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Mozilla Introduces sudoSocial

With Facebook stomping all over users' privacy, there's been a lot of interest in open source and privacy friendly social network tools. The good news is that Mozilla is getting involved with a new platform called sudoSocial. The bad news is that sudoSocial is very new, and not quite sure what it wants to be when it grows up.

Mozilla is dipping a toe into social networking with sudoSocial, an early version “stream publishing platform” available through Mozilla Labs.

The sudoSocial effort is a “stream publishing platform,” which roughly translates to a way to aggregate your social network feeds in one place. Sort of like FriendFeed or Facebook without the comments. A working demo is up on sudoSocial.me, where you can view some of the demo sites or sign up with your own if you like.

The sudoSocial effort looks a lot like Chris Blizzard’s whoisi, which could track feeds about people. The primary difference seems to be that sudoSocial is meant to allow you to set up your own profile, whereas Blizzard’s implementation would allow anyone to edit it and add feeds. It looks like whoisi has been shuttered, though I couldn’t find a mention on Blizzard’s blog about when or why it was closed down.

What’s the Idea?

Austin King writes about apps similar to sudoSocial and what it’s not trying to be. The focus seems a bit fuzzy at the moment, though. King says that sudoSocial isn’t meant to replace Facebook, Google Reader, Google Buzz, and a host of other social applications. Then again, he says it “kinda” is.

So what do we have so far? If you try out the sudoSocial.me site with your OpenID account, you can set up your own page and start adding feeds. It takes a few minutes for material to start showing up from your blogs or whatever. sudoSocial.me will display blog posts, pictures, whatever content you can offer as an RSS or Atom feed.

But wait! There’s more! The platform also allows users the ability to add your own CSS design, and a JavaScript “override” that will control the behavior of content posted on your page. You can also use Processing.js to create images, interactive interfaces, or animations without having to rely on Flash or Java applets. Just post the code into the design editor and go. (Assuming you are familiar with Processing.js, of course.)

Aside from that, sudoSocial is pretty sparse for the time being. I set up an account with my Google OpenID and added my blog and Twitter feed. All you need to do is add the URL to a blog or another site with a RSS/Atom feed, sudoSocial will automatically discover most feeds.

Dig In

Want to get your hands dirty? The sudoSocial code is available on Github. Don’t want to set up your own server? A pre-configured VirtualBox appliance is also available. According to the Hacking section on Github, sudoSocial is a Django app with some additions from other Mozilla projects. The source is “tri-licensed” under the Mozilla Public License (MPL), GNU General Public License (GPL) 2.0 or later, and GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 2.1 or later.

With any luck, the project will attract some talented themers soon. The sample pages put up so far look a bit rough.

It’s good to see Mozilla getting involved in the social network space. Mozilla’s mission and enormous reach online makes it an ideal hub for developing a replacement for Facebook and other closed social networks. The initial release of sudoSocial is not particularly compelling, but it’s worth watching to see where it goes. More importantly, now would be a good time for interested contributors to get involved. sudoSocial was pushed out early through the Mozilla Labs Concept Series so interested users could hack on it and offer feedback. Here’s hoping it evolves into a “Facebook killer” even if it isn’t exactly what King is setting out to do.

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