Andy Oram at O’Reilly Radar has published a lengthy and thoughtful article discussing the social web’s increasing reliance on centralised services, why this causes problems, and whether/how a return to what I might call “managed decentralisation” might help.
There’s a thoughful discussion of the problems, including the imposition of multiple, multiply-centralised flat namespaces. Trust and authentication which are issues to be addressed, because in the absence of central authority you have no central management for abuse; but some variety of a trust network might cope with that (compare the way LinkedIn works to authenticate your request to connect with someone). And there’s some thought about protocols that could contribute to the solution (rssCloud and Jabber’s now-standardised XMPP) which have a less centralised basis.
Well worth a read.
• RSS never blocks you or goes down: why social networks need to be decentralized, O’Reilly Radar, 143 Sep 2009
• rssCloud (or RSS 2.0), rsscloud.org
• XMPP, XMPP Standards Foundation