Victus Spiritus


Social Networks: Don't Fear the Reaper

16 Apr 2010

Blue Oyster Cult Don't Fear the Reaper frames this post well.

Why I'm Opting out of Centralized Social Networks

As far as I can tell centralized social networks are redundant, and about as un-web like as you can get. The comparisons of Facebook and even Twitter to AOL are not unfounded. We yield far too much control to third party corporations by constraining how we communicate over the Net. We have blogs to capture and share our thoughts on diverse topics with varying complexity. There are numerous free blogging platforms, and free software for self hosted solutions. But this format is perceived as too heavy for short single messages, and thus microblogging emerged as a socially accepted pattern.

A URL can point to all social interactions, videos, songs, and Net data we desire. This URL doesn't have to point to stream data that resides in a company database, behind a paywall (this includes blog platforms that don't enable default, easy read/write access). The moment we make this Faustian bargain we hand over value and more importantly control to an external entity that may not share our best interests. Distributed solutions to social sharing these streams is growing at an exponential pace. This model does mimick features of the p2p content sharing system.

Microblogging is hot as a marketing engine and a quick browsing interface to longer form content. Twitter is the most popular social browser outside of Facebook but both of these type of networks are redundant once users become familiar with alternatives. Open options have failed to be competitive because of marketing, ease of use, and the requirement for new standards (or implementation of old ones). A general purpose browser can render URLs, which can correspond to people streams, object statuses, or whatever we can imagine at that URL. Social browsers need not be locked away in a corporate database or handed out piece meal with rigid or lacking formats. Corporate and open source tools compete to manage feed following and remixing/curation. You can count on the leading social browsing tool organizations to embrace the distributed nature of the web and Internet, where everyone and no one owns all the data. Financial models which support this format is where we have to push our creativity.