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What is Outfoxed?

Outfoxed is the implementation side of my master's thesis at the University of Osnabrück, Germany. The thesis title is Trusted Metadata Distribution Using Social Networks. In a nutshell, I'm exploring ways for you to use your network of trusted friends to determine what's good, bad, and dangerous on the internet. Outfoxed does this by adding functionality to the Firefox web browser. Coding began on Dec 27th, 2004.

This document first discusses the current features of Outfoxed: incorporating metadata information into web pages, internet searching, file downloading, and running processes. Next I give a little insight into how it works. And finally, I answer a few possible objections and criticisms and speculate about future possibilities. Note that this is an evolving document, and will certainly grow and change as my thesis proceeds.

Theory and Motivation

The essential idea of Outfoxed is that people make decisions based primarily on a few people whom they trust. The average person has a set of experts whom they consult in designated areas: the computer expert, the car expert, the fashion expert, the financial expert. If the opinions of these experts can be collected, they are incredibly useful: it is this metadata (data about other data) that gives the most intelligent filtering and sorting of the information on the internet.

For example, Outfoxed lets my Mom know that I think it's okay for her to install the Flash plugin, but that she should not install anything from Claria. That's pretty good, but it gets better. The real power comes from chaining trust: Outfoxed also lets my Mom know that PC Pitstop, a company that I trust, has reported that Orbitz advertises via spyware. So if she ends up on an Orbitz page, or if an Orbitz page is returned in a search result, she will know to think twice about doing business there. (More about socially responsible shopping)

A word on Outfoxed lingo: The opinions that people give are referred to as reports. These can be about just about anything. The people whom you trust, and whose reports you want to know about, are your informers. All this information is stored in a statement. (For example, my statement can be seen here.)

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