Where does the author get that idea? The majority of Facebook's 2 billion users do not post to their profile feed. Instead, the FB account is mostly used as a way to passively receive content. Some of the content is from family and friends, and some is from media outlets (NYTimes, etc).
Recommending "personal websites" is talking about a solution to a problem that most of the billion users don't have.
The way most people use Facebook is more of an RSS feed rather than a 1999 Geocities personal website. (But that doesn't mean RSS readers can replace Facebook because that technology is missing a "real names" reverse directory lookup database.)
1. You connect to friends and you either manually assign or "grow" a bunch of weights to your amount of trust in them and your interest in various topics they might post.
2. You and your friends make posts and assign "topic" metadata to the posts. The value of the system depends on your friends properly assigning metadata to posts. But it makes it easier to filter out extended families' political shitposting (based on trust and negging untagged posts).
3. Your feed is selected based on the weight of your friendship times the weight you base on the interest of the topic. If your best friend posts something about computers and you have positively weighed that topic it would bubble up.
4. Friends-of-friends can transitively receive a proportion of the trust score you have in your friend. Highly trusted friends will make you trust their friends more.
5. Down-votes and upvotes would train your local agent. They could also be fed back to the originator IF votes were signed by trusted encryption keys to prevent your friend from faking his vote count on the "post".
This decentralizes the network out of FB and democratizes the algorithms / system for what and how you want to receive your information.
1. Everyone makes a website.
2. Those websites submit articles to content indexes.
3. Part of your website hosts your own reader client:
3.a The reader subscribes to a set of indexes.
3.b It can also subscribe to individual feeds.
3.c Your client decides how to mix the feeds into displays, eg, you could have several indexes feed into one "feed" and have all of your family feeds in a second "feed".
4. Most of this is actually done via cloud hosting of managed packages, rented.
There's still many strong factors in favor of centralization, but if it's built around interop, then having a few large providers than mesh together is still an improvement and begins a competition to provide better services.
It's what happened with blogs and RSS anyway.
... aaaaaand, there it goes; the spammers already ruined it ;)
Like they did with email. Then you have companies come with robust AI tech and filter the spam, and also give good recommendations. A few of those companies come to dominate the market
... aaaaaand, there it goes; we're back to the situation we have now with Facebook and Google.
The situation for social networks would be strictly better if you could easily migrate accounts between FB, Google, etc and subscribe to feeds from multiple networks.
The situation you're calling out is exactly the point.
That's also my point.
That sounds pretty malicious for what basically amounts to attempting to serve you the content and ads you want.
Basically, serving you the content and ads you want can turn out to be pretty malicious. By doing so, a big company can manipulate and shape your perception. Year by year, data processing is making big companies ever more potent at doing just this. Is it any wonder that it eventually got to a point where we started seeing problems?
Malicious sounding, indeed.
“Discover” hardly ever means, “check out what’s interesting,” usually it’s “check out this targeted ad”
Its also really good for following journal articles in my field. Pubmed has active search RSS, for instance, and every journal pushes their new articles to RSS.
How does one do that? I'm interested.
Shameless plug: Binaries here: https://gitlab.com/somini/go-hnrss/
I'm surprised so few people here have picked up on the fact that "filter bubble" is a rhetorical trick about as obvious as the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" dichotomy.
People like getting good recommendations, and they'll always like them. "Filter bubbles" are here to stay.
First, we are outsourcing recommendations to profit-driven corporations. At best, the recommendations I want to see will be mixed with the ones advertisers want me to see. Revenue expectations of social media companies currently ensure this is a non-trivial issue with no easy middle ground.
Even assuming the recommendations are reasonably good, you still have the problem that these ML-type recommendations require massive datasets and therefore it naturally gravitates towards a winner-take-all situation. Having one giant borg of a recommendation engine is bad.
We are replacing a rich tapestry of individual word-of-mouth and small-scale communication channels with a massive mono-culture. Scalability is worshipped in tech companies (it's great for getting rich!), but it's not a inherently a good thing. In nature we find diversity trumps scalability, and I feel the same way about culture.
Yep. When it decentralized you can control how strong are the bubble walls and can try different bubbles from time to time.
The thing is though we want to talk about the stories and ask questions. I mean, that’s why we’re all here, right? Comment forums on a million sites don’t work.
In the early days of the web someone had the idea that you should be able to run your own group commentary without the site aurhor’s permission. You’d register for the service and your browser would tell you or show you that there’s a conversation going about this page.
I still feel like we need this.
Most people I add because I meet them in read life. Actually, 100% of the people I add on FB after I've met them in real life.
Maybe if there was a good search and easy add mechanism for people I've met, it would fulfill the discovery aspect. I agree with you, it does feel easier to find people on FB.
I'm not sure how to monetize this, but it would add some discovery to rss.
Make it good enough to pay for.
but instead of following "feeds" you follow people, and it queues up links they've shared on twitter
That last phrase could add a lot of friction.
you could use different clients, some could give you recommendations for events,etc based on your subscriptions if you so choose
That would indeed replace Facebook. However, then you have a chicken and egg problem. Those clients won't be much good unless people provide data by using them, and people won't use them because they don't already have the data to provide good recommendations.
Up until you get to "different clients" you're basically describing classic Google Reader.
It's based on the idea that you'd publish to your personal website either publicly or privately. The private posts can only be read by your friends (who own personal websites themselves and have established a friendship connection using a friend request).
The implementation is just a (not yet standardized) friend ship request REST protocol plus authenticated RSS feeds (using a secret key exchanged by the above process).
