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Diaspora 0.5 released (diasporafoundation.org)
137 points by jaywink on May 3, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 111 comments

I imagine other people are like me and are curious about the actual usage numbers for Diaspora, so I will share the results of my 30 seconds of research on Google. Although I have no idea how accurate these numbers are as the decentralized design of Diaspora makes it hard to capture everything.

Rough estimates look to be about 1.2 million accounts with 81,550 active in the last 6 months and 20,207 active in the last month. There have been a little under 4 million total posts. [1] For sake of comparison, it takes Twitter roughly 10 minutes to accumulate that many Tweets.

[1] - http://pods.jasonrobinson.me/

I'm not sure size is always an advantage when it comes to communities. There's always a certain vibe to places with limited users that I'm really hooked too. Generally, I think we should give up the idea of gathering everyone at a single point/protocol (federated or not). People will always chose different ways to communicate. But the ones that really matters will, eventually, be were you are.

I agree. I think the interesting next step would be to ask if there are any communities that have adopted Diaspora heavily. Anecdotes from anyone whose social group uses it regularly would also be interesting.

A good product should support small and large groups and being a part of a small group can be valuable but I disagree that you can coin the adoption numbers of diaspora in any sense as a success.

Diaspora might be a success on the software side and might maybe even be successful with users in the future, but for now it has not 1% of the value of facebook or even G+ to society in large.

Aren't we already gathered at IP?

> For sake of comparison, it takes Twitter roughly 10 minutes to accumulate that many Tweets.

That is not a fair comparison at all. You could as well compare twitter to number of google queries (or number of some other number that dwarfs it).

It should also not be compared against early stage of facebook as well (a private enterprise with slush funds for marketing , pr, buzz and developers). May be compare it against the early stage of popular GNU tools or other free/open source community projects that are dealing with tough problems to crack.

Given the nature of problem involved, diaspora may be the first step to the next few steps in realising the goal of distributed social network. It needs to be pursued to that end.

It's more than fair.

Diaspora's been up and active for years -- it launched in November, 2010.

Let's say that a Tweet conveys only 1/1000th the meaning or significance of a Diaspora post. You're still looking at the fact that the lifetime volume of Diaspora is a week's worth of Twitter traffic.

I'm on Diaspora. Been there for years. Hardly use it, for a number of reasons -- chief among them that there's very little of interest for me there, no search, and I keep seeing content from idiots I'd really prefer not to deal with. I've got enough noise in my life.

I'm also active on Ello, which, similarly, has quite a small (though enthusiastic) community. And G+.One criticism which applies equally well to each of these networks is that it's insanity to go up against Facebook on the social graph. Facebook owns that graph, to the tune of 2.5 billion people, a large portion of whom are monthly actives. Google has 2.2 billion profiles but cannot convince more than 0.27% to participate with public posts monthly. Now, a fraction of a percent of 2.2 billion is still a large number, about 6 million users. But it's a small fraction of Facebook's activity.

The alternative is to pursue the interest graph. That's effectively what HN does (startups / tech interests), reddit (multiple subreddits), Pinterest (it's in the name), etc.

See Michel E. Pearl's critique of Ello: https://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/s-IsrNuI5ODCJqnUJ8KoEA

Another is to consider social networking from the "problems solved" perspective. A shockingly large part of that is :

1. Where can I post my photos online? Kids love this, yes, but parents and grandparents even more.

2. How can I post updates and content online. Effectively microblogging. Sometimes more than micro.

3. Spam and access controls. Not everything I post need be commented on by everyone, or even be visible to them. From the ground up, HTML and HTTP make all of this difficult, and tools for mitigating spam, trolls, cross-scripting attacks, and other abuse are actually an underappreciated aspect of centrally-provided services.

4. Promotion. I recently discovered that there's actually a tremendous amount of activity and discussion on Wordpress, as compared to G+, Facebook, or reddit. But it's hard to get engagement on blogs. If blogs can sort out how to provide content recommendations and engagement, and the authentication / reputation issue for comments, they'll take away much of the benefit of social networking sites.

> 4. Promotion. I recently discovered that ...

