeks are generally smart enough to stay away from it.

It's nothing to do with being smart or not, it's about whether you care about your so called "privacy". A lot of geeks seem to be paranoid, and it's those ones that stay away from FB, not the "smart" ones. I don't give a shit about targetted ads. Especially since I have them blocked anyway.

Re:One question (2)

nine-times (778537) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249127)

I do see a lot of common non-geeks complaining about Facebook-- about the privacy issues, the ads, seemingly arbitrary changes to the UI/UX. It's not as though non-geeks are all completely stupid and unconcerned about anything.

Plus, insofar as people don't care, that doesn't mean that an alternative couldn't be successful. People who don't care go wherever everyone else goes, because they *don't care*. If all the geeks and concerned non-geeks decide there needs to be a change, there will be a change. Right now, the problem seems to be that, for all of its problems, Facebook is providing the best value for the investment of time required. A lot of that is because Facebook has so many people on it, but realistically it's also because Facebook has done certain things well.

Re:One question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249201)

It has ramifications for privacy concerns, political speech and advertising, data security, etc... Every big social network right now has one company in charge of their network, loyal to stockholders or private owners. Facebook, Google+, Myspace, Twitter, etc. all rely on the infrastructure and decision-making process of their respective corporate leadership structure.

Having an open-source, decentralized social network means any "geek" could affordably set up his (or her) own page and network. People who don't trust the big networks to do right in terms of privacy policy/data sharing/advertising/free speech can go to a different network, or make their own, and still have it interact with other networks using Diaspora because there is an open-source standard.

Short enough for you or still TLDR?

Re:One question (2)

Seumas (6865) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249261)

And the rest of us are saying "the last thing I want to do is be the guy responsible for maintaining and administering the social network platform for all of my family and friends".

Re:One question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249463)

And you are also happy to pay MS taxes?
Ever heard of competition?

Like MS in pc-softaware, FB will not give up it's monopoly in social networks. It will not open interfaces.

Re:One question (1)

Radres (776901) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249557)

Why does everything have to be about the bottom line with you people? Diaspora is a cool idea for a project. The service itself may or may not take the world by storm, but a P2P web hosting service is a novelty that I'm sure someone, somewhere, sometime is going to turn into a profitable idea and make you look like the fool that you are.

Freetard fail (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248629)

People don't want to run hubs or have to do complex setup just to talk to people. Freetards once again fail.

Re:Freetard fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248783)

Wrong use of freetard. Wanting freedom is not the same thing as being a cheapskate.

Re:Freetard fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248791)

People don't want to vote or have to read and check facts just to live. Democracy once again fail.

Re:Freetard fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249115)

People don't want to run hubs or have to do complex setup just to talk to people. Freetards once again fail.

Oh sorry, I didn't remember that people have to build their own antenna to use the telephone network.
And damn, my grandmother always have problem when setting up her email server.

Re:Freetard fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249231)

Sheesh, now I see, thanks. I don't want to be called freetard so I'm now dropping all my aspirations to freedom and independence. See you at FB buddy! Thanks again!

Re:Freetard fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249405)

Only need enough 'people' to make the system work. Think of every p2p based applications and or protocols. Gnutella, BitTorrent, Skype (granted bad example on many fronts except that people were used as hubs without doing anything but leaving the app online on a quality connection) and of course Tor come to mind first. The point being if the application does all the work and the protocol is implemented properly people need only opt (or perhaps not) in to be a hub. I've been waiting for one to try paying or playing to ego (special icon by your profile that says you rock for leaving your app running) to further give incentive to check that box or leave the app running.

People also don't run email servers... (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249413)

...yet somehow, email remains decentralized...

Re:People also don't run email servers... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249517)

Because greater than 90% of them are run by businesses. I pray to a God that doesn't exist you can't have been that fucking stupid as to overlook that important fact... but then again....

cool story bro (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248663)

cool story bro

IT'S CALLED USENET MOTHERFUCKERS !! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248675)

But binaries ruined it !!

Re:IT'S CALLED USENET MOTHERFUCKERS !! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248993)

If by ruined you mean made awesome, then yes.

