A few weeks ago, at the 10th Internet Identity Workshop in Mountain View, I watched an impressive demo of the reference implementation of the One Social Web design.
It's a fully decentralized full federated "Facebook". I was amazed. It can do everything that Facebook can, it has far better trust model than "Trust Mark Zucherberg's ethics", it scales without polling, it uses simple open network protocols, and the reference implementation is open source.
Since before and while the Diaspora people have been collecting money via Kickstarter and giving interviews to the public media, the OSW people have designed a good scalable network protocol based on proven components and designs, and have written running code.
Huge centralized systems like Facebook and Twitter have been driving the creation of some pretty neat technology, which they have been forced to use because of their gigantic size and load and growth. Engineering effort that use to be used to add value and features are now instead consumed to just stay alive and running. These huge systems tend to run in their own data centers because at that scale it makes sense, for the same reason that Coca-Cola runs their own water treatment plants.
But, if a system can federate into small pieces then it does not have to go to such heroic efforts as it grows. The implementations can have simpler designs, and more straightforward code that is easier to develop and maintain. They are "small pieces, loosely joined", and "Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control", to invoke some proven patterns. They can keep growing when the centralized systems fail. They can handle the load of ten billion people and a trillion devices.
I've preached all these points before. But now I come to the point that occurred to me today:
These federated systems work very well with hosting providers and with cloud computing systems. They require basic off-the-rack system administration skills, and can be designed to use basic cloud infrastructure APIs and components.
If you bring up a OWS node, you could run it on a junk machine under your desk. But when you start depending on having it be stable and managed, it makes since to let Rackspace Slicehost or Aamzon AWS EC2 run it for you.