Facebook

Silicon Valley Investors Wants to Fund a 'Good For Society' Facebook Replacement (calacanis.com) 216

Silicon Valley angel investor Jason Calacanis just announced the "Openbook Challenge," a competition to create a replacement for Facebook.

"Over the next three months, 20 finalists will compete for seven $100,000 incubator grants," explains long-time Slashdot reader reifman. "Their goal is to find startups with a sustainable business model e.g. subscriptions, reasonable advertising, cryptocurrency. etc. And they want it to be 'good for society.'"

Jason Calacanis writes: All community and social products on the internet have had their era, from AOL to MySpace, and typically they're not shut down by the government -- they're slowly replaced by better products. So, let's start the process of replacing Facebook... We already have two dozen quality teams cranking on projects and we hope to get to 100...

This is not an idea or business plan competition. We're looking for teams that can actually build a better social network, and we'll be judging teams primarily based upon their ability to execute... Keep in mind, that while ideas really matter, Zuckerberg has shown us, execution matters more.

Calacanis has even created a discussion group for the competition...on Facebook. And his announcement includes a famous quote from Mark Zuckerberg.

"Don't be too proud to copy."
Facebook

Ask Slashdot: Is There a Good Alternative to Facebook? (washingtonpost.com) 490

Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein argues that fixing Facebook may be impossible because "Facebook's entire ecosystem is predicated on encouraging the manipulation of its users by third parties who posses the skills and financial resources to leverage Facebook's model. These are not aberrations at Facebook -- they are exactly how Facebook was designed to operate." Meanwhile one fund manager is already predicting that sooner or later every social media platform "is going to become MySpace," adding that "Nobody young uses Facebook," and that the backlash over Cambridge Analytica "quickens the demise."

But Slashdot reader silvergeek asks, "is there a safe, secure, and ethical alternative?" to which tepples suggests "the so-called IndieWeb stack using the h-entry microformat." He also suggests Diaspora, with an anonymous Diaspora user adding that "My family uses a server I put up to trade photos and posts... Ultimately more people need to start hosting family servers to help us get off the cloud craze... NethServer is a pretty decent CentOS based option."

Meanwhile Slashdot user Locke2005 shared a Washington Post profile of Mastodon, "a Twitter-like social network that has had a massive spike in sign-ups this week." Mastodon's code is open-source, meaning anybody can inspect its design. It's distributed, meaning that it doesn't run in some data center controlled by corporate executives but instead is run by its own users who set up independent servers. And its development costs are paid for by online donations, rather than through the marketing of users' personal information... Rooted in the idea that it doesn't benefit consumers to depend on centralized commercial platforms sucking up users' personal information, these entrepreneurs believe they can restore a bit of the magic from the Internet's earlier days -- back when everything was open and interoperable, not siloed and commercialized.
The article also interviews the founders of Blockstack, a blockchain-based marketplace for apps where all user data remains local and encrypted. "There's no company in the middle that's hosting all the data," they tell the Post. "We're going back to the world where it's like the old-school Microsoft Word -- where your interactions are yours, they're local and nobody's tracking them." On Medium, Mastodon founder Eugene Rochko also acknowledges Scuttlebutt and Hubzilla, ending his post with a message to all social media users: "To make an impact, we must act."

Lauren Weinstein believes Google has already created an alternative to Facebook's "sick ecosystem": Google Plus. "There are no ads on Google+. Nobody can buy their way into your feed or pay Google for priority. Google doesn't micromanage what you see. Google doesn't sell your personal information to any third parties..." And most importantly, "There's much less of an emphasis on hanging around with those high school nitwits whom you despised anyway, and much more a focus on meeting new persons from around the world for intelligent discussions... G+ posts more typically are about 'us' -- and tend to be far more interesting as a result." (Even Linus Torvalds is already reviewing gadgets there.)

