Web Culture

Ind.ie Wants To Kill Facebook And Make The Internet Decentralized

Matthew Hughes 24-12-2014

So, you want to kill Facebook? That’s certainly a noble cause. As companies go, Facebook is one of the least trusted, and it’s not hard to see why. In many ways, they’re like the ex from hell: one minute, they’re spying on your communications, the next they’re playing with your emotions Don’t Be an Experiment: How to Control Your Facebook News Feed What determines what is and isn't a top Facebook post? How often you interact with a person, topics you're interested in, how many likes or comments the post attracts, and – apparently – psychological experiments. Read More with desperately sad stories and statuses.


But unlike your 11th grade crush, dumping Facebook is really hard.

Certainly, you can delete your account. Really delete your account, I mean. But that comes with some massive implications. You won’t be able to log into sites which require you to use a Facebook account in lieu of a username and password. You also will inevitably lose friendships and connections, by opting out of the biggest social network on the planet.

One guy wants to finally end the homogeny of the massive data-silos in the sky (read: Facebook, Google and Dropbox). His name is Aral Balkan, and he’s a Brighton-based designer that is currently trying to crowdfund three potential challengers to these Internet Titans. But what makes this plan different than every other Facebook and Google replacement? Its dependence on a decentralized, peer-to-peer infrastructure.

It’s called called ind.ie, and it consists of three parts.

Meet ind.ie

Ind.ie bills itself as “an independent platform to protect our human rights, freedoms and democracy itself”. They say they’re trying to protect us from something they call “Spyware 2.0”, which was defined in an essay by Balkan as “corporate surveillance”.


Spyware 2.0 presents itself as something benign, even helpful. This could be Facebook making it easy to share statuses and pictures with your friends, or Google allowing us to find things on the World Wide Web. But behind this facade, these “features” contain malicious behavior that seek to impinge upon your privacy and, ultimately, your freedom.

Balkan views Spyware 2.0 as a very real, very troubling threat. To combat this, ind.ie is releasing three pieces of software under the umbrella of “Project Stratosphere”, as well as a smartphone.


The tagline of Pulse is “Freedom in Sync”. Currently available for Mac, Windows, Linux, BSD and Solaris, Pulse allows you to synchronize files across multiple devices without having to deal with an intermediary server in the cloud, as you would with Dropbox or even App.net.



Pulse is secure, with all files transmitted protected with strong, TLS encryption,based upon open standards. As with everything released under the ind.ie label, it’s released under a free, permissive license (GPLv3, to be precise).


Heartbeat is a privacy oriented social network that was released on Human Rights Day (December 10) 2014 in a private beta for users of OS X Yosemite.

Like Facebook, you can use heartbeat to ‘share thoughts, photos and anything else’ with your friends, or for the world to see. Unlike Facebook, it doesn’t depend on a central repository of servers. Everything is communicated through a mesh of decentralized, peer-to-peer computers. Besides that, there’s not much known about it.


I’m not sure what Waystone actually is. It promises to be ‘the link between the Indie web and the open web”. Aside from that brief, buzzword-laden sentence there’s not a lot of information about it.


I predict it’ll ultimately present itself as a peer-to-peer infrastructure service that enables other decentralized products to function.

Indie Phone

The smartphone arms race is over. Google and Apple have won. Decisively. It’s time to go home Windows Phone MakeUseOf Says Goodbye To Windows Phone This is going to be a tearful goodbye, buddy, but it has to happen. MakeUseOf will soon be parting ways with Windows Phone. Read More . Firefox OS and Blackberry, thanks for showing up.

Is this duopoly good for consumers? Aral thinks not.

When Google and Apple create beautiful experiences, they control the hardware, operating system, and core services. The combination of these three components compromises the user experience. Without control over all three, you do not have control over the end-user experience and cannot possibly hope to compete on experience.


This is why one of the most crucial lynchpins in the ind.ie catalog is the Indie Phone. This promises to be as aesthetically stunning, as it is ergonomically pleasing. And crucially, it will respect your privacy.


At the time of writing, they already have a non-functioning prototype, and have entered the first stage of the industrial design process.

