500 million on facebook – will diaspora have a chance?

Diaspora, I might remind you, is a project by four New York University College students, to develop and code a social network that isn’t centralized and that allows users full control over who gets to see what they publish, post for post. It will not run on centralized servers – every user is to host their own data. Since May, when I last reported on the project, work has gone ahead.

The four have started coding, and with money they collected via Kickstarter, they could dedicate the summer to this project. Two of them now plan to take a leave from their studies to dedicate more time to this new pursuit.

Diaspora, consequently, is evolving from a college summer project into a long term commitment, according to an update on the Diaspora blog.

Recently, someone on facebook commented:

    “…as of 07-22-10 FB hit the 500 million mark. It will be darn hard to get folks to give up completely on FB, even if another social network can gear up to take that high a percentage of the world population.”

to which I replied:

    “It will certainly be hard to get an open source people’s network to stand up against facebook, but you never know. A lot of people use facebook only because there is no other, proper alternative. It’s not the platform that captivates them, but the possibility of interacting with their friends in an easy way…”

Consequently, I believe, once the new platform is ready, all bets are off. There is no predicting what will happen.

I sense a lot of discontent among friends – not so much over facebook privacy issues but over what’s perceived as facebook censorship. Groups that had explosive membership growth but vanished overnight, canceled by facebook’s staff, content that “has been flagged as abusive” and consequently can’t be published. Those are things people pay attention to, things that impede their communications and that make the facebook platform less reliable than we would like our communications tools to be.

So yes, while of course it will be difficult to run against a colossus that has hundreds of millions of members, if it is done with the right kind of platform, it might just work.

Unfortunately we aren’t there yet. In their blog update, the developers say that they will open source the code on September 15. That doesn’t mean users can start experimenting with it just yet. A first public issue is scheduled for October.

“September 15 will be our open-source developer release. At that time, we will open up our github repository, publish our roadmap, and shift our development style to be more community oriented. We intend on launching a consumer facing alpha in October. Join our mailing list to get an invite.”

Via DIASPORA – An overdue update

2 Comments 500 million on facebook – will diaspora have a chance?

  1. AvatarRob Myers

    Diaspora are causing concern.

    Developing in secret then throwing the code over the wall isn’t the way to run a free software project.

    Github isn’t a free network service, so using it sends the wrong message from a project to create a free network service.

    They’ve set up as a private for-profit corporation.

    They’ve been talking to VCs over the summer:


    They’re requiring copyright assignment on contributions:


    There’s a problem with their use of the AGPL:


    They’re looking to abandon the AGPL:


    This all points to an “open core” business model, which would put the profits of the shareholders of the corporation above the freedom of the software’s users.

    If Diaspora do this then there will be no practical difference between Diaspora and Facebook other than that Diaspora will have betrayed the people who gave them 200,000USD.

  2. AvatarCocreatr

    Bets are off indeed, but if Diaspora were to be taken corporate, it would just become another walled garden.  I guess the risk illustrates a lesson for generous donors: stop when the initiative has reached its target. Go support something else. Diversity is essential for survival. How about “The Mine Project”?

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