After several weeks of shocking revelations about Facebook accounts being hacked to say things their users never intended, needless to say I’m quite depressed about the state of social networks. I am actually considering shutting down my Facebook page since I can no longer be sure what I’m reading there is what my friends actually put there or instead the work of some outside (or inside) hacker.
There’s Google Plus, of course, but who’s to say that it couldn’t fall under the same spell (or under the same misfortune) that Facebook did?
What if there was another alternative, completely free and open? Sort of like an “RSS on steroids” that would share the content I created from a server I managed? What if it took the best of blogging, Twitter, and Facebook and tied it together with a flexible content-protection system that emulated “friends” or “circles” only it worked across separately-owned servers?
I remembered that local company Red Hat had experimented in 2006 with its own social network platform, called mugshot.org. Mugshot seemed to be a server-based system as opposed to distributed, which still make it vulnerable to trust issues like the current Facebook fiasco. At any rate, Red Hat pulled the plug on Mugshot (though like almost all open-source software the code lives on, this time as a project called Magnetism
That brings me to an open source, distributed social network known as Diaspora. The Diaspora platform comes closest to my ideal of social networking platform: it’s controlled by the users and not some corporation, it provides controls on who sees what, and it’s open. What it doesn’t have is 1 billion users but to me that isn’t a bad thing. I can barely keep up with the 600+ Facebook users in my friends list now, much less another billion.
Will my friends use it? That remains to be seen. I will download it this week and see what it’s all about.
Also interesting is the Tent protocol, a social media protocol similar to the SMTP or HTTP protocols we all use for email and web surfing. I haven’t looked into what Diaspora or Tent can do but I consider both to be the salve for the pain many Facebook users will soon be feeling.
Bonus link: Forbes takes a look at all the open alternatives to Facebook, including others like Friendica, FreeNet, BuddyPress, Kune.cc, and OpenMicroBlogger.