No, the asterisk in the headline doesn’t point down to a disclaimer at the bottom of this page. It’s actually in the name of the latest Facebook challenger, this one grounded on two ideas: That users should be able to own the information they post to social networks, and that users should be able to segment audiences for their posts into unique channels (Diaspora* calls them “aspects”).
Except for one major problem. In the months it’s taken Diaspora (sorry, dropping the silly asterisk) to go from Kickstarter poster child to a real live product – a huge batch of invites to the service went out last week – Google+ has pretty much taken care of the audience segmentation problem with its Circles. Or more to the point, Facebook took cues from Google+ Circles and spiffed up their friends list functionality somewhat. As for owning your own information, while that’s still a tricky issue with Facebook (here’s a nice explanation of how intellectual property rights interlock with Facebook TOS), this spring’s status-post memefest of “Facebook owns your photos!” has largely died down.
In other words, there may not be any room left in our social landscape for Diaspora. Which is a shame in some ways, because it’s a beautiful site. Check it out:
The interface is clean and easy to use, doesn’t carry any ads (yet), and unlike Google+ or Facebook, has built-in support for hashtags – allowing you to discover people based on shared interests, not just shared geography or social groups. You can follow tags just like you can follow individuals, leading to a user experience that’s personalized by interests as well as by social connections. It’s a fantastic idea … with no content. In fact, you can almost hear #crickets singing in Diaspora’s vacant corners right now.
So is this a case of Diaspora throwing a magnificent party, but no one coming? Perhaps. If nothing else, it’s a compelling illustration of how it’s going to take more than just a single killer feature to draw people away from Facebook – let alone pry early adopters away from Google+.
Are you on Diaspora yet? Connect with me – I’d love to hear what you think of the new service. Or just leave a comment below.