Reading through the GNU Free Software philosophy once again, I wonder whether, right now in the current disputes surrounding Facebook, Twitter, Mastodon and the quest for a more “open” social network environment, we might need just something like the GNU philosophy for social networks, too? I mean, after all, having “open-source” social network implementations like Mastodon, Diaspora* or GNUSocial is pretty nice but it seems to somehow miss the point: The issues arising from using social networks don’t really seem to be caused by the implementations most widely used these days are “proprietary” but by these implementations being operated in a way providing a massive vendor lock-in. From that point of view, looking at the Four Freedoms of Free Software, I could imagine something like the Four (or Five, depending upon your point of view) Abilities required for a “Libre Social Network” more or less like this:
- The ability to communicate to any other user anywhere else without forcing her or him into using the same platform or even provider.
- The ability to have a very deep and detailed look into what data about yourself is stored on a particular network, who has access to it and who actually did access it.
- The ability to fully control access to your data in that network, including both completely export and completely delete all your stuff.
- The ability to transparently move your account from one provider to another in the same network by exporting and re-importing your data in some other system.
- The ability to run infrastructure acting as part of that network yourself for hosting your data as well as, optionally, data of other users if you (and they) want to.
I am not really sure this makes sense. But at the moment, I see there’s a lot of fuss about decentralized networks, about different implementations and protocols, but at the end it mostly seems to come down to a technical discourse that completely leaves out a more or less accurate idea of what should be achieved by this. Getting something akin to the GNU Manifesto could be a starting point for both developers and less technical people to have a shared vision and figure out where things actually should be heading before starting to write code and build actual infrastructure. Not sure – maybe I’m completely wrong about that though. Feel free to get me sorted here anyone. 😉