Decentralized Social Networking == Blogging

Jeff Johnson:

What if we made a distributed Twitter? Like DVCS. All the hip young programmers today use DVCS, whether that’s Git, or Mercurial, or ... yeah, Git or Mercurial. The key to DVCS is that there’s no single point of failure, no centralized repository.

"joabj" on Slashdot:

Now that Facebook has amassed more than 500 million users, a growing number of open source social networking developers are wondering if Facebook's photo sharing, status updates and other features wouldn't work better as Internet-wide standardized services.

I think of Twitter and Facebook as centralized blogging systems. Conversely, I think of blogging as decentralized social networking.  The primary goals of social networking services boil down to:

  • Post information that you want to share.  In the case of Twitter, that information is in the form of "tweets".  In the case of Facebook, that information is in the form of pictures and status updates.
  • Follow information posted by other users.
  • Send messages to other users.

Compare that to blogs:

  • Users post articles to blogs. An article can contain just about anything that can be posted to Twitter or Facebook.
  • Users follow other users with RSS feeds from blogs.
  • Users can typically contact a blogger using a form or email link on a blog.

In that respect, decentralizing social networking services is a solved problem. There are numerous blog engines and RSS readers. Many of them are open source. They communicate using open standards. Blogs do not rely on a single company or service, and therefore have no single point of failure. However, Twitter and Facebook were both started long after blogs became relatively common. Why are Twitter and Facebook so popular? It boils down to this:

Ease of use: It is not difficult to start a blog on a blogging service, and it is not difficult to use an RSS reader. However, Twitter and Facebook collapse those functions into easy-to-use web sites.

Telling your friends: It is easy to say "find me on Facebook". Saying "read my blog on and use an RSS reader to stay current; do you have a blog?" is a bit awkward.

I love the freedom that the open and distributed nature of blogs provide, but the ease of use that comes from centralized services is winning the mindshare of many users.