I just got an email by somebody asking how the Free Software alternative to corporate social networks that I call percloud would work. I answered that…

In a certain sense, we may compare a percloud to a traditional FTP server on which you would upload your posts, pictures and so on, in order to make them available from any computer or smartphone with an FTP client or Web browser, to you and every other Internet user else with the right permissions.

The HUGE difference would be that all this would include email and everything would happen in an Web interface, not from the command line or extra software like graphical ftp clients.

To its owner, and all her “contacts”, each percloud would look like a Web page that is a SIMPLIFIED mix of the user pages of Facebook, Dropbox, Gmail and Flickr, offering basically the same services, equally easy to use. Slides 5 to 7 of this presentation include mockups (very raw ones, I’m no graphic artist, sorry)

The huge difference is that this “web page” would really BELONG to its user, because it would:

  1. be online at an address like www.YOURNAME.com or YOURNAME.example.com

  2. be MOVABLE by its owner to ANY “host” (=physical computer) he or she wants, be it a server in some (overseas) datacenter to a spare computer in one’s home closet. The only hard requirement for the “host” is that it should have a permanent connection with a public IP address (and even for that there are partial workarounds)

  3. be installable on that host with a very simple simple procedure, that one may even delegate to any expert friend, consultant, etc..

  4. NOT include any Facebook-like Terms of Service, like giving them the right to reuse anything you post, insert targeted advertising, “sell” to third parties any data they find about you by analyzing your content, contacts and behavior, continuously changing privacy settings to make it hard not to have everything public by default…

  5. include facilities to export and backup ALL data, metadata etc out of the percloud itself, no questions asked

  6. be 100% made of Free Software: no backdoors and no risks that everything becomes unusable just because the original developers change their minds, or start asking huge fees, or just go bankrupt…

This is much easier than it may seem. Yes, I am now asking for some funding to write a serious, complete feasibility study and implementation specification. It won’t happen (not now and by me, at leat) without your help. However, at the end of the day, the percloud is “just” a different kind of GNU/Linux distribution, that uses the current Internet as is: there is little that should be really done from scratch. It would not be expensive to get the percloud started.