Friday, May 14, 2010

Uber-Nerds Fire a Shot Across the Bow of Fascist Social Networking Oligarchs

File Under: Technically Speaking

The plentitude of useful (and useless) information, file sharing, e-commerce, telecommuting, online games and the myriad of other things the Internet makes possible are all wonderful, but it is the people that make it all worthwhile. For millions of individuals, sites like Facebook or Myspace is where they go to meet or keep in touch with friends on a daily basis. Since their beginnings toward the end of the last century, social networks have been the gatekeepers to probably the most important thing the Internet has to offer: instant connection to your friends and the millions of other net travelers around the world. Such websites have certainly made the world a smaller and more connected place. However, all this wonderfulness comes with a price, because you see...most social networking services are information-grubbing, friend-hoarding fascists. They spy on you, stalk you like paparazzi, and sell your most intimate revelations to the highest bidder.

Once your information is out there, it is out there forever and there is no getting it back - ever. That creates a serious problem within a virtual community based solely on sharing and communication. Individuals leery of being scandalized or harassed because of something they thought they were sharing with only a few close associates have become reticent to share and interact. Moreover, for those who do like to share, achieving a modicum of privacy has become an ordeal itself. The message: if you would like to keep in touch with all your friends in a simple manner, submit to a cavity search and prepare to bare your soul to the world. Such is the state of social networking.

That could all change in the near future thanks to the efforts of four NYU students on a mission to "decentralize" the web. The project is Diaspora* and it aims to place the power (read: control and privacy) of social networking and sharing back into the hands of the end-user by cutting out the middle-manager and allowing the person sitting at home on their computer to be their own social networking server. I could regurgitate a significant amount of technical jargon but I am not a computer programmer so I will break it down to brass tacks. What this would mean is that you the Internet socialite using secure, encrypted software would send all your communications whether they be messages, pictures, videos, or whatever cool new (or recycled) features Diaspora will add directly to other people on the Internet, rather than first sending them to a central place (i.e. Facebook), where all your goodies are scrutinized by the server, combed over by advertisers, and then ultimately shared with the intended target.

Sharing? Check. Security? Check. Privacy? Check. Control? Check.

Bane and 400 Million others like this. .

The Internet used to be such a great place, full of hope and promise. Oh where, oh where did it go so wrong? Perhaps the O'Jays can help us understand it all.

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