I just read Graham Lee’s blog post A brief history of talking on the interwebs (or: why I’m not on app.net) and it got me thinking. Instead of creating another centralized Twitter-like service like app.net, why not do microblogging like the Web does “regular” blogging? You know, servers and protocols, like the old days? That would fix the problem of Twitter Inc’s goals not aligning with its users’ goals and third-party developers’ goals.

Beep, a proposed new microblogging system

Beep isn’t a centralized service. It’s an app, a set of protocols, and an ecosystem of Beep servers.

Here’s how it works:

  • You choose a Beep client app (or several).
  • You set up your own Beep server.
  • You subscribe to other Beep servers.

Beep Server

To set up your Beep server, get a quality Beep app and use its 1-click “Make My Server” feature. The Make My Server feature

  • creates a Beep server in your AWS account (provisions you for AWS if you don’t have this)
  • creates your DNS domain (or uses an existing one if you have it)
  • creates a “beep.<your domain>” record in your DNS
You don’t have to be a technical person to do this, because the Beep app makes it super simple and easy.

Reading Beeps

Use your Beep app to post Beeps, to “follow” whichever Beep servers you’re interested in, and to read their Beep streams.

Use Google to search Beeps. If it takes off, Google will probably get better at presenting Beeps in the search results. Maybe Google would provide the #trending feature too?

Like the Web, but Micro

In other words, Beep is the same as the World Wide Web, plus real-time new-post-notification, plus easy self-hosting (via the magic of a quality app) on a little piece of the cloud that you control.

Ownership and Control

Nothing lasts forever. Service providers come and go. Their goals may be aligned with yours now, but that can change. If you’re putting your content in their system, you don’t really have control over it.

With this system, your own your Beep account and you have full control over your “beeps.” 

Problems With This Approach

A few problems come to mind:

  • It’s not free. This would probably keep a lot of users away. But then, app.net isn’t free and it’s getting traction.
  • If you have a lot of followers, hosting costs could be prohibitive. But maybe there are clever solutions for this problem.

EDIT: 5 seconds after I posted this, I saw a tweet about tent.io, “a protocol for open, decentralized social networking”, which sounds a lot like this idea. I hope it takes off!

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