To The Stratosphere

Project Stratosphere is a deeply ambitious project, and it’s obvious to see each of its component products are aimed at toppling some major technology companies. Firms who, in the past, have abused the trust of their users.


The genius of the ind.ie project is that they’re simply unable to break the trust of their users as a result of not actually holding any data themselves. Rather, they’re building the infrastructure and tools necessary to offer a service.

We can also expect the various ind.ie projects to look half-decent. Aral Balkan – the founder and leader of the project – is a designer by trade. This is pretty unusual. Most free software projects are founded by developers and non-design oriented people.

The Network Effect

The Network Effect is a fascinating little piece of psychology. Crucially, it explains why Facebook and Twitter have enjoyed huge amounts of success, while upstarts like Ello, Diaspora, and Path have struggled to build a critical mass.


The logic behind the Network Effect is pretty simple. As more people use a service, the more valuable it becomes to its users.

It’s not something that is limited to websites and apps. Take the telephone, for example, which is only useful because other people own telephones. Similarly, people use Facebook because they know that when they login, everyone they could want to talk with will be there.

For a new service to come close to competing with Facebook, they would have to somehow convince people to move en masse to that service. This is something a lot of sites have tried.

You probably remember ello.co from earlier this year Meet Ello: The Hip New Social Network You Need To Know About It has been said that when a social network makes a small change, it cause a schism, sending users fleeing elsewhere. They're heading to ello.co. Read More . This VC backed social network promised to offer similar functionality of Facebook and Twitter, without the use of pervasive advertising and selling user data.

It had a burst of attention, which rapidly fizzled out. The reason? Nobody used it. No users, no value.

Then there’s Diaspora Diaspora Preview - All You Need to Know About the New "Open Source Facebook" Read More . Again, this promised to be the ultimate Facebook killer. Its main selling point was its decentralized nature. Rather than existing in the datacenter of one large corporation, Dispora was built around a variety of nodes operated by volunteers and power users.

Like Ello, it too had a burst of attention. And like Ello, this rapidly fizzled out into nothingness.

Will ind.ie Be Any Different?


Ind.ie has a few advantages that Ello and Diaspora never had. Namely, it’s a design and experience driven project which isn’t entirely dependent upon a centralized infrastructure. What does this mean in real-terms? Users won’t have to sign up to endless waiting lists, and it can grow as its userbase grows.

However, will this be enough to pull people away from Facebook and Dropbox? I’m not sure. However, I can see it appealing to a very small, limited group of internet users, whose needs are already being serviced by the likes of Ello, BitTorrent Sync and App.net Everything You Need To Know About App.net - The "Other" Social Network App.net was born out of frustration with the status quo. How much do you know about it? Read More .

But what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Pulse / Aral Balkan, Phone/ Aral BalkanBlake Barrett

Related topics: Dropbox, Facebook, File Sharing.

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  1. Syed Naimath
    January 13, 2015 at 7:20 am

    That is one interesting initiative. The way Google, Facebook have taken over lives is sometimes creepy. Having said that, they are greatly responsible for taking lives forward in ways nobody ever imagined.

    So, I'm not sure if Indie (I know very little of it yet) would be able to be equally beneficial or big without following some of the technology patterns these giants follow. You see, the Internet is like a huge bubble where every new technology comes with the needs. The way it has been evolving into a giant centralized bubble looks like a complete natural process. Decentralization would also happen naturally when the need arises.

    And, I'm not sure if the need for Decentralized Internet has arrived yet. Not until, there's some massive breach of users' data / privacy OR something catastrophic happens due to the Centralized models.

    Right now, I think the Centralized Internet is still in it's primitive stages and people are still figuring out how to be a part of this pie - be with Cloud, Social Networks, Search Engines, etc.

    Anyway, best wishes to Indie. :-)

  2. Rob
    December 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    It all sounds pretty neat, but I feel that the companies that set out with the primary aim being to pretty much change the world are almost doomed from the start. Solving a micro problem that leads to a natural expansion of a service in order to solve a macro problem is a far more common growth trend for companies. Going for the big fish first very rarely works, so I don't hold much hope for this, I'm afraid.

