OSTREA: One Social To Rule Them All

I have this idea for an app, I'm pretty sure it's doable, just nowhere near skilled inough to do it. It's a peer-to-peer timeline app. No servers, no instances, no corporate control, just a collective of coders, selling the app on the app stores, and putting the money back into improving the app. A $5 app. The concept is something like this...

For a medium originally designed to not centralise communications, peer-to-peer on the internet has been given a bad rep by BitTorrent and The Pirate Bay 20 years ago, yet P2P (for short) is used in so many things, app stores, cloud services, etc. My vision is to see it used to create a universal social medium that grows outwards from each user to their real life connections, using standard network protocols, like Jabber (RFC-6120 and extensions) and WebRTC. (XEP-0174)

The major dificulty, as I see it, is getting a connection between 2 peers on different network providers, but the internet was designed to do this, and I know of at least one other app that does this without an intervening server. I haven't been able to try it myself, because I use a Mac (opposite endian numbering neans no app for me), not a PC or Linux box, but its been around for a while. It's not a huge leap from sharing files peer-to-peer to sharing posts to each other's timelines, as I imagine the shared-out version of those posts being a read-locked PDF or similar. Nor do I see connecting with new people being that tricky, either, simply exchange an email or phone number. Once both have each other's contacts and allow each other timeline access, they see a timeline made up of each other's posts, and the posts of others they link to, in chronological order.

Why serverless? Twitter currently, anybody? A corporate silo is vulnerable to hostile takeover. Then also, Facebook's implicit involvement (Via Cambridge Analytica's direct involvement) in the corruption of the 2016 US and other elections. Then there's the data harvesting, the attention manipulation, the holding back of our friends' posts until they're not relevant. The ways we are manipulated that we can't see. Corporate silos are theft of our data, our attention and our agency. WhatsApp uses XMPP and WebRTC but you can't chat to people on iChat from WhatsApp, even though iChat uses XMPP, too.

But Mastadon?! Federation is a step in the right direction, it dilutes the "ownership" of the userbase, but can you trust each instance's admin. Mastadon also doesn't on its own encrypt DMs, meaning an admin can potentially have access to your private messages between friends. Before joining an instance, ask the admins if they have encryption set up as well. You can't tell as a user. I'm quite privileged, the admins of my Mastadon instance are good lefties, one is even an indgenous activist in my country. Those facts, though, still don't mean I can trust them if they get the idea that I'm not aligned with their values. That's human nature.

But "shitheads" will still try to troll me! No, they won't because they can only do that on a peer-to-peer social if you let them into your network and a block can be as final and permanent as you want it. Instead of an admin being responsible for everybody's connections, you are responsible for your own, and only as many as you want. You and a person you know, exchange contact details and a connection token that only works for them. At any point in time that they become problematic, you can sleep them, delete them or dump them forever.

Open source, low cost peer-to-peer apps, using standard internet protocols, are the answer to every woe presently on social media. No servers, no algorithms, no data collection by corporations, no being locked into a single service, thus needing multiple apps to connect with different branches of your social life. Even better, this app would allow you to separate family from friends, work from social, even with the option to add your own category tabs, such as football club or anarchist collective.

If you're reading this, code javascript or C/C++ network apps, and can help with this project, contact me on filthynoisesmusic@gmail.com. I don't code much, really. I know a lot of internet theory and history, I'm not a coder's bung, even on arduino. Oh, and no, this is not going to be ideal if you want to use the cryptoverse to do it. I've already played with some proof of concept stuff in that area, and the monetisation and carbon emission issues are not something I want to contribute to. The "decentralised web" is another corporate hedge. The internet was always decentralised... until corporate America locked us into client/server models of services. Lets make the world safer from exploitation.


  1. And yeah, I'm pulling the plug on this project. Absolutely no understanding (even from programmers) as to what it achieves and a (quite pleasant) week on Mastodon, that was a bit of a walk down memory lane, I've come to the conclusion that I didn't just leave Facebook because of their unethical data harvesting practices, I left because I was wasting too much life in the virtual world and not spending enough in the real world.


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