Diaspora: by far not the ultimate social network (yet)

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The way Facebook handles privacy (or not handles privacy) is a well known topic. Maybe less well known is Diaspora, which is positioning itself as an alternative for Facebook. Diaspora is, as they say: the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network. Before people start claiming that Diaspora is a Facebook killer, […]

The way Facebook handles privacy (or not handles privacy) is a well known topic. Maybe less well known is Diaspora, which is positioning itself as an alternative for Facebook. Diaspora is, as they say: the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network.

Before people start claiming that Diaspora is a Facebook killer, or as I noticed in my Twitterstream “the ultimate social network”, think again. I truly believe that Diaspora will be able to build a nice piece of software with certain features, however the only people who use a product for its features are geeks. Social networking is not only about geeks, the 400 million plus users on Facebook are mainly non-geeks. And that is exactly the main issue:

Diaspora doesn’t have 400 million users, it currently has more than 6100 supporters who gave them money (nearly$200k), however a social network with 6100 users is rather boring. Especially if the only improvement is that this network is privacy aware, personally controlled and do-it-all distributed open source. The issue with each service that has some kind of social in it, is that it is somewhat boring until your friends or there (or as soon as you have been able to discover new friends on that social service). However as long as their are not that many people there, it is something that is boring.

Therefore Diaspora has to offer more than just features. Geeks care about features, ‘normal’ people just want an easy to interact with their friends without to much hassle. And one thing that Facebook is really good at, is to let you make the connection to your friends. Especially since more than 400 million users already have joined Facebook, so it is very likely that at least one person you know is already on Facebook.

So is Diaspora something that is really great? No, for now it is just a software project. Sure it has potential, however they should offer more than just features for geeks to get adopted by the mainstream audience. However it has potential, since most geeks who are supporting Diaspora have already a big network which can be activated to be moved to Diaspora. But Diaspora first needs an audience before it even can call itself a social network.

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Rick Mans is a social media evangelist within Capgemini. You can follow and connect with him via Twitter or his personal blog

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