What is OpenCola?

OpenCola is:

Overall, OpenCola is a reaction to the current state of the Internet, where a small set of companies, driven by the sole purpose of maximizing profit, has extracted, captured and exploited the value of our personal data and relationships. It represents a paradigm shift in how we think about the Internet, by inverting the current power structure, putting you and your community in control. We believe that this is more in line with the original vision of the Internet as an environment where everyone can participate and benefit equally.

We are finishing up some work on infrastructure and will be offering general access to our alpha release soon!

Sounds great, but what does OpenCola actually do?

As mentioned above, the first application we built is a collaborative media tool that can be thought of as an alternative to big tech social media. On top of providing you with similar features to existing social applications, OpenCola offers the following benefits:

What do you mean by trust?

OpenCola is built to maximize trust in the following dimensions:

Each one of these principles is largely minimized by companies whose objective is to maximize profit.

So why should I trust OpenCola?

Fair question. We’ve all been burned too many times. Companies have been telling us what trust is and that we should just trust them for a long time.

The above trust principles guide how we operate and what we build. That is why we are a non-profit company, our code is open source that you are free to modify to best fit your needs, and your data is not visible to us. We can never extract the value of your networks or information and exploit it for profit, nor can anybody else (unless that’s what you want).

In order to make things easy to use, we provide some centralized services, but we provide you the means to run everything on your own.

OpenCola is also free, in the freedom sense - you can take what you like, modify it, sell it, and we can never take it away. It will run as long as your device operates.

We believe that true competition requires competition of incentive models. We reject the belief that obscene corporate profit equals consumer good and instead are guided by maximizing trust. We aim to be a sustainable business by offering value without compromising trust, rather than seeking metastasized growth to satisfy investors and shareholders.

Who is OpenCola for?

The current collaboration tool is quite general and can be useful to anyone, even if it’s used in isolation and never connected to other peers. But connecting to peers is quite powerful, as we’ve seen with social media and many other types of applications. Here are some other application we’re thinking about:

How does OpenCola address issues created by social media?

How is OpenCola different?

There are many applications / platforms out there that attempt to solve important problems. Some are low level, more technical solutions (e.g. Solid), while others are high level solutions (e.g. Mastadon). Low level solutions are often light on product vision or are too complicated for everyday people to use. High level solutions often have a very specific product vision, and so are of limited use.

OpenCola was designed to be able to model any application domain, and make use of any technologies that can be wrapped by the small set of interfaces (see the technical FAQ). So, OpenCola is not one specific application, nor is it one specific network. It allows for arbitrary domains to be modeled and interconnected with arbitrary networks. Things like Solid and Mastadon could easily be integrated into OpenCola applications (which we plan to do).

Because of its design, OpenCola is agnostic to network toplogy and has the flexibility to operate on any scale from pure peer-to-peer all the way to fully centralized.

Who are you, and why are you building OpenCola?

We are people that are tired of the state of the Internet and would like to help fix it, because it’s a problem worth solving, even if we don’t make loads of money doing so. The founders of OpenCola all worked at the original OpenCola, founded in 1999, which was building something similar in spirit, but was unfortunately too far ahead of its time. We’ve all gained a lot of experience and seen what the Internet has become and would like to do what we can to steer it in the right direction.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you stop bad people from using OpenCola?

We don’t. Anything we do to monitor or control activity requires invading privacy and undermines our trust values. Every technology has unintended consequences. The Internet enables bad things, but if you’re reading this, then you’re using it, despite the fact that people can do bad things with it, likely because you believe that it brings more good than harm. Similarly, we believe that the world is better with OpenCola than without it, even if people use it in ways that we don’t support.

Does OpenCola address “Filter Bubbles”?

Yes and no. Since people, rather than algorithms, control the flow of information, algorithmic filter bubbles are not an issue. But people have their own biases and preferences, which can also lead to filter bubbles as well as “echo chambers”. These are social, not technical issues, that we believe cannot be fixed by forcing people to consume information that they disagree with. Who or what would even decide what people should see? Certainly not us. We believe that the trust environment provided by OpenCola, which is less polarized, is more likely to open minds than anything offered by ad driven, for profit companies or any algorithmic / technological solution.

How do you connect with people you don’t know?

Traditional social media has a loose trust model, which allows people to connect with or follow other people with little or no permission required. With OpenCola, because we’re focused on trusted connections, currently both ends of a connection need to agree to share information. As publishing is a useful activity, though, we intend to support a publisher model, where you can create personas that can be connected to by anyone.

While technically simple, the question then becomes should we support searching for publishers? This opens the door to verification problems, so we think publishers would need to communicate their ids outside of OpenCola, like you do today when sharing an email address or any other social media id. OpenCola could then just host (cryptographically) verified details about publishers, including where information posted by the publisher can be retrieved.

High Level Technical Details

How is Data Modeled in OpenCola?

The core of OpenCola is how it represents information. Each “atom” of information is represented as a fact that is a data structure with the following fields:

Modeling information this way makes it trivial to add new attributes and provides a simple, common data schema that applications can be built on top of.

As a bonus, modeling information this way supports “time traveling” where you can modify any query to return results up to a given point in time. This enables use cases where you want to see your feed (or search) exactly as it was on a given date in the past.

What are the core components of OpenCola?

Under the hood, OpenCola is built on 4 interfaces:

Each of these interfaces can be implemented locally or interact with a remote or centralized server. So OpenCola can operate on any scale from pure Peer to Peer all the way to fully centralized.

Since these interfaces are free to be implemented and modified, you have the freedom to re-configure OpenCola any way that meets your trust needs. The average person probably wants the “batteries included” solution, with some centralization, whereas a human rights worker may need a more sophisticated, security-at-all-costs solution, that is more pure peer to peer.