The last post got me thinking: what would it take to get my relatives off Facebook? Aside from the really tough one ("a critical mass of OTHER relatives/friends"), that is.
First of all, the "wall" (or "News Feed," these days) would basically be a super-friendly feed reader. Ideally, one that's smart enough to recognize common comment systems and display them natively, and of course let the user comment natively.
That wouldn't necessarily mean running a server, either. I could write a desktop app (or a Firefox extension, or whatever) that does that. I only run TTR these days because theoretically I like to be able to read stuff from my desktop or from my tablet (which latter never happens in practice), and because the caching is nice. I'd have to play around with things to see if caching would be necessary to make things happen speedily.
Then there would have to be a simple way to post pictures and posts of their own. Almost like, gosh, some kind of blogging software. I could be wrong, but I think that's a solved problem.
Really, all that boils down to is making a client that skins existing stuff to look like a unified Facebook clone (or G+ clone, or whatever). There's not even a need for a paid service except for the blog hosting. So far, so good.
But what about "friending" people? There are two problems: one being how to find friends or at least people you want to follow. If there isn't a central service, searching becomes harder. Being able to see your friend's friends list is one way, plus there's the old-fashioned way: I email my blog URL to my mother. Maybe the client implements FOAF (Wikipedia) too.
The opposite problem is: what about people who want to trick you into following them? This gets a little more iffy. Facebook has problems with profile-cloning, but at least there's a central authority to appeal to (even if said authority treats you as a product and not a customer). There's no real authentication happening - Facebook culture says you see a name and a profile pic that you recognize and you friend them. Especially if they already say "X friends in common," which only means you have X friends of possibly-decreasing levels of gullibility. Ideally, you'd want to build in at least a culture of testing people to make sure they're who you think they are. (For example, sending an email asking, "Mom, did you change your blog host?")
Hmm. Really, on breaking it down, it doesn't seem like a particularly hard thing. Surely someone's written something like this already, and the problem is just in getting enough adoption to make it worthwhile to the average Joe?
* I didn't actually have any footnotes this time, so I'm just going to post this Wikipedia article that I came across while rabbit-trailing some thoughts while writing this. Yay AADD! Behold, the questionably-real sport of kudu dung-spitting.