Tuesday, October 5, 2021

I've got an idea ...


Yeah.  Facebook goes down and everyone panics.

This does show how much we rely on it though - for me it's how I keep up on all the things my friends are up to.  The odd thing is if you ask everyone who was inconvenienced by the outage what they're general opinion is about Facebook and I'm very certain the responses won't be nice.  Everyone uses it but no one really likes it.

I think I know how to fix things ...

"Right!" you say, and go read something else because you've seen this all before.

For those still reading, here are my thoughts:

1.  We need something decentralized

If it's not all on a single server and not controlled by a single company then it can't be taken out by a single problem ... and they can't control what you read or post.  It's time for the individual to take back control of their postings and feed.

2.  It needs to be secure

Cryptographically reverse polarity of neutron flow something something gazpacho.  We all know this is important but really the details will be mostly left up to the cryptonerds.

3.  It needs to be open source

Screw proprietary code.  With open source every ubergeek can be checking it for security holes (see #2) and making improvements.  This gets us back to how the programs that built the internet were made in the first place (see HTTP and SMTP).

4.  It needs to talk to Facebook

At least in the short term, any solution that doesn't hook in somehow to Facebook is a non-starter.  Nobody is going to switch to a different social media platform if their friends aren't already on it.  Checking two different platforms is a bite in the butt and folks won't do it for long.

Ok, so here's my solution:  A secure offshoot of RSS.  Maybe call it SRSS?  I'm sure someone can come up with a better, spiffier name.  I don't care as long as someone makes it.

I'm going to go into some details below, but here's the good part;  ALL OF THIS CAN BE DONE WITH OFF-THE-SHELF CODE!

Yeah, I shouted.  Deal with it.

Start with a simple Blog with an RSS feed.  Anything you post on it is a public post.  Everyone can see it and read the posts and make comments.  That part's easy.

For the private posts that only Friends can see, encrypt everything in the post using something like PGP.  Even the subject line of the blog post is encrypted.  For your friends to read it (and comment) they'll need to have a public key that they got when you "friended" them.

That's pretty much it.  We'll need a special browser plug-in for reading the SRSS "blogs" (or whatever they end up being called), a special server for creating the SRSS feeds, but that's pretty much it.  With a little extra fiddling, everything you post on your SRSS feed would automagically be posted on your Facebook account.

1.  It would be decentralized.  Some people would have their SRSS handled by a big company like they do with email, others would get it from their webhosts.  Regardless, if some idiot with a backhoe takes out a big chunk of the internet everyone else would still be able to get their social media fix.

2.  It would be secure.  Not only would it have the built in encryption thing going, but since it's not all hosted by one company it's less prone to the thing where hackers break into a single server and get away with millions of passwords and such.

3.  It would (or could) be open source.  I'm sure there would be private forks of the code, but unless they were adding something really amazing to it all they probably wouldn't do very well.  Note how all the corporate-owned extensions to HTTP have fared over the years.

4.  It would talk to Facebook ... for as long as Facebook continued to be a thing ... which I expect wouldn't be that long, because in all honesty Facebook seems to have been intentionally making our experience worse.

Minor problem:  This isn't my kind of programming.  I'm great at webcoding and PHP, and I acknowledge no one as my better in ABAP for SAP/R3 (a serious niche that I've been stuck in for the past 20+ years), but this kind of stuff is well out of my reach (ok, I could learn, but I've got a few decades of other work queued up that I really want to get to).  If no one else does this then it won't get done.

PLEASE someone make this (or something similar) a reality!

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