Architecture and implementation of a de-centralised web service

I’m a web programmer with several years of experience in RoR and node.js. I have a project idea that is quite big and I need some input in how it can be achieved.

I heard of the Diaspora project, and how it is de-centralised. In a way, which I don’t really get, anyone can setup an instance of the app and connect it to the other instances, and the contents can be shared from any instance.

I want to do something similar: without getting into details here, I basically want a single site or service, where the front-end looks for the end user like a single thing, but the content is actually hosted by anyone who sets up a server.

How could such a thing be built? Would it even scale? I want something like an unified front-end with a single search and user account, but the bulk of byte-heavy data is hosted on the servers of their owners.

Sorry if this is the wrong place to ask. I just don’t know where else I can ask for input on this.


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