Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Right Action at the Right time?

Some of you might have heard about Diaspora – the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network ( Did the founders of Diaspora do the right action at the time, then?

Back in April, Four NYU students posted a project on kickstarter claiming to build an open source facebook. (This was around the time when there was a lot of anti-facebook sentiment floating around in the press with regard to user privacy and how facebook handles it. These students wanted to raise $10000 for their project but with the help of media PR raised $20000 from 6500 backers. Note that these were pure donations with no strings attached ( Talk about luck or right action at the right time or whatever - the diaspora guys have it. They were then invited to San Fransisco by Pivotal Labs (who provided free office space to them).

Can this be called "right action at the right time"? Because the diaspora founders proposed this idea and started fundraising at the right moment, when there was an anti-facebook sentiment floating around!!!

Of course, one may call this pure luck or what media PR can do for any idea...

Today the diaspora team has released the code for the first open source version of their social network. They plan to launch the alpha version of the social network in october. You can learn more about Diaspora's philosophy and how they plan to be different from facebook from

Diaspora is Up - wait... not quite yet!

I spent some time this evening playing with Diaspora installation from their source code (from (for those of you, who have not heard about diaspora read this before continuing) and I was successful in getting diaspora up and running on my system in about half hour.

Here is what the diaspora team claims to be implemented in their blog ( and I have embedded my comments (in italics) next to each claim

# Share status messages and photos privately and in near real time with your friends through “aspects”. - Does not seem to work

# Friend people across the Internet no matter where Diaspora seed is located. - Does not seem to work

# Manage friends using “aspects” - Works partly (I can move friends between aspects/groups)

# Upload of photos and albums - Creation of albums work and upload of photos does not seem to work (I tried with png and jpg file formats)

# All traffic is signed and encrypted (except photos, for now). - Yeh, looks like they have this

With regard to their source code, I think its pretty neat that they are using good coding practices and using rails 3 and mongoDB, which is the cutting edge.

Diaspora seems to look like a facebook copy except for the colors.

Diaspora also has this feature called Aspects, which is like Groups. Imagine you creating groups on Facebook and adding friends to different groups on facebook (this feature is currently available in facebook).

Diaspora allows sharing of updates only to specific groups. In other words, say you share an update with the group (or per Diaspora, its 'aspect'), only people in that group see that update. I m not sure if facebook has this feature. But if facebook decide to implement this feature, they can do it pretty easily.

Based on my experience in following Diaspora so far and looking at their technology, I think its far from being a facebook killer primarily because there is no compelling reason for the 500 million folks to leave facebook and use Diaspora other than the anti-facebook sentiment wave that's going on now.