Since the whole decentralized social network idea is a chicken-and-egg game, I've constructed the plugin in a way so that it is useful to use by yourself: You can subscribe to RSS feeds, filter feeds with your own rules, and get full-content e-mail notifications for all or selected posts.
The plugin also implements Emoji-Likes on posts and allows recommending posts to your friends. It doesn't have an automatic recommendation engine (yet?).
Actually, there is no need to have this restricted to WordPress since it uses very much established technology, so it could interoperate with any other compatible platform. I just implemented it with WordPress for its ecosystem and that you can use existing mobile apps to read on it and share to it.
Overall the whole endeavor allows you to have your personal social network decentralized, ad- and spam-free since you select who you listen to.
The plugin is already well usable but it only progresses at side-project speed, so help is welcome (not only development work but also trying it out, posting about its features with screenshots/-casts, etc.)!
You can read more about some technical details at https://alexander.kirk.at/2018/11/03/decentralized-social-ne... and take a look at the presentation: https://alexander.kirk.at/2018/11/08/wordpress-meetup-presen...
I have noticed friends reverting back to RSVP e-mails via Paperless Post Flyer. I'm still not sure if one person in this social group is not on Facebook, causing the change, but it has been a welcome adjustment. If Facebook Events can be replaced by an e-mail approach, I don't see why other products can't follow suit.
So like a rule to push it into your newsletter folder?
For a long time I held onto my account, trying to mute anything part of SJW or communist discourse, but to no avail. Twitter shows you stuff you didn't sign up for anyway, I suppose to maximise engagement.
And HN user "jsgo" wrote...
>If it is more difficult than Facebook, it can't hope for being anything more than a niche...
These are the sorts of common sense observations missing from so many "let's replace Facebook/Twitter/Whatever" debates. If we're serious about replacing FB/Snapchat/Twitter/Whatever then we need to consider realistic alternatives. Using the Mastodon-like distributed media and personal website ideas to get rid of Facebook/Twitter is like using the People's Front of Judea and the Judean People's Front to get rid of the Romans. You just have to ignore a lot of reality to assume it would ever work.
We would need some sort of aggregator. Currently, you could call Facebook an aggregator of personal websites. Of course all of the personal websites are also hosted there, but it technically is an aggregator of those webpages. Let's not forget most of the people that I am friends with on Facebook would never be able to create their own personal website without a lot of help which is what makes something like Facebook so convenient and popular.
It could be a protocol, independent of the browser. But the browser could support it inline, so you could just click a button to follow a content stream. It shouldn't be complex, it should be simple. Really simple. Syndication.
Me, I personally treat it like a blog in the sense that I'm there to either "like" it, go past it, or go to the comments section.
Regardless, reproducing Facebook via personal websites would be daunting if not impossible. One, not everyone is going to feel comfortable doing HTML/CSS/JS or even working in a CMS w/ drag-and-drop/WYSIWYG. Two, if I know your name (and if it isn't unique enough, we either share connections or I know some other details about you you've posted), I can search for you on Facebook. How easily can that be created with personal websites when you're also searching against the broader web (good luck searching for your friend Mercedes's personal site. Have a friend named Mike Rowe and you guys joke about how his name is like that one guy with the tv show? Best of luck finding his site too).
And we can argue "but the user can take back control of their data" which on face value is true, the problem is that I think for a lot of people I know on Facebook, they don't care. At least the convenience outweighs the concerns. And that's fine, that's their right. They weighed the pros/cons and found Facebook to have agreeable compromises. As do businesses that sell on Amazon I'm sure.
I do want a solution that gets away from Facebook. The problem is it needs to be something that is easy enough for a non-tech user to manage and consume. If it is more difficult than Facebook, it can't hope for being anything more than a niche.
But that's the point, isn't it? Personal websites isn't what will "solve the customer's problem", persé, but it is what will allow Facebook to no longer be irreplaceable, which is the real reason why people stay on the platform. The question isn't whether personal websites can replace Facebook, but whether personal websites will allow room for a real Facebook competitor (which improves the passive consumption experience) to grow.
No, you're making a common mistake of looking at the surface level of what Facebook shows to users (the so-called "webpage"). Therefore, the seemingly "obvious" solution to beat Facebook is -- Everybody Has Personal Websites.
Since I've seen many smart techies and programmers (e.g. the author of the article we're discussing) make that same claim, I think Mark Zuckerberg has (inadvertently) pulled off the most stunning "Keyser Söze" type of misdirection about the real competitive advantage of Facebook. Programmers are mislead into looking at one thing (e.g. "personal websites") when they really should be looking at something else: The Real Names Lookup Database.
The Real Names Lookup Database is what makes the other features such as "point-to-point messaging", "chat", "calendar events", and finally "personal blog platform" aka "personal websites" -- all work so well with minimum friction.
To put it in more computer science syntax, Facebook has the following SQL table (approximate pseudocode) that's very valuable:
create table real_ids (
... other metadata ...
To continue the Facebook analysis via psuedo SQL, when a user wants to see something relevant from somebody she knows, it's:
SELECT posts FROM real_ids WHERE real_name = "Jane Doe";
SELECT event_invites FROM events,real_ids WHERE real_name = "Jane Doe";
Another company that has a similar real_ids database is LinkedIn. But because they cater to professionals, they have mostly white-collar workers looking for jobs; they're missing blue-collar plumbers, or grandparents that are retired, etc. In any case, the same "flawed solution" can be misapplied here: "The solution to replace LinkedIn is to make it easy for people to make personal websites of their résumé and job history."
