Replacing Facebook With *Diaspora*
- Here is some information I think needs to be disseminated widely those of you who are interested in privacy and so forth. There is a new social network called Diaspora that is open-sourced, decentralized, non-corporate, personally controlled, and do-it-all that is comming out real soon (15th of this month I think). I would encourage everyone to seriously consider joining this new network and abandon the corporately owned and controlled network Facebook and tell all your friends about Diaspora.
Facebook's Gone Rogue; It's Time for an Open Alternative
* By Ryan Singel * May 7, 2010 * 6:58 pm * Categories: Social Media
Facebook has gone rogue, drunk on founder Mark Zuckerberg's dreams
of world domination. It's time the rest of the web ecosystem
recognizes this and works to replace it with something open and
Facebook used to be a place to share photos and thoughts with friends
and family and maybe play a few stupid games that let you pretend you
were a mafia don or a homesteader. It became a very useful way to
connect with your friends, long-lost friends and family members. Even if
you didn't really want to keep up with them.
Soon everybody including your uncle Louie and that guy you hated
from your last job had a profile.
And Facebook realized it owned the network.
Then Facebook decided to turn "your" profile page into your
identity online figuring, rightly, that there's money and
power in being the place where people define themselves. But to do that,
the folks at Facebook had to make sure that the information you give it
So in December, with the help of newly hired Beltway privacy experts, it
reneged on its privacy promises and made much of your profile
information public by default. That includes the city that you live in,
your name, your photo, the names of your friends and the causes
you've signed onto.
This spring Facebook took that even further. All the items you list as
things you like must become public and linked to public profile pages.
If you don't want them linked and made public, then you don't
get them though Facebook nicely hangs onto them in its database in
order to let advertisers target you.
This includes your music preferences, employment information, reading
preferences, schools, etc. All the things that make up your profile.
They all must be public and linked to public pages for each of
those bits of info or you don't get them at all. That's
hardly a choice, and the whole system is maddeningly complex
Simultaneously, the company began shipping your profile information off
pre-emptively to Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft so that if you show
up there while already logged into Facebook, the sites can
"personalize" your experience when you show up. You can try to
opt out after the fact, but you'll need a master's in Facebook
bureaucracy to stop it permanently.
Care to write a status update to your friends? Facebook sets the default
for those messages to be published to the entire internet through direct
funnels to the net's top search engines. You can use a dropdown
field to restrict your publishing, but it's seemingly too hard for
Facebook to actually remember that's what you do. (Google Buzz, for
all the criticism it has taken, remembers your setting from your last
post and uses that as the new default.)
Now, say you you write a public update, saying, "My boss had a crazy
great idea for a new product!" Now, you might not know it, but there
is a Facebook page for "My Crazy Boss" and because your post had
all the right words, your post now shows up on that page. Include the
words "FBI" or "CIA," and you show up on the FBI or CIA
Then there's the new Facebook "Like" button littering the
internet. It's a great idea, in theory but it's completely
tied to your Facebook account, and you have no control over how it is
used. (No, you can't like something and not have it be totally
Then there's Facebook's campaign against outside services. There
was the Web 2.0 suicide machine that let you delete your profile by
giving it your password. Facebook shut it down.
Another company has an application that will collect all your updates
from services around the web into a central portal including from
Facebook after you give the site your password to log in to
Facebook. Facebook is suing the company and alleging it is breaking
criminal law by not complying with its terms of service.
No wonder 14 privacy groups filed a unfair-trade complaint
<http://epic.org/2010/05/new-facebook-privacy-complaint.html> with the
FTC against Facebook on Wednesday.
Mathew Ingram at GigaOm wrote a post entitled "The Relationship
Between Facebook and Privacy: It's Really Complicated
No, that's just wrong. The relationship is simple: Facebook thinks
that your notions of privacy meaning your ability to control
information about yourself are just plain old-fashioned. Head
honcho Zuckerberg told a live audience in January that Facebook is
simply responding to changes in privacy mores
of_privacy_is_ov.php> , not changing them a convenient, but
frankly untrue, statement.
In Facebook's view, everything (save perhaps your e-mail address)
should be public. Funny too about that e-mail address, for Facebook
would prefer you to use its e-maillike system that censors the
messages sent between users
Ingram goes onto say, "And perhaps Facebook doesn't make it as
clear as it could what is involved, or how to fine-tune its privacy
controls but at the same time, some of the onus for doing these
things has to fall to users."
What? How can it fall to users when most of the choices don't'
actually exist? I'd like to make my friend list private. Cannot.
I'd like to have my profile visible only to my friends, not my boss.
I'd like to support an anti-abortion group without my mother or the
world knowing. Cannot.
Setting up a decent system for controlling your privacy on a web service
shouldn't be hard. And if multiple blogs are writing posts
explaining how to use your privacy system, you can take that as a sign
you aren't treating your users with respect, It means you are
coercing them into choices they don't want using design principles.
Facebook could start with a very simple page of choices: I'm a
private person, I like sharing some things, I like living my life in
public. Each of those would have different settings for the myriad of
choices, and all of those users could then later dive into the control
panel to tweak their choices. That would be respectful design but
Facebook isn't about respect it's about re-configuring the
world's notion of what's public and private.
So what that you might be a teenager and don't get that
college-admissions offices will use your e-mail address to find possibly
embarrassing information about you. Just because Facebook got to be the
world's platform for identity by promising you privacy and then
later ripping it out from under you, that's your problem. At least,
according to the bevy of privacy hired guns the company brought in at
high salaries to provide cover for its shenanigans.
Clearly Facebook has taught us some lessons. We want easier ways to
share photos, links and short updates with friends, family, co-workers
and even, sometimes, the world.
But that doesn't mean the company has earned the right to own and
define our identities.
It's time for the best of the tech community to find a way to let
people control what and how they'd like to share. Facebook's
basic functions can be turned into protocols, and a whole set of
interoperating software and services can flourish.
Think of being able to buy your own domain name and use simple software
such as Posterous to build a profile page in the style of your liking.
You'd get to control what unknown people get to see, while the
people you befriend see a different, more intimate page. They could be
using a free service that's ad-supported, which could be offered by
Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, a bevy of startups or web-hosting services
"Like" buttons around the web could be configured to do exactly
what you want them to add them to a protected profile or get added
to a wish list on your site or broadcast by your micro-blogging service
of choice. You'd be able to control your presentation of self
and as in the real world, compartmentalize your life.
People who just don't want to leave Facebook could play along as
well so long as Facebook doesn't continue creepy data
practices like turning your info over to third parties, just because one
of your contacts takes the "Which Gilligan Island character are
you?" quiz? (Yes, that currently happens)
Now, it might not be likely that a loose confederation of software
companies and engineers can turn Facebook's core services into
shared protocols, nor would it be easy for that loose coupling of
various online services to compete with Facebook, given that it has 500
million users. Many of them may be fine having Facebook redefine their
cultural norms, or just be too busy or lazy to leave.
But in the internet I'd like to live in, we'd have that option,
instead of being left with the choice of letting Facebook use us, or
being left out of the conversation altogether.
Photo: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg gives the keynote at
SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, 2009.