Existing friend-to-friend projects
The ideas for the proposed Murmur application are not new, or unique. There are several projects already existing which aim to do similar things. The backlash from Facebook's disregard for privacy has struck chords in many camps, and the ideas behind Murmur have been discussed for over two years. None of these applications has grown to widespread status however, and there is considerable difficulty in providing a compelling alternative to an already firmly established network.
- Oneswarm - oneswarm.cs.washington.edu - java-based cross-platform, peer-to-peer data sharing application. Offers an interesting web interface from an integrated local web server, and allows encrypted sharing of any files to all your friends or specific individuals. There are a lot of other features too though, such as swarming torrents, which bloats the source to over 100 MB. Murmur could potentially piggy-back on Oneswarm's functionality by offering some kind of automated pulling of shared message swarms and combination into a blog-like interface.
- Retroshare - retroshare.sourceforge.net - lets you "securely chat and share files with your friends", with encrypted, decentralised communications. At the moment it offers forums and chat, but the anticipated "blogs" functionality is not yet ready. Written in C++ with Qt, cross-platform and under development. Source tarball is around 9 MB.
- Gnu Social - groups.fsf.org/wiki/Group:GNU_Social - still at the idea stage, but it's a proposed collection of programs for install on your own server (assuming you have one), based on PHP.
- Freenet - freenetproject.org - allows anonymous sharing of files and chatting. Also has a "darknet" mode with only trusted connections to friends. Transfers are encrypted and portions of unknown files are cached on various nodes (including yours). It's java-based so cross-platform, and under active development, but the download is just for an installer program so it's not clear what the version number is or how stable it is.
- I2P - i2p2.de - the "Invisible Internet Project", offering an anonymous sharing network. Originally based on Freenet, but since expanded over several years. A blogging system ("a fully distributed LiveJournal") is planned but not yet finished.
- Gnunet - gnunet.org - a project for anonymous, peer-to-peer file sharing, and part of the Gnu project. Cross-platform and under active development.
- Statusnet - status.net - an "open source microblogging platform", seems like more of a corporate host-it-yourself solution rather than a friend-to-friend network, with integration with twitter, facebook etc
- Onesocialweb - onesocialweb.org - a "free, open, decentralized social networking platform", but you need your own XMPP server already on which to install it. The aim seems to be to aggregate your existing networks onto your server and then share information between servers.
- Movim - movim.eu - stands for "My Open Virtual Identity Manager", aims to be a complete social platform, "totally decentralizated" (sic), but very little information available so far. Appears to be an aggregator for existing social networks?
- OStatus - ostatus.org - a collection of projects and tools aiming to write a standard for communication between social networks. Includes so-called "Activity Streams", "PubSubHubbub", "Salmon" and "Webfinger".
- Appleseed - appleseed.sourceforge.net - started over three years ago as a one-man project, based on PHP and MySQL on a personal server using OpenID. Development stalled in 2008 but has since been reawoken given the current media circus (see Diaspora below). Not entirely coincidentally the developer has now also launched an attempt to raise ten thousand dollars of funding.
- Diaspora - at the moment this appears to be complete vapourware, but one with impressive marketing and substantial fund-raising. Four students aged between 19 and 22 got some ideas after listening to Eben Moglen's talk in February (see below) and somehow in the weeks since then have managed to raise a bizarre 200 thousand US dollars to pursue their ideas this summer. Why the sudden enthusiasm for this as-yet baseless project, when there are far more worthy and proven projects already around, is completely baffling. Their painful youtube videos show their youth and enthusiasm but not much else. More thoughts on this in the diaspora page.
- January 11, 2010: Slashdot discussion on "Facebook's Zuckerberg Says Forget Privacy" - slashdot:Facebooks Zuckerberg Says Forget Privacy
- January 13, 2010: Techcrunch describing how Facebook encourages (by deception) users to give them their email passwords too - techcrunch:Facebook Gets Pushy About Its Automatic Friend Finder
- February 5, 2010: Eben Moglen giving a 1-hour talk at New York University called "Freedom in the Cloud" - youtube:Freedom in the Cloud
- April 22, 2010: BBC news outlines Facebook's bid to rule the web: bbc:Facebook's bid to rule the web - includes the nice quote from Maya Baratz of the Huffington Post: "One of the points Mr Zuckerberg was making was that the web has become a lot less anonymous and Facebook is definitely positioning itself as wanting to be the owner of that information."
- April 24, 2010: Ideas for Murmur announced for the first time
- April 28, 2010: Timeline of Facebook's privacy terms - eff:facebook timeline
- May 7, 2010: Huffington Post article illustrating privacy erosion over time: huffington:Visual guide to Facebook privacy changes over time
- May 7, 2010: Wired article by Ryan Singel - wired:Facebook's Gone Rogue; It's Time for an Open Alternative
- May 9, 2010: Slashdot discussion based on the above Wired article - slashdot:A Call For an Open Distributed Alternative To Facebook
- May 11, 2010: The other side of the story, Facebook executive answers users' questions about privacy to the New York Times: nyt:facebook executive answers reader questions
- May 11, 2010: New York Times article about the proposed Diaspora project - nyt:Four Nerds and a Cry to Arms Against Facebook
- May 12, 2010: Slashdot discussion based on the above Diaspora article - slashdot:Creating a Better Facebook
- May 12, 2010: Techcrunch article again about the inexplicable Diaspora hype - techcrunch:diaspora open facebook project
- May 13, 2010: Techcrunch again comparing OneSocialWeb's progress so far with the promised Diaspora - techcrunch:OneSocialWeb: We're Ahead Of Diaspora In The Creation Of An 'Open Facebook'
- May 14, 2010: BBC discusses "panic meeting" at Facebook about privacy and the publicity surrounding it, including people leaving as a result - bbc:Facebook downplays privacy crisis meeting
- May 17, 2010: Another Slashdot discussion on the effect the Diaspora hype will have on general funding of open source projects - slashdot:Is Diaspora the Future of Free Software Funding?
- July 28, 2010: A ComputerWorld article on the variety of open source components which could one day threaten Facebook- computerworld:Could open source tools make Facebook the next AOL?
- September 16, 2010: Slashdot discussion after the announcement of Diaspora's first preview release - slashdot:Facebook Competitor Diaspora Revealed, also slashdot:Security Concerns Paramount After Early Reviews of Diaspora Code
- For more slashdot discussions, see all such tagged articles - slashdot:facebook or slashdot:social