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Openbook social network (open-book.org)
167 points by MzHN 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 154 comments



I'm actually fine that it is not de-centralized. It is true that federated systems are too complicated for practical use. However, to go against Facebook, we need something like Wikipedia, not Facebook by some other guy who pinky promises that he will be good.

This right here kills it for me, and hopefully others too.

"Why is Openbook not a non-profit?

Making Openbook a for-profit was a hard choice to make. We love Wikipedia, the Ghost Foundation, Founders Pledge, Mozilla and many more. However we see the same struggle repeated over and over again. These companies struggle to grow beyond their profitability. These companies struggle to grow to the size and resources needed to compete with for-profit businesses.

When we need to grow exponentially, we need to be able to raise the large amounts of money needed to do so. Therefore we are officially a for-profit company.

But do note that when we do this, we will make sure the people investing in the company will be people with real interest on the platform, its core values of privacy, security, freedom, openness and its humanitarian nature."

NO NO NO NO NO!!! Why do you have to exponentially grow to be useful. Be the right service, and growth comes by that virtue. People love Wikipedia for what it is, not because it "grows exponentially". You're just another guy with good motives until you succumb to investor pressure.

I've been hoping for a Mozilla/Wikimedia like foundation to come up with a modern centralized alternative to Facebook, that just has it in their bylaws that prevents any creepy tracking from being implemented in the first place.

As they say, "False pretence of security is worse than no security because it makes you let your guard down". Don't dilute the community driven foundations by profit driven projects like this, please.


I agree.

I happen to think that Google, FB & such were founded with a solid ethic. I think Google meant "don't be evil" when they said it. But, the questions come later. Will you increase consumer privacy at the expense of CPCs (and value to advertisers). Will you de-fund some of your blue sky R&D to balance reduced yield on advertising.

Wikipedia is the right model. After all this time, they really are still focused on wikipedia's original goal. I am personally very happy that Wikipedia exists.

The way Wikipedia is supposed to scale, is not by making an amazon-scale wikipedia. It's by doing their job well, and being a prototype/inspiration for others to do other jobs. If Wikipedia was a social network, maybe it would not have "scaled" to also be the world's no. 1 news source. Maybe it would not have become a major IM app. That's not a bad thing. We didn't need Facebook to take over news. We could have gotten our news elsewhere. We didn't need facebook to do IM, same reason.

Wikipedia is not a failure because it didn't scale this way, it is a success for that reason. Being not for profit has let them pass on opportunities for land grabs, in a way that for profits would not have resisted.


> FB & such were founded with a solid ethic.

Then you are likely unaware of FB history. Read the first hundred or so results of https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=dumb%20fucks


>People love Wikipedia for what it is, not because it "grows exponentially".

That's because Wikipedia is not a social network. A social network is only worthwhile if it gains a critical mass of users such that there are enough friends on it (or sometimes, i.e. Twitter, enough interesting people on it) to make spending time there worthwhile. Massive growth is more important to the survival of a social network than to any other business model.


Wikipedia is not a social network, but it definitely does get better as more people use it. Users-editors grow together, and wikipedia is a massive collaborative effort. It takes millions to make a wikipedia.


Define "better". On what metrics are you evaluating Wikipedia? Factuality, writing quality, etc? Wikipedia's process has driven away some of the most knowledgeable subject-matter experts into creating rival publications like Scholarpedia, and pre-Wikipedia incumbents like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy remain stronger imho, despite having fewer (but more qualified) editors.


>A social network is only worthwhile if it gains a critical mass of users such that there are enough friends on it (or sometimes, i.e. Twitter, enough interesting people on it) to make spending time there worthwhile. Massive growth is more important to the survival of a social network than to any other business model.

You can have a place that's worth spending time in without needing "massive" growth.

When the Internet first started to become a cultural force it was still sort of a niche thing. Normal people were on it, but the scattered mess of blogs and online bulletin boards were all over the place. You didn't need to have EVERYONE on every board, you just needed the board for your website to have enough cool people on it to build a community. They rarely got much bigger than a few hundred active members.

You can't make decaf coffee by making regular coffee and taking the caffeine out. You have to prepare the coffee beans in a different way. If you want a social network that doesn't repeat the sins of the current social networks.

For Facebook I don't think their revenue model was their original sin, the revenue model became as invasive and problematic as it was because the company was built by a creepy dude who didn't actually value individual privacy or community very much. If you want a social network that's not dehumanizing and doesn't contribute to atomizing individuals you're going to need to focus on more intimate, community focused interactions.


True that a social media network stands to benefit more from network effect than Wikipedia. But, we already have that for-profit social media network with a huge network effect, and are looking for an alternative. I'd appreciate them trying to find better ways to grow fast while providing an alternative to the creepy mess that is Facebook. Building yet another Facebook for a "good" set of investor this time around is not it.

