Back in September, I eagerly flipped through the pages of New York Magazine, studying closely the article “Defacebook”.  The story followed four coders with one big dream: to create an open source social network that puts privacy control in the hands of users.  Diaspora* has since received an enormous amount of investors, press and online buzz.

Many have touted Diaspora* as the social network to watch out for and the next big thing. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, despite controversy over Diapsora* being considered his competition, donated money to the social network startup.  But will Diaspora* be the end of Facebook like so many have predicted?

What Diaspora* Means to Users

Diaspora* is a new social network that puts privacy control and customization in the hands of it users rather than its developers. Users own the information they post, which is the opposite of social media mogul Facebook. All of this comes after extensive controversy over Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policies and settings.  Users are able to create “aspects”, or friend groups, and choose which of these groups they would like to share information with.

I have to admit, this concept drew me in for a moment. The first thing that came to mind was a network with the complex coding of Facebook without all of the extra crap (e.g. Farmville).  When Diaspora* launched at the end of 2010, I desperately harassed Twitter users until I could track down an invite for myself. I wanted to see what this “Facebook Killer” was all about.  If Facebook was so addictive, Diaspora* must be even more amazing.

Judgment Day

So there I sat, logged on to I sent invites to every single one of my co-workers and eagerly awaited them to become one of my aspects. I tried uploading photos. The photos went directly to my wall…not to a photo album. I posted links…which only displayed as regular links (no thumbnails? No descriptions?). I tried to make a custom URL for my profile…but that wasn’t an option.

I stared blankly at my screen for about five minutes trying to understand if I was missing something.  I fumbled through my friends’ pages. I can’t see their friends. How do I know if I know anyone on Diaspora*? At this point, I’m lost. It’s like one of those dreams/nightmares were you’re standing in a big white open space and there’s nothing around you, no one to talk to, nothing to do.

Yes, I am a social media nerd. No, I’m not a coder. So…how exactly do I make Diaspora* the social network I want it to be? I don’t know how to make my own photo albums. Nor do I know the code to make links auto-generate a summary of the site. I can’t tag anyone in photos. I especially don’t know how to run or host a server. This is completely foreign to anything Facebook has ever done for me. The lack of built in features on the site even makes Twitter look complicated.

Not Your Average Joe’s Social Network

Every week my baby boomer father asks me how to post a comment on someone’s Facebook, or how to upload a picture, or something else seemingly simple that he can’t figure out.  According to Mashable, my father’s age demographic (35+) accounts for 30% of Facebook’s users. So how, exactly, do we expect the less social networking adept users of Facebook to jump on the bandwagon when your average Gen Y-er  is incapable of exploiting all of the benefits of Diaspora*?

The bottom line is: I’m not sold on it. I’m sure Diaspora* will have success amongst a niche audience of coders and Facebook haters, however, I don’t fit into that category. I’m on Facebook, and so are my 700+ friends. Until I see a user interface that’s geared more towards your average social networker, and more people in my network using it, I’ll pass.

Have you tried Diaspora* yet? If so, tell me your reaction to the site. If not, let me know if you need an invite.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 and is filed under Integrated Marketing, Social Media in Marketing.

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