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Towards a world without Facebook (techcrunch.com)
323 points by middle1 on Mar 25, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 157 comments



The quintessential moat Facebook has is its strong network effect facilitated by ease of use. Facebook is simple. To the point where my elder relatives refer to Facebook as "the Internet": the place where they can see funny clips, talk to friends and share their photos and thoughts.

For every person bemoaning how Facebook extended and proceeded to take a dump into her favorite aspect of the Internet - be it online publishing, email and chat, news feeds etc. - turning it into a restricted, ad-infested, bastardized version of itself, I have only one answer: Facebook could only do that because there was a margin for simplification that attracted the average users.

If you want to move to a world without Facebook, you need to make it simpler yet, and even more compelling for average users. The margin for simplification Facebook operated in circa 2004 is long since gone and a perfect Facebook clone will not break it's strong incumbent advantage.

So when I hear things like token operated blockchain based distributed social networks I really have a hard time understanding how does it simplify things. Yes, it might get a niche following inside crypto circles, but it has nothing to do with "a world without Facebook".


When people propose blockchain solutions, I always think: How would it work with just a regular database? How would a blockchain make it better? What coalition of people will run the blockchain, and why would they be more trustworthy than whoever would run the database?

There are good answers to these for some applications, but I don't see what they are here.


I would like to add: Do they understand that it's impossible to delete anything that got commited to the block chain once a block is accepted? I mean at least if they think about a blockchain in the sense of the Bitcoin blockchain. Implementing a deletion of prior blocks is an interesting problem.


I expect that is exactly the point, no more "censoring overlords" :-)


"People are stashing irrevocable child porn links, dox, copyright infringement, and leaked state secrets in the blockchain" - https://boingboing.net/2018/03/19/cant-block-the-signal.html

Sometimes it's not about Big Bad Censoring Governments.


You can absolutely delete. You just append data that represents a delete, and the client doesn't show that item or shows it as deleted.

Yes, it doesn't remove that data from the chain and a client could easily end up undoing deletes, but if you think that server based deletes actually remove the data, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise depending on the servers in question.


In the case of social media, this isnt enough. Certainly someone will create a client that shows you everything that’s been deleted. Can you imagine if you had used social media since you were a pre-teen and every bit of it was public record? I’m sure no one would use that service.


But that's how it works. You should assume everything you've ever posted to another server could someday become public record. Especially with social media since it's being posted specifically to be viewed by others who may copy and redistribute that data at any time.

People redistribute snaps all the time even though they're supposed to "go away", yet people still use it.


To the parents: the solution is to not allow pre-teen social media. In my opinion.


The algorithm needed for Multi-Master (decentralized) data is a CRDT (Conflict-free Replicated Data Type).

Specifically, this solves the problem of data consistency across different node/peers without needing a central (ie, Facebook's servers) master.

The way it works, is like so: http://gun.js.org/distributed/matters.html

However, a blockchain is still actually useful for a P2P Facebook. A blockchain that uses a consensus algorithm (PoW, PoS, etc.) is not scalable enough, though. But that is okay, as we do not need to solve the Double Spending problem for tweets/photos (see the previous link as to why).

So what does a "blockchain" mean then? A blockchain is a cryptographically signed linked list, often a DAG (Directed Acyclic Graph). But these graphs would more likely be social networking data, which is naturally a graph - and they would be signed with user's public/private key pair.

Solving for that is pretty easy, we already have it working:

http://hackernoon.com/so-you-want-to-build-a-p2p-twitter-wit...

And our goal is to build a social network that has distinctly different properties than Facebook, one that is based on psychological research and emotional intelligence:

https://hackernoon.com/a-new-kind-of-social-network-emotiona...

Finally, the hardest factor is to remove the complexity of cryptography. There turns out to be a good security standard that lets user emulate username/password combos (see the middle link for more details), in summary:

You use PBKDF2 to extend a user's password with a salt, this creates a Proof of Work which is used as an AES symmetric cypher key to decrypt their private key. Fully P2P, but with a traditional UI that users understand, yet PBKDF2 makes it impractical for a cracker to guess (or even a dictionary attack) against the user's account.


Hi Mark. I really like GunDB but i see your comments on hacker news so often that i almost started to think that you are a bot. I mean it is great to market your database but GUNDB can't be answer to everything.

I would understand if you were pushing some alternative social network like Scuttlebutt/Patchwork but pushing database on every hacker news post with social media theme is strange.

Do you propose to replace facebook with gundb app that is possible to make in two minute tutorial: https://hackernoon.com/so-you-want-to-build-a-p2p-twitter-wi... since you share it everywhere?

Don't get me wrong. I think GunDB is wonderful project that i actually want to use for things but maybe this is not best way to get new users.

If i didn't know about GunDB and saw your frequent similar comments on Hacker news i would be pretty suspicious.


Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it. Here is my reasoning process.

Ultimately, I have to choose one of two philosophies:

(A) Be ashamed of the free (MIT/ZLIB/Apache2 Open Source) code that I have spent tens of thousands of hours donating for others to use.

(B) Or strongly believe in why I've devoted so much of my life to, fixing these problems, and be proud to share and evangelize it with the world.

Obviously, I don't want to come off as a bot, but ever since the first day I started working on GUN I've gotten haters saying things. As a result, it forced me to grow a thick skin. Even if you try to do nice things, people try to hate you, be skeptical, or be suspicious (this is a natural human tendency).

So, do I be (A) fearful to not post or comment, simply because I know some will not like it or get tired of it? Honestly, the thought crosses my mind every time I basically do anything in life, but I've decided "No, that is an easy trap of depression and pessimism to get stuck in."

Instead, I've decided to be proactively do (B), that even if only 1 person gets value out of my post, and they discover "Aha! This is a free MIT/ZLIB/Apache2 system that does EXACTLY what I need!" then my belief is that the world is better off. Better off for them, better off for me, and hopefully better off for the users who use the app they create.

If I forced you to pay me $$$ to read my articles or $$$ to use my code, then there would be a strong argument that my behavior is unethical.

Or even if I tried to show you ads or mine your data, then that would be unethical.

The problem is, I'm building tools that fight that type of unethical behavior. But that immediately puts us at a disadvantage compared to those who do exploit/manipulate people/the-masses into doing things.

Now, what is the relevance of the week-long HackerNews-obsessed Facebook debacle?

Well, I hope my comments have pointed out clearly, that nobody would be in this situation if they used P2P/decentralized end-to-end encrypted systems. And that is exactly one of the reasons why I've built the tool, and donated it for anybody to use. However (perhaps this is my pessimism coming through), it seems like people get more glee complaining/griping about how evil Facebook is for hosting all their pet/child photos for free, while still playing the victim card, AND doing nothing to change their behavior or spend time/energy/work to build alternatives. (To clarify: We shouldn't pity Facebook, they profit a lot off of people, but building solutions is a better win for the world than complaining about it. Although I'm afraid comments like that will cue the haters.)