Don't you think it'd be a better idea to use all that engineering prowess to build a fantastic product that people want to use, run it using a non-profit foundation, and make money for the non-profit foundation by doing exactly what they claim to be their plan now - offering enterprise customised solutions?

Saying that you need investor money to grow exponentially because that's the only way our crowd funded social network will work seems unreasonable/ethically unsustainable to me.


A social network with zero users is worthwhile if I can use it as a blog.


>Massive growth is more important to the survival of a social network than to any other business model.

Growth is. Massive growth is only relevant if you want to compete on the largest, global scale.


> You're just another guy with good motives until you succumb to investor pressure

This. Always chose “open” by design, never by charity.

Funny thing, the marketing seems very close to what we're used to coming from Facebook. Happy-go-lucky language, bright colors, the "be good" attitude and the founder in the center of the spectacle. This whole thing is just a bad joke.


I've always thought that a novel approach would be a social media company in a cooperative structure - where the employees and users are also part owners and would have a say in some of the decision making, as well as sharing in the profits being generated from the information published by the users.

This is probably a non-trivial thing to do correctly, but after reading The Dictators Handbook I think that the power structure contributes significantly to behavior and think a social network structured more similarly to the Green Bay Packers operate would create a better system than Facebook.


It exists: https://social.coop/about

I don't know how well it works.


I agree with you in general terms, but not on this particular issue. Things that rely on a network effect need to grow exponentially - at least at first, or they will die. The reason people use Facebook is because people use Facebook. The reason people do not use alternatives is because people do not use alternatives.

That said, Facebook at one time also had this problem and I think they solved it extremely well by making access feel like a privilege for you rather than patronage to them, by limiting it to exclusive universities. And then all universities. And then finally, to anybody. Google did the exact same thing with 'gmail beta' when invite codes were a sort of mechanism of making users feel like it was a privilege to get to use their software.

On the other hand, neither Facebook or Google was facing a competitor with billions of monthly active users approaching global market saturation.


>Things that rely on a network effect need to grow exponentially - at least at first, or they will die. The reason people use Facebook is because people use Facebook. The reason people do not use alternatives is because people do not use alternatives.

The question is how much of a network effect do you really need? You can't start wanting to take over the world. It works a lot better to start small, with one niche group or community and work from there. This has been how rival social networks have taken off in the age of Facebook.

Discord targeted gamers, Snapchat targeted hipster teens, Signal targeted political activists, FireChat targeted the music festival scene, etc.

If it works well, the feature sets are generalizable, and your social groups are resistant to cooption into or bullying by neo-nazis and the alt-Right you can grow from there.


I agree that network growth is essential in this case, but burning investor money is not THE solution to this need. There are better solutions to achieve that level of patronage and exposure. They'd have to innovate for such ways though. For example,

Let the early users generate badges that they can list on current social networks so that they can brings their friends in.

Incentivise quality content by directly adding up to one's storage/other limits. Example, if 1000 users like your post, then you get extra MB for your photos or some other benefit.

Let the influential/early users(who bring many of their contacts into the network) have first dibs at new features that makes them feel cool.

or any other marketing strategy that people write books about :-)


There is an obvious model which can be for profit but bakes in user ownership and control: cooperatives.

There is plenty of work being done on this area in online spaces - the platform cooperative movement. I wonder if it a major failure of this movement in terms of visibility that this wasn't their go to model.


Why are federated systems too complicated for practical use?


Look, email doesn't work, that's clear proof. DNS doesn't either and if the whole Internet hadn't been centralized long ago, it would have stopped working in, like, 1982. Or, maybe, they are not being honest and centralized gives them more control, like FB.


Not sure they have their priorities right. The last item in the list of goals (at $500,000, no less) are iOS and Android apps. I would think that should come first as without this very few people will want to use the service at all.


I am tired of Apps that really should just be websites. Unless you have some kind of real, functional need to access my phone's hardware or software I don't need you taking up space on my device. I'd much rather just save a book mark to my home screen and launch from there.


Why that? A decent mobile site should be fine, there are quite some people (including me) who even prefer this over apps.


First of all, kudos for trying this.

So far I've only read comments that have a strong tendency towards the destructive or even pejorative end of the spectrum. I think that's unfair considering all the effort they are putting into this.

Having said that, I'd like to know what distinguishes this from e.g. Facebook in the long term. It's easy to put out a manifesto and pledge that you are never going to do bad things. It's also easy to come up with a vague theoretical business model that doesn't really say how it will work.

Let's assume they succeed with this – there is nothing that enforces these early statements anymore and soon investor pressure will lead to an outcome similar to the established success stories.

That's why I think you have to be much more different if you really aim to make a difference at scale.


They're not just trying this. They're asking for money from regular folks with no real sustainable revenue model apart from "we're crowd-funding" [0]. People are free to donate as they like, but I think the whole pitch is not entirely honest.

