Can Diaspora win anything but publicity?

Summary:This is a developer release, meant to be pounded on. It is the modern version of vaporware. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, this is instant pudding.

The press is in love with Diaspora.

With Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg having gone from start-up, to MySpace contender, to leader, to domination, to movie villain faster than most people can get through college, the search is on for the next big thing.

(Image from the good people at Wikipedia.)

Diaspora combines the promise of open source with privacy guarantees. As such it makes the perfect Luke Skywalker to Zuckerberg's Darth Vader.

Facebook had to deliver a platform, users and traffic before it won publicity. Diaspora is getting it while they're still writing code.

The good news is the first version of the code is out. This is a developer release, meant to be pounded on. It is the modern version of vaporware. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, this is instant pudding.

When you run the code you get something sparse and clean, sort of a cross between Facebook itself and Apple's Ping. Friends and messages are managed through "aspects," which Diaspora hopes to make a new buzzword, as Microsoft favorites once vied with Netscape bookmarks.

While Facebook, which now claims over 500 million users, is strong like Apple, Diaspora hopes to emulate Android. That is, the open source project will let others build off its code, creating their own compatible networks.

What is interesting is that while, back in May, all the press buzz was about how cool Diaspora was going to be and how it was going to take down Facebook, phrases like anti-Facebook and Facebook killer are now put in quotes, which like air quotes are meant to signify the reporter is now too cool to buy the hype.

Bloggers who a few months ago were anxious to get on the anti-Facebook trend are now writing things like Diaspora Fail. (Because it's written with Ruby.) Believers like Henrik Moltke now sound like diehard Obama supporters.

It is at this point of the movie that the hero should be hunkered down, and so far as I can tell Max, Dan, Ilya and Raphi are. (This is no time to be giving interviews.)

Their next step should be to seek out a wise adviser, someone who has been there and done that, a Yoda-like character from whom they can learn all about the force, or in this case the source (code). A venture capitalist wearing a black turtleneck, maybe.

Ruby you write. Users you seek. Feel the source. (On with the parody...)

Topics: Apple, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Mobility, Open Source, Start-Ups


Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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