Thats interesting way to look at it. Technology trends go in cycles where initially the solution is centered around single service/device (monolithic service) and slowly it decentralises into niches that solve the problems better in ways. Then again the technology changes drastically and a new monolithic/centric solution appears.

The trend in blogging had been towards better UI and presentation. But instead the focus should be on engagement to drive the conversation.

The trend in blogging had been towards better UI and presentation. But instead the focus should be on engagement to drive the conversation.

Very much that, IMO.

I think their big ongoing mistake is not focusing on a protocol. As well if they'd focused on Javascript we might have a browser based peer to peer system by now

Further to this, I think Diaspora have the wrong use case.

People want personal clouds, not community pods. All they've done is swap out my data from Facebook (who I don't trust) to some random person on the internet who hosts a pod (who I don't trust either).

They want to self host their own little social networks, where they can privately share posts, photos and chat with friends and family.

They want to choose a hosting provider with a point and click install (like Wordpress) and use a backend store in the cloud like AWS S3, Rackspace Cloud or Google to store their data encrypted.

Then they can start straight away uploading photos and inviting friends.

Ideally each personal cloud would have some kind of syndication system, so you could share content with the personal clouds of friends, you know, like ATOM or RSS! I'm actually not kidding.

This is what I'm looking for. I haven't found it yet.

https://sandstorm.io/ is working toward much (if not all!) of that vision.

You're on to something with this. A browser extension that ran as a local app and made it very clear that it was local would be very attrractive to me. The only worry I would have would be over whether it would eventually grow and grow like the bitcoin blockchain. I lost interest in both Bitcoin and Dogecoin not because of the basic concept but because I got sick of hosting multi-gigbyte clockchain files, and the binaries were so poorly designed that they don't even give you an option of where to store your blockchain files in a config screen, and just stick in in a subfolder on the boot drive where the software was installed. Sure, I could get around that, but the thoughts that run through my mind when I find myself unexpectedly running out of space on my boot drive are a) life is too goddamn short, and b) if they didn't make that very basic thing easily configurable what other problems am I going to run into?

Kind of like Opera Unite (sadly defunct since Opera 12)?


But how did they deal with the fact that personal workstations and especially laptops aren't always on and connected to the internet?

Are you familiar with Friendica[0] and the related RedMatrix[1]? Not quite what you're after, but close

[0] http://friendica.com/ [1] https://redmatrix.me/

That's because social is very hard to do in a distributed way.

Here you are trusting AWS to host your data for example. And how do you distribute the keys to decrypt your data, and at the same time seamlessly have a buddy list etc?

And how do you actually FIND your friends without centralized identities somewhere?

Interesting questions :)

Good questions. The answer is I don't know. I thought I would just throw it out there. It is basically Wordpress with a really good photo album manager and editor (like on G+). There would be a local store for data (album names, comments, posts) and all of the photo and video data would be held on my own S3 instance. Some kind of backup system to backup the database would be required incase my cheap shared hosting front end went tits up would be required (or I wanted to migrate somewhere else), but the base media data would stay in the same place (Cloud files / S3 / etc).

Yes, I'd be trusting Amazon or similar to securely store my media data, but I can live with that. It would be even more awesome if I could somehow encrypt that media data at rest. However, I'm not trusting a cheap shared hosting provider to look after my media, which is some where I just don't want to go with my multiple TB of media data.

How do I find my friend? Good question. How do you find your friend's email addresses? I'm thinking of a system where you authorize an email address to access your cloud. Your friend can then simply login with an email address link which issues an auth cookie for that session. No passwords and confusion about who is logging in where. Users can link their own clouds once logged in. The backend then uses some kind of OAuth flow to enable access between one cloud and another.

I'm splurging ideas here. I haven't really put much thought into them being valid or not btw!

I'm not sure that people actually want to do any of that. At least not the average person.

People want this? How many people?

That's a very valid question. I genuinely encourage people to answer your question.

I'm a nerd and I don't want this. I can't imagine anyone who doesn't think fiddling with computers for its own sake is fun wanting this.

Maybe, maybe I might want it if it came in the form of a phone/web/desktop* app that shared my data around. Possibly to an always-on, minimal-configuration-required box that I could plug into a wall socket and forget about.