[0] https://www.open-book.org/en/faq


You should read their FAQ on Kickstarter [1]. There they answer why their project is not federated, what revenue model they aim for, and why they aren't a non-profit.

Here's their take on the business model:

>Our business model is not and will never be advertisements.

>We will have a transparent revenue model based on a generic way for people to securely transact physical and digital goods and services inside the network. This will be done through an atomic digital unit of value. Although this initially reflected as a marketplace, our ambitions go way beyond that.

>Apart from this, we’re also planning to help enterprise customers setting up their own internal, self-hosted and secure social networks with extra functionality such as projects, identity and access management.

[1]: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1520156881/openbook-the...


> There they answer why their project is not federated, what revenue model they aim for, and why they aren't a non-profit.

No, they don't.

Federation-wise, there's not a single word on federation. They talk about decentralization, not federation. To quote my other comment:

> Instead of "Will I be able to run my own instance?", think: Will I be able to follow an Openbook account from my Mastodon account?

As for the business model, I really need more than "atomic digital units of value" and "our ambitions go way beyond that". The last sentence does tell me something, but that something directly contradicts their stand on decentralization.

As for why they aren't a non-profit, they generalize pretty much every non-profit and say that they "don't grow exponentially" (without defining what they mean), and they mention names that do indeed grow year after year.

At the end, none of those three questions are answered for me.


Federation is a sub-category of decentralization, so if they reject the latter it's usually obvious they don't plan to support the former either.

Besides, their reasons for not running a decentralized service do apply for a federated service as well, and as far as I can see, they're using the terms synonymously anyway.

Whether those are good enough arguments, that's another debate.

>At the end, none of those three questions are answered for me.

Well, it's still their answer, and that's what my post was about.


In their (now archived) ideas repo, one guy suggested ActivityPub. But they rejected that specification as not fitting with their requirements. See: https://github.com/OpenbookOrg/ideas/issues/1


Very interesting that their main reason for rejecting ActivityPub is GDPR. Basically, you can't delete information after its been federated out.

This seems to go to far. Give the users control over their data in your system AND give them control over how their data is sent to other systems.

Edit: In the linked issue, OpenBook CEO said that you can't delete mastodon accounts, but Mastodon got that feature a couple weeks after his post:

https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon/pull/3728


> This seems to go to far. Give the users control over their data in your system AND give them control over how their data is sent to other systems.

Depending on how you define "system", being unable to track and/or delete data federated out might put you in a hazardous position around GDPR. It's not just about users controlling their own data. It's also about system operators being able to enumerate who they shared data with, what safeguards and processes they follow, and so on.


If their revenue model is based on people selling each other stuff, it will end up the LinkedIn for MLM.

The Enterprise play sounds like a Holy Grail project. A social network, project management, ActiveDirectory/LDAP all-in-one? As a side project to fund a social network?


>The Enterprise play sounds like a Holy Grail project.

To me it sounds like they want to do what most other social networks do, make businesses pay for their profiles and features.

The trading part I'm doubting as well. That's something quite difficult to set up and scale. So it doesn't bode well when they don't offer a proper explanation.


> That's something quite difficult to set up and scale.

Especially if the admins lock themselves out of the kind of data you need for fraud prevention.


I consider fundraising a part of trying. Without funding it's just not possible to do anything and maybe that's the reason why there are so many open points here.

With regard to your point on the business model. I've criticized exactly this in my comment. I think they need to put more work into this.

If people are willing to donate without a better understanding of their plans then I'm disproven (for now) and it's their right to do so :)


>I think that's unfair considering all the effort they are putting into this.

Putting in effort into something does not insulate you from criticism.


Constructive criticism would be nice though, right?


Sure, but that wasn't my point. I was rebutting your statement. I was not saying what would or would not be nice.

Honestly, I have a completely different read on the content of the comments on this page. I think you are going out of your way to find "pejorative" and "destructive" comments. The majority appear to be pretty well thought out by my eyes. Most people seem to be questioning the efficacy of openbook's approach to the problem. It is obviously something people care a lot about and there are a lot of very legitimate issues with openbook's approach that have been discussed on this page.


You quoted a piece of my comment out of context and then said that "putting effort into something does not insulate you from criticism".

I never said that.

I said that the comments I read up to the point in time when I wrote my comment looked not exactly constructive or helpful.

I agree that later some people made up their minds and contributed helpful criticism.

That does not invalidate my point though.

Maybe we wouldn't have to deal with things like FB anymore if qualified people would use their time to come up with a solution instead of pointing out what does NOT work all the time.


It is worth mentioning that protocol-based social networks exist. Like https://www.scuttlebutt.nz/


This is random, but I believe browser navigation is broken on sucttlebutt.nz (at least on chrome os-x).


Until they can work without installing additional app they will never be mainstream.


Snapchat is counterexample


Also Whatsapp.


