I, like many people, have accounts on many different social networking websites. I, also, like some, am very unhappy with the terms of service and lack of privacy on them.
The way I see it, there are two issues in regards to privacy. First, there is the issue of who sees my content. Even if I post photos to a website such as Shutterfly and password protect them, I still don’t know what Shutterfly is doing with them. (for the record, I’ve had a fine experience using Shutterfly) Also, even though Shutterfly offers unlimited image uploads of unlimited resolution, I found out they still reduce the file size by lowering image quality. Boo.
Second, there is the issue of who controls my content. When I post a blog entry to a website such as Blogger, I don’t even know what I agreed to let Blogger do with it. I assume it is being scanned for information to increase advertisement revenue for them. Also, whether it be images or blogs, once the website goes down (and all websites eventually go down) then all of my content goes down with it. I can’t imagine too many people save a local copy of their long (emotional, personal, thought provoking…) blog entries, and I think many people are beginning to not even save a local copy of many of the images they post. (such as from mobile phones) All of that will be lost.
As long as I’m ranting, I also think it’s ridiculous that so many people post photos on Facebook when Facebook saves them at such an incredibly low resolution and quality. Yuck.
I was excited to hear about projects such as Diaspora, but was very disappointed at their lack of quality and progress.
I give up
I gave up. I decided to do something I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. I setup my own website from my personal computer using my regular DSL internet connection.
I had never done anything like this before. I started with the simple instructions for setting up my router and , and signed up for a free domain name with DynDNS and ddclient. That took a couple of hours one morning. I then spent a few hours in the afternoon and followed the simple instructions on the Arch Linux wiki for setting up a LAMP server. Then I installed the AUR packages for Zenphoto and WordPress. I put a simple password on Zenphoto as a way to simply control who sees our family photos, and may or may not do the same on WordPress. I also haven’t decided if I’ll host my own WikiMedia site.
I don’t plan on using Shutterfly, Blogger, Myspace, or LiveJournal anymore. I still plan on using Facebook, but simply as a way to keep in contact with many people easily. I might not move my Archlinux.me posts to my own website, since I don’t think my wife appreciates my nerdy rants.
So, I now have a beautiful website for blogging and posting photos that has no EULA, no privacy concerns, no size or quality limits, and no advertisements. It uses free and open source software, and didn’t cost any extra money to setup and run. I own my content, and I can share it with whomever I want and do with it whatever I want.