First they need to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248691)

Release a product.

BOOM roasted

Another question (2)

opus_magnum (1688810) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248761)

just how many users are there on Diaspora?

Re:Another question (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248895)

They claim to have a couple hundred thousand users.

Re:Another question (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249363)

What is their definition of "user"?

I chipped in on their Kickstarter from the very beginning and was one of the first to create an account and login. After that first login, I never touched Diaspora again. Do I still count as a "user"?

Bennett is a tard (5, Informative)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248795)

Hey Bennet your link is about it Diaspora becoming a community project not about opening the source code. Since, you know, it's was already open source and on Github.

Re:Bennett is a tard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249143)

when i hear the name "bennet" i cant help but think of that guy wearing chainmail in that schwarzenegger movie (Commando was it?)

"Let off some steam, Bennett"

Re:Bennett is a tard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249471)

When I hear bennet I can't but think about the poor girl in Sweden Hannah Bennet that was brutally murdered recently because the neighbour though she made to much noise.

All very fluffy (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248825)

But this approach also has disadvantages which are not explored. The exposition above seems to assume that Facebook act randomly in removing photos and in removing features, but that's clearly not the case. There is a reason they remove certain photos and a reason they remove features (e.g. if they are abused). This system would bring all the abuse back, unless designed with those abuses in mind - but all I see here are advantages, no disadvantages or even cautionary notes. Maybe people don't want a Facebook alternative where they are spammed left right and center, and on which people host porn, for instance.

Re:All very fluffy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249357)

Welcome to the internet; all the things you suggest already exist on it. Yet, somehow, we survive.

Re:All very fluffy (0)

Altanar (56809) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249455)

Not as a social network they don't, at least not a social network that has any kind of popularity. The only people willing so sort through porn and spam to talk to grandma are masochists.

Re:All very fluffy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249555)

Whoosh

Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248837)

Wake me up when you have some news. Thanks!

More F2F social networking instead (0)

kheldan (1460303) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248871)

Personally I think that so-called "social networking" contributes to the achievement of the opposite of it's intent: It actually keeps people apart rather than bringing them together. It has created another, deceptive definition of the word "friend", whereas now you have "Friends" (with a capital 'F', for your real, actual friends) and "friends" (with a lower-case 'f', for your online 'friends', who very often may as well be 'bots for all the real meaning they have to your life). We have an entire generation of kids growing up who are more sociall awkward than ever before, because "social networking" gives them an excuse to not learn to interact with each other on an in-person level. I'd like to see people outgrow all this so-called "social networking" and get back to actually relating to each other in real life.

Re:More F2F social networking instead (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248941)

Yeah, if not for that pesky little fact that most of people's Facebook friends are their real-life friends and famly. Very few people are the attention whores who friends every and anyone.

it's called web and email servers. (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248885)

yo, '95 called and wants it nerd social networking back(and irc).

isn't this the second article about diaspora becoming _UNMAINTAINED_?

Re:it's called web and email servers. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249067)

Despite my disgust at the term, the best way I can describe "decentralized social networking" is THE FREAKING BLOGOSPHERE WE ALREADY HAVE, YOU GODDAMNED BUZZWORD WHORES.

You can start a blog on your own server. You can post status updates as entries. You can post long-form things as entries. You can store your pictures there. We have RSS feeds. People can subscribe to them and they'll show up in their own readers. We have OpenID so you can log in cross-website and post comments. We have pingbacks for referencing and sharing. If you want to search for your friends, we have Google. What in the hell does a "decentralized social network" offer that just plain blogging DOESN'T? The only advantage of a "social network" IS the centralized part of it, making it easier to find people and keep their posts organized. The second you don't want the centralization part in the first place is the second you don't want a social network.

THAT'S why Diaspora-Star-Tilde-Wingdings-Whatever failed. It's a completely worthless concept.

Re:it's called web and email servers. (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249223)

Despite my disgust at the term, the best way I can describe "decentralized social networking" is THE FREAKING BLOGOSPHERE WE ALREADY HAVE, YOU GODDAMNED BUZZWORD WHORES.