  3. KyleWm
    December 25, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Minor nitpick: GPL is incorrectly identified as a permissive license.

  4. Geoff
    December 25, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    I was very interested in this indie project but after following Aral on Twitter for a few months I started to have my doubts on the future of it. He mainly tweets hate tweets (this sucks, that sucks, this is sexist ect). If anyone disagrees with him he quote replies them and then there's a barrage of his angry followers ganging up on whoever disagrees. He should really start tweeting things relevant to his project. Of that I didn't see anything, just links to his site which pretty much just a wish list, nothing of content.
    I'm not sure how they plan to funding their process without over the top charges to users or getting backing from companies they claim to hate.

  5. Greg Marino
    December 25, 2014 at 2:49 am

    The PATHETIC way that Facebook has become the dismal core of so many peoples measly lives overwhelming. And talk about DRAMA! It has, on the other hand, made for some pretty bold people who JUST LOVE hiding behind the internets protective shroud. And, for one who doesn't give one flying flip OR the internet, if I could "turn it off" with a flick of a switch. ..I would in a nano second.

    Blast me all you want all ye bloggers, Internet hounds...or whomever may take a cowardly shot across my bow. For what I use the Internet for doesn't even have a notion of chance of derailing my life like the vast majority of you aforementioned. And, more likely than not, you overwhelming morbidly obese aforementioned.

  6. DonGateley
    December 25, 2014 at 1:12 am

    I think that when there is a way to move your FB contents to it then it might get a foot hold. Much as I might loath it, too many people are already invested in the FB spyware octopus for it to be displaced completely if people want to remain connected to those that are pwned by FB.

    What pisses me off the most is that more and more sites with comment sections are requiring you to use Facebook to use them. I think that's restraint of trade but just who the hell am I anyway. I remove all bookmarks to such sites and cancel any email notification I've subscribed to as soon as I discover that they've gone over to that dark side. One of these days I'll figure out how to block Firefox from even opening these sites when links point to them.

    When are you guys going to allow comment notifications?

  7. Wolf Bas
    December 24, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    I always wonder how people easily jump into building something "free of cruel big companies" and use for development code provided by those Internet Titans.
    In this case, Pulse is built on top of Go language and Angular.JS UI framework, both developed and supported by Google. lol

  8. Phil
    December 24, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Ditching facebook is easy because it blows. Just jump over to Google+ and be happy.

  9. Howard Pearce
    December 24, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Want to keep the internet decentralized ? Make sure some fascist idea like Newspaper Neutrality where the state tells newspapers what to print or Net Neutrality where the state tells ISP's what to broadcast never see the light of day.

    Support freedom of the press/communication over some state-mandated idea of neutrality.

    Does The Fairness Doctrine come to mind ?

    • Doc
      December 24, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      Net Neutrality isn't about the State telling ISPs what to transmit, it's about users getting all the speed they've already paid for, regardless of who the user wants to connect to. In other words, ISPs aren't allowed to charge Netflix to let users connect to Netflix, any more than they can charge Google for allowing connections. Netflix has already had to raise rates once already because of Comcast's paid peering; Verizon did the same thing before this, and it cannot be allowed to continue.
      PS: Net Neutrality has *never* been about "what ISPs broadcast," although Comcast owning NBC/Universal is part of it; ideally, ISPs and cable companies are *not* also media companies...too many Huge Corporations getting in bed together is *never* good for consumers.

    • Howard Pearce
      December 24, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Of course it isn't .... so they say. But then why would net neutrality have the state dictate to ISP's to broadcast all sites ? If the state told newspapers to print all news, would you support that ? I wouldn't ... that is a clear violation of freedom of the press.

      Last I knew, newspapers had the right to determine for themselves what news to cover.

      Freedom of the Press is your right to communication and you would rather have the state dictate mandates on how and what to communicate/broadcast as it relates to the internet.

      Fascism has frequently raised it's head under another name/goal ..... like in Mussolini promising to make the trains run on time ... a noble goal so his supporters said.