If you still have doubts whether Facebook's special sauce is the real_names database or if it's the "ease of personal websites", consider what Mark Zuckerberg chooses to spend billions on: Instagram ($1 billion), WhatsApp ($19 billion), and attempt to acquire Snapchat ($3 billion).
Notice that MZ does not bother with acquiring "easy-to-use website builders" such as Wix, or Squarespace.
What does Instagram/WhatsApp/Snapchat have in common that Wix/Squarespace does not? Those competitors' smartphone apps have a database of real_phone_numbers of their users!
On a related note, thinking that a protocol like ActivityPub can replace Facebook is also misguided analysis. ActivityPub is not a "real names lookup database" so it can't replace the actual thing that makes Facebook useful. Instead of focusing on protocols, think of how to make an alternative database of real_names-lookup that isn't owned by Facebook. Also think of where the db will be physically stored (blockchain is probably not the answer), and how costs for the maintenance of the db will be paid.
Without a viable real_names lookup database, it's pointless for Everybody To Have Personal Websites because there's no easy way for them to connect to other relevant websites to share data. That "connection" is easiest and more scalable when it's based on real names instead of urls.
For a database lookup of domain names to ip addresses, we have a canonical and universal "database": DNS. It's also very useful to have a "real names" reverse-lookup to "web profiles" but right now, the closest analogy we have to that is the realnames database privately owned by Facebook. Facebook has become the biggest and most authoritative "DNS of real people's names".
Back in the old days I was on IRC. I loved IRC. It was anonymous and everyone could have their own server and you could have individual chat and direct file share instead of broadcasting to everyone. But it's not asynchronous. I would do this thing where I would send my IP and a passcode to my IRC friends and with the IP and credentials they would have access to a specific folder on my home server. I put occasionally a diary or some photos on there and they could leave me messages. (OK it was a very crude solution. I was very young.) I liked it because it did not commit me to having the stuff up all the time but at the same time it wasn't gone forever if I didn't get to it right then.
I realize I am something of an anti-market and nobody would find my dream social network viable. Maybe I should make one for myself. I only have a dozen people I talk to really so there's no "all my friends are here" effect to consider for me.
Similarly, the history of the White Pages and the Yellow Pages is a fascinating read and took decades for those books to be accepted. (Nowhere near as fast as they declined in the internet age.)
Is it though? People I know refer to their pages with short urls and nicknames all the time because nobody wants to scroll through bazillion of John Doe profiles in Facebook search.
I can't complain about anyone else's lack of design skills... I once had all of the text on my website bright red Nosferatu on a black background in tables with 3d bevels and a background I swiped from a surreal art site.
But there's no reason some modern, stripped down and ultra-minimalist version of a self-hosted site service couldn't borrow from Facebook's UI design (which, all else considered about the service, obviously works for the general public) and have publishing a "page" be as simple as publishing to their Facebook feed, complete with some non-editable css.
But then that gives you none of the benefits (in my mind) to having your own site (complete control over code and content) as well as none of the benefits of Facebook (integration with your social graph and discoverability) and keeps all of the downsides of a third party host.
I think the other user was right who commented that most Facebook users are content consumers, versus content creators. That is, they browse much more than they post.
It’s part domain registration, web builder (simple website with fees you add content to via text message), part automated dns records, part social media/search engine.
So imagine these personal websites are all connected, one website can follow another, that’s it. You own the content, traffic, ad revenue. You could search content across these distributed websites with the tomorrowbook search engine, you could use tomorrowbook to register a domain (built in dns/website for the nontechnical) or use your own registrar and embed the tomorrowbook feed into your site.
Original post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11473190
But yes that seems to allow websites to link to one another.
It's funny when people paint such wide strokes for 2 billion people. I would assume people use Facebook for literally hundreds if not thousands(if you can imagine) of use cases.
Probably one of the most complex consumer products ever made from that perspective. I don't think it's useful to reduce Facebook to something as simple as "most people do X on Facebook".
For instance, Facebook in India has nearly 300 million users. They all use Facebook the same way as the 215 million in the United States?
The only people that know how Facebook is used by people is Facebook.
search engines solve that somewhat ... but you could have a directory that points to the correct address (a bit like a web directory or a phone book)... maybe the government could even host that...
Is that true? I would have thought it's mostly used for chatting with people they know, or commenting on things people have shared. But I'm just guessing.
For many it's become more of an address book
Maybe where you would sign into your own site and it would have polled posts from all the sites you follow (probably with rss) into a single feed. Your site IP is your identity, so commenting etc would be done as your site e.g., `MentallyRetired.com says: Hey these are cool!`
I dont know, just shooting from the hip, but it seems a lot of these technologies are possible. I remember signing into places with my website.
But it needs to be EASY. As easy as Facebook. And backwards compatible to avoid breakage.
Very true and Twitter is better for this in general. I keep a Twitter feed running at all times on 2nd monitor.
EDIT: Specifing the claim
> Recommending "personal websites" is talking about a solution to a problem that most of the billion users don't have.
I thinks this is mostly a valid argument. The burden of proof for whether the problem exists is on the person proposing the solution; Solutions require action, and the side that requires action needs proof.
I do think the claim that “most people use facebook like an rss feed” needs some data to back it up though. I personally use it that way, but that is andecdotal and I also have many friends who use facebook to promote their life, which is more along the lines of a personal website.
Plus asking for data about a long post without referencing which part you even want data on is unconstructive.
