Create your own private Social Network with Diaspora

In the beginning, man created Facebook. And then Diaspora. And then Google Plus, which looks strangely like Diaspora even though Diaspora came first (real original, Google, real original). Diaspora is what we’ll focus on today.

Diaspora was born out of all the controversy over Facebook’s sketchy privacy policies as a safe alternative social network. It gained a lot of attention, some from the mainstream media, even before its Alpha release was available and then some more when one of its founders committed suicide.

The user interface and features

In appearance, Diaspora feels a bit like a cleaned up, minimalist version of Facebook, and that is beautiful; I love the atmosphere. It works more like Twitter, however, with functioning @mentions and #tags. You can even follow #tags, too, having them delivered straight to your Stream. Diaspora itself recommends you follow the tag #NewHere to welcome new users. It’s cozy and the community, though small, is nice.

Friends — dubbed Contacts — are divided up into “aspects.” You can choose which aspects see any given post, a feature mimicked by Google Plus and, later, by Facebook. Funny how the underdogs don’t get due credit, huh.

Apps for Diaspora are few. There’s only one, in fact. It’s called Cubbi.es and it gets priority advertising on Diaspora’s sidebar. It’s a way to collect photos online and it’s something like Pinterest in how it’s designed. Pretty neat, actually, but sparse in users and really glitchy. I can’t even sign in.

Diaspora also boasts a private messaging feature, as do all the social networks these days, but it’s nothing too special.

It’s great, but the problem is…

I can say all the same stuff about Linux. Mainstream operating systems have ripped features from Linux. There are plenty of Linux distros out there that are absolutely beautiful, it’s original, and the Linux community is so welcoming, but — the downfall — nobody uses Linux. Nobody. It’s a great piece of work, but its user base is like a desert; there’re not many people there, only the crazies. It’s the underdog of software.

The same is true for Diaspora. Its community is small, very small, and half of it isn’t even active. I joined the network roughly half a year ago but I’ve only logged in twice, counting today’s login to look around and write this article. My Stream, while not spam nor obnoxious at all (cough Google Plus cough Facebook cough), is just a series of Star-Trek stills and geeked out software developers’ thoughts.

Hold that thought

Perhaps the beauty of Diaspora isn’t at Diaspora, though, perhaps it’s in whatever you do with it. The social network is open source and even comes with instructions for setting up your own server. Diaspora isn’t a mainstream thing at all — I doubt it ever will be — but it’s a perfect fit for universities or large companies looking for a private communication platform.

I would — if I needed a private network — go to Diaspora before going to WordPress’s more famous BuddyPress software. Diaspora is lightweight and simple and elegant and efficient, BuddyPress boasts too many features and isn’t all that light.

Diaspora team by Henrik Moltke via Flickr (cc)