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Diaspora* social network federation protocol (diaspora.github.io)
124 points by supermdguy on Apr 13, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

I feel like ActivityPub has won here. (Used by GNU Social, Mastodon, Plemora, PeerTube, etc.) I think even Diaspora plans to add support for it eventually.

The thing is, as far as I can tell, GNU Social and company seem to be Twitter clones and Diaspora is Facebook clone.

Whatever one thinks of Facebook, the two interfaces aren't equivalent and just having one won't give you the other. Especially, "Micro-blogging" doesn't give structured, moderated discussion of any kind.

And well, I personally think in the social network world, a large portion of Twitter is a pox on humanity, not by its control by particular entities but by the interface effectively working to elicit and amplify shallow, reactive, emotional responses.

The Facebook interface has its problem too but it's structure is more ambiguous, you can get "deeper" discussion are restrict who's talking and moderate well. And you moderate feed as well as groups, on Facebook itself.

Personally again, what I'd like to see is Twitter dying and Facebook being cloned by a better peer-to-peer. But in any case, just cloning Twitter wouldn't give you a Facebook competitor.

Hi. Co-editor of ActivityPub here. Nothing about ActivityPub's design is Twitter-esque specific. In fact it largely comes from pump.io's design which is much more Facebook-like than Twitter's design. We also built ActivityPub so that Diaspora could use it. That's the whole reason collections are addressable, in order to be able to handle the design of Diaspora's aspects.

I'm curious about your thoughts on https://github.com/denschub/schubio/blob/master/_posts/2018-... and https://github.com/denschub/schubio/blob/master/_posts/2018-... specifically. As someone who is new to both the Diaspora* and ActivityPub protocols, the Diaspora* patterns of publishing messages seem to be much easier for me to reason about particularly for semi-private FB-esque social networks (as opposed to mostly public social networks akin to Twitter or Youtube comments). My reactions echo what is mentioned in those links, but maybe I'm just thinking about it wrong.

That sounds excellent, hopefully applications that are less Twitter will be built on top it.

FB and Twitter are the sugar-pushing companies of the mind. With discipline, they would actually be a good thing. But they appeal to our base instincts in a way that is hard to resist, and they leverage that to their own advantage and to the detriment of their own users. sugar, tobacco, tweets.

Building distributed (p2p if you want) versions doesn't solve the real problems, and will never be successful because the "better" versions don't hit the same triggers.

FB and Twitter are the sugar-pushing companies of the mind. With discipline, they would actually be a good thing.

I can and have created a Facebook group, choosen the members and moderated the discussion. The discussion winds up as civil as here (imo of course). I don't know of any way to do this on Twitter. Given this and similar other aspect of the interfaces, I don't think one can equate the two platforms (which isn't to claim Facebook doesn't have problems).

People are live-tweeting from Syria right now. If you think Twitter is all people swooning over pop stars, maybe you're following the wrong people.

Mastodon at least seems to have much better support for long posts than Twitter, not sure about the rest of the GNU Social world.

Long posts are only part of the solution. What's needed is the full ability to moderate a given feed.

I think I heard Plemora has a significantly longer character limit. It's not mandated by the protocol.

Oh, thanks. I hadn't found that yet.

I added this link, instead of the main diaspora* page, because I've been looking into open social network _protocols_, instead of just distributed social network systems. An open protocol would enable much more competition in the social network space, since users would still be able to communicate with their friends when trying out a new social networking app.

Exactly. It's like email for social media. You get free choice of which provider to use, while being able to communicate with all your friends regardless of which provider they use. And if you're technically adept, you can choose to self-host as well.

An open protocol sounds like the only sustainable solution that protects privacy. Are there any other popular, open protocols in the wild?


Fully realtime, can handle huge load, several serious servers out there, interesting clients. XMPP can do IM, but it can also do social networking (https://xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0060.html XEP-0060: Publish-Subscribe, https://xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0277.html XEP-0277: Microblogging over XMPP) for many years now.

I'm working on Movim a social network fully relying on the XMPP protocol http://movim.eu/, we already have many nice features social and IM wise.

These open protocols seem pretty cool, but I'm curious what sort of improvements for privacy people expect them to offer? Federating with other servers just means you're trusting each server operator with your (semi?)-public data. Additionally most people don't have the technical know-how to run their own servers, so users will most likely concentrate on a few large servers anyway, defeating the decentralized advantages...

federation allows different servers. Some might be more private than others, and federation allows people to choose the flavor they want.

Remember it is not just public posts which you should be concerned about...but it is your interaction with the sever as well, as well as your semi-private communication.

Do you really have meaningful control though? If I trust server A and my friend trusts server B and I publish posts for my friend to see, now I just also trust server B, right?

You can block abusive servers from federating with you.

Ideally we could also encrypt all our posts and whatnot so the server operators can't snoop as easily.

Because you don't have to join coolsocial.fake to view my social media posts, it's a lot less likely folks will concentrate on one platform and it will make ditching that platform a whole lot easier.

