On social networking

Posted on December 22, 2006

Social networking is the very prerequisite for the Civilization. The better your connections are, the more successful is your career. The better connections are in a society, the faster progress of the society is. Therefore, there is a great incentive to improve the opportunities for social networking on both individual and community levels.

Given that, there is no surprise that in the Internet age, many attempts where made in instrumentation of social networking. Orkut to Myspace, Linkedin to Facebook, only those which positioned as teenagers’ playground where a success. Why is that? I believe because they all are running a centralized model. A social networking instrument is only relevant if ‘everyone’ is there. OK, let it be ‘everyone relevant’. Now, imagine for a moment that there exists a networking website where ‘everyone relevant’ is registered. Sounds creepy? To me, it certainly is. When I receive and invitation into another social networking site, my first reaction is, do I really want to publish my personal data there? And there is all reason to be reluctant. Even if you somehow believe that the owner of the site won’t be evil, what if someone breaks into the site and steals the database? What if a backup tape falls into wrong hands (accidentally, no doubt)? The bigger the site, the more lucrative it is for the hunters for people’s personal information.

But c’mon, the whole thing is about sharing personal data! If a significant fraction of the prospective participants is reluctant to use a system, its usefulness drops dramatically. It only makes sense if people are ready to use it without hesitation!

So, this is the problem: if the site is small, it is not useful; if it is big, people are afraid of using it.

Solution? Make the system distributed, without a single owner and without a single data repository. Social network should reflect into an overlay network in the cyberspace, rather than into a distinct website. I have no idea which technology would be best here: something based on XMPP, or links of some standardized form connecting “homepages”, or something completely different. But it needs to be a distributed system, that’s for sure.