I do occasionally mention SSB, Mastodon, etc. but they also have their problems (Mastodon is federated, will lead to the same thing as with email, everybody will use gmail), SSB is way way way better.

So, there you go. Thoughts?


Whew, finally a comment with some actual details on how this might all work and be useful.

How do I delete data in this scheme? Maybe by signing each data "node" with a separate key, which can then be shredded if I want? Where would those keys be stored?


> What coalition of people will run the blockchain, and why would they be more trustworthy than whomever would run the database?

No person or company is allowed to own more than 24.9% of a banking charter, and preferably not more than 10%. The reason is that having multiple entities each pursuing their own agenda makes it less likely that everyone will collude and run off with the money. It doesn't especially matter who those entities are, as long as they're not closely affiliated with one another.

Similarly, for whatever problems democracies have, they tend to function at least marginally better than corporate-owned countries like Rhodesia, Batavia, etc. And economically, there is a reason why currencies tend to be a better store of value over time than in-app credits or company scrip.

Personally I think creating government privacy legislation would be a much better use of time than trying to build a social network on blockchain, but I understand the thought process.


> No person or company is allowed to own more than 24.9% of a banking charter, and preferably not more than 10%.

I'm curious, is that a law? From which country?


It's a U.S. law, not sure about other countries.

I believe it's the Bank Holding Company Act:

https://www.federalreserve.gov/bcreg20080922b1.pdf


The one main advantage that I'm aware of is that a distributed, decentralized database for a social network would mean that there is no one private company that gatekeeps, owns, and sells the personal data within.

For all intents and purposes, Facebook's database is closed source. The community doesn't know exactly what this private company does with this data. We have to trust them with it. A blockchain database is trustless.


That's a complete bastardization of the concept of "trust" as applies to distributed systems.

You're not 'trusting' a single entity in that case because you're making literally all the information public for anyone to see, use, resell, etc.

That's like saying we shouldn't have to trust Equifax, let's just make everyone's name, address, SSN, and credit history public on the internet to begin with.


There are plenty of distributed file systems that securely store confidential data on untrusted nodes by having well-design encryption. Is there a reason for which it would be worse with blockchains?


The whole point of social media is making that information available to people, though.


It's not actually trustless, though. It's just less clear whom you're trusting.

With Bitcoin, the people you're trusting are miners, and they are highly incentivized to preserve the correct functioning of the system because they get paid in bitcoin and they want it to stay valuable.

With a federated social network blockchain, there'd have to be an incentive to preserve privacy greater than the incentive to do any other bad thing like manipulating elections.


I’m actually wondering why every decentralised solution MUST use the blockchain.


They don't. Even the new cryptocurrencies such as IOTA and Nano don't use blockchain anymore.


> How would it work with just a regular database?

You'd set up another centralized honey pot that these psychopaths actively look for.

> How would a blockchain make it better?

Besides censorship protection, the platform could reward users to make itself better. Lots of things become possible when you have control over the reward system and don't just extract the value to the top.

> What coalition of people will run the blockchain, and why would they be more trustworthy than whomever would run the database?

This is the decentralized aspect. Whoever starts the project isn't necessarily more trustworthy. They might build that trust over time(or not). Either way the project doesn't live and die by them if successful.


> Besides censorship protection

I personally don't think that goes under "features" to be honest. Every uncensored social network is basically a cesspool.


"Any sufficiently uncensored user-content platform is indistinguishable from a porn site"


And if it's completely uncensored (e.g., the Bitcoin blockchain), that's child porn.

The ability to do logical deletes that will be honored by the main consumer client isn't really sufficient to deal with the problem.


A user can run a custom curator. Alternatively sites could be developed that give access to the network and do their own filtering.

There are other choices besides authoritarian censorship, despite the popularity these days.


> Alternatively sites could be developed that give access to the network and do their own filtering.

...and add their own content, which is only viewable from that site and not elsewhere on the network. And the most popular one of those will eventually just displace the decentralized network.


There would be competitive features and low barrier of entry since the data isn't warehoused by one entity.

Sure a platform could add their own features off-chain. But the user would not be rewarded by the protocol for such divergences.


You're right, this is a weird article with a bizarre solution. Throwing obscure technology at a simple human problem is not the solution here. Facebook simply made social communication easier for the average Joes, and in the quest to do so became a monster. IRC/AIM/MSN/Gmail before that, and Snapchat/Slack after that shows that humans just want to communicate about silly things.

Whatever comes next needs to solve the problem to share the silly tidbits, without the greed to turn the users into a data farm.


I think you're downplaying the technical sophistication of Facebook, as well as the pioneering moves it made during its growth phase. Compared to MySpace, which was incumbent during its rise, Facebook did everything faster, with less friction for the everyday user. MySpace would often try and stuff full interstitial page loads between core parts of its user interface.

Facebook invented photos tagged with social profiles. Facebook invented the one-column social news feed. Since going public, Facebook's ad platform has remained at the forefront of useful and powerful online services. You can target users by interest, worldwide location, age, and more. It is an elegant platform that has been mishandled by aloof executies.


The technical sophistications of Facebook were indeed instrumental in it's meteoric rise. After all they were the face of 'Move fast and break things" movement. I'm not sure if blockchain is the solution to the next social platform, but the excessive hype around the term has made me sceptical about that.


> Facebook invented the one-column social news feed.

Did it? Seems a lot like a twitter feed one could build for oneself.

And I disagree that facebook won for being faster or more innovative. Most people I know switched because it was less obnoxious with glittery animations and autoplay audio. Also, the crowd, at least initially, was more attractive to young adults since it was exclusive to people with a university email address.

Arguably it took the lead, at least initially, by doing less.


To read your messages in MySpace required you load a full page of Ads so you could then press "Next" and then see your Messages.

Facebook in its first years did everything in its power to lower the number of page loads necessary to navigate the entire interface. So you're right, it was less obnoxious by being faster.

And I don't know if you realize how big a deal tagged photos and a nice UI for uploading and managing them was. MySpace had nothing like that.

"Twitter Feeds" and news feed launched at the same time in summer 2006. Facebook filed for a patent in August. https://mashable.com/2010/02/25/facebook-news-feed-patent/#c... Nobody used Twitter until the following year when it made a huge splash at SXSW and caused its first growth spike. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Twitter


>"The quintessential moat Facebook has is its strong network effect facilitated by ease of use. Facebook is simple. To the point where my elder relatives refer to Facebook as "the Internet"

I don't think people actually want the Internet, they want a walled garden.

Facebook is the new Compuserve, or AOL.


