Breaking Open Facebook with Open Source Software

While privacy and open society advocates have been concerned about the dominance of Google’s search engine for the past several years, most of us are just beginning to comprehend Facebook’s growing impact on who, when, what and how we connect with friends and colleagues online. Personally, I’m concerned that one corporation controls so much information about the detailed personal activities and connections among individuals. With Microsoft’s recent $240 million investment in Facebook, the company has all the capital it needs to further its grand ambitions.

Earlier this month, Facebook Inc.’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised to open up Facebook only by making member data portable and he gave few specifics or timelines. Last August, Wired published some unusual stories describing how consumers might link together a variety of third party services to emulate Facebook and ultimately calling on the open source software community to build alternatives to the service (see Replace Facebook Using Open Social Tools and Slap in the Facebook: It’s Time for Social Networks to Open Up). I agree with Wired. Facebook’s service is stickier than search and email and has the potential to become more intimately involved in the way we conduct our social lives within our real world communities. I’ve been reflecting on Facebook’s growing dominance for a while now so I decided to outline an open source software architecture to address these concerns.