The problem with main$tream social media isn’t the fact that it’s closed source, but the fact that it’s for-profit. I’m happy to see that people are interested in creating alternatives that incorporate some combination of decentralization, software freedom, or user governance, but I’m dismayed that seemingly none of them are going for the jugular and attempting a non-monetized implementation of the capabilities associated with social media. One promising example is the Okuna website and one of the items on the nav bar is “angel,” and of course I get that sinking feeling. I click it, and sure enough, I scroll two thirds of the way down to the bottom of the page and confirm that sinking feeling that that’s angel as in investor.
I believe the ubiquity of spyware and spam is a consequence of a technical ecosystem (if you want to call it that) in which monetization is a prerequisite for anything happening. I do of course know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, even if you’re willing to code for free, someone has to pay the hosting bill. Thing is if the monthly hosting bill is a few dollars (rather than a few tens or hundreds of dollars) there will probably be any number of middle class (or even low income) hobbyists who will eat that cost, with an attitude that it’s well worth it if it means I can put an ad-free site online, or post my writings without answering to editorial authority, or whatever other noncommercial communications goals one might have. So it is that there was a renaissance of DIY ethos during the era of dial-up ISP’s, whose 5, 10, 20 clam a month plans customarily included a few megs of filespace for at least some static HTML content. I think the death of the blogosphere (and the corresponding rise in commercial “social media” as a replacement communication outlet) really kicked into high gear around 2008, with the recession, and a growing number of people reaching the conclusion that they don’t have the luxury of NOT monetizing their hobbies. But the thing about monetization is that it is a do-or-not-do proposition. Once the camel’s nose is in the tent, EVERYTHING that’s cool about noncommercial feats of creativity is instantly a lost cause. You can’t implement monetization in digital media without tamperproofing the technology, basically DRM, but tamperproofing also includes ad-n*[blocker]s for even values of n. In turn, you can’t tamperproof paywalls (or adwalls or whatever) without killing general purpose computing.
I must ask why we aren’t focusing mainly on federated networks, which slice the network into pieces small enough (we would like to hope) to fit into consumer-level hosting plans (we would also like to hope) in ways that still allow more or less frictionless search for and access to people and content throughout the network.