Two wrongs don't make a right, and how do you know to what standard the parent poster holds the author? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
There was one claim made in the five sentence GP post.
Things to get started with:
- https://www.netlifycms.org/ - completely free static website on top of github pages
- http://mastodon.social/ - federated microblogging, which can be self-hosted as well
- https://www.digitalocean.com/products/one-click-apps/ - one click wordpress for 5$/m
- https://aws.amazon.com/lightsail/projects/wordpress/ - another near one-click wordpress for near 5$
- https://yunohost.org/ - easy self-hosting, even on top of a raspberry
- https://indieweb.org/WordPress - make your site communicate with other sites
- https://www.scuttlebutt.nz/ - decentralized, sneakernet friendly, private social system
I don't think anyone who taken web development a bit seriously have any problem to publish something online independently.
You can see some of the sites created with it here: http://showcase.onuniverse.com
Here's more about us: http://fastcompany.com/90174165/the-future-of-web-design-doe...
You basically made a CMS and web designer app for the web on mobile, which is 90% with the users, this is a wonderful concept.
Is this the new Tumblr? :)
And that's what I always think about these conversations... What separates hassle-free push button website creation and publishing from MySpace/Facebook?
One can get Microsoft Office or LibreOffice and export to HTML.
Or write a text file and upload it with SFTP.
On the other hand, HTML is really not that hard, and a bit of sweat put into your creation is not bad either in my personal opinion: https://petermolnar.net/internet-emotional-core/
- Decentralized YouTube (1M+ monthly visitors) https://d.tube/
- P2P Reddit (260K+ monthly visitors) https://notabug.io/
Both built with GUN :)
- host for free on netlify
- maybe simple intro to git to make updating and deploying to netlify easier
anyone can learn basic html / css (in 6th grade we did a week long "build a website" project and everyone did it -- this was back in the late 90s), and with frameworks like bootstrap anyone can make an attractive looking site.
with just basic html / css knowledge and netlify, you can:
- self-host and write a blog
- post photo albums
- share videos and audio (link to youtube)
- share status updates
- create an online course
- create a curated list of interesting articles, photos, recipes, food (a la pinterest)
- conduct surveys (link to google forms or other free survey tools)
- create a mailing list / online following (link to google forms or use mailchimp)
- get creative and personalize your site's appearance
- create links to your friends sites
- publish short stories or even e-books
- communicate with people via email (just create an email address for your site and publish it). posting publicly doesnt have to be the normal way to socialize online
- and probably much more
the only downside is if you don't want everything to be public you'd need a simple backend / auth framework, and youd have to host on heroku or something (idk if netlify only does static sites?)
and if you can do this stuff, and find html / css interesting, it isn't that hard to learn enough python or js to build stuff like forms, comments, like buttons, RSS feeds, or simple CRUD apps
the open source software and free-tier saas products we have today make so much of this so easy
- https://gohugo.io/ Static site generator written with Go-lang
- https://jekyllrb.com/ static site generator written with Ruby
We are open to opensourcing Circles. What if anyone could start their own Facebook-equivalent site using opensource? What if we could splinter FB into 10,000 sites?
We need to just accept the new world and keep innovating inside it, there isn't going back to how it was.
And stop this nonsense about privacy, either pass a big federal law or accept that your info is how free sites are funded :).
There is some messaging built into the "new social" that wasn't as available back then (we didn't all have smart phones, and internet was charged by the hour.). There wasn't as much content either which did make it slightly more manageable to surf through the pages you wanted.
polite and interesting exchange though.
There is no real way to automate domain procurement.
Most people don't leave a PC they own all the time to run a website.
So you end up hosting it. But now its centralizing again. If everyone were hosting their own mastodon instances on the same cloud provider thats barely any different from that cloud provider being a Facebook with all the data access they have. Even with a federated site like that few simply have a computer to leave on all the time to have their own site, let alone asking your average person to setup dynamic dns records if they did.
The fundamental name system of the Internet is too manual to enable average people to have personal sites. And any solution involves centralization which defeats the exercise.
I think its pretty straightforward to host things yourself.
Said as a true developer who no longer realizes how hard some of the things we do are to the average person who can barely operate their computer or smart phone.
Think of all the things you have to learn in order to host your own site. I still have to explain the basics of what a domain name is to potential freelance customers, and why they need hosting in order to have a website online. This is knowledge that is not common outside of the developer ecosystem.
Your IM client is already doing that.
The internet is built for that sort of specialization anyway - it isn't a pure broadcast medium in the first place so accept that it isn't all conglomerates - if you don't want it for profit in the first place you don't need the crowds.
I can see potentially setting up a good 'seed kit' to distribute but generally they've had the trap of being too technically sophisticated for the lowest level and too simple for those with more expertise.
It is probably more hard on a social level than a technical level given things like UX consistency. Not to mention the infamous 'classic angelfire 90s website' tackiness that nobody tends to want to visit anyway.
Before the sponsored updates.
Before the terms of service changed.
Before data stopped being private.
Before we sold our memories.
Before we forgot our rights.
Before everything that made media
Less social and more cynical,
There was one simple idea:
Our lives are our own.
What we share and who we share it with,
Our memories, our secrets,
Our lives are our own.
That idea is important
So we’re going back to before.
And in going back to before,
We’re going forward.
> Did Not Connect: Potential Security Issue
The idea is still valid IMO. I don't care about "the world", that's just a word; the internet worked fine when there wasn't even 100 million people using it, so a better web doesn't have to be used by everybody, either.
