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August 28, 2012 5:37 PM   Subscribe

When we started Diaspora two years ago, the project kicked off with amazing reception and support from people that believed in our ultimate goal: giving users ownership over their data. ... Today, the network has grown into thousands of people using our software in hundreds of installations across the web. There are hundreds of pods that have been created by community members, and it has become one of the biggest Github projects to date. ... Today, we are giving control of Diaspora to the community.
Diaspora*, the open social network, is now owned by its user base.

Diaspora* is a distributed social network that allows users to run the Diaspora Software on their own servers. There are many such "Pods" - users make an account on one pod, and can connect with users on other pods. Several months ago, Diaspora opened up so anyone could join.

While you're there, be sure to check out the MetaFilter tag

More information about the features can be found at Diasporial, the Diaspora Wiki


Diaspora* previously.
posted by rebent (44 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is this the social networking site that pays you $50 to join?
posted by special-k at 5:53 PM on August 28, 2012


I also received this email, which is off-putting because I never received an invitation to join the community.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:54 PM on August 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't mean to seem ungracious, but is this announcement not tantamount to saying it's being abandoned by its creators?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:54 PM on August 28, 2012 [24 favorites]


I was a backer of this project even though they decided to build it on Ruby on Rails. I liked the idea. I am excited I still remember my username and password! Like Google+ and app.net and Branch and...I keep wanting to find one that doesn't suck and has people.

I'm not really sure what to think of the news of them throwing this open like this. To me it reads like how Horace Rumpole sees it. I'm supposed to be excited?

Smarter people than me will have to clear up my confusion, but hey, I still have the original source code on CD and I have the t-shirt!
posted by cjorgensen at 5:56 PM on August 28, 2012


They've gone on to form the daftly-named makr.io, which seems to be a Pinterest for the Maker crowd.
posted by scruss at 6:04 PM on August 28, 2012


...is this announcement not tantamount to saying it's being abandoned by its creators?

Sometimes the time when something gets really good is when the people who thought it up and have been holding it back let go.
posted by DU at 6:19 PM on August 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


I still think building the app first was the way to go. We have a lot of federation protocols in place already, everything from FidoNet, to UseNet, to XMPP to fucking E-Mail for god's sake. They probably could have built a distributed protocol top of IRCD if they really wanted to. Those things all grew organically, they didn;t need to spend the first 6 months architecting something new.

I think they could have done a few things differently though. Some sort of one click deploy from github to Heroku for people who wanted to get a server up an running quickly to check it out.

I think they could have worked out a branding or advertising deal with Heroku to bring in a couple bucks per hosted instance so they didn't have to go hungry for two years.

Down the line this could have led up to a Diaspora branded Heroku, pay $5 a month for an end to end solution for your family? Tons of people would do it. People pay $1+ per slot for DayZ servers and I bet Minecraft Servers are the same.

I never saw the "run your own server" as a major drawback, People enjoy running their own stuff as long as it is easy to do. And Diaspora could have turned that into a revenue stream.

They also got torn to shreds after the first code drop, Maybe it would have been better to have it up on GitHub from day 1 as opposed to dropping a big tarball.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:22 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was a backer of this project even though they decided to build it on Ruby on Rails. I liked the idea. I am excited I still remember my username and password! Like Google+ and app.net and Branch and...I keep wanting to find one that doesn't suck and has people.

I've been impressed by Instagram, actually. Simple and fun. No drama, politics, game updates, status updates, or anything else.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:24 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm still holding out for some sort of SMTP or IMAP based social network (where your server holds everything, and then communicates updates out to friends via email-esque messages. You can basically already build this with existing standards). I map this out in my head on occasion, but can't get past the "Justin Bieber will need the word's largest email server farm to blast updates out to his 1,000,000 twitter followers...over the course of a day or two, unless it's really huge" problem.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:28 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm still holding out for some sort of SMTP or IMAP based social network

That's been floating around HN as well. WE just need to add extensions to SMTP instead of adding gunk to email messages themselves like people did with HTML email and always try to do with vCards et al.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:32 PM on August 28, 2012


Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug: "I'm still holding out for some sort of SMTP or IMAP based social network (where your server holds everything, and then communicates updates out to friends via email-esque messages. You can basically already build this with existing standards)."

