Monday, September 27, 2010

Beyond Diaspora: Another Facebook alternative has a head start

I just wrote a piece for Google Blogoscoped about Facebook and the problems with it, Diaspora and the obstacles it's created itself, and another effort that probably deserves some more attention. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

Here are a couple of teasers. On Facebook's battle for complete control over our online lives:
In the mind of Facebook, locking in users by holding their data captive is equally legitimate to actually making them want to stay, and it means more power for them. The problem is very simple. They own every piece of information about you that either you or your friends knowingly or unknowingly submit to them. They control who can see every bit of it, and they control how you can access it. You can bet when you delete something, it isn’t actually gone, that when you set something to private, there’s nothing to keep it that way, that when you want to see anything on Facebook, you’ll have to do it the way Facebook wants.

...and this on a promising alternative:
There are many such projects, but thus far Diaspora seems to be the only one to garner widespread attention. The developers were able to achieve instant popularity and raise twenty times their initial goal of $10K because to most people, Diaspora is the only project working towards this goal. It’s main asset right now seems to be mindshare, but it’s uncertain how much promise it holds beyond that. With the recent release of their pre-alpha source code, it immediately became apparent just how many security holes and problems are blocking the project. It will take a lot of work to fix and will almost certainly be impossible to make their public release as planned. Still, that isn’t to say the project isn’t worth supporting. It absolutely is, but it is not the only one you should know about.
What if there was another effort underway to create a federated social network, but based on a project that has already successfully been incorporated into the business of a Fortune 500 company, implemented in multiple public instances with tens of thousands of users, received funding which totals at a cool $2.3 million, and most importantly, already works with federation?