Might be interesting if it was federated. Federation is AFAICT the only way to avoid network effects, which are why we're in this whole mess to begin with. (Many more people would have left Facebook after all the scandals if they could interact with their Facebook friends from another site.) There's no way of ensuring that Openbook wouldn't become as evil as Facebook once it had a big userbase.


Today, everybody can build a social network. Apparently though building a social network that's actually used is quite hard and many failed. So I'd expect somebody who tries again to have some novel approach but it doesn't look like it. How does this compare to disapora or mastodon except the lack of federation?

I really wish them to succeed since I'd like to see somebody breaking the facebook monopoly, yet I'm quite sure this won't end any different than disapora, mastadon, app.net and the several ones I can't even remember anymore.

There is this common mistake of seeing these platforms as a technical challenge but in reality, unless you have a novel approach that people crave for, it's a lot of non-technical hustle.


I can't speak for the others, but Mastodon hasn't ended. I use it every day and still meet lots of new people.


Does it federate with other services? I have not seen anything mentioning this on the website and I consider it to be crucial for me backing the idea of this service. I don't want or need yet another centralized *book.


Based on the FAQ I'd say it will not be federated, at least not initially, and in the FAQ they explain why. In short, they think that's where other initiatives fall short, and they want to sidestep the issue completely, and come back to it once they're profitable.


I don't think that FAQ entry answers the question asked by the parent comment.

They say that they don't want to decentralize the service (as in, everyone can run their own instance), and I can understand their stand on that. However, they say nothing about federation with other similar attempts that are popping up.

Instead of "Will I be able to run my own instance?", think: Will I be able to follow an Openbook account from my Mastodon account?


This is something I didn't know I cared about until I followed Blender's PeerTube instance account from a Mastodon instance. Pixelfed is working on it, and Plume, and...

It's something I've come to expect. If your hot new app doesn't federate, I don't care about it.


If it's not ad supported, how do they plan to keep the lights on once the Kickstarter funding gets exhausted and when they don't get any institutional funding? Somehow the following paragraph form the manifesto doesn't sound very convincing (it sounds like some messaging services that have said that they'll make money selling stickers):

> "We will have a transparent revenue model based on a generic way for people to securely transact physical and digital goods and services inside the network. This will be done through an atomic digital unit of value. Although this initially reflected as a marketplace, our ambitions go way beyond that.

> Apart from this, we’re also planning to help enterprise customers setting up their own internal, self-hosted and secure social networks with extra functionality such as projects, identity and access management."

This should also be listed in the FAQ.


"drag and drop your old social media archive... import all your photos, videos, chats and more".

Photos/videos I can sort of understand, but 'chats' - they're done with other people, none of whom would have been granting permission for their content to be migrated to openbook. Am I being too literal here, or is this a privacy violation being promised on day one?


I don't think all parties of a chat need to consent for that information to be shared, aside from specific cases like doctor-patient and lawyer-client.


they may refer when both users are registered and agreed with this, but it's not easy to do


Here we go, another Social Network engine :) Just following the NIH syndrome, once again.

> OpenBook is OpenSource

Yeah awesome. Like many other projects. Having the OpenSource stamp is not really an advantage anymore. Building and maintaining a community around it, with strong support and integration is something way more difficult to do.

> On Openbook you will not only be able to personalise your profile, but the entire network itself! From changing the color of your homepage to adding plugins, you can make it as unique as yourself.

So basically I can customize everything. On my instance? Is it federated/decentralized (doesn't seems so)?

> We don’t track anything you do, neither monetize your information nor share it without your explicit and informed consent.

Hopefully the GDPR has already cover all those things :)

> All applications will be reviewed by us. We will make sure they: only request the needed information, have the exact location of your data available for you, at all times, delete all your information if you’d revoke the permission...

GDPR

> Some examples of the technology we'll be researching and developing: > Cryptographically enforced data sharing policies > End to end encryption, even on the browser > Public key cryptography on the browser > Post-quantum cryptography algorithms and protocols

NIH syndrom, all those things are already covered by many other projects, why not reusing that? Also, "post-quantum" cryptography, looks like a nice buzzword thrown in there.

> Migrating to Openbook will be easy-peasy, with our simple drag-and-drop system. Just download your data from your old social network1 and transfer them to Openbook. Shazam!

Good luck with that. GDPR is indeed forcing social platforms to have a Data-Portability politic. Facebook is exporting the user content in HTML flat file with no proper identifiers or easy way to reconstruct the data structure.

> ...we’re also planning to help enterprise customers setting up their own internal, self-hosted and secure social networks with extra functionality such as projects, identity and access management.

So basically they are developing another centralized Social Network engine.


I don't disagree with everything you said, but if this thing gets traction, this is the HN DropBox thread of the future :)

( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8863 )


Even that thread itself was the "No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame." thread of the future.