* phone is a must, plus one of either web or desktop - also you'd need it to be available on iOS and Android, so that's at least three versions

tell it about my wifi network, give it a name and password, and it Just Works

More people than those wanting community pods.

> They want to self host their own little social networks

How can this work? Suppose you self-host a social network, and manage to convince your friends to use it. What happens to the friends of your friends? Do they also join your self-hosted social network? And their friends?

If it works at all, then it quickly becomes an intractable problem for a common user to deal with. They might as well be the next Facebook.

It seems to me like it has to be done the way Diaspora is doing it, or it just doesn't work.

they don't necessarily have to 'join', but exchange data from their network/app to yours.

we've been sending email with user@domain between disparate email servers running on disparate OS for years - allowing for addressing and exchange of structured data with similar style shouldn't be that hard.

Completely agreeon that. I'm surprised internet access providers haven't found a way to package those kind of services in their "box".

If anybody hasn't looked into it yet I'd recommend looking into https://sandstorm.io/

They have a hosted (or self hosted) system for deploying open source software.

Auto-updating, super smooth and they have already adapted multiple open source applications to their system.

Oh: and I guess kentonv in the comments here is Kenton from sandstorm

> personal cloud

You're talking about Urbit, right

isn't media goblin a bit like this? at least for the media sharing bit.....

Very much so. They are introducing federation features, that make these even more of a reality.

I just tried this out on Sandstorm. I have to be honest in that I didn't like the interface. I can only upload one file at a time. I'm looking for an app that can replace G+ photos / posts (but private rather than public). I need to be able to upload thousands of photos and videos.

I also tried out Lychee on Sandstorm as well. Whilst that can upload multiple files at once, you can't organise multiple files at the same time.

OpenPhoto looked like a good option, but I had some real struggles trying to get it to work on a Ubuntu server on Digital Ocean. Not sure what I was doing wrong, but I got some really weird errors that I couldn't get to the bottom of.

The best photo / blog app I've come across is embedded in my Synology NAS system. It's awesome, but without a fibre connection you just can't host photos and videos on a residential internet connection (although that would be the perfect solution).

The PouchDB ecosystem might help for the peer to peer data.

One serious question: how much would you pay for this?

A fair question but not necessarily relevant.

Facebook's revenue is on the order of $5-$15 per user. A solution which could provide similar capabilities at roughly that price point would be generally attractive, and wall-wart and small-form-factor devices exist that cost $10-$100. At the upper end of this scale, the devices could support multiple users readily, possibly tens to 100s, and higher-end gear more than that.

Software and administration ease are much of the rest of the secret sauce.

Distributed caching would address the data avialability and latency problem, mostly.

At which point, "cost" becomes 1) minimal hardware, 2) a reasonably reliable Internet connection, 3) a development community, and 4) sufficiently widespread adoption.

It could put the entire present social networking / distributed voluntary surveillance network at risk.

It is way more relevant than you think. At some point, someone is paying for these devices (running where? Home networks? Cheap VPS? Turn-key application hosting like webfaction?) and most importantly, someone is paying for the storage of photos and videos.

It is pretty much like wordpress. And while I can see some of the more tech-savvy running this out of their home server, most people would want to have this in an actual datacenter, and they would need something on the order of hundreds of GB of storage. Unless you piggyback on other services (flickr for photo storage, youtube/vimeo for video), I don't see this costing less than $10/month. Even removing the cost of storage, $5/month seems like the lower bound.

So, how do you finance the operational costs? If you tell me there are people willing to pay $12-15/month to get out of facebook, I'd say there is a business. Otherwise the numbers will never match and this idea of a private cloud will always be some hackers's wet dream.

Yes and no.

Device cost is trending to zero. People already _have_ the devices, often many of them, and frequently simply gathering dust. We're stuffing computers into phones, refrigerators, toasters, security cameras, set-top boxes, and fnord knows what else. A gumstick is sufficient to serve personal content.

The costs come elsewhere. You need a stable Net connection (pretty easy to come by). Distributed data means that any single system loss is pretty much a non-event. Abuse and bad behavior are far bigger issues, all the usual suspects: child pr0n, adult pr0n, copyright violations, threats and bullying. Policing those on a fully-distributed infrastructure would be a nightmare (maybe we'll just give up that fight).