On a traditional blog, how can I conveniently specify that a post should be visible only to a selected subset of subscribers ("friends")? You can make the website completely closed, requiring a username and password to read, or you can keep it completely open and every visitor can see everything. There's no in-between.

Unlike a typical blog, decentralized microblogging seeks to offer variable privacy of posts. It's not even a matter of privacy (which is threatened by the ability of any reader to repost the content anyway). If I am writing a post about some nerdy subject like Emacs or hacking the N900, I might as well limit its visibility to those friends who I know are passionate about that subject, and avoid cluttering most of my friends' feeds.

We are already there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41248909)

Anyone so inclined may run a webserver, with various forums or bulletin boards or private guest pages or whatever. As well as mailing lists. All of that is social networking. We've been there for some time - but without a brand name like 'facebook'. The Internet itself is a social network.

I've actually been waiting for this. (1)

BMOC (2478408) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248931)

The idea of a central company having complete control of my information and social network is just absurdly bad, to me. I don't care what privacy protections they give assurances of, that information alone is so powerful in the hands of those who would seek power, it is literally irresistable. It is a testament to how little people give thought to their everyday actions that so many people use Facebook.

Replace "facebook" with "a 3-letter federal agency" performing the same task, and the outrage would be unquenchable... but somehow people trust Facebook not to betray them. I just don't understand it.

Re:I've actually been waiting for this. (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248979)

Because most people don't care? Yes, if you are sharing highly personal information on Facebook that is a dumb idea, but Facebook doesn't force you to do so.

Re:I've actually been waiting for this. (1)

BMOC (2478408) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249089)

While it is true that facebook never forces anyone to share personal information, the fact that the user has no ultimate control over access to it limits its social use quite a bit, now doesn't it? Most people should care who has access to that information, just as people generally care when they see someone spying on/stalking them in public. The difference on Facebook is, you never even know you're being stalked, you're blind to all attempts to access your information.

Re:I've actually been waiting for this. (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249249)

No, it doesn't considering that most Facebook users don't care. You are projecting.

Re:I've actually been waiting for this. (1)

BMOC (2478408) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249327)

What exactly am I projecting? Is it unreasonable to be concerned when you see someone following you on the street, taking pictures of what you're doing, listening to your conversations? If you saw that happening to yourself or someone you were with, would it be paranoia to be concerned?

Now imagine a system wherein someone can do this to you, or your friends, while being invisible and undetectable. That's what facebook allows and I don't consider it an unreasonable concern to effectively not use facebook because of that.

Re:I've actually been waiting for this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249161)

I just don't understand it.

Here, let me help you. Most people aren't paranoid. They see that no actual harm comes to them if "zomg teh facebooks knows i exist!!11one!!". They correctly see that Facebook doesn't care about them personally. Facebook provides a valuable service to people with a social life (explaining why most slashdotters don't understand it).

I've been on Facebook for ages and I've yet to see a single negative consequence. Any more if you want a social life, being invited to parties and knowing about all the events your friends are doing, you need to be on Facebook. Well over 90% of the 18-35 age bracket is. If you're not, well, maybe that's a problem with YOU. Maybe you need to work on your paranoia a little bit, because it's going to cause problems for you in ways beyond FB too.

Re:I've actually been waiting for this. (1)

BMOC (2478408) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249281)

You entirely skipped the context quoting me there. Why is ok to be concerned of the CIA/FBI/NSA listening to your entire life, but not ok to share that same concern over a private company?

I've been called worse things than paranoid. So until you can answer ^^that^^ question to my satisfaction, with no hand-waving of privacy agreements, or anecdotal "well they haven't hurt me so far" nonsense, I'll continue to think what I think.

Also, the "everybody's doing it" argument is quite high-school.

Re:I've actually been waiting for this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249401)

Why is ok to be concerned of the CIA/FBI/NSA listening to your entire life, but not ok to share that same concern over a private company?

Who said people are generally concerned with the NSA etc listening to their entire life? Hint, they're not.