Something with a the functionality of facebook and the commenting system of reddit would get me on board. When you get into a discussion with someone under a comment they posted on CNN you literally have to check in periodically to see if they replied and if two conversations get going on the same thread the're just layered in chronological order so things get really confusing. Facebook seems to actively discourage discourse. Just leave a comment and go away.

I also like how Mastodons feed just shows everything posted by people you're following in chronological order. I don't need a custom algorithm to decide what shows up in my feed when unless it's an algorithm of my design.

Also facebook has broken a lot of its features on mobile browsers to try and force people into installing it's apps. I don't want facebooks crappy apps on my phone so I have to force the desktop page to load to view private messages, but that breaks the website completely so I have to reload the mobile version of the site m.facebook.com while forcing desktop mode to be able to read private messages from the phone.

I would say that during it's rise to market leader facebook was the most user friendly social networking site, but the whole thing rattles and the tires are getting bald now


simpler is not directly needed, as Facebook already reaches the minimum viable simplicity for many functionalities. More compelling certainly would help.

The killer in getting adoption of any social network is the network effect. You want to be on the social media application because your friends & family is on it.


Which means that it could work on specific communities, right? Just as Facebook started from a single community.


The principle is already well described in Crossing the Chasm[1]. You need early adopters and then figure out from there how to go a mainstream audience.

You probably also need some groundbreaking shift in the medium to create an opportunity e.g. how shift from laptops to smaetphones made photos and videos more compelling than text for some use cases, leading to Instagram and Snapchat. And then Facebook bought Instagram and used it to make Snapchat redundant...

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_the_Chasm


We need the DoJ to take Facebook to court for being a social network monopoly. If AT&T exhibited destructive network effects, Facebook is them times ten. “Market share” measured solely in purchasing consumers is no longer a good sole metric for monopolies.


> We need the DoJ to take Facebook to court for being a social network monopoly.

Being a monopoly isn't actionable.

> If AT&T exhibited destructive network effects, Facebook is them times ten.

No, it's not. AT&T was far worse than Facebook in the practical, and exercised, ability to deny choice in ancillary markets.

> “Market share” measured solely in purchasing consumers is no longer a good sole metric for monopolies.

It hasn't ever been the legal sole metric.


Facebook is the new AOL. It’s got everything old people need to be happy on the internet. It’s even the color blue!


A moat is only useful if the project serves its purpose well. The question I ask myself is how a product that so demonstrably[1] makes people unhappier the more they use it can be sustainable. What problem does Facebook cure?

The engagement loops trigger behavioral patterns that are supposed to encourage healthy relationships, but in this case it pulls us into a low-fidelity world of screens that pulls us away from enjoying the moment together with people that actually chose to be there in real life with us.

The endless feeds are arguably even more destructive as it removes the natural stopping point and the small moments of boredom where our minds get a chance to be creative instead of just consuming.

Maybe real life has a moat that is stronger than Facebooks network? I believe all need people that are offended when we don't hang out often enough more than Facebook likes and pretty pictures, so if the choice is between the two ....

[1] https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/how-facebook-makes-u...


Despite the title of the article, it doesn't show that Facebook use makes people unhappy - merely that it is correlated with unhappiness.

> A moat is only useful if the project serves its purpose well.

It's not clear to me that the purpose of Facebook is to make people happy. Instead, I think it's purpose is to be an low friction way to keep connected to lots of people. It seems to fulfill that purpose quite well.

That people are uncomfortable with boredom is not an inditement of the balm with which they sooth themselves.


> Despite the title of the article, it doesn't show that Facebook use makes people unhappy - merely that it is correlated with unhappiness.

True. Correlation is not causation. However, my argument is that it doesn't seem to solve a problem I can think of well that leads to healthier real-life relationships and heavy use instead seem to correlate with the opposite. Can you think of any? I do think it solves image-sharing and life-updates with remote-family as well as remote-friends well.

> It's not clear to me that the purpose of Facebook is to make people happy.

I agree with you there. What problem Facebook cures is dependent on the person and situation. Things I can think of is; boredom, anxiety, loneliness, social recognition, etc

> That people are uncomfortable with boredom is not an inditement of the balm with which they sooth themselves.

Yes, that is the issue. Real life is hard and when attempting to connect we might receive the same rejections that we are afraid of. At least on facebook someone will like your post and comment on it, although maybe it doesn't strengthen a core group of friends like comments/likes in real life would.


> However, my argument is that it doesn't seem to solve a problem I can think of well that leads to healthier real-life relationships

Perhaps you're young and haven't known life without Facebook? It used to be that people just lost track of each other all the time.

Move for a school? Lose all your friends.

Move for a job? Lose all your friends.

That was normal.

Facebook (and other social networks) allow people to maintain orders of magnitude more weak links than before.


> Perhaps you're young and haven't known life without Facebook? It used to be that people just lost track of each other all the time.

Sure, but now many seem to loose track of people they are sitting in the same room with and maybe even choose to not be in that room due to a social media addiction.

As creators we have a lot of power to design experiences that amplify behavioral patterns. Maybe we've gamed them too much in this case and need to more balance?

> Facebook (and other social networks) allow people to maintain orders of magnitude more weak links than before.

I am old enough to remember that. :) Most people would still at some point settle into a social circle and routine that build healthy relationships where they lived for a while. People move, but few people move so much that this is not possible.

I think weak links are a poor replacement for a person that sits in the same room as you in an engaged conversation.


My 90 year old grandpa still uses my late grandmother's AOL account and is afraid to stop paying the monthly service. He doesn't use Facebook mostly only FWD:FWD:FWD emails.


AOL had pretty much the same moat, so there is hope that Facebook can be dethroned.


Back then, there was room in the world for Facebook to dig its own decently sized moat before it had to meet AOL head to head. Nowadays, that’s harder, certainly in the West.

Because of that, I think it’s likely that, if a company manages to dethrone Facebook, it will come from China, where the government is willing to act as a kind of incubator.

So, IMO, rather than seeing Facebook dethroned, the more likely outcome is a world with two (or maybe three? Europe seems not concerned about being part of the Facebook camp ?yet?, but it, Russia or Arab countries may at some time start helping a large local competitor emerge) giants that split the world geographically, and can’t merge because countries will forbid them from doing that.


I don't know much about the Arab countries, but Russia is perfectly happy with its own state-approved versions of Facebook (Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki).


The network effect works both ways, which many online games and services have discovered. I think Facebook will be replaced with something more local, closer to you, less invasive.


there s the issue of content moderation. Facebook is considered generally safe enough that people post their photos without thinking they ll be placed next to nudes.


blockchain solution x won't help much, because the hard part is not the tech.

It's attracting enough users to survive.


What if we don’t need a Facebook alternative. I haven’t looked at it in 6 months and I don’t have a social-network-sized hole in my life.


The blockchain can just be used to do PKI. People having cryptocurrency wallets installed means they have a private key, and when people have private keys you can do a whole lot of cool stuff.