Identity and credential recovery are actually pretty big issues. I could see a market where these are actually turned to a benefit, through localized service provision. A local business or enterprise with an interest in knowing who you are and/or establishing your identity might take on the task of maintaining base nodes. It would depend on costs and benefits. Retail, banking, insurance, healthcare, comms provider or other local institutions. Possibly education or government (there are those of us whose first Internet experience came by way of college or university, though we're starting to die out). And as I've observed elsewhere, "Who are you" is becoming the most expensive question online.

Craigslist comes to mind. A very small segment of activity funds a great deal else on the site, including a pretty extensive forums section (though that's got various issues).

The biggest cost is almost certainly direct customer interaction. Convert this to a model where that's already happening or can be converted to a benefit, and you may well have a win.

That $12-$15/mo isn't what you need someone to _pay_ you directly for the service, but what you need to be able to recover from them, net. Or, possibly, much less.

I suspect your $5/mo floor is illusory.

Sorry, what? I think we are talking about very different concepts, Looks like you are talking about a "distributed data system", where the OP (and me) were heading to the idea of a "personal website with social functions".

For me at least, I am thinking of a system that would be some kind of "personal cloud + feed syndication + acls based on friendships". I want the opposite of a business paying to know who you are. Diaspora got the initial momentum precisely because it was pushing for a privacy-aware version of Facebook. The way I read OP, the one thing that Diaspora got wrong was by putting the "social network" as the focus of their development, while it should've been the person.

I am not even going to argue about your idea, because it seems completely far off from what OP mentioned. Yeah, of course we could a have a system that could provide Facebook features in a distributed manner, and still have business paying for it. Turns out that "have someone paying for it" violates the requirement zero (user owned, personal cloud) of the product!

Lastly, I am sorry, but there is no way I can get my fridge to run a web server, connect to the home router and store gigabytes of data, _all the while keeping your personal network secure*. Saying that the cost of devices is trending to zero is just as magic-thinking of those in the 2000s who were selling that companies could save by switching immediately just by dumping their office licenses and switching to free software. This is flat out wrong[1]

[1]: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/StrategyLetterV.html

Looks like you are talking about a "distributed data system", where the OP (and me) were heading to the idea of a "personal website with social functions".

Those are very nearly the same thing.

Most websites and online services (and I've engineered several of them) are basically:

1. An application engine, which is a fancy term for "database wrapper script". Much of this can be dispensed with if you build a largely static site, though access control and some scripted / scheduled events are likely still necessary. This talks to ...

2. A data tier. Often multiple levels of caching and / or distributed data and or map reduce and / or nosql and / or database. Again, largely dispensible in a static site.

3. A lot of front-end caching and load balancing. The less content you actually have to serve, the better.

It's better to think of a personal cloud + feed syndication (pretty much my formulation as well, BTW) as a cache-tier seed. That is, whatever kit you're running pumps data out to a distributed caching framework (think DNS or bittorrent). If a request cannot be met from cache, or it's expired, then your origin gets a request. But if it can be, you're serving content without actually taking the hit. And if the caching is demand-responsive, then you actually have the situation where you get better at serving data the more requests there are. A DDoS would simply result in more caching peers feeding your data.

You also get the benefit that should your residential (or colo) link go down your cached data remain accessible online.

Law of large numbers says that any given user is going to have relatively little traffic, but when the vast searchlight of the Internet Hive Mind takes an interest in you, you're swamped. So the sensible thing to do is to set up nodes such that the serve both as origin for their own data and as chache peers for other nodes.

And I've got some sense of how activity levels distribute across users in social networks:


It's also possible that there might be a value in providing more robust caching services for others on a wider scale.

The remaining question is: what are the enabling technologies to make all of this happen?

∙ Reasonably inexpensive hardware.

∙ Reasonably inexpensive and reliable Internet connections.

∙ Zero-configuration software.

∙ Sufficiently compelling value proposition.

As for your fridge running a Web server, you'd be amazed at what does. I've found all sorts of nutty stuff scanning networks, and a webserver is a trivially simple piece of software (there are kernel-space webservers and have been for over a decade).