People care about things that matter to them. Facebook doesn't harm them in any way, and it provides a valuable service to them. Go around and ask a thousand FB users if they are being harmed by FB. You'll just get a lot of blank looks and confused stares. There's no reason for them to avoid Facebook, so why should they?

And yes, to normal people, "your friends are there" DOES matter. Most people have social networks and relate to other human beings. Antisocial types don't tend to understand this, but it's true. The average person is social, not antisocial. Going off to sit alone by yourself in a dark room might be fine for some, but the majority want to be included, not excluded.

Re:I've actually been waiting for this. (1)

BMOC (2478408) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249513)

Who said people are generally concerned with the NSA etc listening to their entire life? Hint, they're not.

From the OP:

...It is a testament to how little people give thought to their everyday actions that so many people use Facebook.

People care about things that matter to them. Facebook doesn't harm them in any way, and it provides a valuable service to them. Go around and ask a thousand FB users if they are being harmed by FB. You'll just get a lot of blank looks and confused stares. There's no reason for them to avoid Facebook, so why should they?

You seem to want to explain social pressures as it if excuses ignorance of the consequences, unless I'm wrong.

Re:I've actually been waiting for this. (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249207)

That's my point with all of this. It started with MySpace, no Facebook and there will be others. Remember that old model of "who pays for all this content?"
well it's the information gleaned from all that nice personal data that people gladly hand over. In 10 years there will be two possible outcomes. 1) People will suddenly wake up and say that their privacy matters or 2) Facebook will be able to tell you and everybody else what you had for Breakfast, when you last fucked your wife and how much money is in your bank account.

I prefer option 1, always and keeping the information in 2 to myself and those I chose to share it with. Fundamentally the technology has outstripped our privacy rights and it is time we all started caring about that because if you look at this [ted.com] you can see how some innocuous information can lead to oppression and tyranny. Governments know this and passively use this to their advantage now and when they want to flip the switch they'll be able to crack down on any anti-government movement for "public safety." The beauracrats in DC will just go to Congress and make a "We need to collect and monitor the people for safety" and the dipshit congressmen will open the coffers.

First we need Internet Bill of Rights (1)

matthollingsworth (2670069) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248945)

We need an Internet Bill of Rights to outline our goals around privacy for citizen infrastructure. Then we can move these projects forward. It needs to cover email, chat, social networking, voice, Skype/video... Please read my first draft and provide feedback: http://matthol.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] Also I don't like that Diaspora requires servers. I email, chat, social network, video calls etc should be P2P based on each person having a PGP key. And let's be clear that if we want to have the true democracies that we all deserve around the world, we need secure and private evoting which also depends on this same infrastructure. Let's get this thing done!

Hopefully distributed? (5, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248975)

You already can run your own web server free of any corporate oversight. Guess how many people do.

You can already run your own mail server free of any corporate monitoring. Guess how many people do.

Diaspora failed because they thought people cared about these things. Guess how many people do.

People use Facebook/G+/Twitter and whatnot because:
1. Everyone else is.
2. They don't have to run it.

Re:Hopefully distributed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249499)

You already can run your own web server free of any corporate oversight. Guess how many people do.

Dunno what that makes me, but the majority of my "techy" friends do. I mean, who doesn't have a home server that replies to http nowadays?

You can already run your own mail server free of any corporate monitoring. Guess how many people do.

Way less than with web servers, and I don't, but I can list 6 of my friends who do (one of whom hosts my "personal" email adress, otherwise I actually might have to do it myself).

Diaspora failed because they thought people cared about these things. Guess how many people do.

People use Facebook/G+/Twitter and whatnot because:
1. Everyone else is.
2. They don't have to run it.

True, they are way less convenient compared to FB/G+. For me, the reason I don't run a pod is that I don't use Facebook and fire up Google+ roughly once per month. Cue the base-dwelling-no-life-nerd jokes, but I claim to live a fulfilled social life without online networks.

