Anti-Facebook Startup Diaspora Promises to “Go Faster”

Diaspora, the open source social networking service offering an alternative to Facebook’s closed platform, has just provided an update on its development status. Via a blog post on the company’s homepage, Diaspora founder Maxwell Salzberg says that the number one feedback request from its users and community is “go faster.”

And that is exactly what Diaspora is now promising to do.

The Anti-Facebook

We wrote about the Diaspora project around the same time as a Facebook backlash was underway – a backlash that arose due to Facebook’s privacy violations and its move to open up more of users’ content to the public Web…even against (or without the knowledge of) its users’ wishes.

The story was picked up by The New York Times a few days later, and then spread further to tech news sites, blogs, Twitter, and elsewhere across the Web. It was a story you couldn’t help but love – four college students and a dream to raise $10,000 to build the anti-Facebook.

The students ended up raising much more than that, having tapped into the undercurrent of distrust surrounding Facebook’s latest missteps in user privacy. At one point, even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself donated to the project, bringing it to $200,000 in total donations. Zuckerberg said, “I think it is a cool idea.” He believed he saw a little bit in himself in Diaspora’s founders, he told Wired in an interview.

But the “cool” concept has not, to date, translated into a large or active user base of Facebook abandoners. Although we at ReadWriteWeb once named it one of the top 10 startups of 2010, the site itself, admittedly, still has far to go to become a true social network competitor worthy of its “anti-Facebook” ambitions.

What’s Happening At Diaspora?

According to today’s blog post, Diaspora’s developers have been adding many back-end changes to the network’s foundation, and have been “building out a framework so pods and client applications can authenticate with each other.”For those unaware, Diaspora is not actually a single site – it’s a collection of different sites, and different URLs, all running the same software and able to talk to each other.

The recent changes are going to make it easier to interoperate with other federated social networking applications, the company says. The group’s founders have also reached out to different groups and organizations to attempt to attract more interest and involvement in the project. Notably, the founders had nothing to announce in terms of partnerships on that front.

But the founders say they know that one of their shortcomings is in communicating what they’re all about. “Unless you have been following us on GitHub, you are probably wondering where we are going,” says Salzberg. “Diaspora is a long-term endeavor, and is about an idea bigger than a single feature set or trend. We are working on an outline of what we have learnt so far, and where we see Diaspora going in the next year.”

We’re told to “stay tuned.”

Sounds dreamy, right?

But has Diaspora’s moment passed? Since the service’s launch, Facebook admitted its mistakes, made changes to simplify its privacy settings and has generally been forgiven by the public. The company now touts over 500 million active users, 50% of which login to Facebook on any given day.

Where does that leave four college students, and their desire to provide an alternative to Facebook? With a long, steep hill ahead. And in need of help.

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