My blockchain/IoT startup[0] primarily uses the blockchain as just that, a backend for PKI.

[0]: https://ethyl.io/


Why does the average Facebook user care?


They don't.

GP said they had a hard time understanding what the use of a blockchain in social networks would be.

I was trying to get at the point that blockchain being ubiquitous leads to people having private keys which would enable an end to end encrypted social network.


Why not just give people private keys? Why attach them to a blockchain?


My point was that blockchain being ubiquitous leads to people already having a set of keys that they can use.

Of course you can manage keys yourself, but it's a lot harder than if the user already has it set up.


The fundamental problem is economic. It's not that Facebook is invulnerable or that it can't be disrupted—of course it can! The reputational risk Facebook is facing is existential, if it reaches a tipping point things could go south very quickly for them.

The bigger problem is that making something like Facebook requires a lot of resources. You can't achieve that scale, feature-set and UX quality without a lot of engineering manpower. Users expect these things for free, so there will always be some monetization strategy a couple steps ahead of the current cultural standard for ethics.

Startups with high-minded ideals can certainly start strong, but they will inevitably sputter since capitalist incentives overwhelm at scale. I mean just look at Google, it could be the poster-child of disappointed expectations, having come out of academia with their "don't be evil" slogan, but inevitably all large companies come under the thrall of a Wall Street mentality sooner or later. This goes triple if there is no monetization strategy and they are relying on VC funding.

I'd love to see some of these decentralized or other high-minded social media efforts succeed, but even if they overcome the fundamental technical challenges, polishing up the UX to what the masses have come to expect will require a ton of resources that will require funding that seems incredibly difficult to obtain in the current economic culture.


> You can't achieve that scale, feature-set and UX quality without a lot of engineering manpower.

I'm not sure thats true. At the time of their acquisitions Instagram had 13 employees and WhatsApp had 55. Both of those are extremely small when compared to the size of Facebook. And given the size of the acquisition price tags i'd wager facebook felt like both were existential threats.


Both raised millions before being acquired, and likely would need to raise 100s of millions to start today. Facebooks has reached both network effect and economy of scale which is very hard to unseat.


Not really a problem though is it. Compare with DASHs DAO that spend around 30M$ a year on improving and building the system.


You could have said this same argument about Wikipedia vs Encarta back in 2000.

An open source, distributed social network doesn't need many servers and can be built by volunteers, so you don't need VC funding or a monetization model. Just get everyone to host and share their content and the content of their peers.

It may be like Linux and never be fully mass market, but that's totally fine by me, I share different content with my geekier friends than with my non-technical family anyway.


I think the volunteer model abuses a minority of weird humans with the instinct to help too much. We need a model that scales while addressing the status quo diversity of humanity. What I really mean is the fact that almost nobody wants to help, and almost everyone wants free stuff at world-class level (they don't want shitty free things, they want Google/FB level of free).


> requires a lot of resources

That doesn't like a problem that is hard to solve. Any website that will have the growth of facebook can invent solutions along the way.

> polishing up the UX to what the masses have come to expect

I rarely visit facebook but i don't think it's particularly good UX. Tiny Links all over the place, you can barely follow a conversation without getting distracted.


Given that probably 90% of FBs engineering power was spent on scalability and data mining, it seem more feasible than you make it sound.


I was thinking about this a few months ago. I stopped though because I realized most user content (well in my network at least) was photos and video. Which don't belong in a block chain. In fact if you really start to unroll the implentation, a block chain is t even required. I think we just need a common protocol. Then multiple "vendors" can host the information (encrypted so they can't read it), and multiple "vendors" can create clients.

I often feel like the block chain is derailing the decentralized Internet by adding unnecessary complexity.


That sounds like what the folks at Mastodon are trying to do. On the surface they seem to have decent implementations. But every time I think about signing up to an instance, I realise that all the friends I care about (in the social media sense) are on Facebook. It becomes a non-starter for me. The value of Facebook is the social graph, and we put up with it's shortcomings because of that.


Then sign up on a Mastodon instance, make some new friends, and set up a cross-poster.

Edit: I'm getting down-voted - let me expand ... I've set up a Mastodon account, started to integrate, and made new connections. I've also set up a cross-poster, so I can work on either, and I'm finding that my more valuable connections are also migrating to Mastodon. So although it's playing the long game, that's a strategy.

If you don't start, it will never happen.


on the first point - I'm not looking for new friends or to promote any of my own views. I'm looking to get birthday party pictures and the occasional meme from my existing friends and family. Like most people I think - I post pretty rarely, but like to comment from time to time on other people's posts/content.

I agree it's a chicken-egg problem. But there has to be enough value in it for people like me to be worth the pain of transition.

For me there's very little incremental value in another solution. The privacy benefits of using a different service are nebulous - I treat anything I post on facebook as 'public', regardless of my privacy settings, and I really have no reason to believe some other service run by volunteers will be capable of protecting my data, or respecting it at all.

I'm paying for facebook by looking at ads and having 'someone' know something (maybe a lot) about my public facing self. I think for most people that's been a reasonable trade.

I actually _wish_ there were more competition in this space, and a way for these social graphs to be more transferable in some way, but I haven't seen any options yet that are attractive enough to be worth the cost of switching.

[edit] for what it's worth, I didn't downvote you :) the idea of crossposting is a valuable addition to the conversation.


> ... I'm looking to get birthday party pictures and the occasional meme from my existing friends and family.

Noted. Mastodon really is a twitter substitute, not a FB replacement. For these things you're right - there is currently no FB substitute (at least not that I know of, I'd be happy to be proven wrong).

We wonder if Mastodon can become that.

> I treat anything I post on facebook as 'public', regardless of my privacy settings, and I really have no reason to believe some other service run by volunteers will be capable of protecting my data, or respecting it at all.

People are reporting that their FB data contains all their cell-phone call details - are you also happy with that?

> I'm paying for facebook by looking at ads and having 'someone' know something (maybe a lot) about my public facing self. I think for most people that's been a reasonable trade.

But it's not just the things you are explicitly saying are "your public face."

> ... I haven't seen any options yet that are attractive enough to be worth the cost of switching.

... or indeed, at all.

> [edit] for what it's worth, I didn't downvote you :)

You can't downvote a reply to your own comment or submission, so I know you didn't downvote me.

> ... the idea of crossposting is a valuable addition to the conversation.

Cheers.


> "Mastodon really is a twitter substitute, not a FB replacement."

That's interesting, because I'm one of those that never really 'got' twitter. I _think_ the main difference is the distinction between the relationships - 'follower' is different than 'friend'. Following seems to be more impersonal, and so Twitter seems to be more about public information feed from people that think they have something interesting to say (like an rss feed on a blog). Facebook seems to be more about sharing things/stories/events with your friends/acquaintances, although it does have the extra layer there of corporate and celebrity accounts that are followed as well. For me the second category of stuff has been in the 'nice to have' category; it's not why I log on a check my FB feed. I just never found any content worth consuming on twitter - I go to other communities (like HN) or use rss (Feedly) for that sort of stuff.


