By Tom Murphy.
I once gave a talk to a group of supply chain managers, back in the early 2000s, who were wide eyed and eager to hear about all the things the internet was going to do for them and their businesses.
I felt terrible. I'm a good person at heart so I hate to deliver bad news to good people and the news I brought was pretty awful. The fact is that many of them dealt in digital goods or goods that could be digitised. Others were importers and middle men of one description or another.
I would say a good half of them were dead men walking.
The internet does a number of things very well but one of the best is shortening chains of connection. Oh, it shortens time too (remember actually writing a letter to a supplier?) and it reduces cost (hello travel agency fees!) but it excels at killing middlemen.
If the only value you add to the chain is that you aggregate or congregate then you have a very serious problem because the internet wants to connect the manufacturer with the customer directly.
But something weird has happened. Right in the midst of killing these middlemen the internet has created a weird custodian middleman of its own. The web server.
Think about it for a moment... Facebook brings almost no value to its own site. Neither does Boards really, though the moderators could be considered "value" since they tidy up and referee a lot. Facebook doesn’t even do that much!
Facebook exploits its users... everyone is aware of that. If you don’t pay for the product, you ARE the product. Boards does that too but we've always tried to Do No Evil at the same time and succeeded I must say.
But we still control the flow of information. Both can decide a topic isnt going to be allowed on their turf, both can decide that you are persona non gratis and disconnect you. They can decide what to promote into your stream and what people/information is suggested for you.
In social media they are the ultimate middle man. I think they can be killed and I don’t know why this hasn’t happened.
How do we kill facebook? We replace what they bring to the party. Most of what Boards does every day in the office is to keep Boards operating at the scale it is.... its huge, vast, extremely busy because we have centralised what should be decentralised. Most of the problems we spend time on are caused by this vast centralisation. From technological to social to legal. The only thing we really bring to the party are whopping great webservers and a giant database and we only need them because we centralised the content local to us.
Suppose we distributed them. Suppose instead of sending you information to a centralised webserver, you yourself ran the webserver in miniature. On your PC, on your phone, on your tablet... wherever you are working now. Each identified as a single logical webserver which represents "you".
So when I look at my "BookFace" page, it pulls from not one single server but from all the micro-webservers of all my "friends". If someone isn’t on now? ok... no problem.. serve the last cached data we have from them. Scale? It isn’t an issue, serving a few hundred friends requests isn’t going to be a horrible load on your data bandwidth/throughput. Infrastructure/Database/Webserve? Not an issue since the world size database is divided between the world
The social benefits are enormous though.. no moderation policy… you control your own data. No censorship, its impossible to censor peer-to-peer serving. Your personal data never leaves your control so there are fewer privacy issues. You can serve what you like to whoever you choose.
The problem is, no one makes money…. It will take an altruistic action to make it come about but its there for the taking!