Online Social Networks like Facebook, MySpace, Xing, etc. have become extremely popular. Yet they have some limitations that we want to overcome for a next generation of social networks: privacy concerns and requirements of Internet connectivity, both of which are due to web-based applications on a central site whose owner has access to all data.
To overcome these limitations, we envision a paradigm shift from client-server to a peer-to-peer infrastructure coupled with encryption so that users keep control of their data and can use the social network also locally, without Internet access. This shift gives rise to many research questions intersecting networking, security, distributed systems and social network analysis, leading to a better understanding of how technology can support social interactions.
Our project consists of several parts. One part is to build a peer-to-peer
infrastructure that supports the most important features
of online social networks in a distributed way. We have written a first prototype to test our ideas. Another part is concerned with encryption, key management, and access control in such a distributed setting. Extending the distributed nature of the system, we investigate how to integrate such peer-to-peer social networking with ubiquitous computing and delay-tolerant networks, to enable direct exchange of information between devices and to take into account local information.