I bounced once I hit the friction of picking an instance. It's not something you can really join without knowing in advance who you want to talk to or what community you want to join. Like slack or discord, I'd use it to talk to a specific community that is already using it, but not to just join and see what's there, a la twitter or facebook. The flow for it goes community -> platform, rather than platform -> community which is a very different niche I think.


Thanks for the mention, I'd not heard of Mastodon before, and am new to the idea of distributed social networking. It sounds appealing on the surface, but I'm trying to understand its level of privacy/security for user data. (This may be my fundamental lack of understanding of the distributed system).

They say, e.g. your data isn't harvested for ad revenue -- how does one verify this? Is the data encrypted?


The useful part of block chain is the Merkel tree, where each small piece of data is tamper proof and consistent because it hashes the data that came before it. Having all the social data on one big chain would be silly, because it would never scale.

Scuttlebutt is a protocol just like you describe and is already being used by different clients and plugins to build a distributed social network that works quite well.


I have no idea how blockchain helps social media. If my details, my posts or other "my thing" end up in one they're indelible, no? So how does that help me exercise my right to be forgotten? Besides the perf question of syncing blockchains, or the design hit of federating them, or apportioning by some yet-to-be-defined traffic/post/data taxonomy...


I have friends who are almost religious about the "virtues of blockchain", but have little to no understanding of how it actually works. There seems to be this idea that adding blockchain to any existing technology will magically make it better.

I'm all for blockchain technology, but it's not the solution to everything. It's great when you want relatively immutable, decentralized record keeping.


Couldn't the indelible blockchain-embedded data be pointers to data hosted elsewhere? If the externally hosted data is "forgotten", the blockchain-verified pointers would be useless.


Blockchain doesn't store data themselves. We would end up with petabytes of new blockchain data every day otherwise.


Why?


IPFS. There are multiple projects in this space.


For me the trinity is facebook, twitter, and slack, so I've started figuring out how to replace them all at once.

So far riot/matrix seems like it pretty much strictly dominates slack and discord, at least for my purposes.

I know some facebook friends who have started using slack as a way to keep in touch with strong-tie friends, as a way to rely less on facebook and facebook messenger. So riot/matrix could reduce my reliance on facebook in some ways, too.

I haven't tried it out yet, but it seems mastodon is the most likely twitter replacement. Twitter has sucked for me starting about six months ago when things got algorithmic, it totally screwed up my curation.

As for the rest of facebook... I don't know. I was reading this thing about addiction, and how the bitch of addiction is that not only is it the thing you're addicted to, but it is also the thing that makes it harder to kick the addiction. (In the case of a substance, it hacks your brain to make it more difficult to resist impulse/urge.) Seems like something of a parallel, in how using facebook makes it harder to leave. The only path out in those cases is to take slow incremental steps that make it easier to resist over time. So, carving out the pieces of facebook that are important to you. For me that might be a public blog to share my thoughts, an email list, actually gathering email addresses and phone numbers for people on facebook I might want to stay in touch with, etc. Although I still want to check out Disapora and Scuttlebutt... and I don't know if ActivityPub is relevant here.


I don't get what the difference between Facebook and Twitter even is supposed to be. One for people you know and one for people you don't? You can solve that in something like Mastodon by just having two independent content feeds (and you can already set that up).

It probably used to be character limit, but again Twitter has already doubled theirs and Mastodon's is already 500 characters.

That and the main developer of Mastodon is working on media features to make it work better as an Instagram replacement as well.

The real secret sauce is that the Fediverse and AcitivtyPub means if you want a Facebook like experience you can use Diaspora and still friend / share / communicate with people on a Mastodon instance. Different programs can emerge as fews into this data graph but its still the same fundamental primitives (soon to be a web standard) data types.

Speaking of Riot, I'm hopeful the developers will look into integrating it better into said fediverse. It should probably at least support some means for Mastodon hosts to easily spin up a Matrix server at their Mastodon domain with no friction and the same account database. It will probably take Matrix protocol revisions to make that work, though.

Probably one of the important killer but missing features of Matrix will be the ability to integrate into websites the way Facebook messenger does, so you can have the social media site with the popup chat frames.

The only missing feature in my mind after all that is something akin to Facebook / reddit comment threads / disquis / discourse. So that non-social media sites can integrate social media comment sections into their media that either autogenerate threads, repost to a Mastodon instance / on Diaspora and let Fediverse commentors just comment right there on the page.


> Twitter has sucked for me starting about six months ago when things got algorithmic, it totally screwed up my curation.

I've a carefully curated list of people I follow and Twitter is 100% useless with the algorithmic sort. Get a client that has a strictly chronological timeline. For example, I use Flamingo for Android and it's great.


After ditichong Facebook long ago it seems amusing to me that people have such a connection with it and find it hard to leave.

Sure it may seem hard at first. But your true friends will not lose contact with you. You might not know random life events about your seldom communicated with old high school peers though.


I'm not sure I can imagine the perspective of the generation that has grown up with social media for their entire memory. I was in my mid to late twenties before having a mobile phone began to become a routine thing. I myself didn't have one until I was in my thirties. I have always lived in a world without Facebook, because I never started using it. I seem to get along just fine. Not sure what all the fuss is about.


Those kids these days with their new fangled gadgets and social media. In my day we walked two miles uphill each way to share pictures of cats with our friends.


No need to be dismissive. I'm in my early 20s, and most of my life has seen the use of social media as the core mode of communication. Can you imagine moving back to a world where you could only talk to friends in person after you'd experienced talking to friends over the phone? Or shifting back to phone calls only after you'd gotten used to text messages? Like it or not, a paradigm shift has occurred. Personally I think Facebook has gone too far: they've manipulated people too much, and their platform has become mostly useless for its core feature (social interaction) because they've put too much work into monetization, ads, algorithms, and suggested content.

I think there's a lot to be said for what is effectively a collection of personal websites where people can share their life events along with a standardized communication protocol. There are a lot of advantages, like being able to keep up with (slightly) more people and being able to stay in contact with people who live farther away, and who you don't have the money or time to visit in person regularly. But it has to be on a platform that values those things, or it'll go the way of Facebook -- exploitative, and eventually useless.


The GP was talking about not understanding what all the fuss is about with kids these days and their phones and social media and I'm the one being dismissive? Your comment makes more sense under the GP, not me.


I'm confused about why you're dismissive of this person pointing out a very real and interesting situation...not a unique one, but intergenerational gaps in beliefs/lifestyle/socialization/etc is a pretty fundamental challenge throughout the modern world, and the gap caused by iphone/facebook/whatever is a particularly concerning and current one.


