Federation. Decentralization. Privacy. Ownership. Open-source social media has sought its niche in one or more of these concepts. I’ve dabbled, followed, had a small impact in some of these projects, but I’ve never installed any of them. (Not counting WordPress, BoltWire, and various wikis.)
My perspective is that of user experience. A developer would take quite a different tack to discuss technical issues. I’m sure I use only a bit of the potential in these projects. I mention them below in the order that I remember joining.
TiddlySpace. The social interaction here isn’t for the faint of heart. The commenting system is challenging to the end user like me. But this is TiddlyWiki on the web, and one of my favorite places. It has so much going for it, like its superb bookmarklet; recent shakeups, however, in the personnel behind it have me wondering what it’s future will be.
Diaspora. My next experience on a decentralized open-source social project was also a good one, if limited. It doesn’t really talk with the others, but it looks clean. A few friends signed up when I invited them, but nobody stayed. Then I found
Friendica. I loved it. I could connect to Twitter. Facebook was a possible, but since I have thousands of so-called friends, I dared not overload the system. But I did make a half-hearted effort to get friends to sign up. Friendica, despite assurances to the contrary (see update below), seems to slowly be giving way to another step up the development chain, which is
RedMatrix. Now my main open-source spot, Red is not as connectable (yet) as Friendica, but it’s coming close, even though it seeks its strength elsewhere. Facebook and its ilk keep changing the rules, raising the walls, so Red doesn’t make as much effort, but you can already crosspost to Diaspora, Libertree, Friendica, WordPress, LiveJournal, pump.io/status.net, and
possibly Twitter. Rather, the power of Red is in the zot protocol to give you mobility and privacy in a fine-tuned scale. Users are no longer tied to a given server. Features galore make the head spin. This thing has even got the kitchen sink. But by this time, I didn’t bother my friends much about joining.
Libertree. Cool, clean, a peaceful oasis easy to use, this pleasant community of developers and contributors has impressed with their helpfulness — like the Friendica/Red folk — in terms of their willingness to listen to input, as well as to bail out a non-techie like me. My friends? Well, they were busy giving Facebook their data.
All social media is social enough, I suppose. If you can’t get your old friends to join, you make new ones wherever you go. That’s been my experience.
Much like in the spiritual realm: People say they ought to obey God and avoid eternal perdition, but it’s a bit of a bother, you know? Just so, people complain about Facebook and Google, but keep using them, because it’s just easy to do, and that’s where everybody is, supposedly.
So the open-source social-media projects will continue to develop and, one hopes, eventually begin to peel people away from commercial sites that mine users’ data and turn them into the product being sold.
As a final bit, here’s a one-sentence recap of other various and sundry media I’ve stuck my toe in.
- Heello. Love the feel of of this Twitter clone, but it’s like I’m in a deep, empty hole.
- Plurk. A good idea that didn’t quite translate well, visually.
- Twii. Privacy, no cookies, no tracking in this Twitter cousin, but it could use a tweak.
- Pump.io. Replaced status.net and I’ve no idea what it’s supposed to do.
UPDATE: Friendica continues in full development, so it’s not on the way out. Connectivity to app.net is coming, and it will be even more user friendly, says developer Michael, who see it as a “tool to interconnect bidirectionally to as many networks as possible.” Also, status.net has evolved to GNUsocial and is alive and well. Heello is dead.