in Futurist, MT.Net, X-Geek

Diaspora and Tent: open alternatives to Facebook

After several weeks of shocking revelations about Facebook accounts being hacked to say things their users never intended, needless to say I’m quite depressed about the state of social networks. I am actually considering shutting down my Facebook page since I can no longer be sure what I’m reading there is what my friends actually put there or instead the work of some outside (or inside) hacker.

There’s Google Plus, of course, but who’s to say that it couldn’t fall under the same spell (or under the same misfortune) that Facebook did?

What if there was another alternative, completely free and open? Sort of like an “RSS on steroids” that would share the content I created from a server I managed? What if it took the best of blogging, Twitter, and Facebook and tied it together with a flexible content-protection system that emulated “friends” or “circles” only it worked across separately-owned servers?

I remembered that local company Red Hat had experimented in 2006 with its own social network platform, called Mugshot seemed to be a server-based system as opposed to distributed, which still make it vulnerable to trust issues like the current Facebook fiasco. At any rate, Red Hat pulled the plug on Mugshot (though like almost all open-source software the code lives on, this time as a project called Magnetism

That brings me to an open source, distributed social network known as Diaspora. The Diaspora platform comes closest to my ideal of social networking platform: it’s controlled by the users and not some corporation, it provides controls on who sees what, and it’s open. What it doesn’t have is 1 billion users but to me that isn’t a bad thing. I can barely keep up with the 600+ Facebook users in my friends list now, much less another billion.

Will my friends use it? That remains to be seen. I will download it this week and see what it’s all about.

Also interesting is the Tent protocol, a social media protocol similar to the SMTP or HTTP protocols we all use for email and web surfing. I haven’t looked into what Diaspora or Tent can do but I consider both to be the salve for the pain many Facebook users will soon be feeling.

Bonus link:
Forbes takes a look at all the open alternatives to Facebook, including others like Friendica, FreeNet, BuddyPress,, and OpenMicroBlogger.

  1. I’ve got a Diaspora account. I can’t remember the last time I logged in. Nobody I know is there, so what is the point? I think Facebook will eventually crumble under the weight of it’s investors financial expectations. Have you used it without Adblock recently? It’s a fracking disaster. Twitter blew it too as it’s no longer really useful as a communication tool. The signal to noise ratio is very bad there. At least you and I will still have our blogs!

  2. The article I read about Diaspora says it can cross-post to other services. I think it might serve as a bridge to the more popular services until it gains its own userbase. I’ll kick its tires more closely in the next few days.

    I have used my ad blocker for quite a while now and am a bit nervous about switching it off for fear I’ll be overwhelmed by the commercialism.

    Regardless, I will keep my blog! Sometimes old-school technology can still compete, eh?

  3. When I was playing with Diaspora the cross posting stuff never actually worked. But that was a while ago. Firefox 17 will be social media enabled, with a sidebar that tracks your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Maybe they should take over Diaspora and build it into Firefox. With us all having broadband now having a little server running in the browser that broadcast out your updates wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Opera already has something like that, but who uses Opera?

  4. The promise of Diaspora was always greater than its reality. Unfortunately, I believe it’s completely dead at this point and one of its main developers committed suicide last year. 🙁

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