Time to party like it's 1985: Usenet is pretty much exactly what you want.
posted by schmod at 6:32 PM on August 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


There's another project making the rounds called tent.io. This is really more a set of protocols than a service; it's intended to be distributed from the git-go. And really just provides the social-network glue, without providing any particular type of sharing (photos, status updates, whatever) per se. In the long run, this is the best way to go. I hope it gains traction.
posted by adamrice at 6:37 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Usenet is pretty much exactly what you want

Yeah, actually. Something like that.

I find it fascinating that email can be such a standardized commodity --ignoring value add from Google that made everyone jump from Hotmail/Yahoo to Gmail-- that works worldwide across any server (I mean, I could manually send email via telnet for crying out loud), but we can't get social networking to work in the same manner.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:38 PM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Awkward name, heavily laden with unintended and uncomfortable meaning, politicized despite itself. No wonder it's adrift.

It needs a nonsense name, I hate to say it, but it does. Sunfish, maybe, or everyInn, or eGgshen.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:43 PM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Came here to say the same as Slap*Happy. The name "diaspora" always seemed loaded with "otherness" to me. "Come join the social network for those that don't belong anywhere!"
posted by rh at 6:51 PM on August 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, not a good name. It gives a sense of leaving something else, not going somewhere fun. I don;t want to feel like a refugee from facebook, I want to feel like I am one of the only people cool enough to join.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:57 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


eGgshen sounds good to me.
posted by brundlefly at 6:59 PM on August 28, 2012


Some sort of one click deploy from github to Heroku for people who wanted to get a server up an running quickly to check it out.

This, plus encourage college students to set up a server dedicated to their school. It would get people interested, at least. Turns out there's heroku instructions but they're not trivial.

Just looking at it now, I see a lot of "pods" or whatever. Which do I join? Does it matter? Who runs them?
posted by BungaDunga at 7:03 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's hard to see this as good news. If the announcement were paired with a plan and a team going forward that'd be one thing, but it sure sounds like this is just the end of the line for committed Diaspora development. Which is too bad but not exactly a surprise; the project was naively ambitious. Sometimes that works out, but not often.

Like a lot of people I'm reticent to criticize them too much. Partly because they seemed honestly earnest, and partly because of the sad death of one of the four founders. That had to taken the wind out of their sails for awhile. I'm glad they're friendly and wanting to work together on something new.
posted by Nelson at 7:04 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


No coincidence I think that Burning Man started yesterday.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:07 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's sad this project is dead and won't go anywhere; I had high hopes. Hell, I think I even kicked in $20 bucks back in, what was that.... 2006 or some shit?

Anyway, I thought it should have gone all-mobile. Like, you host your 'pod' on your phone, and it communicates with other pods through ... shit I dunno, push notifications? SMS? Who knows. But it would solve the whole problem of "how do i set up and run a server, and what if it goes down?" It would be dead-simple like most mobile apps, and you'd have the whole thing right there on your phone wherever you went. Total ownership of the data, no worries about hosting or any of that.

Sadly, nobody will unseat Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg's boot stomping on a human face for eternity, etc.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:12 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


There might not ever be a bigger web based social network but in 5 years everyone will be running around something close to minecraft. Seriously Notch, you have X million peeps on Minecraft? And Xbox 360? Put in a central "hive" for servers to join if they want to enable people to move and message between servers. Add voice chat. There are a million people who would never leave minecraft to look at Facebook. And Notch, you can have my idea for a branded PaaS. One click minecraft servers, think about it.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:26 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually - and you heard it here first, kids - the next generation of web applications should take advantage of secure virtualization to actually run the service on your local device. It won't need a physical server, only a private network built on P2P and proven-secure hypervisors carrying your fair share of the processor and storage load. A web entrepreneur won't even need a dot-com, only an app.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:42 PM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Psh, Diaspora got owned by its user base from the very beginning.
posted by rolandcrosby at 7:56 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Diaspora:Facebook = Linux:windows
posted by blue_beetle at 8:18 PM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


It won't need a physical server, only a private network built on P2P and proven-secure hypervisors carrying your fair share of the processor and storage load.

It's 1972 all over again!

