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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Distributed social network - Friendica

In the past week I've discovered that there are actually working examples of distributed social networks. What is a distributed social network, you ask? (If not, skip this part.)
It is something like Facebook or Twitter, only better! But seriously: the problem with the regular Internet social networks is that there is basically just a single company running the network and owning your data. They can do whatever they want with the data you and your friends supplied. Not to mention the influence of other major companies or governments. With Facebook, this is a known issue. As soon as someone reports your account for some misbehaviour, you are done. No questions asked. Mostly because the people running the server have no time or possibilities to really solve the users problems and quarrels. One good example would be different laws dictated by different governments. As all of the larger social network sites are global, they span many geographical borders. They also grew pretty fast in the beginning and have failed to adapt to this change. The result is that the site is ruled by laws of the USA although they also operate in Europe, for example.But even if this issue were fixed, you would still be left with a single company holding personal data of a large percentage of the Internet population. Holding you hostage and helpless.
This sounds horrible, is there something that can be done? Of course! This is where the distributed social network comes to our aid. The concept is pretty simple - you (or someone you trust) can run your own social network server. This way you are the one who owns the data, no one can change anything without your approval. To stay connected with your friends, you just add links to their profiles (be it a personal server or a conventional social network) and the servers do the rest - they exchange all the posts and messages, transfer photos, ... simple as that. And thanks to open standards and protocols, you don't even have to have the same server software.

As I set out to find the ultimate distributed social network suited for me, I came across Friendica. It is a fairly grown and developed community with a fully working server application written in PHP. This is a great thing for two reasons: first, I have years of experience programming in PHP and can therefore write and customise my own installation and second, you can find a really cheap hosting for your application.

My very own Friendica server and profile can be found here: friendica.dejvino.com/profile/dejvino

As this area has become really interesting for me, it is certain that there are more Friendica related posts coming. For example: crossposting is Friendica's killer feature for me - I've connected Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr and most recently WordPress. But more on this later.