Over the weekend there has been a rush of mysterious and unexplained suspensions/deletions of Google+ accounts. One of the victims was Ladyada of Adafruit, although she was unsuspended after a brief uproar from her followers. But those fleeing Facebook for a better option are going to have to wonder if it really is a better option.
This sort of behavior is why I’ve been interested in Disapora. Diaspora is an open source social network software aimed at giving users flexibility with their security (it was launched largely in response to Facebook’s constantly-changing security policies), amongst other things. The eventual plan is that it can be hosted on hundreds of individual “pods”. Anyone can run a pod, and each pod is like its own network.
It’s still in Alpha so it’s quite imperfect, but even in this state there are many pods out there allowing public signup. You can find a list of open community pods here. For this blog I’ve joined Privit.us, and you can find me if you feel like it at firstname.lastname@example.org. The main Diaspora pod is in a private alpha, but you should be able to find me from any pod you join (that’s the plan, I don’t know if it’s all working yet… but in the meantime, privit.us seems stable enough and has open registration so feel free to try to join).
But why? Why do this? Because of the value of having a community that’s in the hands of the community, that’s why. You might let an Aunt set up a family gathering one weekend, but you sure as fuck wouldn’t rely on a huge multibillion dollar corporation to plan all your crap and manage interaction with your cousins, would you? The EFF actually has a writeup on the general concept of having a federated social network. Bottom line, spreading the handling of these things to the community is a good thing.
Will Diaspora ever really take off? Not for a while, frankly. Although it’s a perfectly serviceable network, it won’t become the dominant trend until every random 13 year old wants in on it and encourages their family to join as well. The masses won’t flock to a pod the way they’re flocking to Google+. Which might also be a good thing….