Contrast this with maintaining a personal website. Even in a world where FB doesn't exist, it's still a chore to get people to memorize yet another URL and regularly visit it, especially if it isn't updated on a consistent schedule (which most personal websites aren't.) Furthermore, given that the author seems to be advocating for self-sufficiency as much as possible and avoiding centralized platforms, assuming you're hosting your own website and not using a cookie cutter template, you're now fighting Google for search engine visibility and that's a battle that is absolutely not based on merit of content.
This is not to mention the unpleasantness of using most personal websites because they're poorly designed (light text on a white background), or they try and guilt-trip me into supporting them with Patreon/Paypal popups, or the only consistent content produced is content promising to produce more content in the future, etc.
I'm probably reading too much into the author's article, to be honest. It's a nice sentiment and I agree, but at the same time the thing I don't understand about the recent trend of publishing articles on mainstream news sites preaching the life benefits of going cold turkey on social media is that it isn't a binary choice. I know it's a novel idea, but you don't have to quit FB to pick up that hobby you once loved again! You don't have to quit FB to maintain your personal website! In fact, you can probably use FB and your audience on it to grow your readership on your personal website! Even if you accept the author's argument that personal websites fulfill the purpose that FB does (strongly disagree), they give no reason why you have to pick one over the other.
¿Porque no los dos
That was Facebook's original raison d'etre (and the source of its name).
I'm not saying it's as easy as Facebook, but it's not "you need to be a developer"-hard either.
I've now talked four friends who wanted to start blogging out of spending money on AWS instances and VPS providers because they were convinced this was the path they absolutely had to take just to start writing things using WordPress. These are not technical people.
Which makes me wonder where that impression is coming from. Surely it couldn't have been Wordpress.com because the site goes out of their way to show how easy it is to sign up and start blogging on their platform, but I've long wondered why they were all so eager to avoid taking the simplest path to their goals since none of them were above spending money to realize their goals of having a blog.
Awhile ago I was digging through Pinterest on topics related to blogging, finance, online business, etc.
A lot of these pins target millennials and moms (wow, especially moms).
The point of most of these sites is affiliate marketing; they've got deals with hostgator, bluehost, godaddy, whatever, and get kickbacks when users sign up.
So all these pinboardss about blogs about blogging advocate for the VPS route because it's how they make cash.
Self hosting is a pain. Let's not kid ourselves. It seems easy initially, but over the years, you really feel like it's better just to pay someone to manage it all for you.
- Harder to find
- Harder to update
- More expensive to run
- Prone to falling over / being hacked
- Doesn't provide instant feedback
The reason why we post on Facebook is because it is much (as in an order of magnitude) better and much more convenient than having your own website. Most people do not have their own "platform".
The reason why most people gave up blogging is because they discovered that shouting into the void (and then having to repost that material onto social networks so five people would read it) wasn't that fun or rewarding.
These decentralized fantasies based on personal grievances with Facebook fail when they run into the real world and how most people actually behave.
Indeed, for many, the centralization of Facebook is a selling point, 'Freedom' might appeal to political activists / journalists but isn't of much interest to people who just want to find their friends rather than talk to 'happybunny123' and 'Privacy' has consistently shown itself to be something people are 'meh' about in deeds.
I've got nothing against Diaspora per se, but it's for geeks and privacy nuts. https://diasporafoundation.org/ suggests that one of the things I might want to "Join the Conversation" about is "Linux".
For the broader population, when you offer very few of the same benefits and introduce additional costs, it's not a surprise it doesn't gain traction.
The reason it didn't "gain traction" (are we all managers here or something?) is that Facebook already had a huge critical mass of users, and once something has established itself as the incumbent, it's very difficult to get people to move to something else, especially for social networks where it entirely relies on all the other people you want to talk to being on that service. If all your friends are already on Facebook, and none of them on Diaspora, well it's pretty obvious which one you're going to invest your time in.
Since when is "privacy" a feature of Diaspora? Their first big bug was, "any data from any users can be gotten by anybody willing to try." At least for a long time user's posts were stored in plaintext. (Not sure if that's still true.) And it's federated, not distributed.
I think your angry rocket of a rant overshot the moon there. Signal users might have privacy. Diaspora users certainly do not.
Also you’re conflating Privacy with Security.
If you look at the "end" game, imagine that everyone has a machine at their house that they can access locally in their web browser. It has easy tools for posting updates and pictures. When you create a "profile" on it, you can choose to upload that profile to a well known repository of profiles. There is a widget to search the repository for people you might know, and if you "friend" them then your local machine gets a link to their RSS equivalent feed. Friend graphs become distributed, content is always local, and the only cost is to maintain the machine holding the profile repository.
IPV6 addressing and more than 500Kbps of upload bandwidth makes this possible. The current long pole in the tent are ISPs who specifically disallow (and interfere with!) long live server processes in their consumer internet accounts. I've written the FCC and my representatives suggesting that this is a place where some good rulemaking would enable Facebook alternatives that protected civil liberties.
A single app would let you edit your profile and post items to a feed. This includes a web server. You can also use it to view friends' profiles and chronological updates from their feeds. All data lives on your phone, fetching updates happens by one phone connecting to another phone.
Downsides are that it probably needs some kind of centralized discoverability/listing. Bandwidth would be a problem for folks on crappy data plans, but maybe not so much - you're only serving text and low-res pictures to several dozen people. You can also do stuff like waiting to respond to requests when the phone goes on wifi.