Multiple points of failure (1)

Havenwar (867124) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248981)

1. No farmville
  Congratulations, you lost 99% of potential users.
2. No mention of abuse
  Sometimes pictures and profiles are removed for good reasons. Without that oversight the decentralized network would be much like the hidden web - overrun by places like silk road and so on. Not to mention all the photos posted without someone's permission. Not that I care much about copyrights, but what about someone posting nude pics of their ex, to shame them? No safeguards.
3. Too complicated.
Congratulations, you lost 99% of potential users.

Really, I could go on and on, I could go into detail, but you're over-thinking it... The average user couldn't care less. If it's complicated, it's not going to get chosen over the easy option. Figure out how to do ALL that you wrote about, with absolutely no technical know-how, and make it work as seamlessly as facebook or similar sites, then we're talking.

Oh, and don't forget the games.

Re:Multiple points of failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249283)

Point number 2: if somebody thinks a picture on my hypothetical self-hosted Diaspora node is abusive they can report it to the police. This is no different than abusive pictures on a self hosted web site or am I wrong?

About the other points, this is not for the average user yet, as WordPress is not and never was for the average user. The average user started posting stuff when Facebook became big. Diaspora as a Facebook replacement? Maybe in the long run but how this makes it less interesting as a software and social project? I'm considering to use it to replace my static web site.

Re:Multiple points of failure (1)

Havenwar (867124) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249393)

Well, in the way the poster describes it, he wants it to be a facebook replacement. So it has to be argued that this isn't realistic with the way he's setting the idea up. He needs to build the framework of his idea to fit his long term goals, otherwise he might have to start over rather than continue the development when it gets big - if it ever does.

As for point number 2, true, it's no different than a self-hosted website, except it is. It's more like say a facebook profile... presumably supposedly simple to set up, simple to spread, visible to everyone if you wish... and presumably you would be able to tag other users as well. If he links to her on his pictures, she wouldn't have the authority to "unlink", because of the distributed way the system works. And if the "node" he's on threatens to delete him, he can just keep moving his profile to new hosting, over and over again, making the issue linger forever. Meanwhile it's not quite as trivial to set up your own website (well, it can be, but most people don't know that,) and if you abuse it your host can shut you down quickly and efficiently - and there'll be a trace back to you as a person due to billing records and so on. Your diaspora account can be entirely anonymous if you set it up over TOR, for instance... and it doesn't even matter if you just find some node off in faraway-istan that couldn't care less about what you put on it as long as it doesn't bring the heavy hitters in.

So really, there are some issues there. It makes it trivially EASY to do that sort of thing, which is a bad thing, because it today's society that shit happens constantly.

Color me stupid... (2)

Lordfly (590616) | about a year and a half ago | (#41248991)

...but if I sign up for Alice's network, and ten of my friends are on Bob's network, and another 35 are on Charlie's network... what do we gain by belonging to 3 separate networks?

If the content is all federated (Alice's network pulls contact info from Bob's network, etc), it acts the exact same as Facebook does for the end user.

This to me sounds like an arbitrary barrier to social networking. My friends don't fit easily into social network "buckets", and nearly none of my friends have time to sort and connect to various federated sources of information. They have 15 seconds to check one spot - facebook - for notifications, messages, and status updates. The really hip ones use Twitter.

So really: Sell myself and my friends on this in one sentence. "It's not facebook" is not that sentence - if Google can't make that work, neither will geeks trying to precisely bucket social communication like we were robots instead of messy, finicky humans.

Re:Color me stupid... (1)

Loughla (2531696) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249507)

And it also seems to me that decentralization is also an interesting way to remove one layer of anonymity (in the individual sense - not anonymity in the I want to hide from massive corporations standpoint - because in my opinion, if I wanted to hide from corporations or the gov't, I wouldn't use social networking in the first place) from the situation. Should you know my real name, you would play hell finding me on facebook. There are around 800 of me. Decentralize that, and I become much more easily traceable as an individual.

My biggest concern, though, is that with decentralization, we have many, many, many points of possible entry to my information, instead of just one. I don't know about you, but I would rather fight one burglar, not fifteen.

Unless I had a sword. Then all bets are off.

