Posts tagged with Competition

Remember Diaspora*?

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.


New social network Unthink: First thoughts

After months of buzz and speculation, after an oh-so-trendy promo video that made the rounds on YouTube, after months of waiting for an invite, we're finally in to the beta rush for new "liberated" social network Unthink!

Well, kind of. Actually, not really. But we did get to play with the long-anticipated, much-maligned alternative social net before it collapsed under its own weight this afternoon. For about 15 minutes, much of which was spent watching Firefox spin its little "Loading" icon. And here you have it: the social network that is going to Fix Everything. Maybe.

All sarcasm aside, it's got to be said that Unthink's got a pretty messy user interface, particularly compared to the early days of Facebook. (Let's ignore the current Facebook-in-transition UI mess for the time being; if we assume that a new social network will start simple and grow in interface complexity from there, well, Unthink has some issues already.) The whole modular "portal" layout feels a lot like iGoogle, which itself never really took off but is reflected in hundreds of dashboard-style welcome screens for every web-based app imaginable. But what's this "Lifestyle Tree"? And what's with the old-school news ticker at the bottom of the screen? Oh, and apologies that the ticker in the image above is obscured by my Mac OS dock; when I went to snap another screenshot, it was too late. All I got was this:

Looks like exploring Unthink may have to wait a little while until they get some server load issues worked out. Not exactly an auspicious start.

That said, it sounds like Unthink might hold some promise. Privacy controls are out in the open - everywhere, almost to the point of repetition. Default sharing settings lean toward the private rather than the public, a contrast from Facebook's tendency toward releasing privacy updates that require manual user action to return to previous settings. And if nothing else, there are bound to be new features included in Unthink that, if they don't give Big Blue a run for their money, will at least inspire Facebook to ape something similar in a future rollout. (Google+ circles, anyone?)

We're curious to see if anyone else has played with Unthink yet. Got a screenshot you can share, or just general opinions? Let us know in the comments.