I'm only sorta kidding. HN is really good at creating solutions that seem totally reasonable to other HN readers but would fall on their face in the wider market of Uncle Bob, Aunt Lois, and Grandma Pearl. You know, the real customer base.
Appliances with a way to customize them appropriately to the customer by either trained service personnel or technically astute relatives (so documentation has to be available).
If you ditch either of those requirements, you can probably deliver a solid product.
* It has built-in authentication and ACL, you get to choose who sees your stuff or not (not counting overarching privacy issues).
* It has built-in syndication, which means that it's easy to follow everyone's updates.
* It has discovery abilities that helps finding people you want to connect to.
* It has group conversation.
* It has event planning.
Personal pages have none of that, except with syndication where RSS is a partial solution. And on top of that, Facebook is providing it free-of-charge (with the "hidden" cost of scattering your personal data all across the universe) with very minimal setup, including for laypersons.
All of that is a social network, which is not a personal webpage.
You could create federated pages with these features using the following:
- web pages with comments and pingbacks
- wysiwyg editors
- photo albums and photo editing tools
- direct messaging (xmpp/jabber)
Then, you could create individual social network portals that you could authorize to syndicate your federated web site. They could also host your website themselves. And each could offer unique tools, such as tools for event planning, or to help musicians promote their music (MySpace, anyone?). But the idea would hinge on multiple of these popping up at the same time, owned by different start-ups, which could be tricky.
I'm going to argue on the following points based on observations.
> - It has built-in authentication and ACL, you get to choose who sees your stuff or not (not counting overarching privacy issues).
Almost nobody knows well about how to control who see what, and even when they do, hardly anyone changes it often. Almost everyone leaves it at something that may not be appropriate for all the content they're sharing. Facebook, after its many privacy blunders, reminds people about the audience setting sometimes, but I don't see people changing it. Also, "lists" as a concept to control who sees what was stillborn. Less than a fraction of a percentage in my circles would even be aware of it (this despite me trying to educate people about privacy).
> - It has built-in syndication, which means that it's easy to follow everyone's updates.
Here again, it's easy to follow updates that Facebook deems the best to keep the person coming back to show more ads and make more money. Almost nobody knows how to choose to see someone's posts always and how to avoid someone's posts short of unfriending them. The default is users not knowing that they can control it, which means practically they don't control what they see and what they don't see.
> - It has discovery abilities that helps finding people you want to connect to.
The same argument in the previous point applies here too. Facebook focuses on making people come back often. So the discovery feature may be useful in some cases, but usually it tends to create an overload of people, groups and pages to connect with. Search on Facebook is dismal, and the main "discovery" mechanism is Facebook's suggestions (which is incentivized for ads).
To summarize, Facebook's features work to maximize holding people's attention on its platform and showing ads. How well this matches with one's individual choices varies a lot. Facebook isn't really doing anything phenomenal in surfacing relevant content to people.
To be fair, that's true for most permissions on UNIX/Windows for the average person. Having a flexible ACL system that is user friendly is likely impossible. Either you make it friendly, but reduce its capabilities, or you make it complex and provide flexibility.
As Facebook has expanded, it's become a mostly passive experience. This is a byproduct of Facebook's business model, which is to sell other people's time. Like any business, it's incentivized to maximized its inventory, which in this case is time spent on Facebook properties.
People are waking up to the fact that Facebook doesn't add value to your life, it extracts value by consuming your time.
There is another way. You don't need to be the product.
This is why I created Universe (YC W'18), a new kind of tool that allows everyone to build their place on the internet—their own website, with their own domain, and their own design.
The internet should look more like a bustling, erratic metropolis and less like a centrally-planned suburb. To do that, it needs to be built by everyone.
Check out Universe and let me know what you think:
Some sites made on Universe:
More about our story:
I actually think there's an opportunity for the "website builders" namely WordPress, to create "consumer" app(s) that pull in feeds from WordPress powered blogs (with RSS) This consumer / consumption app would compete with Facebook/Twitter directly.
WordPress powers a significant % of the web and combined with the market share of some of the other large providers like Wix & Squarespace I think they could mount a legitimate challenge to FB/TW
1. login with Facebook (no signup needed)
2. share articles & post comments on Facebook
3. model the app after Facebook to hijack existing neural pathways
I'm not sure how they should handle authentication, or if it's even needed at all. Kids don't use email, and in order to differentiate from FB/TW, the less info you ask for on signup the better.
They don’t promote it. But it’s there.
I think obviously, they'd need a standalone or new app that puts the focus on this feature. Split the site management app out or re-engineer to compliment the user consumption app.
As a web developer, I see the value in owning your web space, but it's a very hard sell for others due to the extra work involved.
I think it will eventually happen, but I don't see how mass adoption will occur. Facebook grew a lot by getting our complete address book on signup and sending invitations to the whole list.
I stopped using FB as a user entirely once I realized that it was diminishing my opinions of other people much more than ignorance would. Knowing more about other people greatly impeded my ability to get along with them. "Open" is a big impediment to "connected" in a lot of cases. On, say, a sales call, I would way rather not know someone's opinion about immigration policy and not know about their favorite hockey team. I would rather stay totally ignorant of all the irrelevant personal garbage about that person and just focus on what is relevant to the actual connection I want to create there. There are just too many things that people feel free to say on FB that needlessly alienate others and I found that it's so much better to just be ignorant of that than it is to know and have my opinion of that person diminished.
I much prefer interest groups that are less focused on personalities for discussion and to read authors who know what they are writing about for commentary on important topics.
Social networks also act as a hyperfunnel for everyday people to become radicalized in their beliefs (usually political instead of to violence), but that’s a different issue.