I guess it's about the dopamine rush of the always flowing new content and never ending notifications.


I upvoted you. What gets down voted on HN no longer makes sense to me. You make a really good point alluding to the direction our society is heading. I think a world where everything is digital and behind a "veil" of keyboard and monitors is a dangerous one. We need to make sure we don't lose touch with the reality that is the physical world so we don't live 100% online. All I see these days are groups of teenagers standing together looking at their phones...it's fucking terrible.


How will I know if my college roommates got fat though?


In my case there it's not a problem with a good friends, but that I will lose access to some interesting people, who publish/discuss interesting topics on FB.


Decentralization is a red herring, there is nothing wrong with centralized services, it may actually just add to the problems to overcome. What is wrong is that users are not paying for those services. Well, they are paying for them, but only indirectly via the share of the ad budget included in the price of all the things they buy.

That is the core problem, if users would simply pay for the services they use there would be no point to track and analyze the shit out of their behavior. Users could be customers again. So the real question is how do you convince potential users that they are better off paying for services directly?

It is of course not that simple, it never is, think for example about people seeing ads for Gucci bags and actually buying them and how they subsidize people which may see those ads but never actually buy the products because they can not afford them and which may also not have the money to pay for services directly.

But I do not think any of the peripheral issues fundamentally changes the core challenges, getting people off of ad supported services.


Here's why I don't think decentralization is a red herring: in a centralized service, if you disagree, you don't have another option. If you didn't like AOL and quit, there was no way for you to maintain contact with AOL users unless both parties used a different platform.

Decentralized systems like phone, e-mail, and mail allow you to maintain contact with people while having control over your provider. I understand that we've lost some of that control, but the basic idea stands.

If you don't have Facebook, you can't reach out to other Facebook users. If you don't have Verizon phone service, you can still call Verizon users with AT&T or <insert your another phone service>. If you don't have Gmail, you can still send e-mails to Gmail users from Yahoo or <insert e-mail service>. If you don't like USPS, you can send mail through UPS or <insert another service>.


That is a somewhat valid point but I think you and me are using decentralized in different senses here. When I said decentralized I meant a decentralized application, something without central servers. You are more talking about standardized protocols that can be implemented by different vendors and which together form a federated network. There is certainly also some overlap there.

But your examples of phone, mail, and email are essentially all centralized systems with a certain number of vendors for each but together forming a larger federated network due to standardized protocols. Email is probably the closest of your examples to what I call distributed because at least in theory everyone could run his own mail server although in practice it is probably not so easy because spam made everyone pretty paranoid when it comes to forwarding emails from random mail servers.


You're right. I think I'm referring more to "federated" than "decentralized".


> if users would simply pay for the services they use there would be no point to track and analyze ... behavior.

Couldn't they make even more profit by doing both? If they find the optimal balance?

I pay for cable TV, and still see lots of ads, so I guess I'm cynical.


I thought about including this but decided against it. They could of course but I hope people would stay away from such an service. It is really sad that businesses are generally focused on maximizing their profits instead of providing the best service to their customers while making a reasonable profit. Economics 101 promised that competition would take care of that but that obviously has a few failure modes.


Facebook capitalised by being in the right place at the right time, a time when the internet was opened to the non-tech savy, the "regular" world spilled into what was already a social experience. This is why Facebook now has the moniker of the "mom" platform. Technology like blockchain might free the business model from having to generate revenue and better align the experaince.

But I have an easier time believing people will just dump social media than some Utopian public social ledger is going to solve what is essentially a psychological shitfest.


https://steemit.com http://minds.com

Bizarre that jonevans/techcrunch doesn't site these modern social networking sites, only the mysterious demise of Diaspora etc.


This already exists. It's called scuttlebutt and it's awesome. No coin or ICO involved, just a bunch of smart programmers solving hard problems. The best bit is you can use it with just an app, you don't need to setup your own sever or trust someone else's to host your content like every other decentralized social network I've seen.


From what I see, last commit was a year ago and that was just to bump the version number. Is more work being done on this? It looks interesting.

edit never mind, I was looking at https://github.com/dominictarr/scuttlebutt


Still very active: https://github.com/ssbc/


See scuttlebutt.nz the team and user count is still small, but it works well and development is very active.


Unfortunately a name like scuttlebutt does not inspire me to join.

I am also unlikely to recommend it to people in real life. How could they get something so simple so wrong?


How on earth is blockchain going help? Seriously! There is no conceptual situation, in theory or practice, that blockchain will improve upon Facebook situation.

Generally speaking, Facebook is bad for about 5 reasons: 1. Privacy: unexpected people see your data (legally). 2. Right-to-be-forgotten: your data sticks around longer than expected. 3. Data Security: your data is stolen from your data keeper. 4. Cyberbully: Unwanted data surfaces without your control 5. Fake news: wrong information is fed to you.

How do blockchains help with ANY of these? 2. is certainly getting WORSE, since blockchains never forget. 1. is probably getting WORSE, because most blockchains are public. 3. is getting SO MUCH WORSE, because so many other people will now store data, and compromises in any of them will expose everything (think African Prince scam). 4. will become impossible to solve, because the data is going to be public and cannot be deleted, and because all of those anonymous mechanism will ensure that the culprit is impossible to track. 5. won't be impacted.

So, tell me, how the hell do blockchains help? Seriously.

Look, I know blockchain is a cool idea (yay! no need for central database!). However, central database can help in many situation, especially in anything involves history, limit of access, and regulation.


In my opinion: good premise, bad conclusion. Blockchain, as good as it can be, isn't really required for social sharing.

I'm going to state pretty obvious things. We need to take a step backwards. What we need is a decentralized/federated app platform. It must run in any OS, it must allow to any actor to provide its own implementation (and their own apps - providing network effect) and it must be easy to use for the final user.

We already have some parts of this done. Facebook just took advantage that community didn't know what to do with them.


Scuttlebutt seems like an interesting implementation of a decentralised social network:

https://www.scuttlebutt.nz


How about starting by just having a good, open source social platform for the Web, like Wordpress is for blogs. Wordpress is used to host 20% of all new websites.

Meanwhile, to post a comment on TechCrunch, I had to register yet another account with yet another password, and after that the comment I was writing was lost (despite the site saying it will save it). And then I still couldn't post it on a mobile phone!

This is 2018, and you can see how the state of decentralized social networking sucks. I made a video about it:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ1O_gmPneI


Do you really want to live your days feeling dependent on this sort of "service"? Do you really want to say, "but I need Facebook!".

In today's age, you need a phone number and e-mail. It's ok - they are decentralized. Don't let a centralized platform of Facebook's evil nature become necessary for you to live your life.

Delete and forget it existed. Ignore and move on. Give up the benefits and pay the cost.


