Beyond the federation
Why the federation won't do
(this is a draft, and each argument should go further)
- Web-based end-to-end encryption doesn't function. You need special software.
- All social updates are one-to-many transactions, but federation technologies do not multicast, so they don't scale.
- Federation sucks because it distributes my private data to dozens of servers.
- If Google or Facebook participate in the federation, it's even worse, because there will always be some friend of mine from there, so all of my data STILL gets to them, so in the end I have LESS privacy than now by being on Facebook only.
Why should servers have unencrypted data at all? There's no need to. If you need special software to ensure end-to-end encryption, it might aswell implement all of the social experience and leave only simple routing and store-and-forward operations of already encrypted data to servers.
You can read a longer explanation in German or you can read about end-to-end encryption in browsers (= humbug) and concerning the scalability and security of decentralized social networks.
Why trusting servers is not an option
Arguments for federation are numerous (which?) but all fall short on a fundamental point: they require trust in the server, they require all users to give trust to an intermediary in the transaction. But the Internet has become a hostile place, where not only crooks are after your data, but legible companies, and information agencies, police states, and other enemies of democracy, free speech, and freedom.
The usual case of free people in a free country protected by the rule of law unfortunately does not apply everywhere. For that reason, social networking must protect everyone the same.
Public Social Media vs. Private Social Networking
There's a huge difference between public social activity, suitable for going through social media, and casual human social networking, that should remain intimate, but is conveyed through the same social media anyway. Although it belongs to users to avoid these venues for their personal social networking needs, as vehemently suggested by Eben Moglen recently, the lack of proper tools is also to blame: expecting the user to weigh the consequences of their online behavior belongs to superstition.
The difficulty comes from the fact that by using social media as vectors for social networking, people force others to put themselves into the same trap of confusing convenience and purpose.
If I were your girlfriend...
(to be refined)
Here's another point why federation doesn't work:
.... If I was your girlfriend, I wouldn't want to use your server because then you can read everything I talk about you with my other girlfriends. I also don't trust my university admin. Maybe I'm tech savvy enough to set up my own "pod" then.. I can host all of my girlfriends. But wait, they also have secrets from me. And if I'm not tech savvy? Well in that case I will just go to Facebook as I presume that company will never care about my private affairs and I also don't mind the CIA as I have nothing to hide.
So next week you'll get a friendship request on Facebook from your girlfriend.
End of story. No federation.
.... But if my social software was just something I click and install, then whoops I can add all of my friends and it just works. Just like Facebook, only it is cooler because it can do nifty things like download the photos from my camera itself, then asks me if I want to share it with anyone. I don't need to learn how to get photos from my camera and upload them to Facebook. FAN-TA-STIC! And the journalists even tell me it's safe.. not that I had anything to hide, but if I can have absolute privacy for free, I'll surely take it and feel much better, like when I bring down my organic trash.
Now, that's a story, right?