Here are some frequently asked questions, complete with answers, about GNU social.
What is GNU social?
GNU social is the name for a project to create a decentralized social network.
GNU social isn’t a user-facing name at all. We don’t expect users to know or recognize the name, because unlike sites like Facebook and MySpace, we expect decentralized social networking to take a different path.
You can use GNU social for your family, your business, your band, or just for yourself.
Why make GNU social?
GNU social was started as a spin-off from GNU FM. We set out to create a basic social network that could work with GNU FM, but as GNU FM had no decentralized features, the project grew to encompass the idea of making a new social network platform as well.
GNU social, and decentralized social networking in general offers a positive alternative to the mainstream centralized social networking concept, but has its own challenges too, including awareness, ease of use and technical ability.
Also, we really needed something to organize dart matches.
How does GNU social and StatusNet do this magical stuff?
It’s all about the OStatus.
Wait a second, dart matches?
Yeah, the original developers (Deb, Matt, Ru, Don and Clara are also dart players) — we wanted something to help our webmaster (Stevie DuBois, who later joined as a GNU social developer) keep track of our games.
How is GNU social different from StatusNet or identi.ca?
In many ways, it’s not. GNU social has a different relationship to StatusNet that most free software projects have with other projects. This is sometimes difficult to explain, without downplaying the efforts or goals of either project.
We like to explain it like this: StatusNet is the huge contribution on which we place ourselves alongside, to deliver the extra social networking goodness on top of StatusNet’s core microblogging framework. In addition, a large part of the StatusNet codebase is GNU social code, thanks to the development efforts of our own Craig Andrews. We continue to work closely with StatusNet developers and StatusNet, Inc, and are extremely grateful to the positive relationship we have with the developers and in particular with Evan Prodromou.
Are you lot good at darts then?
Pretty good. In the GNU social/FYH league 2010, Don ‘The Law’ Robertson was the eventual winner, earning himself a hearty meal at a chain Italian restaurant. You don’t get that kind of elation writing websites, you know.
How is GNU social different from Diaspora, Appleseed, Crabgrass and others?
In many ways, it’s not. In fact, we’d like it if one day, all users on all free social networks were able to communicate without barriers. We’ve met and discussed this, and it’s on the cards.
In short: Lots of social network projects came before GNU social, and many came after. We have a good relationship with other projects, and despite the desire of many, there’s no animosity between us and other projects.
Besides, we could probably take them on at darts and win.
What is the license for GNU social?
GNU social is licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License version 3. If you choose, you can also use the terms of later versions of the GNU Affero General Public License, if/when they become available.
Who owns GNU social?
GNU social is a community project, and the developers have assigned their work to the Free Software Foundation. The FSF holds the copyright on the project, and will ensure it always remains free software.
Free software is a matter of freedom, not price. Some people call this Open Source, but Open Source misses the point of Free Software.
What is Foo Communications?
Foo Communications (sometimes called FooCorp or FCL) is a company set up by Matt Lee, Rob Myers and Liam Smith. It is primarily a record label, specializing in freely licensed music. Foo Communications runs the daisycha.in service and handles all advertising on the site.
So, 501? Cricket? What’s your game?
Well, at first we did 301, and we’ve been known to play some fairly crazy games like ‘inverse cricket’ where you have to get all the numbers except the traditional cricket numbers, as well as ‘single digit cricket’ where you get 2, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and bulls.
We also buy our darts and equipment at the DAM Dart Depot in Revere, MA who rather graciously provided a dart board for the GNU social development HQ (also known as a store closet at the Free Software Foundation) — which despite salacious rumor from Stevie and Danny, is not the home of a pirate.
Do I have to use the Creative Commons Attribution License for my contributions?
No. But you should.
What was the original version of GNU social?
There was an initial alpha of GNU social, created by Deborah Nicholson, Matt Lee, Donald Robertson III, Clara Raubertas and Ru Flanagan.
What is needed to run GNU social?
- GNU/Linux or other Unix-like operating system
- A web server — could be Apache, nginx, lighttpd, etc
- PHP 5 or later
- A database — could by MySQL or PostgreSQL
- URL rewriting, such as mod_rewrite.
- Optional: Dart knowledge.
I can’t get it working on Windows or Mac OS X
While GNU social should work with Apache on these platforms, we can’t guarantee it’ll work.
Windows and Mac OS X are not common web hosting platforms and are not free software, so we don’t focus on these targets.
PHP is very common in shared hosting environments. Along with MySQL and Apache, PHP is a good base for developing web applications.
Like any language, PHP has its critics. Discussions about PHP versus other languages are not useful to the project.
Now that’s just offensive.