Diaspora: Towards a Federalized Social Networking World

Social networking and the virtual world in which we all seem to have a sort of parallel lives is something that could have surprised us a decade ago.

Facebook continues to be the major player, even upsetting the balance that Google has brought to the Internet. However, we also do head about several new web start-ups that try to imitate or compete with Facebook and end up getting lost in a sea of insignificant social networking sites, or they simply shut down.

We had written about Diaspora back in the September of 2010, and how one mathematician, Maxwell Salzberg, and three computer science students, Daniel Grippi, Raphael Sofaer, and llya Zhitomirskiy from New York University started the ‘Anti-Facebook’ project. After almost 9 months, the company is still alive and it has attracted a lot of attention from many big names, including the Big G. Diaspora does not intend to become an ‘anti-Facebook’ social networking site as we thought earlier, but aims to work towards a web that is more connected, secure and ‘federal’ in nature.

Diaspora runs on an open source software, which is also called Diaspora, and many people have already begun to alter, write and re-write the code making Diaspora a fast growing software that could grow towards creating an online social space where different social networks can connect to each other, and also let the users of different social networks communicate with users on other networks.

It also aims to address privacy and security concerns that Facebook poses, but the flipside is that unless you know the Diaspora handle of the person you wish to search on any network that uses the software, you will just not be able to search for that person. Perhaps this is where Facebook ranks first, as it already has all our information neatly stashed in its servers, and it lets us search for each other based on our interests, location etc without much difficulty.

The alternative that Diaspora aims to create is that by using Google enabled technologies and softwares, several new ‘pods’ or Diaspora based social networks could come together to create a sea of social networking sites that are somehow associated with Google. Thus, what started out as a small company has now turned into a platform in which several smaller social networking sites could use the original software, make changes, associate themselves with Google, and somehow autonomously be connected to other social networking sites that use Diaspora code as well.

The best that could happen is that many social networking sites that use Diaspora code could get associated with Google, and create an online social space where one does not need to be a member of a particular social network in order to communicate with another user, on a different social network. At the moment, you would need to be a Facebook member to communicate with someone who is on Facebook. The idea is to turn social networking into something that is similar to the way we email.

Though we have email accounts with different service providers, we still do send emails to each other (Gmail to Hotmail, Hotmail to AOL, etc). One needs to wait and watch if Diaspora can create that sea of social networks which would all be connected somehow. If it can do that, Facebook may have a tough competition to face from Diaspora using social networks that are associated with Google as well.

Thus, ultimately, Diaspora may help Google establish further in the online space, and make Facebook a little weaker than it is today. It can also make social networking similar to emails, and allow one to communicate with people on different social networking sites, without opening accounts there. Before that happens, the guys would have to address a lot of issues, and they seem to be working on it even as we read this article.