Tent appeared out of the blue today: a protocol and reference server implementation for individual-to-individual distributed social networking. Or to put it another way, Tent is a way to host your own social data – posting and reading from as many apps as you want. Here’s their announcement, and here’s the GitHub repository.

The Tent manifesto is right-on:

Every user has the right to freedom of expression.
Free speech is a necessary feature of all open societies. Speech can not be free if communication is centralized or intermediated. Users must be able to say anything to anyone they want on their own terms.

Every user has the right to control their own data.
This includes who can access the data they create and how that data is later used.

Every user has the right to choose and change their social services providers.
This includes the right to negotiate reasonable terms of service collectively or individually.

Of course, this is hardly the first open source social networking product – and many people are already asking why Tent doesn’t use the OStatus protocol. (StatusNet also includes an individual installation mode.) These are valid questions, but while there’s a slight air of Not Invented Here Syndrome, it’s an elegant idea and the API is very clean and simple, which means there’s every chance an app ecosystem will emerge. If any one of those apps is simple and elegant, we may see a very different kind of social networking community begin to develop.

Even more interestingly, I also think there are real commercial implications for this protocol. More on those in another post. For now, my takeaway is: Tent has the potential to disrupt the entire social web.


6 responses to “Tent”

  1. Andrew Ducker Avatar

    It looks interesting. Of course, you lose things like “trending topics” at a global level, but that’s probably a worthwhile sacrifice.

    I see they’ve gone for an “everyone talks to everyone” approach, rather than something closer to NNTP. I’m not sure how efficient that’s going to be if you end up with tens of thousands of servers (it might scale well, of course).

    I would like to see more information on security, and on making sure that posts are passed only to the right people. Is “following” someone the same as “adding them to your friends group” – or can I follow someone who isn’t given access to my posts? Can I revoke access? And if so, how does the other person’s server know about that and are they supposed to then hide its copies of my posts? Do we just live with the fact that a rogue server can publish a lot of semi-private posts if it feels like it?

  2. […] Tent es un nuevo protocolo abierto para redes sociales distribuidas y que ha provocado algún post interesante y también un manifiesto. Dice […]

  3. Andrew Chambers Avatar

    The link no longer works. Any ideas what happened?

    1. Ben Werdmuller Avatar

      It works for me. Possibly a DNS issue at your end?

  4. […] you to Ben Werd­muller (of Elgg fame) and Stephen Downes (of Stephen Downes fame ) for […]

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