Re:Color me stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249571)

My friends don't fit easily into social network "buckets", and nearly none of my friends have time to sort and connect to various federated sources of information. They have 15 seconds to check one spot - facebook - for notifications, messages, and status updates. The really hip ones use Twitter.

What are you talking about?
So, when you are checking your mails, you check on gmail, hotmail, yahoo, [ every site where someone you know could be] ? ...You and your friends seems really inefficient.

Oh, goodie (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249013)

the end of horror stories about accounts and company pages being shut down arbitrarily by Facebook

And the beginning of horror stories about fake accounts, porn pics getting scattered about willy-nilly, and countless "what if the password reset gets hijacked?" claims, problems, attempted (bad) solutions, etc. Yes, the decentralized model is clearly the way to go.

Fat chance. What is needed is a "new" centralized Facebook, but by a company that doesn't have to justify a $100B valuation (perhaps built purely on open source code) with the only stated goal of being "good to users". If Google+ can't gain critical mass (although it might, eventually) then I doubt any other such concoction has a chance. You are more likely to see Facebook "utilitied" by the government after being convicted of having a de facto monopoly. Maybe then, some of those things that Facebook seems to do wrong can get changed for the better (with a heaping helping of things changing for the worse).

Re:Oh, goodie (1)

denvergeek (1184943) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249391)

"...porn pics getting scattered about willy-nilly..." That's already on Diaspora! It gives you a NSFW warning in the one instance I stumbled across, but I'm not sure how uniformly it gets implemented, as I only messed around with DIaspora once.

Sounds familiar (3, Insightful)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249031)

You're describing a system that runs on any host, can be transferred easily, and is fully customisable by the user to show whatever text and pictures they want. Frankly, I struggle to see the difference between what you're talking about and "a website". OK, you've got connections to other users, but this isn't anything that can't be handled by an inbuilt XML feed in an agreed format. Define a common socialXML format for all websites with some fairly simple authorisation system (Oauth style) and you've got everything you need to make any website you can think of "social". If we're decentralising why lock everybody into the very small feature set of Facebook or whoever?

Re:Sounds familiar (1)

CodingHero (1545185) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249543)

It'll be like Web 2.0 but with open standards for ultra-mega-social networking so everyone can make their own customized part of the web but only share it with their friends or have content that changes based on who their friends are/are not. Instead of "Web 3.0" we can call it something like "MySpace 2.0" complete with flashing text and automatically playing videos and music!

Decentalization rocks! (1)

NFiorentini (1961420) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249061)

I'm increasingly seeing Facebook crack down on pages for reasons which seem silly and arbitrary. I've had a friend whose criticism about a movie was removed by Facebook admin. Yesterday, a business which sells e-cigarette products had their page shut down by Facebook. The explanation: Facebook's policy prohibits marketing tobacco and they include e-cigarettes in that category.

There's nothing wrong with the concept of social networking itself, but it's survival will depend on decentralization.

And as far as Diaspora's use requiring skills and know-how that, currently, most people don't possess...give them time. I remember an era when people complained that setting the clock on their VCRs was too difficult. Nowadays, most high school students know how to work Excel and many high schools even teach college-level Java programming.

I'm an old fart who has gone back to school and, during class recently, I had a brand new TI-84 which did not have a Quadratic Formula program on it. I mentioned it to a classmate young enough to be my daughter. She asked for the calculator and handed it back to me two or three minutes later. She had programmed a Quadratic Formula app it in for me.

People can learn stuff when they feel like there's an incentive to learn it. Don't underestimate the incentive that is people's ability to post cat photos.

Great essay! Also, need for effective monetization (1)

adjustable_pliers (1409219) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249129)

timothy has eloquently expressed with good detail what I believe. I have told friends, family, and acquaintances that the pinnacle of social networking will not be another centralized offering, but a distributed model. This is nothing new: the FOAF (friend of a friend) protocol with its cousin, the Semantic Web, was bandied about in the '90s, and in more recent, pre-Facebook days by Tim Berners-Lee.

I cheer loudly for Diaspora but I'm painfully aware of network effects: Facebook already got grandma and grandpa, a herculean tech task in its own right, and I doubt the confusion of an anti-statist social network protocol will get many friends out of the gate. I'm still cheering for it, though.

Finally, I strongly believe that half-hearted, amateur implementations of new social network nodes will damage the "brand" of distributed social networking. There needs to be a monetization tool ready from the start, be it advertising modules, e-commerce and credit card processing (unfortunately), PayPal hooks (frightening!), BTC—whatever. A good start to distributed social networking can't depend on the work of the good graces of some well meaning hobbyists donating server space.

Re:Great essay! Also, need for effective monetizat (1)

NFiorentini (1961420) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249379)

I disagree. I think that monetization is what has created the current mess and the pressure on Facebook to be a profitable corporation will piss off users into fleeing at an increasingly faster clip. I also think that the future model of social networking will look more like the Diaspora model where people pay for their own hosting, write their own code or use software which expedites the process, and where people have a greater involvement in their online persona. There won't be a need for monetization in this scenario. There was a time where paying for television seemed absurd; tv should be free! (Free after you buy the rabbit-ear antenna.) Today, people regularly pay triple digits on their cable and satellite bill. So it isn't a stretch to think that people will pay for hosting, or form groups with friends to share hosting costs, to continue social networking.

Re:Great essay! Also, need for effective monetizat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249443)

I visualize a bit-torrent like protocol with a number of seeders, that maintain the locations of your distributed profile. A part of John's profile will be stored on Alice's system. Alice herself cannot view Johns profile since it is encrypted, unless Alice happens to be in John's social network. Alice is effectively seeding Johns profile in the background while she runs the client herself. John's complete profile can be recovered through torrent like hosting sites lets call this Bob. Alice and Bob will be remunerated via advertising ( say ) for keeping their servers up and the network healthy and available. Thoughts?

Re:Great essay! Also, need for effective monetizat (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249539)

This is nothing new: the FOAF (friend of a friend) protocol with its cousin, the Semantic Web, was bandied about in the '90s

The FOAF project began in 2000 [foaf-project.org], not "the '90s".

Push the concept even further (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249149)

Cloud computing was an utter failure. Decentralized cloud computing is the future of the internet when laws like SOPA/PIPA/ACTA become the norm.
Don't just virtualize/deventralize some crappy "social" network. Social is just a trend, social won't last.

Virtualize the whole fucking web, enforce default strong anonymity, make every node a proxy for the outside, anonimyze uploads of content, fragment the data, encrypt it.

Make it an "app": hipsters, applefags and whatnots will finally be able to make something usefull out of their gazillions shiny toys.

And most of all don't let Kim.com, Pooperberg and alikes eat all of the cake first.

No need to imagine Google open soc-net protocols (3, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249179)

. My guess is that if it took off, it would have to be started as a side project by an established company that gave it name recognition, and which could possibly provide free hosting for the first wave of users. Google+ never gave most people a compelling reason to switch, but imagine if it had been released not as a website but as an open protocol, complete with an open-source implementation that could be installed anywhere.

Google actually introduced a number of open protocols to support social networking and federation of independent networks (some alone, some in coordination with other players), including reference implementations of many of them, long before introducing Google+ (Additionally, Google's gotten behind open protocols that were introduced by others.) Examples of protocols Google developed (alone or with others) specifically for or with application in the social space include OpenSocial and PubSubHubbub among others. Third-party open specifications in the space that they have promoted and leveraged in the past (some still currently) include OAuth, FOAF, and others.

So you don't need to imagine what would happen if Google produced and released open protocols instead of Google+, since they did that before Google+. What actually happened was...well, not quite nothing, but hardly an eruption of decentralized social networking systems displacing centralized systems.

what "released as open source" means here (2)

HaggiStan (2580331) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249203)

It's funny how Bennett thinks that the release of diaspora as open source would be a step forward towards the success of that platform. The sad reason behind that release is that the money is out and the developers don't see a way that diaspora would give them any income, so they couldn't continue working full time on that project and had to move on.

