Hey federated social web people! I read a great paper yesterday: A Critical Look at Decentralized Personal Data Architectures. If you’re working in this space, you should check it out. It’s a quick read, just five pages.
It comes from some pretty high powered authors, including Helen Nissenbaum and Dan Boneh. They step back and look objectively at accepted wisdom in our community, such as “people should own their data” and “decentralized and open always win out,” and attempt to reconcile with the fact that centralized social networks have exploded, but long-standing decentralized alternatives like OStatus have not.
Everyone wears rose colored glasses occasionally, including our own community, but we shouldn’t overindulge them. The network effect, ie “all my friends are on Facebook,” isn’t the only adoption hurdle. There are real technical, economic, and product drawbacks to decentralized social networks, and they matter to users.
I’m fond of the Indie Web movement, which encourages us to focus on the positives and evangelize having your own web site. However, we should be honest about the negatives. That’s the first step toward allaying FUD, talking openly about the tradeoffs, and maybe even solving some of the real problems.
If you’ve already read the paper, any thoughts?