DIASPORA – Disassembling Facebook

June 21, 2011 by
Filed under: Internet Life and Humanity 

(Slight detour today folks. I’ve bumped into something that totally enthralls me … so I’m writing about it today. I promise I’ll return to discussing Second Life In-World Search in the next post.)

If you haven’t yet heard of Facebook then no doubt you’ve stumbled across a printout of my blog fluttering in the wind on some post-apocalyptic world of the future. (In which case please let me know if Twinkies and cockroaches really do survive the nuclear holocaust.) But I’m going to go on the assumption that you’ve at least heard of Facebook and most likely either use it yourself or have someone in your household that does. You’ve also probably at some point in time shaken your fist at the Social Media giant because of some crazy decision or change they’ve made.

The Facebook Sag

Several recent articles are predicting (or at least noting) that there has been a recent decline in the total membership counts at Facebook. To date, the steepest decline seems to be localized in North America, but we also seem to be the largest density of users too (on a per capita basis anyway). I’ve opined recently about some of the reasons for this decline (see my recent blogs on Thinking Past the Edges of My Skin and When Did Social Media Become Social Engineering?), but to save you the research time I’ll just cut to the chase … Facebook has no way to ensure privacy.

Actually, Facebook has made it their corporate mandate TO violate privacy, often and willingly … as long as there’s a profit to be made somehow. But as a population, we Netizens are waking up and finding ourselves both tired of being “Data Mined” for someone else’s gain and in being exposed to the most embarrassing situations just because someone else can’t keep things straight.


There is a new contender out there now, or soon to be out there anyway, called DIASPORA. Invented by a couple of college kids (like DUH!) it starts off from a very unique and, in my opinion, much needed basis … people have many different aspects to their lives. In fact, this is the name of the feature that sets DIASPORA apart from Facebook … “Aspects”. When you sign up (you need an invitation, but those are pretty much automatic), you create a profile and then define your various Aspects. Each Aspect is like a “Circle of Friends”. Aspects are used to keep the people in your life separate from each other.

For example, you don’t want your mom and dad knowing all about your private life, and you don’t want your boss knowing about your family life, and for those of us with Virtual Lives, you probably don’t want your Virtual Life friends knowing about your Real Life. With DIASPORA’s Aspects, you can easily keep them all separate. WOOT!

More important perhaps is the fact that DIASPORA doesn’t claim ownership of the things you upload. You retain ownership. This is a major advance and one that will eventually be necessary in the Internet of the Future. Eventually the Service Providers will realize they can’t take ownership of everything uploaded lest they open themselves to some of the new laws coming down the pipe. Lawmakers will realize they can’t take legal action against every service provider just because some nutjob is uploading illegal content either. So the fact that DIASPORA lets you keep hold of the ownership rights on your stuff … that’s a very good thing.

Distributed Computing

However the really revolutionary aspect (no pun .. I swear) of DIASPORA is how it is implemented. It isn’t run on a giant bank of web servers located in some mega-corporation’s data center … it’s distributed all over the Internet running on web servers in every corner of the world. It isn’t owned by one person, one company or one entity, thus it is less prone to failure and exploitation too. In short, they’ve disassembled DIASPORA and scattered it to the four corners.

This feature, distributing the computational resources, is the one unique feature that allowed the Internet to blossom so fast and so furiously. Because it was spread out across 100’s of thousands of minds and imaginations, it took off at a rate that no single company or group can match. United we stand, but divided we KICK ASS! … at least in any sort of innovative way. The more points of support something has, the more likely it is to continue running even when it takes a hit.

The Future of Social Media

We are on the cusp of another new Generational Shift in Social Media. While experts argue about what each Generation provided and where it began and ended, they all agree that things out there are changing in a fundamentally important way. I think this time the driving forces can be traced to the growing dependence and availability we all have to computing devices that can connect us to the Social Network. We are beginning to realize that socializing in all its forms in a digital venue is almost as easy as whispering in someone’s ear. This latest shift is coming about because the smart kids out there are beginning to realize .. not everything is shouted in a social setting. In fact, a lot of our most important social communication is done in a private whisper.

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