How about moving away from free services and demanding security, privacy, and customer support. Change our attitudes so we are not willing to be the product any more.


So basically we pay $1 a year instead of giving facebook all our our information?

That might sound reasonable but unfortunately most would probably not pay the $1 even if it was revealed that FB had video of all its users 24/7 since 2008.


I run a Mastodon instance and I’ve had a few users ask me when I’m setting up a Patreon to help cover my costs because they want to start paying for it. YMMV.


Those users are mastodon users? Then they aren’t in the category I mean. I mean the 90% of Facebook users who will not have heard about #deletefacebook when it’s over for this time. And all those people are the reason I use Facebook.

That’s the key to this problem:

- making the product isn’t the problem. Technically it’s been done (e.g diaspora)

- attracting integrity-conscious users isn’t the problem. But they won’t drag the rest along easily.

How to attract a billion Facebook users that won’t even hear about the alternative?


Before they were acquired by FB, WhatsApp charged like 1$ per year for the service. Since they were mobile-first and most people had entered their credit card info to join the App Store/Play Store, the transaction was friction-less for users.

I thought that was genius.


The sudden push from journalists to detach their readership from facebook is remarkable. They media has been pushing the social media website very aggressively from 2007-2008 up until very recently.

Just a few days ago I used a chrome extension to delete all my likes/reactions, posts, and comments (I cringed multiple times while it was scrolling and deleting them). I left 3 or 4 of my photos, and decided against deleting the whole account only because it's an invaluable address book. Realistically, the inertia of people to leave it will keep me as a user for a long time.


What extension is that?



I think the way forward is to embrace ActivityPub and similar endeavours. I'm not sure how much of Diaspora wound up on ActivityPub[0] / ActivitySteams[1] but I feel as though the best path forward for projects like Diaspora is to reach out to W3C to see what could be standardized.

ActivityPub I believe gives us enough metadata to have enough of a social site. Although it all started from GNUSocial (or whatever it was called) and similar open sourced twitter-like platforms, it doesn't necessarily mean we should be restricted to "micro" blogging by those platforms (besides, sharing pictures, and such is somewhat still valid "micro" blogging just look at Tumblr). If the limits are too much you could still at the very least send over a summary between hubs and if the person wants more info they can visit the originating site for the whole post.

I think the path forward is to use open and standardized formats / protocols. We have the technology... There's a couple of implementations for ActivityPub/ActivityStreams already[2], you could either join one and contribute or just start one yourself if none are in the language / license you prefer.

[0]: https://www.w3.org/TR/2018/REC-activitypub-20180123/

[1]: https://www.w3.org/TR/activitystreams-core/

[2]: https://github.com/w3c/activitystreams/tree/master/implement...


If we can get some good examples of social networking sites interoperating with each other using W3C standards like the ones you mention, then things will get very interesting with the introduction of the GDPR in Europe. Specifically, it includes a right to data portability, with the wording:

"In exercising his or her right to data portability pursuant to paragraph 1, the data subject shall have the right to have the personal data transmitted directly from one controller to another, where technically feasible."

https://gdpr-info.eu/art-20-gdpr/

Conceivably, a Facebook user could demand that Facebook support automatically sending their Facebook posts to their friends on third party social networks. I imagine that an EU court would not be very sympathetic to Facebook claiming that it isn't technically feasible for a (large, monopolistic, American) company to support this use case when small open source (European?) competitors have implemented the W3C standards with no trouble.

Once Facebook is forced by the GDPR to publish data to competing sites, I imagine it will feel compelled to also support receiving data from people on those sites, otherwise the one-way flow of data would put Facebook users at a disadvantage. But then there is basically no reason to use Facebook, as users of competing sites would still be able to see and be seen by their friends on Facebook.

This is such a disastrous outcome for Facebook that I wouldn't be surprised if lawyers at Google (or some other big company) were already working on the legal complaints they are going to launch come May, when the GDPR comes into force.


A fundamental distinction needs to be made between blockchain-based and non-blockchain-based decentralized services. Blockchains are insanely ambitious, century-scale, state-killing, finance-replacing behemoths. WE DON'T NEED ANY OF THAT STUFF TO REPLACE FACEBOOK! You're exploding the problem way out of scope, and constant focus on blockchains seems almost like a false flag to demotivize people who just want to build decentralized alternatives to Facebook, which is already an astoundingly huge problem.

Stop trying to put blockchains in web decentralized systems. They're not going to work for several more decades. All we need to do to kill Facebook is solve the self-hosting P2P UX problem, and create a W3C-like body that allows developers to participate in standards creation process for how we schematize common social data. That's it. Once everyone is running a federated node in the cloud or in their basement, then you can go back to doing blockchain stuff.


Facebook badly needs a direct competitor. I wish there was social network with fewer features available, like what Facebook was in 2006-2007. Get rid of the newsfeed—it’s toxic and that’s the worst part of the experience. Make sharing related to specific groups— college friends, family, work friends, etc. I would prefer a social network with fewer features.


Facebook has lists or do you mean it should be more intrinsic to the social network like Google Plus was?


This is so annoying. "A world without Facebook" like it's some kind of almost apocalyptic reality. I'm only 27 and I remember when Facebook came out when I was in highschool. Miraculously, I also remember life before highschool and it was just fine too.

I deleted my account in 2014. Wow big woop. I didn't die, and I still stayed I. Touch with my family and friends I cared about. I spent less time passively stalking people I don't care about. Wow. Amazing. Mind boggling.

I also deleted my account before it became a fad to write some emotional diary about what it's like to get rid of your account like losing a child or approaching the topic like you just jumped to the other side of a heated world wide political debate and too a stand, about the same time as women started to post with no makeup (like wow, you are some kind of fantastical hero making a YouTube video or posting an fb or Instagram pic without spending an hour caking on foundation, more girls should "be brave" and step out like you) and I honestly can't tell them apart.

Stop making getting rid of Facebook a big deal and it won't be a big deal to not have one, the same way I'm a girl and never gave two cents about makeup, quite literally, and I don't make it a big deal to not wear it. I don't waltz around like some superior than thou feministic hero that girls should tremble to their knees.for guidance on how to give up their addiction to drug store eyeliner.

News flash. Your social life will not dissapear, in either case.

What is the deal. We have better things and more interesting things and more important things, all of us to focus our time and energy on than how other people perceive our obnoxiously curated profiles.

Stop giving Facebook so much power. They have power because you give it to them. Theyve been openly untrustworthy for years. So don't give it to them .


We can never replace Facebook with another Facebook, decentralised or not. It needs to be disrupted orthogonally.

Think of the individual components of Facebook that are keeping people from leaving, and create better stand-alone versions of those. Can they be integrated with other things that Facebook doesn't have? Sort of like the concept of disrupting an incumbent by integrating a different part of the value chain from – except there isn't really a (known) value chain.