The truth is that hardware costs are falling massively. The $35 Raspberry Pi has served 1,000 Web requests per second. A terrabyte MicroSD card will fit on your thumbnail. Power draw is around 5W.

https://www.jeremymorgan.com/blog/programming/raspberry-pi-w... https://plus.google.com/+GuidoStepken/posts/9LGGyKASb8q

What you permit past your network firewall is your call, but my point is that we already are polluted with server-capable computers. The question is how to harness them.

As to the "providing this as a service" aspect: not everyone will, can, or wants to run their own server, no matter how zero-maintenance they are.

So, if your neighborhood school, or church, or community organization, or retail center, or local ISP, or other entity, wants to take care of doing this, and can handle user request by literally having them show up at the door, well, then all the better. It's not that you have to use a service such as this. But if that works for you, so much the better and power to you. My point as that this is an option, and that there might be ways to tie this to other reasonable but revenue-positive activities.

Look, we are going around in circles now. I understand your point about how in principle we could have all of the functionality of a social network in a distributed manner. What seems to be point of disagreement is that you are equating "reasonably inexpensive hardware and reasonably inexpensive Internet access" to "near zero cost of operating a node".

If a distributed system really was the most economical alternative, then Facebook would be giving away free raspberry pi's with a collection of sd cards to run their services. They are not building huge datacenters all around the world because they are stupid. It's just that it is the least expensive way per user to run their services. By centralizing they get economies of scale that no distributed peer can ever achieve.

To me, it's plain simple:

1. A raspberry pi ($35) + 128GB microsd (~$80) card puts you already at a cost of almost $10/month for the first year of operation. 128GB, quite frankly, is an amount of data that any reasonably active user of Facebook produces in a summer vacation. So, let me be easy on you and turn that $80 micro sd into a $60 1TB external HD, and we are still talking about $95 dollars just to start playing the game.

2. Still, you are smart enough to know "distributed caching" is not a magic word. You say "the less you store yourself, the better." Thing is, if you are not storing your own data, _who is_? In fact, for a distributed storage mechanism to work well, it needs to have multiple replicas of the data, so any node will actually store their own _plus_ other people's data - I remember a while ago reading that the minimum number of seeders on Bittorrent to work well is 6. So that 1TB for your node actually becomes less than 160GB.

3. Granted, no need for you to keep a backup, but this is assuming that every user is cooperating to the network with storage capacity, which is ever growing. So every year you should be buying another disk, meaning another $60/year. Even if we argue that the cost per gigabyte is going down, we could also argue that people will produce more data at an increasing rate so it evens out.u

So to me just storage alone hits easily the $5/month/user mark. Even if you get all your super smart devices to be running in a perfectly cooperative manner around the house, you still need to bank storage. I really don't see a way now or in the near future to get the operating costs of this to zero. The only distributed systems that you see working well are the ones where there is either a financial incentive to keep a node (bitcoin) or political (tor) or where the costs of distribution and storage are negligible compared to the cost of production (Bittorrent). A personal cloud offers neither of those. TINSTAAFL.

I'll accept that the hardware component of this is resolved. E.g., the nine dollar computer:


As for why Facebook isn't tossing Raspberry Pis at everyone: that doesn't fit its business model, which is based on 1) sucking in metric gobtons of personal data, 2) correlating it among accounts, and 3) spamming the users with ads. Quite simply, it's not in Facebook's interests to make alternative distributed models possible.

The $5-$15/mo bit matters not in that it's the point to beat, but that that's all Facebook is making from this. If that margin's cut into (say, by giving the most valued users attractive options other than FB), then Facebook faces a long and slow value slide, accelerating as more users (usually starting with the most valuable) hop off the train. Dittos for Google, Yahoo, and other online properties. Amazon and Apple are in a better position to survive this, and might even benefit (in which case, sorting out how to help support the system would be in their interest and network resources could be devoted to that end).

On storage: MicroSD fits on a small device, and the general point is that the gateway you use to access the Internet is already roughly powerful enough to host your content. I strongly dispute your 80 GB of data per summer per user value, though that's probably going to be valid in the not too distant future.

