Diaspora – Coming back out of the cloud will be painful

$200,641 has been pledged for the development of Diaspora, the decentralized web implementation, which intends to replace Facebook with a version that is distributed. Each user will retain their own data on their own machine. I see a huge flaw in this. They’re moving in the wrong direction. The web is moving to the cloud, not to home machines. In a few years we’re all going to be running dumb terminals and interacting with data far away. Who wants to look after their own data? Well, us nerds for sure. But your average Joe, or your aunty Barbara? Who’s going backup your data and make sure that you do not lose it when the burglars come for a visit? Will the benefit out-weigh the hassle of installing and maintaining this thing and upgrading your machine as you fill it up with photos and videos? No.


Nobody really cares that much about privacy. Sure, we all care, but not if we need to get up off our butts and “install what now?”. “I don’t get it. Why do I have to leave my computer on all the time to use my Facebook (Diaspora) from my mobile phone?”. Which brings me to another point – average folks do not run servers, they run desktop computers or sometimes they only have a laptop. If we are expected to leave them on 24×7 so that our friends can see our data, how bad for the environment and our electricity bill fund is that?! In the near future many of us may only have a mobile phone. Can I install my Diaspora node server on my phone? Hmm… why’s my phone bill so high? Oh no, the HD video of me falling out of a tree went viral and I’ve served it up to half of China from my iPhone.


Facebook will charge ahead as Diaspora struggles to support all different platforms they need to support, since following the HTML standard is much simpler than understanding all the ins-and-outs of every Operating Systems.

I understand the sentiment of the Diaspora developers and the 6479 backers on KickStarter. They’re just trying to find an solution to the monopolistic data control situations we find ourselves in with the web as it is, but I’m not sure they’ve really thought it through enough. I know I haven’t, so your thoughts on this would be highly appreciated. Hopefully some further ideas and projects will come out of this Diaspora idea, but I do not think Diaspora will work the way it’s described. It might have worked in the days of Napster, but not now. We’ve moved too far into the cloud.


  1. Shawn Taylor

    yup. mom doesn’t want to *think* about how this stuff works, they just want it to work.

    sure, sandbox our stuff in the cloud, so geeks like me can take the time to manage, delete, disable, disconnect and whatever I want with my stuff, but forcing everyone to manage it on that level just won’t work.

    I can’t imagine many startups can take on the 8,000,000 lb gorilla that is facebook and actually make waves, but if its interesting enough and gets enough press, normals may actually start consider the privacy issues at play…

  2. Cas

    Thanks for the interesting arguments, Phil. I can see the logic in your line of thoughts, but I disagree fundamentally with your key assumption. Decentralization is a huge trend in all areas of society and human life on earth. For example, the energy question. It doesn’t take a college degree to be able to see we’ve totally reached the end of centralized energy supply and we’ll see energy production on a community and even private level taking over in the very near future. It’s actually already happening. The same goes for the production of food. If you watch movies like “Food Inc.”, it’s very clear private households are going to produce more and more of their own food.

    Why would a trend like that stop when it comes to virtual social networks? I’m not saying FB is going away in the near future, but I do think there’s grass-roots growing also in the social network landscape. Diaspora looks like the perfect tool to me for community-driven, global-thinking and local-acting networks of people helping each other in their neighborhoods. The hacked Amazon cloud, just like Fukushima, just like Tunesia and Egypt, has proven how vulnerable centralized conglomerates of power, energy or data are. They won’t disappear very soon, but people will be looking for alternative. Diaspora to me is one as the pod I’m on can be hosted by the geek right around the corner in my neighborhood. Think it through.

  3. Tats

    Yes, I agree with Cas, and I would add to this that cloud computing is popular right now not only because it is useful (which is true) but because it’s the perfect model for private corporations. It gets good advertisement among the masters and this is trickled down to people.

    That said, I don’t see any major incompatibility between cloud computing models and peer2peer models like what D* tries to achieve. First, I believe most people will host their data on the Diaspora main server. Some people will host it on the server of an organization they trust. And second, D* will try to make running your own server super easy / user-friendly. Yeah, the problem is that my profile would then be offline when my laptop is shut down, so I believe there should also be the possibility for people to choose to cache/mirror their files on many servers (eg. some of their D* friends).