The Diaspora Project, if you haven’t heard about it, you should do some research and check out this site. The project is jointly run by 4 developers namely: Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, Raphael Sofaer and Ilya Zhitromirskiy. Its worth mentioning all 4 of the team members are students and are hoping to complete Diaspora development in one summer. This being the summer of 2010.
The following are the 2 main reasons why I doubt Diaspora will be the Facebook killer some of us are hoping for (in no particular order):
- The majority of Facebook users are more than happy with the service FB supplies them. Facebook may offer very basic services, but it does have a lot going for it, primarily FB has more than 100 million users. Thats a lot of users, no other service on the planet offers a more comprehensive social directory. FB can also boast high retention rates of 70% per annum, compared to say Twitter which has less than 50% retention rate. In fact if there was a social network site that needed replacement the first prize would go to Twitter.
- Facebook services most users needs very well, it provides the following services – the ability to hook up with most people in the world, the ability to share textual and photographic information and the ability to chat in real time.
- Facebook does have huge privacy issues BUT this is not a show stopper. Facebook might be in the business of selling your data to marketing companies, but guess what? Hardly anyone cares. I’ve proven this time and again, I’ve explained this to many people, I’ve asked Facebook users if they’re aware of the privacy issues, and guess what? MOST ARE! Yet they still continue to use Facebook, privacy for most is not a massive concern. Then while on this point there is another type of privacy users are concerned with, this is the ability for the users direct details to be shared with the general internet public, for example photos or a list of your friends via Google. Facebook are already aware of these issues and are working on addressing these concerns.
Since I’ve followed Diaspora, I’ve also had a reality check, here is what I think 2 months in.
- Diaspora project raised over $100 000 dollars, why would 4 talented students need that much money to develop a product they believe would take them just 1 summer to complete? I don’t get this at all. As a developer I’ve often thought of developing some new idea, the highest cost in software development are the human resources. Since these 4 developers are the human resources writing the application using open source solutions, why the need for $100 000 dollars. Now I know they only asked for $10 000 upfront, but my point is why ask for any money at all? Why not just develop it, then once its developed find investors to fund the marketing. Infact Diasporas rise to fame is primarily based on the success the team achieved while raising that $100 000 dollars.
- The Diaspora site lacks priority, it seems more like a competition give away site than a serious open source development effort. Other real open source projects I’m interested in have way more focus on the actual work, not on publicity or give away gimmicks. Tell me, do you see any SVN repository on the Diaspora site? Have you seem any detailed technical discussions by the Diaspora team? The Diaspora team seem preoccupied deciding which T-Shirts to hand out to their sponsors.
- The Diaspora team raise interest, use catch phrases like “Open”, “Free”, “Privacy”, “Secure” but never give any detailed technical accounts of what they’re planning on implementing, the reason is because they haven’t fully planned what they’re implementing. They have great high level theoretical concepts, but I am not entirely convinced they’re always that practical.
- In my experience the Diaspora team are not the best communicators, the site, the work, the goals, the progress of the development are all shrouded in a blanket of mystery. Diaspora team seldom (if at all) reply to questions sent via email. I understand developers might not enjoy handling public communication, but since this is a publicly sponsored high budget development effort, why don’t they just hire someone to maintain the website and handle email communication? Surely some of that $100 000 could go into keeping their supporters updated?
Lastly, Diaspora is designed to be P2P based, focusing on nodes with the ability to self host data for ultimate privacy. In other words extremely geeky, if the development does actually complete then at raw best, geeks will have a new social network. That’s best case scenario, because I don’t see the majority of internet users rushing out to get web hosting just to be able to socialize on the web. There will be publicly hosted versions of Diaspora, but how exactly is that different to Facebook? Are the privacy concerns really addressed?
Should Diaspora be thanking Pivotlabs for their free coffee, or thanking us (the planet) for the fish!