In Bruce Sterling’s 1999 book Distraction, interpersonal relationships are largely mediated by “Relationship servers” that keep track of reputations beyond your immediate circle. People will sign up to help someone according to their trustworthiness, and they’re given tongue-in-cheek ranks to indicate how trusted they are. It winds up being a powerful sociopolitical tool in the story, of course.
Facebook — particularly Facebook Login — promises to be that kind thing, with Google Buzz following hot on its heels. But they’ve both made a horrible, critical error: they confused their users with their product. Let’s ignore the fact that, in this age of forward thinking, world-shaking media, they’re treating Google and Facebook like fucking commercial television in that regard. Instead, let’s look at what could be done to make shit work right.
I’m envisioning an Open Source Facebook. You establish yourself as a real person, with relationships, shared activities, a face, a birthday, and so forth. But this is distributed, encrypted, and signed. I’m imagining something along the lines of DNS or BitTorrent. It would necessarily include links to your blog, Twitter, Gravatar, Flobber, and Gropnik accounts (at your request) and allow you rights to edit the accessibility of those items category-by-category and person-by-person.
Doable? Can you design or program such a thing? How do I help?