A new open-source social network called Openbook begins its crowdfunding campaign in a few hours' time, promising to remain free of tracking and advertising.
Founder and CEO Joel Hernández (pictured) is a cyber security engineer, and the team includes the likes of Philip Zimmerman, who created email encryption software PGP; and Jaya Baloo, Chief Information Security Officer for Dutch telecoms company KPN - Openbook is based in the Netherlands.
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other major online privacy stories and changes, the service encourages users of existing social media sites to move across, making transfer of all their existing data as easy as possible - this takes advantage of new GDPR data portability rules. The service will give 30% of its revenue (NB not profit) to charity, and promises to be 'honest, respect and protect the privacy of its users, bring people together... and be good for the planet'. On a more down-to-earth level, the site says it want to help people 'shared treasured moments with loved ones' and provide 'funny cat videos', without endangering privacy.
Hernández says Openbook's revenue model is 'a mixture between helping the enterprise set their own private social network for their employees and an open marketplace, initially for products and then services'. This will include peer to peer services as well as products: 'For example, you could sell your beloved Star Wars collection on the network in the same way you could hire someone to walk your dog or be the DJ at your party'. This will move the network firmly away from the Facebook revenue model where 'the consumer is the product' and 'the whole business model is based on users not having privacy', according to Zimmerman.
Openbook's web site offers examples of its more transparent data collection approach, and says it will employ an audit team to monitor the actions of developers. The use of open-source software means any member of the public can examine the design of the platform.
Hernández says to succeed, the service will need to be more than just a Facebook clone, bringing new things to the table. However it will have to grow without the use of systems designed to encourage addiction - or at least it promises to structure its service to be 'less addictive' than Facebook
Web site: www.open-book.org/en/home .
All articles 2006-19 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas.