Stuart Butterworth
 Manchester, UK,  
I've been messing with some OS Social Networking apps recently, both on my own servers and on others (hence why I'm here! Thanks, Woozle!), and it only seems to confirm for me that the ideal Social Network has quite possibly been hiding in plain sight all along.
ELGG was about the only one I could get to install on my shared hosting - it seems nice enough, but it doesn't federate very well, even with other instances of itself on the same server - apparently there is a version with code built in to federate with various OStatus projects, but it has never seen the light of day.
With one exception, it's install was simple - it needs a Data folder outside of the web root, and requests details of the absolute path to that folder - my host has a none-standard way of  setting their paths up, which meant I was stuck on that step for a good long while until I could get someone to walk me through it.
Other than that, it was a really simple install, not quite as easy as WordPress, but certainly easier than Mastodon or Hubzilla, both of which failed to install on my server.
And that is what we need for decentralised, federated social networking to take off - a simple install routine, a lower list of server requirements, that is as configurable and as adaptable as WordPress - in fact, maybe WP itself could do the job...
Well, actually, it turns out that wordpress.com. the hosted version or WordPress, has some limited functionality along these lines, and if you link a self-hosted WP instance up to an account on WP.com using Jetpack, you can acess a sub-set of those functionas, although you can only read other WP.com sites rather than self-hosted sites.
Still, the possibility is there - indeed, there is an OStatus plugin available which claims to allow this to happen, but it hasn't been updated in a while, requires other plugins (many of which haven't been updated in even longer), has a really complex install routine as a result, hasn't been tested with the latest version of WP, and, erm... doesn't actually work...
But seriously, I'm sure there must be a way to get something like that to work - with WordPress's installed user-base, putting this sort of thing in would potentially create one of the biggest social networks out there, allowing just about anyone full control of their data quickly, easily, and cheaply.
One of the biggest problem the current distributed, federated networks have is that they generally require beefier (and therefore more expensive) servers than the hosted options that happily run Wordpress (and other blogging/CMS options), as well as needing more knowledge of how to run the servers - shared hosting is generally simple, but anything thing more gets really complicated really quickly, what we really need is a way for everyone to be able to run their own instance rather than relying on someone else doing all the work, and having to trust them.
Hmm, this is getting really long-winded, and I'm repeating myself - think I had better hit the pit.
Thoughts, anyone?