It's also worth considering that MicroSD isn't the cheapest data option. A 1TB SATA drive runs for $55 on Amazon right now. Spinning rust ain't the fastest, but remember, it's _origin_. This is also not just your social networking and cloud, but local storage (you need somewhere to come up with your 80GB to start witht). Remember that people already have extensive existing hardware, and that it's the data more than hardware that's valuable.

For the typical user, a 1TB disk will likely be sufficient throughout its lifetime (3-6 years or so), at which time you'll replace it with whatever's current at the time. Hard drive cost per GB has been falling at a very consistent rate for decades, falling by an order of magnitude every three years:





I could be wrong about this, but at some point you reach data saturation. There's no way in hell I can create GB of text in a year (a few MB is more like it). Audio and video data add up, but there's only so much of that worth saving. Dittos for logging and financial data.

DVD-quality video is 4.7 - 8.7 GB single-sided. Blu ray is 25 GB. That's 40 1080p full-length movies per TB of storage capacity, and three years from now you'll have room for 400 movies. Blu ray video storage is 7 hours at 32 Mbit/s, 3h 30m at 64 Mbit/s (ultra high definition TV).

There's only so much detail your eye can take in.

On caching: I didn't say the less you store yourself, but the less you serve. An origin server seeds cache, but once you've put content on the caching tier, it distributes across the cache and is served from it. That's how CDNs work, and the origin infrastructure of social networks can be frighteningly primitive (or not).

But you're missing three key factors:

1. The barrier isn't hardware. I cited my facts to emphasize this point, you've fallen into that tarpit. The point is: hardware's cheap and not the barrier. It hasn't been for most of a decade.

2. The hardware cost itself is largely irrelevant. Sufficiently capable systems exist and are likely already owned. An old server, desktop, laptop, or within a year or three, tablet or phone, with an appropriate server build on it, will be sufficient. This is a system that can be cobbled on extant hardware at a bare minimum, more advanced kit if desired.

3. It's the software itself, installation, configuration, management, and most importantly, adoption that are the real barriers. Once this gets going it should snowball and steamroll over much of the existing online world. Cost is a minor concern relative to control over data. We're post-Snowden, and everyone knows that both spooks and black-hats are watching, listening, prodding, and prying. Systems which decentralize data and put more of it under access control and encryption guard against that on both fronts.

That's the win.

Getting the software up to snuff is the missing part.

Yeah, you really lost me on the point where you think that 1TB will last 3-6 years. You are basing your use case (text) and extrapolating to the average consumer. We already live in a world where 20-somethings post every damn meal they eat on Instagram. With friends making dubsmash duels with each other for weeks. With parents who make videos and pictures of every sneeze of their babies. And all of this, to the consumers, is worth saving. You can't just reason this out of the system.

To me it really seem like you are way off in the economical aspects of your proposition. Consider:

> As for why Facebook isn't tossing Raspberry Pis at everyone: that doesn't fit its business model (...)

There is nothing that would stop them to give these boxes in exchange of access to the data produced by the users. They would still have access to the data, and could still sell ads based on it. You fail to understand that they can find ways to increase their revenue per user (making ads more relevant or bringing some kind of value proposition where they can get users to volunteer more data), what they can't do is reduce their operational costs. They are doing it as much as they can - look at all the thing about Open Compute, which is nothing more than trying to find a way to reduce the costs of operating data centers - but building multi-million datacenters around the world is cheaper than giving away hardware with "irrelevant cost".

> An origin server seeds cache, but once you've put content on the caching tier (...)

Who is the caching tier? Your neighbor? Akamai? Amazon? Google? ISPs? Your church? What is the incentive for them to keep this data for you and others, and how will they finance the cost of storage, electricity, etc?

> Cost is a minor concern relative to control over data.

You want to make cost operational costs irrelevant, but it is wishful thinking. The whole reason I was asking OP how much he would be willing to pay for this service is precisely to know how much of "Cost is a minor concern relative to control over data."

> Getting the software up to snuff is the missing part.

