Open source distributed social web, to take over from Facebook etc

I’ve been extremely interested in the distributed social web. I’m not a member of Facebook, and I don’t like their walled garden at all. I want to be able to own my own information and I want to customize and add friends from all over without using proprietary systems.

That’s the reason why I support (and use) identica instead of Twitter. is not only a new microblogging site, but it implements the OpenMicroBlogging-standard so that you can add friends and follow them from other microblogging-sites as well. Great! Whilst sites like Twitter and Facebook keep your friends as hostages, making it hard for you to leave for better/cooler/free-er services.

Anyway, I’ve been very interested in an Open Source distributed (well, actually it doesn’t have to be distributed either) app I can install on my web server to host my pictures. It has to support tagging of the pictures and be web 2.0-certified.

Right now these big social networks doesn’t really fit the bill for me. I’ve been looking at noserub, which is a protocol for a distributed social web, plus an example application that aggregates information about your friends. Kinda lean, but it doesn’t host my pictures although it may be the route to make such an application distributed. There is also the diso-project which aims to do something similar, but implementing a set of plugins for WordPress so that it can act as your «page» in the social web. All this is extremely interesting, and Ive found pixelsbi’s web site to be a very good resource.

He’s talking about the distributed social web and OpenID, very worth subscribing to if you are interested in these matters. A few good posts you should read:

He also has a screencast describing what a distributed social network could be, I linked that to readwriteweb that also has some more text around distributed social networking.

So… All of this I already knew (for a day or two). But earlier today, I started to find these open source networks I talked about. I don’t know how distributed they are, but that should be possible being that they are free as in freedom. So right now I’m looking at three social networks (there are many more):

Of those, I think Elgg looks most promising. I want to rip it down, because I’m really only interested in having myself on it. Everyone else can use their own home page as their «profile» or use a bigger site. Maybe I can set up one of these on my server for other people if they seem to be of interest. I’ll look into it.

I hope I’m able to at least pull out the Gallery-component from one of them and make a really good open source flickr-like application. That would be nice.

3 thoughts on “Open source distributed social web, to take over from Facebook etc”

  1. This is a fascinating problem, and I’m all with you on open social networks. Eighteen months ago when working for a summer in Intuit’s Technology Innovation Group I worked on a new microformat for receipts. While receipts are hardly the most vital topic in social network software, the microformat concept is a potential part of the picture, along with other concepts such as RDF and FOAF.

    The main advantage that Facebook offers is, like every other walled garden, control. People like the ability to determine who gets to see their stuff. Doing this in a decentralized fashion is, I suppose, easy enough in theory. I haven’t looked into the projects you link to, but if they address that issue I would think they have potential for broad adoption.

  2. Thanks for this post. I just made myself a profile on Identoo , a NoseRub site that gathers info from all my various other sites. Looks very promising as the start of a distributed social web. I know 30boxes has had something similar for a very long time, but I guess I really would rather just use my calendar as a calendar, and not a feed aggregate (“do one thing and do it well”).

    So after some messing around, my WordPress blog is NoseRub compatible; I hope there will soon be a more standardized and simple way of doing that though… we need something even simpler than the Facebook signup procedure ;-)

  3. @Leif Arne: It’s easy to have privacy with a distributed system. It’s actually better than the walled garden that Facebook is. You can really keep it to yourself.

    It’s possible to use OAuth and OpenID to only allow your friends to see your pictures from the party, but allow other to view your mountaineering. No problemo. Someone just has to write the code! :D

    @Kevin: Nice! I’m also looking into it, but it’s not there yet. It is a start though. :-)

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