July 28, 2011 by openbytes
The second article on social networking in a row has me feeling like I ‘m presenting an episode of BBC Click , but by the good fortune of chatting with a kind Diaspora user/Identi.ca user, I managed to get an invite whilst in the middle of my Google+ adventures.
I don’t need to re-iterate my feelings on Facebook, but suffice to say this is not the first time Ive mentioned Diaspora. This time though, I’m doing it from the point of being a member.
For those that keep up to date, Diaspora is the product of Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, Raphael Sofaer, Ilya Zhitomirski where donations for the project (which was intended an alternative to Facebook at the time) raised around $250,000. The developers mission statement being:
With Diaspora, we are reclaiming our data, securing our social connections, and making it easy to share on your own terms. We think we can replace today’s centralized social web with a more secure and convenient decentralized network,
Diaspora presents itself to the user as pretty much the same as Facebook (and now Google+) , where your wall/stream contains the activity of all your contacts.
Like Google+ you can sort your friends/followers into different categories which means that a fellow coder who has just discussed with you the benefits of assembly language, won’t have to suffer meaningless family photographs of the latest family outing. Conversely, your mother will not have to listen to your endless rants about Microsoft Patent aggression, when all she wants to know is when she will next see her son and “has he settled down with that nice girl yet?” – Thats the theory anyway and whilst Diaspora is still in Alpha stages with a limited membership, in its own right its a great platform already.
Features wise there is very little on offer at the moment. Thats understandable since its in Alpha, but with G+ coming on in leaps and bounds, will people’s appreciation for the “little guy” see them waiting for Diaspora to be Public Beta, or will they follow their friends to Google+ or Facebook?
There is no chat facility at present which we see in both Facebook and G+, you can connect up other accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and you can also export your data from Diaspora quite simply. The one nice thing about Diaspora is that you can tag your profile with five keywords in order to better connect with like-minded people. A simple idea, but a good one for making relevant connections quickly.
When you make a post, there is also the facility to send it out to Twitter. This is great for people like myself who want to manage multiple social networks in one place. I would have found an Identi.ca facility more useful however because my Dent’s are piped to Twitter which would mean in one “hit” I could post on all three.
Too little, too late?
In April 2010, when Diaspora was first announced, I was particularly excited by it. I didn’t want to become part of the noxious Facebook and Diaspora seemed to be the solution. The funding it received filled me with hope that the project would be progressing rapidly and I envisaged Diaspora being to Facebook what Identi.ca is to Twitter – that being a place where I control my data, meet like-minded people genuinely interested in the same subjects as I, whilst for the main removing me from the world of spam, promotion, PR that seems to infest Twitter.
Skip forward to September 2010 and there were reports of security holes in the Diaspora code when it was released to the public. By December 2010 many were asking questions as to the progress of Diaspora and now, almost 8 months on from that, development does not seem to be going quick enough in the fast-moving world of online services. Especially with the G+ monster looking hungrily at Facebook users who have had their fair share of complaints about the service.
Diaspora still has the potential for great things. The one thing maybe the developers of Diaspora didn’t count on would be that before it came out of Alpha, they would be competing with another similar social network, one which had looked at all the complaints of Facebook users and was developing a social network with almost limitless resources (Google).
One has to wonder if the developers of Diaspora had known at the time the service Google was to release, would they have started the project. Would the backers of the project too, donate to a vision maybe to be overshadowed by the Money Monster of Google?
I certainly still have high hopes for Diaspora. Now I have my place in their social network I will be developing it pretty much along the lines of G+, I’ll come back to you when I’ve reached a decision over which I’ll stick with and why.
So will Diaspora fizzle away, will it become a niche network or will it unseat both Google and Facebook? – Time will tell, one thing is for sure though there may be some unhappy people if the donations to date fail to produce any substantial results. A social network can have all the features and freedoms in the world, if it doesn’t have the users then its a pretty pointless exercise and then all that is left is the source that may appear in other projects in the future.
Will the Social Networking world be a three-horse race by similar product and yet again another example of competition in the world of tech?
You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would welcome any contact on the network, in order not only to hear your opinions but better experience my Diaspora life.
I must also say a big thankyou to Silner who kindly invited me to Diaspora and enabled this article to be written.
Note:  – I often criticise BBC as being a Social Networking review show.
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