Diaspora: the other “other social network”

This may be something different from my usual posts but I was asked to write a summary of Diaspora today and this is it. Since I like what they are doing I thought I would share it here as well. Since last week was Open Access week, I guess it is somewhat apt.

Diaspora is an open-source and distributed community of social networks run by users that enables you to own your own personal data, control with whom you share, and discover cool stuff throughout the Web.

To start out, take this screenshot tour of Diaspora, courtesy of LifeHacker to get a feel for the look and intention of the decentralized “open source social network.”

Diaspora appeals to a younger audience (18-35). Users are generally those social media veterans or digital natives that expect more transparency and authenticity from social networking companies. In a project similar to a digital co-op and largely created as an alternative to Facebook’s poor privacy track-record; Diaspora’s appeal is due to the ease in which you can manage privacy, control and own your own data, and with a distinct (and welocmed) lack of ads or consumer profiling. Unlike other social media platforms, where the unwritten (or, at least, well hidden) expectation is that your information will be used as marketing capital or targeted ads is not an issue with Diaspora. [the following list is adapted from Diaspora’s website.]

  1. Ownership: Diaspora is an open source, altruistic, non-profit site so you host (or join a pod) and retain ownership over your own data. Instead of all of your posts, pictures and videos being held on Facebook or Google servers, Diaspora allows you to have a social networking experience while retaining control of everything. Some amount of integration so you can post to other social networking sites from your account.
  2. Choice: Diaspora lets you sort your connections into groups called aspects. Unique to Diaspora, aspects ensure that your photos, stories and jokes are shared only with the people you intend. From the land of disillusionment, the team at Diaspora is attempting something new allowing you the choice to share rather than Google’s “choice” to segment how your data is used.
  3. Simplicity: While Facebook automatically sets all of your information to “public” and Google + insists on providing an actual name; Diaspora makes it easier – by being private from the start. As stated on their website “Diaspora doesn’t make you wade through pages of settings and options just to keep your profile secure.” For more information on the ethical mission refer to Diaspora’s acceptance of the Social Network User’s Bill of Rights.

While Diaspora seems to be on the right track, some critics do not think it will be enough to move people away from the “Big 3” (Facebook, Twitter and Google+). Even when the layout and design of Google + is so very similar to Diaspora…but hey! Open Access means just that. Blogger Daniel Lyon from The Daily Beast pessimistically comments that…

“The sad fact is, Diaspora could be better than Facebook in a bunch of ways—its user interface is cleaner and better looking, for example—but in the end that might not matter. Most people will still go to Facebook simply because that’s where all their friends are.” 

But gaining market-share does not seem to be the main mission of the creators of Diaspora:

“We believe that privacy and connectedness do not have to be mutually exclusive. 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 will be easy to use, and it will be centered on you instead of a faceless hub.”

Interested in joining Diaspora? Since this social network is “invite-only” it is trickier than Facebook or Google + to get started. Read Joshua Price’s blog post on “A First Look at Diaspora” on how to request an invite, set up your profile page and set your aspects.

For more info check out these following Jack Daw approved (meaning I read them) posts:

Bottom Line: If you are a social media veteran, have experience with some other social networking sites and want to try something new and more grassroots, then Diaspora is perfect for you. If you are completely new or just getting into social media then you may want to watch this one for a while before you jump in. The Diaspora blog is a great place to start.

Diaspora-logo-1

Diaspora logo from Karen Arla Rustad Little Green River.

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