This article summarizes my insights and thoughts, which I have gained in the last years in working with, using and also operating social networks. I start from the respective ideal conditions and challenges and discuss how these can best be achieved in my opinion. This includes both technical and social aspects.
Responsibility for Users and Moderation
The circumstance that contents on one instance of a social network are available at all for all, independent of a direct personal responsibility, and therefore have to be taken for by others, who bear a higher responsibility for the operation of a social network, is abolished. This responsibility concerns the observance of legal regulations but also the observance of a code of conduct.
Problems that arise are such as the distribution of fake news, antisocial interaction, impertinent users, the use of networks for propaganda and advertising and much more.
**A more optimal network in the future does not have a centrally running instance that holds retrievable content, but only a client running for the respective user that directly and worldwide exchanges data with other people. **
Thus there are neither externally defined groups (which I join) nor are there huge central servers that can be shut down or centrally manipulated for political reasons, but human connections build up exactly as they do in other life: Through interest, curiosity and trust.
The Public and the Right to forget
When I, as an author, write about topics that are close to my heart and that I would like to publish, then my contents become public. Public means that these contents are provided for the public by me and if necessary also with own technical means. They can then be shared by others in the form of a link, but are still on my website or my channel in the Fediverse and I can get them out of the world at any time technically speaking.
Others can quote or copy me and in this way make sure that things I once wrote are not easily retrievable from the public. The same applies to Internet archives or search engines.
Anyone who publishes something should be aware of this: What once was published on the web can often no longer be taken back. I have less a fear of a change in the political system and threatening political repression in mind, which unfortunately can be observed worldwide at the moment, but more often the simple fact that opinions on certain topics can also change with increasing own experience.
It has to be said explicitly: There is no way to capture articles once they have been distributed, no matter how often it is claimed by certain social networks. This may work rudimentary, but it is always limited and not guaranteed.
A return function and/or a physical deletion should therefore be absolutely present, but their limitation should also be clear to everyone.
A physical deletion is also a justified principle in data protection. Networks that are based on blockchain technology to the extent that individual contents are a direct part of an unchangeable blockchain are excluded, such as Scuttlebutt.
Worldwide Unambiguity and Trust
As with Scuttlebutt or Patchwork, relationships with others are established by pure human trust and sealed by cryptographic keys.
There is no Web of Trust, which should guarantee me a confidentiality nor another central instance, which guarantees me supposedly more.
Problem of Monitoring and Profiling
The network of the future is offline and unattached to any location in its original state.
This means that unconscious exploration by third parties, at least via the network and its data storage, is not possible indefinitely. The network client connects to other network clients via a variety of possible mechanisms, for example Bluetooth, LAN, distributed hash tables or any central instances that are only network conductors, whereby this is done exclusively via pure network mechanisms and no additional data storage in the sense of distributors or instances is necessary or takes place. All network accesses are end-to-end encrypted up to the client and are also stored there in encrypted form.
Search and Find
The search is decentralized and realized in cascades. Each client is a search engine for friends at the same time.
It is only possible to search for keywords (e.g. hashtags), for authors who explicitly want to find them in public. Only the titles and the references to the cryptographically signed origin of the respective public articles are stored there (author ID, article ID and client ID). If the corresponding article is still in the cache of a certain client, the client can deliver it. Supporters with more resources can offer larger cache areas.
Authors can enable or prevent their articles from being found at any time. These entries can have an expiration date.
The search takes place in cascades: First, direct friends are asked for results. They pass on the search query to their friends, etc. The respective IDs of the clients and the current level of passing on are also passed on, so that search loops are prevented. Everyone on the net can decide whether they don’t want to offer any search results at all or only for searches of direct friends etc.
Content Types and Media
There can be content in different content types or data formats. Contents are also searched locally via a hash.
Similar text or media contents are stored only once and can be referenced several times. All contents can have an expiration date, the respective local client guarantees the expiration.
There are not only articles and comments, but also polls, adding counterarguments in debates (Versus), user profiles, books and much more. Open End.
Status of current Networks
At the moment there are several approaches and implementations of social networks. Some come close to individual aspects of the Ideal Network I proclaim, such as Human Connection for the content types, Mastodon for the distributed search and federation, Hubzilla for the trust model and Scuttlebutt/Patchwork for the offline first and the distribution model.
But no network unites all aspects in itself in an ideal way. Let’s see how the development continues. Every decision for something is also a decision against something.