For all your gif needs.
What does an alternative look like? Something like a shared Discord for friends and family to use, divided into groups or "servers". (That was the key insight of Google+, that people don't have one online presence for their family, close friends, coworkers, acquaintances, etc. It failed for other reasons.) The extra feature you need is just a shared searchable history to find media, albums of photos, etc.
I think the points the article makes are valid, but better understood as a criticism of Twitter. It effectively asks, if what we want is to post stuff online for other people to read, why not use the open web for that rather than [centralized service]. Thing is, people are already working on alternatives to this and not everyone needs to use the same thing for it to be successful. ActivityPub, websites using RSS for synchronization, Neocities, etc etc. So my response is that there are two sorts of things we use social media for, and there's no reason to try to do them both with one site.
I think I'm going to look into open Discord alternatives, and try to get some family and friends interested. Worst case, it will be an interesting experiment I'll learn something from.
1. Our high school class. Yes we used to use a mailing list but it's so much better with Facebook, with people freely sharing what interesting shit happens. We are a very closely knit class, at the 25th graduation anniversary like 25 of the 34 was there.
2. I have a group of friends doing all sorts of awesome shit (some of the more memorable include taking a medieval sword duel intro class, another shooting foam arrows at each other, there was laser tag, trampolines, Halloween mazes and much more) and the event functionality is just damn perfect: you create an event, everyone can post on it (I am coming, I am not coming, I need transport) all of the posts can be commented out. And people can just write posts into the group suggesting more events.
For both you'd need more than thirty people install a new app (remember how few apps are actually used) and actively use them at the same time or you will be missing events. This won't happen.
You'll have a hard time convincing these "content creators" to move off FB as they know they won't be able to attract the same audience anywhere nearly as easily.
Finally, a personal website doesn't solve the fundamental issue: people crave attention. That's why FB doesn't report likes in real time, it spaces them out so you can log back in re-check like some kind of lab rat. People crave drama too, which is why news sites use clickbait titles on their FB posts. What better way to boost "engagement" than post a headline you know will start a fight in the comments?
The flip side of that coin is that people seem to actually want a steady stream of low-quality content, and FB has more than enough behavioural psychologists and UX people on their team to ensure that keeps happening.
If Facebook hadn't lost so much trust already, they could try to jump ahead in that game by offering this service themselves. Pay us what we typically would earn off you from ads, and we'll turn off the ads and disable the tracking.
We've had these for a while. One of the most famous is probably Diaspora. Instead of having all your stuff on one centralized site so they can profit off it, everyone has their own Diaspora site/account, which can be hosted anywhere. You can have your own hosted site, or you can just have an account on an existing site, and you can easily move your account around if you don't like your provider or want to roll your own. That way, no one organization controls everything.
The problem, of course, is that this is too much work for most people, and most people are perfectly happy to give Mark Zuckerberg control of all their personal information because it's easier that way. So Diaspora has languished with almost no users, because the only way a social network survives is by having a "critical mass" of users. If all your friends aren't on there, you're not going to bother with it either. Facebook has that critical mass now, so it'll be virtually impossible to unseat them; the only way is if people simply stop being interested in social networks, or some other centralized service brings something to the table that everyone craves and FB misses the boat before it's too late (which is basically how FB unseated MySpace).
Hence it will never be popular. Sorry, that's just how it works. If you want non-technical people on the platform (i.e. the general public) it needs to just work right away.
There's quite a bit of talk about Mastodon lately, but not about Diaspora...
Check it out: https://micro.blog/
She's barely capable of managing logins. Granted there are millions of people just like her who don't really care about privacy (also due to ignorance) and will use a service simply because it's convenient and is good enough.
This is like saying people should do maintenance on their own cars because mechanics at the shop will be able to see your personal identifying information that you have in the car.
Posting content online and having sensitive private chats on a third party website is like leaving personal identifying information inside a locked car and expecting that it'll never get broken in to, either by hackers or by the manufacturer leaking the car keys.
Also many people with personal websites are starting to use Medium because it provides greater reach.
I'm all for decentralization and self-sovereignty and would love to see a world where everyone hosts their personal website but this idea is far-fetched because the masses are going to prefer free, fast, and convenient services that require little management and thinking.
I feel as though I live in the age of marketing, where it is more important to market yourself well than it is to, I don't know, produce. So much valuable creative and productive energy towards chasing dollars/likes/whatever. It reminds me of concepts that we regard as dark patterns in tech: Money might have at some point been a measure of productive work, but now it is a goal in and of itself, and I think that the outcome has been suboptimal.
I understand that the cat is out of the bag, and, in particular, the ability to upload and share video with the world could be one of the most important advancements in human rights ever, but it seems that many people are too distracted to be concerned. The very technology that could aid people is used to disarm them from action.
A large part of my concern is that I'm half European and half Native American. I appear Middle Eastern. I live in the United States. The cultural state here is definitely not sublime for someone with my appearance. My best friend is LGBT, and it is uncomfortable for her as well. I know that racism is a bigger problem, but the way that these systems have been "taken advantage" of by various governments to divide the US culture horrifies me.
About the "taken advantage" statement: An American company took money from a foreign government that it used to spread propaganda in the US. What facebook did is by design, and if it is allowed to stand, then what does it even mean to be a US company at that point?
It would need a registry or identity provider for the initial contact, but then it should replicate facebook functionality in a decentralized way. If you want to see posts in a group (like facebook group) - you query online members part of the group for their data, and download/share the latest version.
