Secure Share is a very interesting project that aims to replace existing social networks with a far, far more secure platform upon which developers can build new distributes apps and services. Think of it a bit like a new version of Bit Torrent with an easy API for sending messages, relationships, streams, and status updates, and a prototype desktop client for bringing these together in a social networking interface.
The Secure Share team seem to be correct in their core beliefs that Federated networking is part of the privacy problem rather than the solution, and that the web browsers are incapable of delivering secure communication. They certainly appear to know what they’re talking about, and the amount of research and planning evident in the many articles on the website is impressive. The project lead, Carlo Von Lynx, has promising talents, with a background in security and scalability (compare this to the team that founded diaspora).
Code already exists, mainly for the back end libraries and daemons. There is a user interface component, but it hasn’t been worked on since April, and it’s intended to be a desktop social network app, which may be impractical for most users as it requires local installation.
All in all the project feels more like a research project than a software project at this stage. Presumably their recent requests for funding is intended to ease the transition to usable software.
I’m very sceptical about the requirement for Secure Share users to install something on their local machine. In a time when Google is determined to turn all consumer computers into thin clients, and the web browser is becoming “the only app you need”, it seems unlikely that the future social networking app used by “all humanity” will run from a binary downloaded from secureshare.org.
Secure Share developers also don’t seem certain how it would be possible for their users to access their accounts on more than one machine. Being able to login from university, or on a friend’s laptop, seems like a critical requirement however. There’s some vague talk of using Secure Share on smartphones, but if this is to become a reality then surely it should a priority right from the start. Making smartphones a primary target platform seems like a no-brainer now that they outsell traditional personal computers.
It seems to me that Secure Share is a long term project with a lot of intellectual value, but comparatively little practical potential, unless it receives a lot of interest and funding. Diaspora had $200,000, and what they achieved was approximately 5% of what Secure Share have in mind. That said, Carlo is a heck of a lot more capable than the Diaspora developers, and he’s already written a significant chunk of the Secure Share back end. Secure Share is also a second-generation project, building upon successes of the Psyc project, showing that those involved know how to deliver production quality applications.
I have high hopes for Secure Share. If it becomes user-friendly and feature-rich enough, perhaps it could lure developers into taking it to new platforms, and users into jumping ship from Diaspora, and maybe even Facebook. I wish the team the best of luck.