There are some critical challenges that a user-controlled system must face:
- Secure software distribution – users will want to install applets inside their environments. Third party audit and signing of code will be necessary in order to keep the apps flowing, but without compromising users’ instances. Applets will also have to be firewalled from each-other – as some will be more trusted and some less. I’ve previously written a couple of posts about the challenges of secure software distribution.
- Peer to peer naming and search – it should be easy to find stuff, without necessarily knowing their URLs. A global, fully distributed naming and search system will be important.
- A distributed reputation system will be a natural fit for a distributed social network.
- Memory footprint – current web application frameworks are designed for high volume apps, and therefore take up quite a bit of memory to load application code. These frameworks can afford to do so, because they expect to amortize the memory over many users. However, a user-controlled system will have one user per instance. Clever memory sharing among instances will be necessary.
I can’t wait to see what the first prototype looks like.
There are some additional projects along these lines that are worth a look and are actually further along:
- http://opensource.appleseedproject.org/ – LAMP (PHP) based
- http://onesocialweb.org/ – Java/XMPP based
Maybe none of these will make it. But the $170K is a signal – that people care about this.