I like Facebook. It’s created enormous value for me. I keep in contact with several hundred fellow liberty lovers there – folks who have become my friends. We have fun and trade ideas. We collaborate to achieve goals of importance to each other. It costs me nothing to participate yet the value I receive in return is priceless. And that’s exactly why I’m creating an alternative to Facebook.
Do I contradict myself? No. Facebook is a hierarchical system controlled by a state-chartered corporation. They’ve already deleted my account once. Since then I’ve had two close calls. Facebook is willing and able to separate me from my network at any time (by deleting my account) – a devastating loss. In fact, they do it all the time, so much so that liberty lovers started a group to publicize the new accounts of fallen comrades.
Libertarian activists are out there on the edge, testing the limits of what can be done to advance liberty and justice. Our networks are our defensive shield from state persecution. Without them, the risk is too great. As Ben Franklin said after signing the Declaration of Independence, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Here are my reasons for creating an alternative to Facebook.
- Facebook is a single point of failure. If it goes down due to technical, legal or financial problems, there are no other nodes to keep it going. Compare this to Status.net, a microblogging open source software project that is distributed (like noted Facebook alternative diaspora). If one Status.net node goes down, there are other independent ones to carry on. You don’t have to route through one central authority to participate in the Status.net community. It’s peer-to-peer. You can set up and host your own instance of the software.
- Facebook is a walled garden. You have to join Facebook in order to participate. Compare this to blogging where you don’t have to route through a central authority in order to blog. You set up your own node and start writing. RSS, comments, trackbacks, aggregators and other technologies enable community to happen anyway. Even if someone else’s blog account goes down, yours is still up.
- My Facebook content disappears into a black hole of oblivion. It’s not searchable and only recently became moderately linkable. Sure, I can download my Facebook account, but the format can not be imported into anything else. With an open source blogging platform, such as WordPress, I can export my content and import it again elsewhere.
- I’m worried about Facebook handing my information over to the government. Call me paranoid. And I know I give it to them voluntarily. But their high level of centralization makes them vulnerable to government intimidation. The state can shut them down or raid their offices any time it likes.
- The whole friend/defriend paradigm creates more potential for offense than the decision to follow or not follow on twitter. Is Facebook amping up the “drama” in the liberty community?
- Facebook will not survive a collapse, martial law or internet-off-switch scenario. In other words, think about the shit hitting the fan. That moment is when the liberty community will most need reliable communications. Facebook could be one of the first things to go. And we have no power to resurrect it. With a distributed platform such as Status.net, however, we have the potential to continue communicating as long as telephone lines or satellites are available. A distributed system is more resilient than a centralized one.
- The bigger they are, the harder they fall. ‘Nuff said.
- A federated solution, such as Status.net, enables more people to participate. It’s like email. You can communicate with them, no matter who their service provider is. Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, are closed systems. You have to have the same service provider to communicate. That’s FAIL.
- Two options are better than just one. Just as multiple sources of transportation or food give us peace of mind so do multiple forms of social networking.
- Is your personal network backed up outside of Facebook? Where would you go to communicate with your friends and fellow activists if – right now – Facebook stopped working, deleted your account or, worse, banned you?
I’m still keeping my Facebook account, but I’m also diversifying my risk. The social network I’m creating won’t need 500 million users to be a success. I’d be happy with 500 active users within a year. Would you like to be one of the first? Agr.io is still at an alpha stage but if you’d like to shape its future direction, let me know. I’ll send you an invite. (I’ll need your email address.)