Making it easy for people to leave also forces server operators to avoid doing/not doing things that would cause people to leave.

Couldn't your own chosen social network "access point" just create a bunch of HTML elements with source URL attributes that point to other servers (those of your friends) with a unique ID that, along with a cookie you send that server, validates that you are in fact that friend's friend and can view whatever content is present at that URL? Then you wouldn't be handing your own server access to your friends' content.

ActivityPub has been more popular than diasporas and applied towards several services (GNU Social, Mastadon, PeerTube, for example)

If you consider the Cambridge Analytica stuff a privacy problem, then open protocols are absolutely the worst possible thing for privacy.

How so?

It's the decentralised/distributed bit rather than the protocol.

That way Ted Cruz and even Bernie Sanders would have an equal access to materials, and individuals would more informed that everything they type on their keyboard is there to stay.

Sites like https://steemit.com http://minds.com appear to be gaining some traction with actual users. I felt Diaspora had failed to take off and lost its opportunity, although now that FB has lost its halo in suburbia there might be new opportunities for change in people's habits...

Someone on steemit pirated my content and there is no way to reach them to take it down. Now someone is earning money with an article that took me 3 days to write.

That's the point of Steemit. There's no such thing as piracy. It was never your content. Try to make money through labour instead of licensing.

If I write an article, release it on MY blog on MY website. How is it not my content?

https://gab.ai is another one I noticed earlier this week, hard to tell what volume of users there actually are though

"Twitter for racists" - the common mindset in this echo chamber is a lot easier to tell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gab_(social_network)

'Twitter for racists' is too easy. I'm a big fan of free speech and against censorship. Lots of pretty red blooded and objectionable discussion and posturing on there ( I set up an account to explore) but it has to be vented somewhere by people and I think it's better in the open. The whole FB anodyne institutional blue bland discussion thing has run its course I feel...

Thinking through to the depths as to why sites like Steemit and Minds are gaining traction is a worthwhile exercise.

you mean because of the crypto rewards model? We appear to be entering the early stages of an era of splintering into dozens of locations to interact again and away from the giant centralized networks

That's part of it. The problem relating to centralized networks is trust or the lack thereof. Forcing or pressuring for collaboration through incentive structures - that are structured as Pyramid-Ponzi schemes - is highly successful early on because of the potential reward, relatively little risk individually. This kind of incentive structure however promotes all kinds of bad behaviour, which can only be managed through a central-trusted governance - so then we're back to square one.

Sounds interesting... But the overview doesn't say anything about what problems it solves or how... I think it should give some clue as to why one would read more unless you are only targeting people with this prior knowledge.

The linked page is just a technical document outlining the protocol. More general info on Diaspora can be found on the foundation's page: https://diasporafoundation.org/

I was curious, is Diaspora* used anywhere or by anyone?

FWIW, I've implemented it for a small enterprise, and for a local/private community. Neither are the overwhelming froth of activity you see on Facebook/Twitter (as you'd expect), but they're doing well!

What has been your experience with installing it? Is it stable?

Quite stable, in my experience. The main "problem" is that local communities are necessarily less active than the entire world. Facebook/Twitter actively work to make sure your feed is chock full of amazing things every time you log in. Your local community Diaspora* feels quiet even if the people you want to interact with are reasonably active.

Setting expectations is key.

I just setup an instance myself on Heroku. Not painless, but not too bad. I am thinking of trying to get my group of friends on there as a little social experiment in having an exclusive-club sort of social network. I also own the domain hnsocial.club and was hoping to setup a Diaspora instance there, tweak the look of it, and get the HN community to hopefully use it - would help a lot with network effects if a lot of HN people were just there. But have not gotten around to it.

Here are some of Diaspora* federated instances.


What can you do with Diaspora? It looks like you can post text and images, share it with people, and they can comment on it and like it.

What else? I mean, they've been building it for nearly 8 years now, so presumably there's a tonne more you can do with it?

I don't know if it's just hidden, but is there really still no events functionality?

As far as I know, Diaspora still does not have events functionality.

Two other federated, free, and open social networking platforms that do have events functionality are Friendica and Hubzilla.



I have not looked too much into Hubzilla, but I set up a test Friendica account and was very impressed! My first thought was, "this is so much better than Diaspora. How did Diaspora get all the news coverage?"

They were both developed by Mike Macgirvin, a former Facebook employee who left in early 2010 because he was "...was increasingly concerned about the directions they were taking related to personal privacy." That quote is from a very interesting interview with him about federated social networking at:


I discovered all this through the "Fediverse.party" website:


HN Discussion about Fediverse.party:


Edit: formatting, typos, clarity

Friendica has events, and can federate with Diaspora.

Is it feasible to interoperate with Facebook? Use a disporia client and still see Facebook friends in your feed and messenger?

Diaspora can optionally pull some information from Facebook, but nowhere to that extent. It might allow you to connect with FB friends who also use Diaspora, though, so if that's the cast it'd help people migrate.

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