reifman writes Upstart social networking startup Ello burst on the scene in September with promises of a utopian, post-Facebook platform that respected user's privacy. I was surprised to see so many public figures and media entities jump on board — mainly because of what Ello isn't. It isn't an open source, decentralized social networking technology. It's just another privately held, VC-funded silo. Remember Diaspora? In 2010, it raised $200,641 on Kickstarter to take on Facebook with "an open source personal web server to share all your stuff online." Two years later, they essentially gave up, leaving their code to the open source community to carry forward. In part one of "Revisiting Open Source Social Networking Alternatives," I revisit/review six open source social networking alternatives in search of a path forward beyond Facebook.
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes: Facebook threatened to banish drag queen pseudonyms, and (some) users revolted by flocking to Ello, a social network which promised not to enforce real names and also to remain ad-free. Critics said that the idealistic model would buckle under pressure from venture capitalists. But both gave scant mention to the fact that a distributed social networking protocol, backed by a player large enough to get people using it, would achieve all of the goals that Ello aspired to achieve, and more. Read on for the rest.
First time accepted submitter ElyKahn (3637855) writes "The diaspora of startups with an NSA pedigree is rapidly growing. These startups, such as Sqrrl, Virtru, and Synack, are typically security-focused and often are commercializing technology projects from the NSA. However, coming from the NSA is a dual-edged sword... the technology is world-class and cutting-edge, but they must also fight the viewpoint of some that the startups are merely a front for the NSA."
Last week you had the chance to ask ESR about books, guns, and open source software. Below you'll find his answers to those questions.
angry tapir writes "With the look of Google Plus and Facebook-like elements, a new social network named "Syme" feels as cozy as a well-worn shoe. But beneath the familiar veneer, it's quite different. Syme encrypts all content, such as status updates, photos and files, so that only people invited to a group can view it. Syme, which hosts the content on its Canada-based servers, says it can't read it. "The overarching goal of Syme is to make encryption accessible and easy to use for people who aren't geeks or aren't hackers or who aren't cryptography experts," co-founder Jonathan Hershon said in an interview about the service." See also Diaspora.
mspohr points out an opinion piece from Joe Mathews that "makes the argument that California's economic life depends on global connections. 'Our leading industries — shipping, tourism, technology, and entertainment — could not survive, much less prosper, without the trust and goodwill of foreigners. We are home to two of the world's busiest container ports, and we are a leading exporter of engineering, architectural, design, financial, insurance, legal, and educational services. All of our signature companies — Apple, Google, Facebook, Oracle, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Chevron, Disney — rely on sales and growth overseas. And our families and workplaces are full of foreigners; more than one in four of us were born abroad, and more than 50 countries have diaspora populations in California of more than 10,000.' It quotes John Dvorak: 'Our companies have billions and billions of dollars in overseas sales and none of the American companies can guarantee security from American spies. Does anyone but me think this is a problem for commerce?' It points out that: 'Asian governments and businesses are now moving their employees and systems off Google's Gmail and other U.S.-based systems, according to Asian news reports. German prosecutors are investigating some of the American surveillance. The issue is becoming a stumbling block in negotiations with the European Union over a new trade agreement. Technology experts are warning of a big loss of foreign business.' The article goes on to suggest that perhaps a California constitutional amendment confirming privacy rights might help (but would not guarantee a stop to Federal snooping)."
Atticus Rex writes "The fact that our social networking services are so centralized is a big part of why they fall so easily to government surveillance. It only takes a handful of amoral Zuckerbergs to hand over hundreds of millions of people's data to PRISM. That's why this Slate article makes the case for a mass migration to decentralized, free software social networks, which are much more robust to spying and interference. On top of that, these systems respect your freedom as a software user (or developer), and they're less likely to pepper you with obnoxious advertisements." On a related note, identi.ca is ditching their Twitter clone platform for pump.io which promises an experience closer to the Facebook news feed. Unfortunately, adoption seems slow since Facebook, Google, et al have an interest in preventing interoperability and it can be lonely on the distributed social network.
New submitter Jalfro writes "Following premature rumors of its demise, the Diaspora core team announce the release of 0.0.1.0. 'It's been a couple of exciting months for us as we've shifted over to a model of community governance. After switching over to SemVer for our versioning system, and plugging away at fixing code through our new unstable branch, we're excited to make our first release beyond the Alpha/Beta labels.'"
Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes with "a response to some of the objections raised to my last article, about a design for a distributed social networking protocol, which would allow for decentralized (and censorship-resistant) hosting of social networking accounts, while supporting all of the same features as sites like Facebook." Social networking is no longer new; whether you consider it to have started with online communities in the mid-90s or with the beginnings of sites many people still use today. As its popularity has surged, it has grown in limited ways; modern social networks have made communication between users easier, but they've also made users easier to market to advertisers as well. There's no question that the future of social networking holds more changes that can both help and harm users — perhaps something like what Bennett suggests could serve to mitigate that harm. Read on for the rest of his thoughts.
pigrabbitbear writes "Created by four New York University students, Diaspora tried to destroy the notion that one social network could completely dominate the web. Diaspora – 'the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network,' as described on their Kickstarter page – offered what seemed like the perfect antidote to Zuckerbergian tyranny. The New York Times quickly got wind. Tired of being bullied, technologists rallied behind the burgeoning startup spectacle, transforming what began as a fun project into a political movement. Before a single line of code had been written, Diaspora was a sensation. Its anti-establishment rallying cry and garage hacker ethos earned it kudos from across an Internet eager for signs of life among a generation grown addicted to status updates. And yet, the battle may have been lost before it even began. Beyond the difficulty of actually executing a project of this scope and magnitude, the team of four young kids with little real-world programming experience found themselves crushed under the weight of expectation. Even before they had tried to produce an actual product, bloggers, technologists and open-source geeks everywhere were already looking to them to save the world from tyranny and oppression. Not surprisingly, the first release, on September 15, 2010 was a public disaster, mainly for its bugs and security holes. Former fans mockingly dismissed it as 'swiss cheese.'"
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.
New submitter funtapaz writes "Diaspora: Shattered Armistice, the Battlestar Galactica game based on the FreeSpace 2 Open engine, has launched! This cross-platform (Windows, Linux, Mac) release includes the ability to fly the MK VII Viper, the Raptor (or the new MK VIIe strike variant), multiplayer, a mission editor, an original soundtrack, and full voice acting."
History's Coming To writes "Decentralised social network startup Diaspora* announced on their blog today that they will become a 'community project' with the intention of making it an entirely community-driven, community-run project. Whether this is a sign of the project losing impetus, or whether this will provide the push needed to challenge commercially run social networks, remains to be seen."
A mere year since the Mediagoblin photo/video sharing project was started, the project has hit version 0.3.0. Release highlights include: a rewrite of the database from MongoDB to SQL (via SQLAlchemy, making it much easier to install), audio support (using the HTML5 <audio> tag), a first take on a mobile interface, and smarter video buffering. Not content to sit idle, the developers are starting work on Salmon protocol support to federate with software like Diaspora in the next release.
phaedrus5001 writes "Tech Crunch is reporting that one of the co-founders of Diaspora, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, has passed away. He was only 22. At the moment, the cause of his death is unknown."
CWmike writes "Diaspora, a widely anticipated social network site built on open-source code, has cracked open its doors for business, at least for a handful of invited participants. 'Every week, we'll invite more people,' stated the developers behind the project, in a blog item posted Tuesday announcing the alpha release of the service. 'By taking these baby steps, we'll be able to quickly identify performance problems and iterate on features as quickly as possible.' Such a cautious rollout may be necessary, given how fresh the code is. In September, when the first version of the working code behind the service was posted, it was promptly criticized for being riddled with security errors. While Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg may not be worried about Diaspora quite yet, the service is one of a growing number of efforts to build out open-source-based social-networking software and services."
eldavojohn writes "Facebook is rolling out some new changes (including groups) that are supposed to liberate user control. But something that might interest Slashdot readers even more is that they now allow you to download all your information from Facebook. That's everything — all your posts, pictures, videos, friend lists, etc. A video from David of the Open Source team at Facebook explains how it will work, although I don't see that option on my profile yet (they are slowly rolling it out). There's not a lot of details yet, but they at least require you to click a link from an e-mail and reenter your password to get this (to avoid spambots harvesting everyone's data and careless use of public computers resulting in data leaks). Perhaps competitors like Diaspora would be interested in using this base information to germinate user seeds?"
patio11 writes "Diaspora, the privacy-respecting OSS social network, did a code release last week. Attention immediately focused on security. In fact the code base included several severe security bugs. This post walks through the code, showing what went wrong, and what it would let an attacker do to someone who was using Diaspora." The developer who wrote the post ends with: "You might believe in the powers of OSS to gather experts (or at least folks who have shipped a Rails app, like myself) to Diaspora’s banner and ferret out all the issues. You might also believe in magic code-fixing fairies. Personally, I’d be praying for the fairies because if Diaspora is dependent on the OSS community their users are screwed."
Stoobalou writes with this excerpt from Thinq.co.uk: "Following the release of the source code for the Diaspora social networking platform, hackers and tinkerers the world over have been poring over the code in order to improve, enhance, and otherwise help the project in its attempt to unsettle Facebook. Sadly, the current opinion is that the code just isn't up to scratch. While the team clearly stated that 'we know there are security holes and bugs' in the code that was released, it's possible that they weren't aware of just how many show-stopping issues there are — issues which make it hard to recommend that you roll your own Diaspora server just yet."
jamie writes "A post has just gone up on Diaspora's blog revealing what the project actually looks like for the first time. While it's not yet ready to be released to the public, the open-source social networking project is giving the world a glimpse of what it looks like today and also releasing the project code, as promised. At first glance, this preview version of Diaspora looks sparse, but clean. Oddly enough, with its big pictures and stream, it doesn't look unlike Apple's new Ping music social network mixed with yes, Facebook."