A few years back I heard quite a few times things like "What do I need a website for ?", some would add things like "Why would I ever post photos of my last vacation, family and/or pets online ?". Today, almost everyone I know has a social network profile (orkut, friendster, myspace, facebook, twitter, etc etc). Of course there is one major difference; Everything is neatly centralised and completely out of the control of those who create all the content. A few side effects are:
- Communications between 2 peers always goes through a third party (and their sometimes partners) system, and stays there
- Loss of publishing freedom
- Limited formats/method of communication (videos, image sizes, things like that)
- Terms of service - nobody ever reads this stuff ! Why ?
- Copyright issues - because this is not a private space and we must all obey United States laws
- Targeted advertisement, because of course it is not free (IMHO having advertisements in a "private" space can be slightly annoying)
- Personal data and anything you do on the site can be used for marketing studies.. up to you to weigh the good/bad
So what now ? Well this situation has created a need for something more Internet-relevant and voilà, 4 guys have decided to dedicate their summer vacation to creating an open platform that will allow people to be their own part of the social web. The idea is to provide a CMS type application that people can install wherever they want, just like a personal web site. This means you would have control over your stuff and communications would not go through a central 3rd party service and get read/analysed, altered, moderated, censored or any such thing.
This is not even about being against social networking sites but more about the limits of their design, a commercial website must follow rules/laws/regulations etc, in short they have to take some responsibility for the published content as well as the interactions between users of their service. Of course you can (and should) also add the fact that the main interest of most (if not all) of these social networking sites is revenue by advertisement, this kind of means that the user is not the real client and hence is not the most cared for.
Because each node runs completely independently the whole network is never directly connected, meaning if you wish you may completely isolate your node from the public eye, restrict access to it to specific nodes or even run a set of nodes on a private network for some kind of intranetish activities.
This project should hit the first usable stage somewhere in September so stay tuned to: Joindiaspora.com.