Diaspora: A New Meaning for Social Networks or Just Another Ship in the Big Blue?

Will Diaspora cause users to jump ship or is it just one more in the big blue?

Just a couple of days ago I talked about the future of social networks and the new meaning of communications that will come to exist as they evolve. Now I have hit upon the best contender yet, Diaspora.

The guys that have developed Diaspora have insisted that they’re not aiming to displace Facebook with their new social network.  Instead they’re focusing on completely revolutionizing the meaning and engineering of the way online socializing works. They hope to achieve this by building a ‘network of networks’ that will come to define not only the way we communicate online but the way we control our content and how we share it. In other words, Diaspora is hoping to promote social networking bridges that will connect all other services, providing unrestricted sharing and communicating. So even if you’re not part of LinkedIn or Facebook you would still be able to communicate with your friends as though you were a part of those networks. Developers are calling this ‘the federated social Web’, where the user is given a choice of network provider and still has the ability to connect with users on other networks.

So there is no need to mention much more. Diaspora has received an amazing amount of press and funding. What we need to ask is more critical questions.

1. What exactly is this again? 

The average social networking user is content with the service they currently receive. Really! I mean for all the hype about users dumping Facebook and people becoming angry about privacy issues, the truth is Facebook won’t be destroyed by an angry mob. It’s like believing a small group of anarchists, rioting in some market corner, will bring down an entire national government. Not happening.

Yet, for everything I’ve read about Diaspora I’m still left with many questions. The group has done a great job marketing their product, that’s obvious, but what is the actual content? Yes, they’ve got videos and tons of graphics and other info but nothing that truly reveals much more of the actual product. We need to see it in action! Saying something is revolutionary is not enough to convince avid social networking users who have become accustomed to other services for nearly a decade now. Let’s hope the release will finish what all the hype started.

2. Who’s going to jump ship?

You’ve got one person on a cruise ship shouting orders to jump ship. Who is actually going to listen? Diaspora supporters claim that other services will find themselves compelled to connect with each other. People will begin flocking to this new service where sharing and ownership rules will be re-written; a new standard will be developed and everyone else will have no choice but to follow. Before anything like this happens users will need to find Diaspora useful, and that means ease of use and practicality. What it aims at difference may cause its own undoing by going beyond its current capabilities. While you’ll have tech savvy geeks relishing their new found power, the everyday user might not find Diaspora so amusing. No one is going to abandon a perfectly good ship without good cause, even if you’ve got a shiny brand new one parked right beside it.

3. Where will this new ship take me?

You’re one of the few adventurous souls that decides to take the plunge. Feeling a bit cold now, are we? You’ve left your old social network where you had more than 1,000 ‘friends’. However, this new ship promises you authentic relationships, unmatched safety, and future opportunities to socialize with everyone, no matter who they’re sailing with. You get excited for a while but then suddenly you realize your one of the few who jumped. Days, weeks, months pass and your new ship is still feeling pretty lonely and useless. Not much communication going on. What was all that hype about?

I believe the Diaspora project has a good heart and is really trying to create something very useful for all of us. I’m just not sure where exactly this will go and I think we need to test its potential in a more critical way. When I talk about Diaspora and show people what it will do most don’t see anything too exciting. Perhaps once it’s launched things will change dramatically.  Take the plunge to find out!  

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