The student founders of Diaspora envisaged an owner-centric social network, where users didn’t have to be concerned about their data being exploited. On Diaspora, users could store data on a server of their choosing (either their own or sign up on for someone else’s) and use, share or delete the data whenever they chose.
Using open source software the founders hope that Diaspora can challenge Facebook and destroy the notion that only one social network can dominate the market.
Currently Diaspora is a private site with a small dedicated following. Without any marketing more than 600,000 people have requested invites to the site. However, this is obviously a miniscule number of people in relation to Facebook’s hundreds of millions of users. When Diaspora opens to the public later this year, they will need to be able to offer other reasons beyond data ownership to entice people to join.
Potential Differentiation Opportunities for Diaspora
One idea the company is exploring relates to the possibilities that could open up for people who own their own social network data to greater analyze, learn and profit from it. Along these lines a data locker model is being explored where users can choose to share their data selectively with businesses they trust.
Diaspora is also working to add greater artistic ownership to the site, to allow users to control how each post appears visually, in order to greater display their personalities on their profiles. Once this prototype becomes a reality users will be able have creative control over their page and status update layout, font, and how photos and videos are displayed. The idea is to allow users to create innovative page imagery that they could be proud to share. Users can also share their Diaspora profile on other social network sites, which will help Diaspora to recruit new users.
A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek on Diaspora suggests that:
‘The data economy’s “disregard for individuals” is a ticking time bomb, that increasingly large security breaches and that feeling of being tracked will slowly shift consumers to demand more control. And that could mean a larger audience for Diaspora.’
In June Diaspora will join the startup accelerator program Y-Combinator. Y-Combinator has helped launch cloud storage site Dropbox and house/vacation sharing website Airbnb which I wrote about last week among other companies. It is hoped that Diaspora will evolve during its time at Y-Combinator with a possible public launch later in the year.
The recent success of Instagram illustrates that users like creative control, which suggests that Diaspora could be successful by giving users design freedom. However, so many social networks have failed to compete with Facebook. MySpace for example, offers users more creative freedom than Facebook, (albeit not as much as Diaspora is proposing) and is no longer popular. Time will tell how Diaspora performs, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Meanwhile if you would like to learn more about Diaspora check out the project website and to request an invite to join click here.