The Distributed Facebook Killer

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Last spring, 4 students launched a new project called Diaspora. Their ambition was to create a distributed social network: everyone has their own node, and has total control over their data and how they decide to share them. They were asking for donations via the Kickstarter platform.

As it happened, they had the right idea at the right time, as Facebook had just changed their privacy policy in a murky, vaguely threatening way, which made many geeks very suspicious.
Plus, it sounded cool, right ? Never mind that this kind of projects had been floating around for quite a while.

So they hit the jackpot, and got more than 100,000 dollars to start working on their idea.

Fast-forward to this week. Their work, a Rails3 project, is open sourced on github. There’s much loud disappointment in the developers’ community, because there are almost no tests, the code’s not that great, the license is wonky … and generally, they were expecting something, I don’t know … more spectacular ?

Hello ? These are 4 inexperienced students. What are the odds that even one of them is a genius ? Will throwing money at them make it so ? They only had 4 or 5 months. The budget they got, while very decent seed money, is small change by Facebook development standard.

Let’s not throw out the baby (distributed social networking) with the bath water just yet.

will someone just write a goddamned “social networking” protocol on top of XMPP already so people will shut up about diaspora. (aeden on twitter)

I’ll go one further. The result should be deliverable as executables for (gasp) Windows and Mac, with large friendly letters and pretty, non-threatening icons. Because if you want your gran and the baker next door to replace Facebook with it, it’d better not be a bare Rails application.