It's an interesting phenomenon that in the age of the internet there are easily accessible public records of how hard it is to tell what is going to be a big deal.

https://slashdot.org/story/01/10/23/1816257/apple-releases-i...


Oh, and it looks like they called Dropbox "secure" as well, in 2007


Isn't that true for most HN threads?


> Some examples of the technology we'll be researching and developing: > Cryptographically enforced data sharing policies > End to end encryption, even on the browser > Public key cryptography on the browser > Post-quantum cryptography algorithms and protocols

"If you give us money we'll invent great crypto" -> "We're secure"


A nearly empty webpage that lags like crazy is very bad promotion and makes me question whether they have the knowledge to create a high-traffic social network. Also, the quote of the founder:

Openbook is not only an evolutionary step for social networks, it's also a humanitarian project at world scale.

Makes me want to vomit. You're making a website, not feeding hungry children.


It’s almost like this entire project was brought to us by Vooza.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2-L3Kgc6Y7E&t=89s


From their website:

>In partnership with FoundersPledge, we'll be giving 30% of our revenue towards projects for education, sanitization, climate change prevention and more.


From the FAQ on their page:

>Who's paying for everything so far?

> So far we have been completely self funded. However, this has proven to be very hard. With most of us working full-time jobs apart from Openbook, it could take us long time till we release the first version and even then, we would not be able to afford the IT infrastructure needed to compete with any of the established networks. As we wanted the project to be driven by people and not capital, we decided to go for crowd-funding. We'll be launching our Kickstarter campaign on the 17th of July.

They don't appear to have a revenue model. I'm not sure if they consider donations from kickstarter revenue, but so far its their only source. I don't think passing on 30% of donations to FoundersPledge is really changing the world


They are talking about future revenue generation. Kickstarted is being used as a fundraiser.

They are probably trying something similar to ghost blogging platform.

Whether they are successful or not is to be seen, but I am not enjoying how some people are unnecessarily shitting on their effort.


A long long time ago (in 2010), Facebook sued a start-up called Teachbook for using 'book' in its name. Hope you don't get into that muddle.

https://money.cnn.com/2010/08/26/technology/teachbook/


I hadn't heard about this. They've sued several companies whose names end with "book". Apparently a lawsuit coming from FB is scary enough that they've acquiesced and changed their names, without standing up in court. Replacebook!


Not knocking this effort, but why are all decentralized, open social networks that hope to compete against Facebook and Instagram so...dull?

Their marketing is all the same wholesomeness and positive messaging. There's no "rebellious" streak to it at all.

But wholesomeness didn't help Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram grow. Facebook was the "adults only" social network that required a .edu address when it was challenging MySpace. Snapchat was pretty much a sexting app. Instagram is basically semi-nude models in its search feed.

I get what these people are trying to do, but you're not going to do that by being boring and corporate.


I'd rather have a functioning, 'dull' project than an edgy 2kool4skool meme disappearing in a couple of months because the hipster userbase moved to the next cool socnet.


Diaspora tried being edgy, I don't think it helped them. They're still around thought as far as I know.


I built two working, bug free social sites and yet nobody cares about them. At the end of the day someone else comes with a vaporware manifesto and takes the discussion away from actual products.


Just curious, if those are yours and this was your quote on spam issues with your platform:

"If I delete the spam accounts, they come back. It’s an automated script."

Why not consider users who invited spammers as part of the problem and delete them too? The level of recursion would be the largest hurdle


Hi I'd be curious to see what youve built. Can you supply links?


I see two links in his HN bio.


Seems not everyone is aware so I'll just point it out:

The bio can be found by clicking peoples username.

From the bio you can also navigate to their comment history and also see what stories they have submitted.


If someone isn’t aware of this they are not my preferred peer.


To add to my answer from yesterday: there is also no obvious way to see that usernames are links (at least for me, somewhat colorblind on a mobile device.)


If it's any comfort to you, it's the same for normal-sighted (everything's gray).

They probably think that users like to have to hunt for the features of the site.


The XKCD "Ten Thousand" might be interesting for some https://xkcd.com/1053/


> helping make the world a better place.

It's hard to take anyone seriously who uses that phrase... Especially in this sort of context.

That's been a joke for a long time now, everyone knows it's nonsense.


Same with

> Good for the planet

It all almost looks ironically done.


as much as I applaud the effort, the next Uber or Facebook won't be a better Uber or Facebook but something totally different. I wish companies would stop trying to be better copies of existing services. Facebook had traction because it was radically different from anything that was before.

Also they have no idea how to finance and fund their growth:

>Our business model is not and will never be advertisements.

We will have a transparent revenue model based on a generic way for people to securely transact physical and digital goods and services inside the network. This will be done through an atomic digital unit of value. Although this initially reflected as a marketplace, our ambitions go way beyond that.

Apart from this, we’re also planning to help enterprise customers setting up their own internal, self-hosted and secure social networks with extra functionality such as projects, identity and access management.