We have to find new points of integration, new ways of bundling valuable features that makes the whole more than the sum of its parts. It would likely have social components, and probably be defined as a social network, but don't start in that end. Start with the components.

I don't see any other way Facebook is going away in the short term.

Personally I'm really only there because of work and for discovering events. Oh, and stalking.


I guess an art collective could really be a group of people who can actually use some kind of decentralized social network. Especially in countries where there is censorship. So a decentralized network and some kind of control over what you post (like high quality pictures of artworks, and the copyright is really unbreakable). On top of the needs of an artist from a capitalist standpoint (need to protect your product, the artwork) there is the ideological-political one. Most artists I know are very political and leaning towards solutions that are liberal and are implemented despite of governmental agencies as well as big corporations.


Is a world without Facebook one with a real alternative (everyone in the same place), or one where there are many alternatives?

Reddit is a single platform with many mostly-independent communities. Could a similar thing in the shape of a social network exist?


The tech that is proposed in the article sounds a lot like Nano's block lattice, where everyone has their own blockchain.

You could even potentially use it to run this social network by just increasing transaction data size.


Yes! After reading the Nano whitepaper a few months ago I realized it could be a protocol for a general, free, scaleable social network. I've been prototyping and designing it for the past few months. You don't need to increase the transaction data size, just make the transactions pointers to the data which lives somewhere else like IPFS or S3, keep the chains small.

However a week ago I discovered scuttlebutt.nz who also had the same idea, about a year before me, and already had a working useable app. So I've been using it and will probably be hacking on this for a while and see how I could incorporate some of the ideas I came up with prototyping my own network.


Ha very cool. Though who pays for storing the data then?


Every time I check HN I see increasingly dramatic headlines about Facebook, but I have a feeling that when I check Facebook’s stock a few weeks from now it’ll be back up like nothing ever happened.


I'm unconvinced that the US population cares enough about its data to get rid of Facebook anytime soon. The media goes berserk with every new breach, but even the Equifax debacle barely registered in the minds of most Americans. I don't see Cambridge Analytica as a tipping point, because most people are oblivious to the fact that people are deleting their accounts in the first place. Their infinite newsfeeds will be just as full of crap as ever.


The blockchain is a potential solution. But deep down I have high expectations for IPFS — I think a workable, usable alternative for Facebook there could be the beginning of a real movement towards a decentralized Internet.

Also, for anyone in this space: the Facebook killer app is Events. I can share photos & statuses in myriad ways, but I truly only have one way to access a complete events calendar for my city, organizations & social groups.


IPFS claims to use a blockchain, and that nodes in the directed graph cannot be changed. This means IPFS is of no more than cursory interest to me. I want to be able to curtail and even delete my stuff. When I delete a thing, it must be gone. I don't want a record of it, or that it existed. If I retain a thing privately, I don't want it known publicly that I have it.


Facebook's killer feature is the people, not anything else. Everything else is worthless without people and nobody is going to unseat Facebook with some technological solution unless they can convince people to use it and make it dead simple to use.


Why should decentralization equal blockchain? I didn't quite get the idea. Decentralization for social networks was proposed a long time ago. The problem is not in application of it, but in the fact that good social networks aren't supposed to be commercial. And that means someone should invest volunteer time to advance them.

Diaspora grew over the years, and it's still growing. But the growth is slow.


For those of you who read this article and believe there may be a thread of a good idea within, go read Neuromancer.

Gibson had a vision of an Internet with decentralized social media, including decentralized code execution, 35 years ago, and we have not yet realized it - or anything remotely close.


Gibson's cyberspace is a terrifying place where corporations, who execute total control over financial reality, operate centralized computer systems powerful enough to fry a human mind. It's not about a decentralized execution model.


I tried to follow the article, but I don't get what the blockchain technology has to do with a social network.

Also, given how innefficient Bitcoin became with just a few transactions, how could the thing handle the billion of pictures that get shared every day?


What happened to the Freedom Box? I think that is the only promising solution to online data tracking. Most problems could be solved if everyone had a small personal server so that developers could deploy online applications that store the data locally.


But blockchain means all the information is public. So, author thinks it's better to just publish all your stuff by yourself on blockchain than it could be leaked from the evil Facebook's private database?


Malicious ad took over my browser when I tried to visit the link...


I find it curios that the article is calling the 'blockchain people' to save the world from Facebook when the blockchain is a public ledger.


What did I just read


"Towards a world without Facebook"


Boy this is getting old. I hope FB dies for no other reason than for HN to get real content again instead of the same old tired anti FB crap that's dominated the front page for the last 2 weeks.


Yeah! Any technology that affects the lives of millions of people in potential harmful ways should die because it gets to the front page of my favourite news aggregator TWO days in a row!


"wherein users own their own data, encrypted by them, stored in the location of their choice, shared only as and when they explicitly approve"

I'm probably a little late to the party but I just now realized this is exactly DRM for the individual. I don't want anything with DRM and I don't want to impose DRM on anyone else. I dont see how one could be against DRM and for this.


> I dont see how one could be against DRM and for this.

It seems pretty simple to me. People oppose DRM because it is content they paid for and disallows their modifying, repurposing it, etc.

None of those things apply to content I have created. I have the original, non-DRM'ed content that is always editable, I am the owner fo the content....


So if your proud mom wants to share everything her kid is up to with everyone, including Zuckerberg (because he gave her a way to automate reposting your feed for her directly to Facebook), you don't want a way to prevent that?


The implementation may be similar, and arguably the term DRM could apply, but I imagine that a key difference is that DRM (in general) controls how a content recipient can use the content (e.g. I can't modify it, or I'm limited in what programs can open the file). Here, the goal is (presumably) to control who receives access to the content, but not imposing restrictions on people who do receive it.


What about reposts, especially to platforms that don't play the game? The only thing that will stop your naive friend, who thinks your slightly off-color remark about the hot-topic of the week is pure gold, from reposting will be potential threats of legal repercussions if they do (some kind of DMCA amongst friends). Who the hell wants that?

We're either asking for the same thing media companies have been seeking for decades, perfect DRM (billions of dollars haven't found that solutions yet), or we're admitting that none of this works unless everyone you share things with, and the people they share your thing with, completely agree with you about who should see the thing you just shared with them, and know how to prevent software from automatically doing it, perfect trust (most can't even keep their contact lists from leaking). I don't see either happening, ever.

The goal here is to prevent powerful groups from building a profile so they can target ads/guns at you when they decide they want your money/life whenever they decide they deserve it. The only ways I can think of to do that are post anonymously, hope not to get doxed; or STFU and stop broadcasting your life. You can make laws that might make it unprofitable (most likely just for new-comers, the current players will just pay the fines), but that won't stop the guns.




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