Only fools make predictions. So here are my predictions on the future of social media.
In the original days of computing, every user had their own computer. Well, Turing had his own computer…
Then, everyone had to timeshare on a massive mainframe.
Later, every user had their own computer.
Now, we’re back to mainframes. Sure, we call it “cloud computing” or “thin clients” but it amounts to the same thing.
That’s the way technology works. It yo-yos between extremes.
Think about web hosting. Originally, each user had their own web server. Well, Tim Berners-Lee had his own web server…
Then, everyone hosted their websites on a few big servers like GeoCities.
Later, every user bought hosting from their preferred host & had their own domain name.
Now, we’re back to hosting our sites on the mainframes, and sharing domain names again. FaceBook and LinkedIn is our new presence on the web.
As we move to IPv6, high speed home Internet, and powerful personal computers, it’s not inconceivable that we’ll swing back to hosting our own sites.
So what does this mean for social?
We started with no real infrastructure. Hosting our own blogs and guestbooks (man! Remember guestbooks!?!).
Then, we outsourced our lives to sites like blogger.com.
Later, we self hosted our social lives using WordPress and MoveableType (man! Remember MoveableType!?!).
Now, we’re in hock to FaceBook, Flickr, and Twitter. They’re the massive sites which hold us and our data hostage.
None of this is historically precise – and there’s a lot of overlap – but I think it points to a definite trend.
What if the next trend is us hosting our own social networks?
We needed Flickr because storing gigabytes of photos was too expensive.
We needed YouTube because transcoding and streaming video was too complicated.
We needed Twitter because sending text messages to a website required significant infrastructure.
We needed FaceBook because finding our friends’ online identities was nigh on impossible.
We needed hosted social networks because there was a strong commercial incentive for them to gather us together.
Is that still the case now? I don’t think so.
Here’s how I imagine the world…
I own a domain name. I get hosting with it. I have a catalogue of software I can choose from. In this case, Softaculous.
Imagine, instead of WordPress and phpBB – I could install Twitter, or Instagram, or Pintrest.
I am no longer twitter.com/Example – I am twitter.Example.com!
FaceBook, Habbo Hotel, Friends Reunited – they’re no different to ftp, www, gopher, etc. Just another service to hang off your domain.
Imagine there was no need for data portability – because your data never left your servers.
Imagine never worrying about breaching some nebulous terms and conditions – because the only law that matters is the service’s protocol.
Decentralised, federated services, running on your hardware, communicating freely, using open standards. No one profiting from owning our data, no one holding us hostage as they grow more tyrannical, no arbitrary changes to terms and conditions.
“Nae King! Nae quin! Nae Laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled agin!”
It’s a pipe dream. But I’m not the only one dreaming.