This post isn’t about Facebook though, it is about alternatives to Facebook. There are currently no viable open, privacy-first social networks out there. Diaspora is attempting to fill that space and has very quickly raised a lot of cash to help them get started. People are obviously interested in a Facebook alternative, and at heart I think we all know we can’t trust them as far as we can throw them.
Diaspora has the potential to deliver a great open source product, but on the flip side it may just turn out to be vaporware. However, their idea appears to be following a similar model to the Skype / Joost platforms.
This is the model I would propose:
- An engine that runs on any platform, which manages the data you want to share (photos, statuses, links, etc). It would be peer to peer, or in other words, completely distributed and de-centralised.
- The engine would not have an interface, only restful style services. App developers could build their own apps to hook into the standardised API running on your own machine.
- The engine would track your contacts. You could add contacts (authentication mechanism is grey here) and the life streams from those users would be merged by your engine into your news feed.
The key here would be that you essentially have a mini database running locally on your machine or remote cloud storage (hopefully generic and platform independent). The engine stores its data in that database and then other peers (your friends, or potential friends) ask to connect, it authorises them as such and delivers them the stream that you permit your friends to see.
The centralised control of the data is gone. No Facebook to degrade your privacy without telling you. No snooping by third parties without your knowledge.
I would suggest that the default from day one would be to leave everything open. If you want to make things private then you can. Part of Facebook’s problem is that it started private and tried to open up. People don;t like that, but they are happy to accept the process the other way around, as long as they have control over that process.