This is backwards. Software doesn't write itself magically. There needs to have some kind of economical incentive for someone to go over there and develop this software, and people need to accept the costs of maintaining the system operational. Diaspora got started exactly because there was some demand around 2010, but it did not have enough momentum.

I thought Diaspora was dead.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's an active user.

Open source software doesn't die until the last user stops using it. That's the point. If it were proprietary it would be dead.

It does, however, become a Lovecraftian relic, unchanging, undying, until the stars come right or the users return.

Oh! So that's why OpenBSD has that mutant fish logo!

That has nothing to do with open source. Winamp is not actively developed, but I can still use it as long as I have the binary. So by your definition, is Winamp dead or alive?

The point is - a software is considered dead when there is nobody to maintain it, if maintenance is required. Licensing has no bearing on demise of software.

Winamp would have far more barriers to becoming actively developed again.

Free software simply needs someone interested in developing it.

Software dies when the last developer stops looking and even then software is reborn with every new observer. The visibility of the source code affects the potential developer pool size but private institutions can be as effective as public ones in carrying property forward and sustaining its life.

I for one I'm glad to re-discover this and although 0.5 does not sound like a "major version" as the post says, I am inclined to give it a try.

Cool in concept, flawed in execution in that the general public is unaware of the network or its benefits.

It reminds me of us trying to get friends and family to use pgp with their email 25 years ago. They just didn't see the value prop.

From what I've read online the newest generations of computer users do see the value for ephemeral networks and prefer Snapchat, WhatsApp, line, yikyak, etc to FaceBook just to avoid a record of everything they do online.

I'm not sure Diaspora is really on their radar with so many other options in that space. Provably need a compelling android and iOS app to really compete there.

Why does a potential user have to even know about "pods"? Or worse: to "choose a pod". Just choose one for me. Is diaspora for techies, or for people who care about privacy?

Because choosing a pod involves the question of trust. When you choose a doctor, do you say "choose one for me"? Or you do your research first? I guess some might do the former without second thought, but it's not a smart thing to do.

Normally people should care about privacy. Surprise.

This is the whole problem with federation in a nutshell.

People will crucify me for saying this but had they choose PHP instead of Rails, these folks would have had a better luck. I don't know any really popular web/CMS/project that is not written in PHP. Well I know some but they all are commercial Java CMSs. The only exception I know is a CRM/ERP built with Python.

Edit: i'm obviously talking about open source plateform.

I think you'll be crucified because it's a bit of a weird conclusion to draw.

PHP was popular for ages, and loads of great things were built on top of it. With modern development practices and improvements in the language, it's even possible to build better tools using it. But it's not like it's easier to build excellent tools than any of the other environments available – Rails, or Django, or Play, or whatever.

I don't think the development toolset would have any impact on the success or otherwise of the project, at the end of the day. Sure, maybe it would be a problem if it were some rarely-used, obscure system, but that hardly applies to Rails.

I don't think it's particularly weird, if you phrase it slightly differently:

PHP is a better choice for web software that users are expected to host themselves.

Using PHP lets your users tap into the absolutely ginormous ecosystem of PHP hosting providers out there, and makes deployment dead simple ("FTP these files to that place, now you're done"). No other platform makes these steps as simple and inexpensive as PHP does.

If you're writing an app that you're going to host for the users, it doesn't matter much what you write it in. If you're writing an app that users are going to host for themselves, it matters a lot.

> I don't think the development toolset would have any impact on the success or otherwise of the project

I think it does if you expect people to install that project.

FWIW, we're trying to fix this with https://sandstorm.io. Try https://demo.sandstorm.io -- apps in many different frameworks, all equally trivial to install. :)

(We'll have Diaspora on there soon...)

If everybody hosted their diaspora nodes with you... Would that be centralization?

The idea is that you'd have a Sandstorm installation on your own server or hosting service. At that point, installing something like Diaspora would be a point-and-click endeavor.

