diaspora – a collective population, linked genetically but scattered (like seeds)
Diaspora – a social network that aims to replicate Facebook functions, but scattered on personal servers.
If this sounds familiar, it is.
Five years removed from Friendster’s prime, Friendster isn’t even commonly known enough to be a punchline.
Five years from now, Facebook might be a joke. We never know, and the company seems hellbent at this point on shooting its golden goose in the foot. (Why should my metaphor be any less scattered or messy than Facebook’s privacy settings?)
Here’s what it comes down to: Facebook has amazing leverage and far too much mass to just dry up. If its servers winked out overnight, there would be something emerging to replace it, because there is now a market for the way people connect, and an expectation that we can share ideas and pictures and the like.
If Facebook ever gets replaced, it will be by something that replicates the activities people enjoy. Now, for a sizable number of users, that means Farmville and the Zynga games. If Zynga does a Fake Farm Network, you might see a couple dozen million people leave Facebook. Likewise, if Twitter disappeared you’d still have people wanting to do micromessaging.
Enter Diaspora, a startup that is reaping the benefits of Facebook’s recent serial bad press. While few have seen it in action, it promises the ability for a user to not only configure their profile, but to actually own the data, and be in charge of who gets access to what. No more third-party trust, no more poring through legal documents only to be surprised later what is public. Diaspora will run on your server, and will use secure encryption to ensure that only other Diaspora instances you authorize can see what you open to them.
Is it a Facebook killer? No. It is another way to skin the cat, for people who know how, don’t mind getting their hands dirty, and know what to do with naked cats. We’ve seen this model in Laconica, the open-source alternative to Twitter. Most know Laconica by the name of the most common server, http://identi.ca, which houses the account information and spools the messages to a distributed network of of Laconica instances. In case you missed it, Laconica rebranded as Status.Net, which is offering white-label premium support for the enterprise, much in the same vein as Yammer. And you can see what an impact that’s had on Twitter’s growth.
Diaspora, for now, will be the way that the geeky tech people can feed their need for community without worrying about Zuckerberg stealing their ideas.
It will NOT truly take off, however, if every single user has to have his or her own node (or “seed”). What WILL make it work is if a person could host a Diaspora Seed on a server, and handle his immediate family, extended family, maybe even a few close friends. Perhaps a company will offer to host employees on a Node, which would be a fabulous idea, as the company could use it as a locked-down intranet while also letting employees have Public profiles to the outside world.
If Diaspora goes that route, and there is significant Facebook Insecurity still mounting, it could be the check-and-balance that forces Facebook to play within rational ethical means. But ONLY if it is enough of a threat that people could jump to it at a moment’s notice.
Be watching it… but don’t be betting on it yet, unless you are comfortable configuring your own MySQL databases on an Apache/Linux server.