Building a company bigger and better than Google or Facebook

I can and so can you. That right there is the beauty of life - that anything is possible in the field of infinite possibilities.

The main difference in this company, is that it would not be mine or any one person's, nor will it claim to be public with the majority of shares owned by a few moguls. The company, it's products and services would belong to the people who used it. A type of distributed public corporation.

The global network of owners would receive no financial dividends, instead their return on investment would be the service received. I used Google and Facebook in the title, so let's use social search and social networks  as examples and plant some ideas into the field of consciousness. Ideas are fantastically contagious. Sometimes one only has to think it, and it spreads.

  • Search would be user regulated and rated. The users of the search engine would be encouraged to help make the search of their search engine better by rating results. It would be a social search engine. Users of the service would be more inclined to add to it's betterment, because they own it!
  • the infrastructure that runs the service would be radically distributed and localized. No big datacentres that serve everything to everyone. Vietnamese speaking folk generally want to search for vietnamese content, so better to serve their content from closer to home than accross the globe. These distributed hubs would feed each other data only when required.
  • speed will not be the primary objective. Hey, let's slow things down. Especially if slowing down means less infrastructure and reduced consumption. We'll encourage deeper exploration of quality content. Much better than the click-click-click, life's a rat race and time is limited approach.
  • Zero carbon footprint. As a priority this service would give back more than it takes. Data centres are using up a tremendous amount of energy. Facebook, runs well over 10 000 servers to give the user a pleasant experience. But at what cost to our planet? This company would be run in wholistic way ensuring that it serves planet and people for generations and generations. It would invest in R&D for cleaner and sustainable energy generation and 100% recyclable computers.
  • Data would belong to the user. Facebook for example is a private company and technically owns all the data we feed it. Google is probably collecting a whole lot more data from user actions and browsing than most people are aware of - and all of that data is owned by Google and used to serve the company's purpose. The data gathered by the company (other than personal information), would be open data available for anyone to do anything with, just as long as it does not cause any harm.
  • The social nework will be distributed, like the one that the Diaspora team is proposing. This is an idea that has been floating around for a while now. Instead of having one HUGE private network under one name and brand, we would have user owned nodes that connect with each other forming a generic no-name, untamed, free network. In many ways this is what the Internet is and a node would be a personal space on this network with similar functionality that Facebook provides. Our discontent with Facebook is not so much to do with privacy, but more to do with who owns our personal information and how this information is used for profit. By leaving ownsership of the data with users who create it, the users can have a greater say in what gets done with it.

Essentially what we're doing in this new company is

  • freeing the data
  • making it fully environmentally accountable
  • giving ownership to the users
  • distributing the infrastructure

Google and Facebook are not evil. They're both innovative organisations and offer a valuable service. My two biggest gripes about these organizations (whose services I use) are: the environmental impact they have; and that they own the data. Wouldn't it be amazing if these corporations and their services were owned by the people who used them?

Disclaimer: It's fun to be idealistic.

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I like your intro sentence of this article and liking this idea of a distributed data with the ownership to the users. Which opensource software will be chosen for that ambitious goal remains to be unset.

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I recently drafted a mind map of a scalable open source technology stack based on Drupal as the content management platform. The solution was created for a New York based non-profit looking for a powerful yet effective way to deliver a turnkey website and Intra-net for each of the projects they fund. The Drupal on LAMP (Linux, Apache, Mysql, Php) stack is ideal for building a distributed network with millions of nodes that talk to each other.

I imagine an effective model would be one similar to that used by CSA (community supported agriculture) Co-op groups where members of the network pay a membership fee to ensure their node stays on-line. We could call this "Community Supported Networks"! A CSN may also have a revenue model similar to CSA where surplus "produce" is sold to non-members at a profitable price thereby reducing costs for members. Optional advertising could provide another revenue stream in the CSN to offset costs, similar to what Ning used to offer when they were a free service.

I'm sure a CSN could be a free service, just like Facebook and other such privately owned social network services.