Somehow, in the software changes here, I unlinked the older blog entries about the Facebook Killer and never got around to re-linking them. That’s okay, they were pretty rambly and this gives me an excuse to sum up what I have so far. I jokingly have code-named the project Pumpkin Spice Latte, for reasons which now escape me other than you can tell the time of year I named it. Here’s what it needs, in semi-particular order:
Ease of use
You log in, you type in a box. You click “like,” on your friends, relatives, businesses, posts, whatever. At its simplest, that’s it. Anything that replaces Facebook has to be that easy. That’s no big deal - that’s just really basic blogging software.
There’s a “there” there
Once you’ve “liked” something on FB, it (or things like it) shows up in your timeline/wall/whatever it is this week, simple as that. Posting is, for most people, secondary to reading other people’s posts. That’s a slightly bigger deal, but not much - that’s just really easy-to-use feed reading. Subscribe new users to all of their FB friends, and the critical mass is there.
Replacing one Facebook with another is no good. There will certainly have to be hosted PSL instances for ease-of-use, but you have to be able to click on a button and move all your stuff from one host to another, bam.
Facebook has a problem with spammers cloning users. I used to get regular friend requests from clones of my mother (until I, um, unfriended her for political reasons), and if you can click one button and move to a new host your friends have to be able to tell the difference between you doing that and you just being cloned. You’ll have to be able to identify yourself with a public/private key setup of some sort (but see also “ease of use”).
Come on, we’ve had BBS door games since the 80’s. We got this.
There is a whole host of under-the-hood features that will be important to us nerds. I think they’re important for implementing the above, but they wouldn’t necessarily appeal to the canonical user.
“Just” feed-reading is complicated by FB eliminating its RSS feeds a long time ago, and putting TOS restrictions on its API to prevent this kind of thing. If PSL and similar things really took off, it would quickly become whac-a-mole as FB tried to block ways of offline reading.
People need some incentive to move. Luckily, Facebook provides some of that all by itself: people get annoyed that they can’t control whether they see everything family members post. People get annoyed by ads. People get annoyed by Facebook re-sorting their timeline.
Spam and phishing and bullying and everything else that comes with a social network needs a lot of careful control. On the down side, there’s no central authority to ban someone, but on the up side, you don’t need to rely on a central authority to ban someone… provided you have tools to give you enough control over your experience.