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'Anti-Facebook' project releases first batch of code

The Diaspora open-source project has made public its first code. But if open-source code drops in a social-networking forest does it make a sound?

Diaspora in action
Diaspora in action Diaspora

The open-source Diaspora project released on Wednesday the first iteration of its so-called anti-Facebook social-networking application.

According to a blog post, the development team aims to work with the community to enhance and extend the software in order to create a better project. Hardly an original idea in the open-source world, but certainly a logical ideal in light of the fact that social-networking applications require a good bit of insight from users and developers--something we've seen Facebook embrace, occasionally forcibly by its own community.

There are a number of capabilities in the current release that start to outline how the project will take shape:

  • Share status messages and photos privately and in near real time with your friends through "aspects."
  • Friend people across the Internet no matter where Diaspora seed is located.
  • Manage friends using "aspects."
  • Upload of photos and albums.
  • All traffic is signed and encrypted (except photos, for now).

In addition to the above, there are a few key features on the horizon--namely, Facebook integration and data portability. Both are requirements if the Diaspora project will ever attain a level of critical mass.

What's hard to determine is who the audience is for such a project. Facebook is a consumer application and as far as I know most of the world isn't crying out for its own instance of a social network. Not that such sentiment should hold back the project, but every project needs a motivating factor.

Based on Diaspora's Github project-hosting page, the team is aiming to take down Facebook entirely:

While Facebook helps the whole digitalized world to keep in touch, it suffers from severe security and privacy issues and is run by a monopolist that designs (and must design, by its nature) the platform's future based on profit-oriented goals.

Stating that "Facebook has a majority market share," the project-hosting page also allegorically references one of the more entertaining bits from Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth's first Ubuntu bug report in 2004, which stated simply that "Microsoft has a majority market share." A bug indeed.

Altruism is a great motivator, but sooner or later economics come into play. I'll continue to follow the evolution of Diaspora to see how this all shakes out.