> Facebook had traction because it was radically different from anything that was before.

Not really. Facebook was hardly the first social network, but it was better (at certain things, like friends discovery) and worse at others (like publishing your own content).


> the next Uber or Facebook won't be a better Uber or Facebook but something totally different.

Based on what premise?

> I wish companies would stop trying to be better copies of existing services.

Why? Almost all creativity and improvement goes by creating a better version of something that exists already.


Probably because, if one wants a social network, there are already many good ones in the market. And the people who care enough about privacy to quit facebook, probably won't use any social network at all.


> Facebook had traction because it was radically different from anything that was before.

How was Facebook radically different than other social media sites? In my opinion, it was almost exactly the same as the rest. They just leveraged some clever marketing.


The only major difference with FB was it limited your network to your college.

In terms of features it was a static page with the only dynamic capability being the ability to poke someone.


Social networks, back then, was to bring minds together, not people.


Facebook is just another social media site, not really much different than Myspace was before it.


The splash page is hideously slow and stuttering even on desktop. Is the CSS/JS just this bad, or is this site trying to mine cryptocurrency in the background?


I think it's that "typewriter" effect, probably some endless loop without any sleep.

It doesn't help that javascript is required


At this point I don't trust the sunny promises of any for-profit that wants me to give them my data. Data is the new oil. If an organization can get it and legally profit from it, be assured that they will.


While it's easy to point out at moral level that nothing is guaranteed that if this sort of project gets big it cannot just run off with investor money to go off on Zuckerberg hijinks which has no good reason to even exist at this point -- the notion that it is "too difficult" to implement federated social networking is not going to sway me away from my advocacy of it.

The most important identity system in the world -- the one that even the biggest websites in the world want you to identify yourself with is definitely your email. The protocols underlying your email are my vision for social networking: A common format that accurately sends a message to feature-complete implementations. There's really not any reason we can't have your federated social media be your email replacement barring that the W3C standard doesn't call for any sort of secure mailbox (Mastodon doesn't have REAL "private messages") but it's still a damn good solution to the problem of trying to work in the social media space: you need users. What if the users are already there?

Perhaps as the APub standard and implementations grow we can see them become standardized to the sort of SSO that we are used to when we "connect with Facebook/Twitter" but another closed-loop timeline-based for-profit social media won't ever have my attention because there's not a market.

Unless it's Vine.


«Making Openbook a for-profit was a hard choice to make. We check all the non-profits boxes and we love non-profits. We love Wikipedia, the Ghost Foundation, Founders Pledge, Mozilla and many more. However we see the same struggle repeated over and over again. These companies struggle to grow beyond their profitability. These companies struggle to grow to the size and resources needed to compete with for-profit businesses. When we need to grow exponentially, we need to be able to raise the large amounts of money needed to do so. Therefore we are officially a for-profit company. But do note that when we do this, we will make sure the people investing in the company will be people with real interest on the platform, its core values of privacy, security, freedom, openness and its humanitarian nature.» [0]

As a for-profit corporation’s legal operational boundaries end at the financial interests of its shareholders, any corporation-defined “core value” may not and does not benefit from legal guarantees.

While a benefit corporation [1] may allow to balance the interests of shareholders and stakeholders, any form equal to a UK company limited by guarantee with “limited” exemption [2] [Section 60, Section 62] binds, secures a corporation’s objects (or “core values”) to interest-free legal requirements.

For trust to ensue and persist, any “for-benefit” alternative to existing for-profit corporation- or nation state-controlled platforms must state its “core values” as the controlling corporation’s objects.

[0] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1520156881/openbook-the...

[1] http://benefitcorp.net/sites/default/files/Benefit_Corporati...

[2] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/46/part/5/chapter/2...


I have high end computer (i7-7700 with 32GB of empty RAM) with pretty good graphics card (GeForce GTX 1060)... and this site is lagging. I can't even scroll properly.


Based on wappalyzer, webpack & jquery are used on the website. But no other framework (React, Vue, Ionic) is detected... So it's just jquery + webpack?


I don't know what you're looking at, but for sure they're using vue.

Most likely suspect is the typewriter animation, which ought to be done with https://github.com/tameemsafi/typewriterjs (but maybe it's just how they used it - or maybe something entirely different, I just had a quick look).


Well, I'm not a part of the SPA hating crowd since my job is making fast SPAs. It's very easy to mess up (scroll) performance even without jQuery.


There's a lot of marketing on here about honesty, fun, and being personal. That being said, none of these attributes are being applied to the social network part of the social network. In their current form, they're just buzzwords about the project.

For once, I'd like to see a project use these words in a meaningful way. Build a manifesto that isn't just "we are building a platform." Focus on actual social interactions and social behaviors that the platform should have. Build something that actually encourages honesty, openness, and fun posts over lying, fake personalities, and cynicism.

