The project garnered a large amount of press back in May when it raised over $200,000 on the social pledging site Kickstarter based solely on the idea of building a “personally controlled, do-it-all, distributed open source social network.” In other words: the anti-Facebook social network.
At a time when Facebook’s privacy concerns were the topic of the moment, many rallied behind Diaspora’s untainted ambition and pledged a donation, including Facebook’s own Mark Zuckerberg, who compared the idea to Facebook’s early peer-to-peer sister project, Wirehog. “I think it’s a cool idea,” Zuckerberg said in a Wired interview.
In its announcement, the Diaspora team states that is has pushed back many technical features such as plug-ins and APIs to spend time concentrating on the user interface, and in particular, ways in which it can enable easy ‘contextual sharing’ — the ability for users to intuitively decide what type of content is seen by co-workers, friends, family, and so on.
The user interface challenge is not unique to Diaspora — Facebook has said in the past that it is constantly working on making it easier for users to control who they share your content with, and currently uses the ‘List’ feature to rely on users to make their own decisions around the separation of their content.
While Diaspora may be on its way to making a viable alternative in terms of the product, it still has hurdles to cross when it comes to user adoption. Open-source alternatives haven’t been popular in the past — back in 2008, Twitter alternative Identi.ca sparked similar attention among users unhappy with Twitter’s ownership of their data, but was never able to get enough users to be considered an active threat of any sort to Twitter. Will Diaspora be able to avoid the same fate?