The software would ideally be hosted on the cloud, so it's always online. You log in your software and see all your updates/interact with others.
Decentralized social networks can't or won't do the kinds of orchestration of social interaction that help lubricate getting a social network up to speed. Many of those mechanisms, like bots, are underhanded and exactly what people want to get away from in decentralized networks.
We likely have to live with the fact that social networks are artificial creations, and that they are hostile to many kinds of expression. They probably can and should be better at preventing propaganda manipulation by hostile national adversaries, and at protecting the vulnerable from bullying.
But they're never going to be a force for good. Just a less-damaging vice.
BUT - if you just happened to have gotten married like I did, and are on the path toward kids in the semi-near future, a personal website isn't a bad idea.
I was just starting to reconsider my no-FB account ever policy because of the need to easily share family pictures/news, etc. Then I read this and thought - NO! - I will not get sucked into finally having a FB account; a personal website is a viable option.
The precursor to Facebook, at least among my peers, were personal blogs on Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad, etc and the precursor to that was personal web sites on GeoCities and Tripod. Many of my friends linked to each other's sites and it formed a pseudo-social network.
Facebook was better because you could control who saw your website by limiting your friend list. They had the social framework in place, you just had to sign up. Facebook is also a great place to share local news.
Something like it will probably, eventually replace the local newspaper and TV stations.
First, MySpace was incredibly clunky. When you posted an update the entire page refreshed. Facebook had a much sleeker interface that used Ajax so posting updates was much more seamless.
Second, I think the mid 2000s were a unique time where consumers were very willing, almost wanting to try different sites and technologies. I remember these being the days Tumblr took off as well. Now people seem to like simplicity and speed, and are content focused. At that time it was all new so people like customizing pages and having custom songs play when the pages loaded.
Finally, Facebook had integration with third party apps that made using the site more fun and gave people a built in feature to share. I remember living social not as a deal site but a Facebook app where you ranked your five top things from a bunch of categories, such as top five movies, books, etc. Users loved it.
These factors are easy to forget now where they don’t seem that big a deal but at that time these were huge differentiating factors that made Facebook more popular and I think Facebook’s early product teams probably don’t get enough credit for some of these decisions.
When WP started, (self) publishing was the key. We've since evolved to where content is important but network / connections matter more. I know #duh :) With all it's market share and community WordPress was in a unique position to leverage that girth and add the magic of "network" to the content.
Imagine something like (e.g.) Disqus but as the default - as Gutenberg is - on every WP website. The general idea might not be new (i.e., Disqus has social-esque features) but the mass network would be. Perhaps adding in a RSS consumption feature for the sources I follow (and might want to share)?
That is where we are now, with a lot of small screens. God bless Gutenberg but sometimes it feels like the promise of a new & improved fax machine - too little too late.
I thought NextCloud might be a good solution, but I'm still searching.
Previously, I used self-hosted WordPress blog for sharing photos, password protection was great but got tired of administering stuff. Also I wanted to backup my photos on VPS, so I was uploading full-resolution photos which of course, was not very price efficient for backup.
Then I switched to SmugMug with unlimited space. This was great because I can upload photos directly from Lightroom Classic 6.0. Photos stay synced. And easy automatic backup but photos are slightly compressed when you upload via LR plugin.
Now I have "upgraded" to Lightroom CC, it comes with 1TB of storage. Your photos/videos are available on laptop, phone, and web. It comes with Adobe Portfolio which you can use to share. You can share privately too but I haven't tested that.
However, it is not a true backup service, if you accidentally delete a photo on phone, it is gone everywhere. And there is no recycle bin. So I keep local copies and run a cron job to copy them to NAS.
So this is not a self-hosted decentralized solution but it seems to be best option so far.
I want my Significant other to be able to post as easily as Facebook. My parents to browse easily on their devices, and uploading pictures from my phone to be Facebook Simple.
Mastodon is pretty close to having all of this if you turn off Federation, other than not being able to run a fully private node. You can still access public pages for users.
On my list to check out are: HumHub & Hubzilla.
Think I missed some buzzwords but you get the idea.
The main thing you need IMHO is discoverability -- finding the people you used to hang out with in college 20+ years ago is something fb is pretty good at. Probably even better these days, dunno, haven't logged in since '13 my friend told me a few years ago.
Our everyday internet should be taken less seriously - used for what you want, to simplify a few things, not make them more complicated or hidden.
Lev Manovich has some interesting thoughts on the database-centric nature of how the internet's come to be. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/language-new-media
Yes, I agree we should move away from Facebook, but the answer has to be a better culture. So far from my prowling of alternatives, my only conclusion is that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution because that's exactly what Facebook is trying to do by catering to lowest-common-denominator of culture in the most powerful (psychologically) way: allowing content that gets the most clicks. It's tautological. What we need isn't to break up Facebook or wait for a disruptive alternative, what we need is a better sense of the internet as groups of communities, of which you should be a member of several.
Funny thing is I love it but everyone who uses Facebook (especially geeks) likes to tell me this is all wrong because 2 billion people aren’t using my website and I’m not a publicly traded company.
I think Facebook has messed with their heads. They just keep prattling about “network effect” and “owning the market”.
Clone Facebook. Limit it to Family + 50 friends max which actually seems to many. The numbers arbitrary. I think 150 social relationships is the max a human can handle.
The digital social network would resemble the real social network and some form of human decency and dignity would re-emerge.
Constrict the size of individuals digital social networks to what they evolved to be able to handle and watch online behaviour and content improve.