Normal users don't see benefits in switching away from Facebook to an equivalent platform with more honest caretakers. That's the sad reality of it. But if a social network pledged to only allow posts that are positive about things, or actively banned people for spreading lies, that would be totally different. It's an execution thing -- people would need to see policy in action -- but if pulled off, it would result in a fundamentally different and easily comparable platform to Facebook.


I was thinking about making an open source social-network just this morning. I'm all about "for profit" in general but as has been echoed a bunch in the comments already, a lot of corporations start off on a good trajectory but ultimately wind up in a place we don't like. I don't want to stoke any political flames, so I'll just leave it at that. :)

The reasons I would like to see a project like this succeed would be to have a network that better protects privacy and has very transparent censorship. I'm not super well versed in open source and non-profit but my current thinking is that making an organization of similar style to wikipedia would be the best strategy. Open source the code, own the hardware and raise money through donations.

Do you think I'm missing something or would this be the best strategy? Also, is there already a project(s) like this?


I can't click on any links, am I doing something wrong? The only links that are working for me, are the ones on the right side of the page.

Website looks like this for me: https://i.imgur.com/7OkVlUz.png

I am using Google Chrome on Windows 10


Same with Vivaldi, FF, and Edge on Win 10. Works in Safari on Mojave though


Me too with Opera (Beta 54) on MacOS (10.13) :/


Same on FF on Windows 10.


I'm not sure I can imagine any path to success here. Maybe focus on a small interest group or locale to begin with, then look to spread outward from there. A small college campus perhaps. ;) Still...this needs a hook other than the privacy angle, and a big one at that.


If it made any sense to the common person, the front page shouldn't have "open source" in its description. Because your average grandma has no idea what that means.

It's an insanely hard market to chew into and thus I can say they've already lost.


It does not matter that the average grandma has no idea what that means. New products need early adopters, and the average grandma is not a potential early adopter, neither is the average grandpa or anyone average, really.

Any argument, including being Open Source, is good to get early adopters. Communication can change later on.

Too many products try to appeal to the general public too soon. This is not how user acquisition works.


> It does not matter that the average grandma has no idea what that means.

My 23 year old son and 18 year old daughter didn't know what open-source meant.

If you could build a social network around tech people we'd all be using Google Plus.


You don't build a social network around tech, you bootstrap it with a community. Bootstrapping it with Open Source enthusiasts is fine. If you say "we're yet another social network" you have no value proposition. Not that I think that "we're yet another Open Source social network" is good either...

Also, the fact that a grandma doesn't know what Open Source means doesn't really concern me, but the fact that the children of someone who posts on HN and works at Google don't, does. Maybe that's part of the reason why proprietary, centralized services are winning.

Anyway, I do have concerns along the same line, not because "Open Source" is on the front page but because:

- The team is not diverse enough in terms of experience. The COO is an "information-security expert"; the CMO is a "security and international relations expert"; the Chief of Product is a "pragmatic software engineer" and "crypto-geek". This is a problem, even though not necessarily deadly.

- They plan to allocate 70 % of the budget to software engineering, and basically 0 % to marketing / user acquisition / community management. This is the biggest red flag for me.


Just googled the COO, she is pretty big in the security community. Also was CISO at a Dutch Telecom, and they have Phil Zimmerman!

Im not worried about the budget for marketing, they seem to have managed to get themselves into a few leading publications already and the early backers will provide initial beta users + word of mouth marketing.

What remains to be seen is if the team can execute, I guess only time will tell. Overall good initiative though.


Your average grandma will also be annoyed, when she learns that the website doesn't work without javascript, because she doesn't know what JavaScript is so she turned it off along with many other options she didn't understand when she combed through about:config after installing Firefox from source code.


My grandma doesn't even get the source code to compile properly :)


> Because your average grandma

Your average grandma does not know Kickstarter.


I like it that there are attempts to change the status quo and not accept Facebook in our lives as a fact, and push back against the monetization of personal information. But shouldn’t this be backed up by an organization with some trackrecord in the domain of user's digital rights, free and open standards? EFF, FSF... join existing umbrella projects, even if not leveraging existing code... https://www.gnu.org/software/social...? Like someone else said here already, today everybody can build a social network.

Btw they don’t seem to even own openbook.org ...


It's a for-profit company so I doubt the EFF, etc. would want to back them. They might be open now, but as they grow and more and more investors own the company there's no reason to think they'll be any better than Facebook.


Take reddit for example. They used to release there code to the open but that is no longer true.


What's the monetisation model?

edit: found this

"We will have a transparent revenue model based on a generic way for people to securely transact physical and digital goods and services inside the network. This will be done through an atomic digital unit of value. Although this initially reflected as a marketplace, our ambitions go way beyond that.

Apart from this, we’re also planning to help enterprise customers setting up their own internal, self-hosted and secure social networks with extra functionality such as projects, identity and access management."


