WTS: Alternative Social Media Structures

In light of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the larger ramifications of people realizing just how much data Facebook has on us (IT’S SO MUCH DATA), in addition to how they have not exercised much care of said data. In response to this, I’ve heard talk of people deleting Facebook.

At this point, I treat Facebook as a news source, an entertainment source, as a gossip site, as a place to make life/career announcements, as a place to plan events, as a socializing site through the messenger, and many other uses (and Facebook knows this). I’m tempted to delete it, but the pure utility of it is undeniable (and Facebook knows this too).

I want to propose a not-for profit, or co-op, or open source model for a social media site. I’m also curious about what a decentralized “social media network” would look like.

For example, what if everyone had their own private server, running the same software that could communicate using a set protocol with other servers running the software?

 Pros  Cons
  •  Control of own data
    • You could analyze your own data
  • Decentralized hosting
  • People can “opt in” for advertising (and quite honestly, you be getting paid)
  • Hacks are probably more limited in scale(?)
  • You would be able to tailor the algorithm that orders your feed
  • People could choose to install various “add-ons” for additional features (hopefully for positive things…)
  •  Pay for server space
  • Probably will need to know coding
  • You will probably be hacked and it will probably be your own fault
  • Probably a lot of effort to maintain and settings to remember
  • If a “friend” server is hacked, they will probably be able to download everything that is accessible to them

Does this make any sense? If it were a co-op or not for profit model, would people pay in for it? If it were a de-centralized, open source software / communication protocol, would enough people take the time to download it and maintain it?


Aside: To be clear, problem goes beyond Facebook and for profit social media companies. Taking control of our online data should impact internet service providers (ISP’s) as well. The amount of data our ISP’s have is unsettling. ISP’s and any company that sells supposedly anonymized data should have some kind of oversight.