Okay it doesn't really do P2P, but those old IBM guys had the 'virtualize everything' thing down. Too bad they charged an arm and a leg for it, or the history of computing might have been very different.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:23 PM on August 28, 2012


I still think building the app first was the way to go. We have a lot of federation protocols in place already, everything from FidoNet, to UseNet, to XMPP to fucking E-Mail for god's sake. They probably could have built a distributed protocol top of IRCD if they really wanted to. Those things all grew organically, they didn;t need to spend the first 6 months architecting something new.
These guys were complete idiots. They had no idea what they were doing and they got way, way more money then they needed. "giving ownership" sounds more like "absolving ourselves of any responsibility", which is kind of b.s. given the amount of money they raised.

It's too bad the first people to think of using kickstarter to start a social network didn't know what they were doing (although I bet a lot of people might have thought of it and then though "nah, we'd never raise enough money that way)
Is this the social networking site that pays you $50 to join?
Heh, app.net is the twitter clone that's supposed to be "good for developers" but charges you $50 to join. Which is great if you want to spend $50 to send tweets to a hand full of other developers.

Apparently its' going to be great because it avoids all those 'negative network effects' by getting rid of all those pesky poor people on twitter.
posted by delmoi at 9:08 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been impressed by Instagram, actually. Simple and fun. No drama, politics, game updates, status updates, or anything else.
Now owned by facebook. For ONE BILLION DOLLARS. Which, since it was in FB stock is now like $500 mill. But whatever.
posted by delmoi at 9:10 PM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


but can't get past the "Justin Bieber will need the word's largest email server farm to blast updates out to his 1,000,000 twitter followers...over the course of a day or two, unless it's really huge" problem.

Feature, not a bug?
posted by ersatz at 4:08 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heh, app.net is the twitter clone that's supposed to be "good for developers" but charges you $50 to join. Which is great if you want to spend $50 to send tweets to a hand full of other developers.

Apparently its' going to be great because it avoids all those 'negative network effects' by getting rid of all those pesky poor people on twitter.


No, if you actually read what Dalton Caldwell has to say, it's quite clear that he's aiming to provide a business model for a tweet-like service which won't alienate developers as it tries to lock down its business model. Whether you believe he will be successful with this strategy is a different matter, but only the most uncharitable, lazy reading would interpret it as being something to do with "getting rid of all those pesky poor people on twitter." If anything, it's trying to reduce noise caused by the millions of spam twitter accounts that exist: quality over quantity. Reminds me of a certain long-lived moderated community site's signup strategy...
posted by dubitable at 4:42 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


People don't want social networking they have to build themselves, they want social networking where all their friends already are. So unless you're a Rails developer with friends who are also Rails developers, this is a non-starter. Which is pretty much what this announcement is saying.
posted by tommasz at 5:29 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the cash, guys! The final boss is to complete the codebase. Here, take this newly opened TextMate 2 for safety!
posted by davemee at 5:42 AM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Seriously, what is the asterisk in Diaspora* for? It kinda bugs me. Every time** I see an asterisk on a package or an advertisement, or in a book***, I look for the disclaimer or footnote that the asterisk refers to****. Sometimes, less so in books than in commercial applications, they forget to put it in there, and I can't help but wonder if my bag of peas is going to give me cancer and just conveniently forgot to tell me.


**not strictly every time, but pretty close
***when authors use excessive footnotes as a gimmick it's clever at first but it does exhaust me, look at me I'm doing it too
****I am aware I ended this sentence with a preposition
*****Prices and participation may vary, contiguous 48 states only, while supplies last. May result in pea cancer. Author of above comment has no idea what she's talking about. Where is the five-asterisked sentence? I'm lost.

posted by Metroid Baby at 6:12 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of a certain long-lived moderated community site's signup strategy...

Yeah, I wish. I have a few dozen twitter accounts. That would be a couple grand a year at app.net. I only update two currently. The others were either short lived projects or stupidity that didn't take off. I'd gladly pay $50 an account if it was forever. The barrier would be high enough to where I'd be more apt to think it through and not do impulsive crap, but not so high I couldn't see adding an account every year or so.

I think twitter needs to start charging. For all the reasons Dalton has to say, but also so that all the inactive and old accounts can be retired. The idea of having twitter be a historical record is a bit silly. Twitter's TOS says they can remove your account after 6 months of inactivity. I have accounts I haven't updated in years. I don't sign in. I don't check them. I don't use them.

