will Diaspora “succeed”?

Diaspora still lacks punch because proper implementation (i.e. as a personal web server, not joindiaspora.com et al.) is still for the wizards. But the beauty is, that when (if? (vaporware?)) it is properly implemented, it will differentiate itself from GooglePlus and Facebook in a way that offers value to mass market consumers in the form of privacy and data portability. If consumers could buy an easy-to-install, pre-configured wall-wart running FreedomBox/Diaspora with the option of gratis/paid services for specialized configuration or feature development, some would be willing and able to buy such a device.

Unfortunately, the issues around privacy and data portability/access are not issues that typically capture the mass market’s attention. Will enough users care to expend the energy to create an instance of their social life on Diaspora and learn its interface? I’m skeptical, but if Diaspora keeps developing like it is, I see no reason to leave. For me personally, Diaspora has been like Twitter on steroids. My “use” of Twitter has pretty much been reduced to my Diaspora posts being pushed out to Twitter automatically.

Putting aside social pull and the goal of market power, I think the success of Diaspora should be measured similarly to the goals of the GNU Project. While advocates of software like the GNU/Linux operating system enjoy hearing news of market success, they see the existence of free software itself as the most important success, rather than growing popularity. Maybe there will only ever be enough capital behind Diaspora to sustain a niche market or perhaps, it will come to the mass market. Regardless of that, even if a small network of users exist who can run their own privacy-aware, free personal web server, that’s a success too.

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9 Responses to “will Diaspora “succeed”?”

  1. tonybaldwin Says:

    I don’t think it’s going to reach mass popularity or “compete” with the likes of google+ or farcebork.
    And it’s not even a question of features.
    The issue is that most people are too f–king stupid to give s sh-t about their own freedom and privacy, and will keep gulping down whatever bullsh-t their corporate overlords toss at them, so long as it has pretty whistles and bells.
    And, of course, said corporate overlords have fat marketing budgets.
    Because, when you examine it, the real value in Diaspora is what? That it is NOT corporate owned; that your data is yours to control; that you have complete control over your privacy; that Diaspora is community developed, community run, community owned.
    It’s not the bells & whistles.
    It’s a shame, really, that people are so f–king stupid.
    I would consider that Diaspora could have value for constructing internal networks for universities and/or businesses, but, of course, most business will use some other proprietary, corporate bullshi-t, like webscribble/webnetwork, or some crap.
    That said, for my part, I totally dig Diaspora and Friendika (another decentralized, FOSS social network).

  2. aNDy Says:

    There is no such thing as “Data is yours to control” nor “Complete control over your privacy”, unless of course you disconnect yourself completely from the Internet and hence defeat the purpose of Diaspora!!

    You want complete freedom? Find a way to get rid of ISPs, NICs and the Public IP regulators (see http://yro.slashdot.org/story/08/01/23/2350211/EU-Regulator-Says-IP-Addresses-Are-Personal-Data and http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/28/german_data_regulators_want_to_tighten_ip_laws/)

  3. petrock Says:

    aNDy, what Tony means is that when using Diaspora, your data will only fall out of your control when those you trust share it without your permission. In other words, it is designed to protect your privacy (unlike Google+ or FB).

  4. tonybaldwin Says:

    You can use Friendika over a Tor connection or use a proxy if you’re that worried about your IP address, friend.

  5. tonybaldwin Says:

    Oh, and the same with Diaspora, of course.

  6. aNDy Says:

    Sorry I was traveling and didn’t intend to ignore your replies.

    I have no objection to the distributed nature of Diaspora or the premises that no information is “stored” except on your own machine, etc… My objection is to the premise that Diaspora (or any other decentralized network) “protects your privacy.”

    For the record, I have deleted my Facebook account for than a year ago in objection to the constantly changing privacy policy and the lack of it for that matter. And I know that any information, or data, I uploaded to, supposedly MY account, is still stored somewhere on the servers. However, this does not cause me any discomfort, because I don’t have anything I want to hide put on Facebook!!!!

    My argument is that once you put anything “out there” whether stored on your own machine or on a “hub”, you are no longer in control. If you have something you want to hide, don’t share it with another soul, full stop.

    One can write policies, come up with privacy laws, and even enforce them with penal code etc… however, this will not stop people from using information not intended for the public if they can find it!! Information is not a number of bits stored on a hard drive which location is the main concern. Information is knowledge, and once something is known to someone other than you, your are no longer in control!

    To clarify my ISP and NIC comment, I was pointing out that Diaspora is still using services over which it has no control. To have a Diaspora “pod” running on your machine, you still need internet connection from an ISP. You need a public IP or a public dynamic DNS record etc… It is not total privacy. Yes, privacy policies exist that should in theory protect your privacy, but this doesn’t mean they cannot be breached.

    Finally, my belief is that one’s safer bet is to educate people over privacy issues, and how to keep sensitive information to themselves, than to try to invent a fool-proof network. Not that I am not glad some is trying though!!

  7. petrock Says:

    Of course if you share something with another, you have lost complete control. But that is a separate issue. Diaspora is designed so that if you share with your friend, only your friend can violate your privacy by re-sharing the content. Facebook and Google+ are inferior in this regard.

    As for public IP addresses, that is also a separate matter as it is dealing with your identity, not the content. Perhaps that issue can be solved through other technical means (this is not a problem Diaspora is attempting to solve), but the content itself is encrypted. So once again, Diaspora is designed to protect your privacy in regard to what you share with your friends. The only ones who can violate your privacy are your friends themselves – not any third party. This makes Diaspora fundamentally different than centralized social networking services.

  8. woombat Says:

    Regarding the IP address / DNS entry talk – please do not confuse privacy and anonymity. I couldn’t care less if someone knows that my stuff lives at mypersonaldomain.net, as long as _I_ am in control of who gets to see said stuff.

  9. petrock Says:

    Yes, privacy and anonymity are two different issues.

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