With Facebook on the rise, Diaspora recently decided to take the next step and release its alpha stage source code to developers. Diaspora is an open-source social networking project that intends to tackle the evil that supposedly is centralized social networking. The program breaks apart your standard social network into seeds. Each seed is a separately hosted entity, and every user has the ability to add friends from different seeds just by entering their email-address-like name. Due to the many privacy issues Facebook has been experiencing, the creators behind Diaspora hope to bring justice to social networking and take down Facebook (or at least make a point doing so). While this is a very noble effort, just one look at the final product and my hopes begin to sink.
First and foremost, I need to get my own person resentment out of the way. I hate Ruby on Rails (though I have to give them credit for using GitHub). I could explain exactly how the coddling of developers will eventually cause the downfall of traditional programming as we know it, but that is a holy war nobody would win, and I don't want to waste your time. (And I'm not the only one. I mean, what kind of language/framework combination is so laid back that the developers forget to protect against injection attacks!)
Diaspora's interface is simple. You can post, add friends, and upload photos. Yeah, that's about it. The simplicity is not the problem, though. How future features will be added is the problem. What about networks? Which seed will maintain ownership of a network, and how will duplicates be prevented? Oh, and there are no privacy settings. I understand that this is an alpha release, but you'd think that for a revolutionary program that is so focused on privacy and security there would at least be some basic settings. There is absolutely nothing. Furthermore, previously the creators of Diaspora said there would be GPG encryption. The only thing I see related to encryption is an Encryptor module in their source code, but it does not use GPG. These are just some of the things that should have been included in the program design since the beginning, but weren't. While you can always add more features as time goes on, there should at least be some compensation in early development that will allow for the insertion of these features.
Another major issue I see Diaspora facing in the near future should their program take off is seed competition. Since the program design is to essentially make separate Facebooks and just have them communicate between each other, there is going to be major carnage. I can foresee companies making their own seeds using proprietary software made to work with the Diaspora framework and then adding their own features to compete with seeds that have less funding. All Facebook needs to do is make their software compatible with Diaspora's communication protocol and the entire project pretty much fails.
Well, to tell the truth, we cannot assume what will become of Diaspora. However, the project is looking pretty much dead before it even started. Unless the developers can take all that money and somehow jump-start their project big time in the next couple of months, I doubt anything will come from Diaspora. However, hopefully this will serve as inspiration for future similar projects, because eventually the time is going to come when we will need to abandon Facebook.