I think your question still stands.

”Atomic digital unit of value?”

Who writes this stuff?


If I didn't know I would have guessed it was an ICO for a new crypto.


They're raising money so as to put together an ICO?? That's a new height..


Hardly one who has a definite plan and wants to make it known

Hard to believe that Phil Zimmermann is on board. Assuming that's true...


Buzzword salad. Basically meaningless.


I don't get it. Who is asking for another Facebook? Except for a few vocal minority carrying on over privacy and decentralization, none of which will even bother. The rest of the world doesn't care, Facebook is there for them already. When everyone inevitably tires of it, they'll move to a new idea, not another clone. Facebook knows this, that's why they continue purchasing upcoming services like Instagram.


If it's not federated, there is little control already. If the business models for centralized networks are not aggressive right now, nothing stop them from evolving once there's more money on the table.

I wonder what folks here think about ActivityPub. I been craving for a federated protocol since Google Wave. I'm yet to go through it in detail and see if it really stands.


If you're looking for a real-time federated social-network (that is what I understood by "Google Wave") solution have a look at solutions based on the industry standard XMPP. I'm building one (Movim https://movim.eu/) and started to explain how is made the architecture in this blog post https://nl.movim.eu/?blog/edhelas%40movim.eu/how-s-made-movi....


How are openbook going to fund this? It costs a lot of money to run a social network. I read through the material and the only thing I saw was a pi-chart, nothing explained their revenue model. Not to mention their privacy model seems exactly the same as facebook's.


I guess thats why the kickstarter! And if they get traction they can always later go for venture capital. I know its an uphill task but I'm overall positive. Kickstarter will also get them a lot of beta users right out the door so that was a smart move if you ask me

I think I saw something about their revenue model on their website FAQ.


The kickerstarter will only bring in a finite amount of money. Long term operations will surely require more than that. Why would anyone want to invest in this? Twitter/facebook etc can at least collect advertising information. There is some discussion about what seems to basically be a cryptocurrency, but its surely not sustainable.


Interesting project. But when I try the website in Firefox on Anddroid or macOS, scroll is jagged and links & css animations are slow to respond.


Scrolling is choppy and slow on my phone. Haven't checked my laptop, though. But such screwed up scrolling means I'm not interested.


It was choppy on my beefy desktop on Firefox as well.


Me too. All they needed to do was profile their webpage in modern browser to see the glaring performance problems. Doesn't bode well for a more complex piece of software like a social network.


not sure why everyones complaining about performance, it seems to work fine on my macbook air. Plugins perhaps?


It might work fine but (the homepage) is most likely draining your battery. Have you looked at your cpu usage?


This site made my fan spin up like crazy (FF61). Happen to anyone else? (reproducible on my end)


The website caused my tab in Chrome on mobile to crash each time I tried to open it.


How do I sign up? Odd that a social network does not have registration form


It's a kickstarter. i.e. it's being built. The minimal €1 contribution will give you "early access".


Site is crashing and throws a million errors on the console.


For profit and centeralized. Hard pass.

Is this the next Ello?


Looks like there is something wrong with the site. Javascript crashes and nothing is visible.


site doesn't work


doesn't work


A domain name with a - dash in it. This product fails at the very first step.


They address this in the Kickstarter FAQ.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1520156881/openbook-the...


They are going to buy openbook.com with the money they raise from kickstarter. Seems like a complete waste of money to me.

Who types in a url any more?


Of course, they should've gone with the "the" prefix and drop it later because it's cleaner.


Valiant effort, I don't understand why the community is responding so toxic. Rather than assuming that growth will lead to this social network becoming the next corrupted Facebook, why don't we focus on the unique aspects that make this open-sourced network worthwhile to begin with?

Security - Privacy - Customisability - Compatibility with status quo. We can all agree that we lost faith in the monstrosity that Facebook has become, it doesn't mean that we can't place faith in other technology to produce a different outcome.


The code being open-source accomplishes very little in this case. It's what they do with your data after they get it that matters. Data is the new oil, and if a for-profit company can get it, rest assured they will use or sell it.


I get where you're coming from but data is the new oil in conjunction with machine learning/ big data algorithms. Thats the true evil. that part at least will be transparent with the open-source model IMO


Once they have the data, they can do whatever they want with it. They can run it through closed-source ML, they can sell it to other companies. I suppose people would know if they meddled with the news feed order, but that's about it.


Thats rather cynical... Sure!! The team of privacy and security activists backed by internet hall of fame member Phil Zimmerman who created PGP and fought the US govt are all actually closeted evil capitalists just out to get everyones data..


I agree. There's always a culture of trolling the newbie. Its negative, constructive criticism is aalso a thing. and I dont get what billinon $ companies the trolls have built to assume this superior position.

I just donated to the campaign, I think they have a solid team, and their core values are spot on like u mentioned.


...and you just created your account




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