Wired has also compiled their own list of alternatives to every Facebook service. But what are Slashdot's readers doing for their social media fix? Leave your own thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

Is there a good alternative to Facebook?
The Internet

Thousands Of Cubans Now Have Internet Access (ap.org) 70

There's been a dramatic change in one of the world's least-connected countries. An anonymous reader quotes the AP: Since the summer of 2015, the Cuban government has opened 240 public Wi-Fi spots in parks and on street corners across the country... The government estimates that 100,000 Cubans connect to the internet daily. A new feature of urban life in Cuba is the sight of people sitting at all hours on street corners or park benches, their faces illuminated by the screen of smartphones connected by applications such as Facebook Messenger to relatives in Miami, Ecuador or other outposts of the Cuban diaspora...

Cuban ingenuity has spread internet far beyond those public places: thousands of people grab the public signals through commercially available repeaters, imported illegally into Cuba and often sold for about $100 -- double the original price. Mounted on rooftops, the repeaters grab the public signals and create a form of home internet increasingly available in private rentals for tourists and cafes and restaurants for Cubans and visitors alike.

The article also points out that last month, for the first time ever, 2,000 Cubans began receiving home internet access.
Communications

'Only Voice Memos Can Save Us From the Scourge of Email' (qz.com) 290

Emails are great -- so much so that many believe that it's one of the best inventions of all time. But when you get hundreds of emails everyday, things could get harder to handle. Understandably, many have resorted to alternatives such as Slack, Gchat, and other IM services to offload many of the things they previously did exclusively via emails. An article on Quartz today argues that perhaps voice notes is the best alternative to emails. From their article: There's a solution staring us right in the face: a technological tool that preserves the intimacy of the human voice without requiring people to sync up their schedules. As a number of remote workers, diaspora communities and expats have already discovered, voice notes might just be the answer we've been waiting for. Barcelona-based filmmaker Philippa Young, for example, relies on WhatsApp's voice notes to communicate with her nomadic yet tight-knit team of 15. She sends audio notes throughout the day that range from just a few seconds in length to 10 minutes. The system allows her far-flung coworkers to respond whenever the sun rises in their time zone or they manage to find a stable wifi connection. [...] Voice notes also offer an antidote to one of the primary anxieties of the digital era "the fear that emails, texts and instant messaging rob conversation of emotional nuance, leading to endless misunderstandings and social blunders. "The thing that I really value about it for our team spread out across the world is that when I get a voice note from someone, they've spoken to me and I hear their tone of voice," Young adds. "You can hear in someone's voice how they're feeling."
Censorship

Germany Wants Facebook To Obey Its Rules About Holocaust Denial 728

Bruce66423 writes: In a classic example of the conflict of cultures bought about by the internet, Germany is trying to get Facebook to obey its rules about banning holocaust denial posts. From the linked Jerusalem Post article: [Justice Minister Heiko] Maas, who has accused Facebook of doing too little to thwart racist and hate posts on its social media platform, said that Germany has zero tolerance for such expression and expects the US-based company to be more vigilant. "One thing is clear: if Facebook wants to do business in Germany, then it must abide by German laws," Maas told Reuters. "It doesn't matter that we, because of historical reasons, have a stricter interpretation of freedom of speech than the United States does." "Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred are crimes in Germany and it doesn't matter if they're posted on Facebook or uttered out in the public on the market square," he added. ... "There's no scope for misplaced tolerance towards internet users who spread racist propaganda. That's especially the case in light of our German history."
Social Networks

Revisiting Open Source Social Networking Alternatives 88

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.
Facebook

We Need Distributed Social Networks More Than Ello 269

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.
Security

Born In the NSA: These Former Spies Are Starting Companies of Their Own 57

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."
Privacy

Encrypted Social Network Vies For Disgruntled Facebook Users 162

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.
United States

NSA Spying Hurts California's Business 277

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)."
Social Networks

How To Block the NSA From Your Friends List 224

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.
Social Networks

First Community Release of Diaspora 111

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.'"
Social Networks

Decentralized Social Networking — Why It Could Work 128

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.
Facebook

What Happened To Diaspora, the Facebook Killer? It's Complicated 215

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.'"
Social Networks

Bring On the Decentralized Social Networking 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.
Games

Battlestar Galactica Community Game Diaspora Has Arrived 121

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."
Social Networks

Diaspora* Announces It Is Now a "Community Project" 124

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."
GNU is Not Unix

GNU Media Goblin 0.3.0 Released 43

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.

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