Of course, they're not gonna say it's dead but "release it as open source" (after all, some other guys could continue the work, right?) but there's not gonna be any full time core team behind the project simply because it's not a viable model to pay the rent/mortgage.
IIRC, the initial funding about 2 years ago was about $200000 for 4 devs. That's $25000 per dev per year. It would take a lot of idealism to continue working full time as a dev for that money, and even more so for $0 now that that money is gone and there's no income in sight.

This is the right direction, anyway... (1)

dtjohnson (102237) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249307)

Facebook is a monstrous data bucket that is never full and is never emptied. We've already seen job applicants being asked for their facebook logon info so that potential employers could see what was stored on facebook. People want a way to communicate informally with friends and family without those personal communications being stored, tracked, and logged for 50 years and then distributed to irrelevant future data leaches. The Diaspora distributed approach is the direction that this needs to go.

I do not get it. (2)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249323)

Decentralizing lets us run our own 'servers', linking these together into a whole constellation of users. Right?

- Is it safe to assume that some servers will not be configured the same as others? If so, then will I see 'friends' out 'there' with different bits of data available to me? Inconsistency is the hobgoblin of restaurants and web services. This is not good. It sure isn't an improvement. If I want more granularity, I will also suffer from others granularizing themselves into irrelevance. Then I get sleepy.

- Am I expected to trust other adminstrators? Sure. Now I get to decide which of thousands (millions?) of admins I am willing to trust. And this is an improvement how?

- Disapora protects my data from other admins snarfing it and giving it to whoever, right?

- You think it's a good idea to host these servers all over the Web? My ISP has a very different view of this, even if it is for a dozen family members who register a few dozen hits a day. Somehow, I betcha we end up with Disapora hosts that consolidate these servers into hosting sites. For a fee. How much do you think it's worth to me to offer my friends and family this social network? Discount that for the abuse I will take when I refuse to delete some unflattering post. Not really very attractive to me yet.

- These hosting aggregators would probably offer free sevice if I let them mine my data, you know. Back to the future. Mission accomplished.

I just don't get it.

OStatus is here and working (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249339)

StatusNet, Diaspora and Friendica already all support OStatus as a means of standard communication. It's a technology and protocol easily implemented in other software too, as all the technology in use is standardized and well-spread (Webfinger, PoCo, PuSH, Salmon etc.)

The reason most people haven't started using any of those services are of course the network effect. But with recent Twitter Api lockdowns and Facebook getting all kinds of bad press, maybe more users try to find alternatives.

Why trust hosting companies? (1)

jdogalt (961241) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249367)

The part you lost me at was here-

"
"There's no particular reason why any one of those functions could only be carried out on a centralized system. I can envision a distributed protocol with many different servers, or 'nodes,' run by different hosting companies, and each 'node' can be used to store many accounts
"

*I* can envision a distributed protocol with many different servers, or 'nodes', run by *the users themselves*, and each 'node' can be used to store many accounts...

Note that I've recently filed an FCC Form 2000F complaint about Google's anti-network-neutrality bahavior as they are entering the fixed broadband ISP market here in Kansas City, Kansas. It's something of a quixotic war about the right for all end users of fixed broadband connections protecting their FCC-10-201(p13) rights to create successful content, applications, services, and devices on the general purpose technology of the (IPv6) internet. You can read the 57 post, 14 author (out of 23 members) thread in the discussion forum of the Kansas Unix and Linux Users Association here-

https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/kulua-l/LxsOtdglNM0 [google.com]

Money (2)

tonywestonuk (261622) | about a year and a half ago | (#41249381)

I made a game, hosted on facebook that earns me a fair income from people spending facebook credits with it. ..... Facebook handle everything to do with credits, etc.... purchasing them, giving refunds, etc.

How can I make money, if Diaspora took over. Would people become too frightened to spend if there isn't a benevolent dictator to step in should they feel they've been duped?... If I cant make money, then I wont make stuff. No stuff, means a boring Social network

Facebook's value isn't its code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41249505)

The value of Facebook isn't in the software. The value of Facebook is the user network. Good luck open sourcing that.

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