If there was even a $1 signup fee this would eliminate 90% of the spam and let you know the person on the other end is truly real. Twitter is a bubble propped up by false numbers. The actual number of active accounts is no where near the total accounts.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:13 AM on August 29, 2012


Seriously, what is the asterisk in Diaspora* for?

They competed in the 162-game season, not the 154-game season. The record still stands.
posted by grubi at 6:19 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the asterisk is supposed to be a copy of the Diaspora dandelion. I always thought the dandelion was a nice representation of what they were trying to do. Maybe they should have used the "sun" UTF8 symbol instead though - ☀.

I was excited when this project first came out, but it appears that has suffered a number of setbacks. Not the least of, the suicide of the co-founder.

I agree that it would be nice to have an open replacement for Facebook/Twitter that could somehow incorporate existing application protocols. Unfortunately, the "Hey everybody! I'm going to make a replacement" market on Kickstarter has probably dropped precipitously since Diaspora☀ took advantage of it.
posted by pashdown at 6:27 AM on August 29, 2012


It won't need a physical server, only a private network built on P2P and proven-secure hypervisors carrying your fair share of the processor and storage load.

Ummmm...every virtual server/hypervisor needs a physical server; you mean no off-site server storing the data and serving the clients?

There is something I believe kind of like this, the Friend-to-Friend software RetroShare. I really like the concept and the idea of pushing out updates; seems much more resilient to network "damage". Of course, if nodes had a direct network connection, they could still communicate in real time.
posted by nTeleKy at 7:12 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem is that the thing that makes decentralized stuff resilient is the thing that makes non-technical people not want to mess with it. And paid services like app.net are going to have trouble getting the uptake. So yeah, we're stuck with Zuckerberg or someone like him, forever.

Diaspora is (was) an interesting concept but it's exactly the kind of social network that won't work. Unfortunately.
posted by immlass at 7:44 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, what is the asterisk in Diaspora* for?

I thought it was there so if somebody asked if you were on Facebook, you could snootily declare, "No, I'm on Diaspora, asshole."

(apologies to Kurt Vonnegut.)
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:08 AM on August 29, 2012


I think Diasp* would do well to push itself as the social-website analog to phpBB or one of those other popular, open forum packages. Swap out the default skin for something apropos your college or business or food co-op, roll it out to a server you made out of three laptops and some duct tape, and you have a local social network that happens to interoperate with other, less local ones.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:34 AM on August 29, 2012


The actual number of active accounts is no where near the total accounts.

That's pretty much like every online service, ever. I'm sure that's probably even true here, despite the signup fee. It really doesn't present a problem, except occasionally when somebody wants a username that's already been taken.

Anyone who thinks that the number of user accounts in a site's database is a reflection of its engaged userbase is a fool. Long-lived sites like Slashdot probably have millions of users in their database, but only a few thousand of active participants at any one time, with people joining and leaving the conversation periodically. It's worth keeping the accounts around because it doesn't really cost anything, and by doing so it avoids alienating users who might want to drop by once in a while.

The same is true with Twitter. It doesn't really cost them anything to keep an account active, even if they don't have to per their own TOS. If they started purging accounts after six months it would open up several cans of worms: first, it would inevitably piss off a bunch of people who have inactive accounts that they like having around for some reason, or only use occasionally; second, it would lead to lots of asshattery concerning name reuse, and never being sure whether the person with @foobar is the @foobar you're familiar with, or someone else who grabbed the name when it became available.

And I'm also very confident that you'd see services created overnight that would do nothing but post junk tweets at the 5-month, 27-day mark in order to keep an account active indefinitely. So the net result might be higher costs for Twitter (since they'd have lots of junk keepalive tweets) without any real upside.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:40 AM on August 29, 2012


Diaspora*, the open social network, is now owned by its user base.

Wow, all five of them must be stoked.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:45 AM on August 29, 2012


Is there anything license-wise that would stop an individual or group from setting up a sweetheart deal and one-click server creation tool like Ad hominem proposed in this thread?
posted by mikeh at 9:15 AM on August 29, 2012


we're stuck with Zuckerberg

That's how Steve Case figured it too.
posted by Twang at 6:23 PM on August 29, 2012


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