I don't understand the down votes. In 2010 Facebook and Ruby on Rails were both still hot, so it's understandable that they chooce Rails. But, and that's the big "but" that not everyone understands: Hosting a Rails site wasn't that easy in 2010 than it is today. AWS and specialized hosting providers where rather new, and most normal people still used (crappy) hosters that only supported CGI and PHP4/5. We are talking about a web software that should be easy to run on many servers, and PHP5 would have been definitely a better choice back then. Installing a PHP based software is a no-brainer, simply download&extract the zip archive in the www/htdocs dir. In the age of shared hosting and before the advent of language package managers, this was a big benefit. The biggest problem with Diaspora was that it was a big fluff, a great idea with a big media coverage - but it took the developers 2 years to get the software to beta status (2012): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora_(software), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora_(social_network). A sad remark, one of the developers died: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilya_Zhitomirskiy

I don't think that RoR is the cause of Diaspora's failure. And in my opinion, saying this sounds a little bit like cargo culting.

Diaspora also uses Mongodb... At least I'm one person who was repelled from installing Diaspora because of its prerequisites. And I say that as someone who started programming when I was 7.

They migrated to a relational database about 4 years ago: http://www.slideshare.net/sarahmei/taking-diaspora-from-mong...

> I don't know any really popular web/CMS/project that is not written in PHP.

You need to significantly update your knowledge of the current state of web tools, then. All the world isn't Wordpress and Drupal.

No it isn't, but for the vast majority of users, it is their first call because their hosting providers provide cpanel or similar with app installers (i.e. Fantastico) and the vast majority of those apps are going to have been written in PHP: https://netenberg.com/fantastico.php#fantastico-scripts.html

The OP genuinely ha a good point.

Diaspora needs to be as easy to install as Wordpress and as ubiquitous, and then it would gain real adoption. Sad, but true.

Check out the Diaspora install instructions for Ubuntu: https://netenberg.com/fantastico.php#fantastico-scripts.html

It starts off with:

   The install is a bit complex, but we're here to help. 
   It's extremely helpful to have some experience in Linux/Unix server 
   administration or Rails app deployment already. But don't worry, if you 
   run into problems and need help, just visit us in our IRC channels on 
If Diaspora wants a chance to win against Facebook then this is a shitty way to get users on board.

I am confused. What does Diaspora have to do with popular Content Management Systems? I thought it was about de-centralized social networking. Well sure, Facebook uses PHP, and Twitter got going with Rails, but this comment seems out of place.

I'm talking about opensource web projects in general, like Wordpress,Magento,Drupal,Piwik and many many others.I'm not talking about how one can build something in language X or Y but about open source webapps.

Discourse is written in Rails. Canvas, a popular learning management system, is also written in Rails.

So is your point that velocity was held back due to lack of contribution? They have 300+ contributors; I'm uncertain that they'd get more if it was in PHP, and one could argue development would move slower.

By your logic, ColdFusion (or an open source variant like Railo) would have been a better choice, given the many CMSes and other open source project written in CFML (MangoBlog, blogCFC, ContentBox, Mura, etc). Heck, another vote for it would be the fact that MySpace was originally written in CF.

Personally, I find the whole language thing to be comparable to saying a restaurant failed because they offered Pepsi instead of Coke.

I always thought a distributed/federated social network built as a WordPress plugin/theme would have the best chance of adoption. I haven't looked at BuddyPress in a while to see if they have gone anywhere in this direction.

I had the same thought.

??? I think there are a lot of really popular applications that aren't written in PHP. In fact, excluding Facebook and Mediawiki, I can't think of anything I would classify as "popular" that is written in PHP. (Not sure whether to count PHPBB or not, seeing as although none of the sites hosted on it get a ton of traffic, cumulatively it must be one of the most popular pieces of web software ever)

Rails, specifically has Github, Twitter, Basecamp, and Discourse, just off the top of my head.

Besides Facebook and Wikipedia (which I'm not sure why you can exclude them when they are 2 of the top 5 sites on the internet), there is Tumblr and Wordpress. So basically like 90% of the internet. PHP is the choice of the majority of the most "popular" sites in the world. Basecamp, Discourse (really?), and Github get like 1% of the traffic that any of the above sites get.

Some phpBB sites are very popular, for example:



WordPress is PHP, and licensed GPL, too. Last I heard roughly 20% of the web was running it.

That's interesting, because Matt Mullenweg, one of Wordpress's cofounders and original author, said that if he rewrote Wordpress today, he'd choose Go:


WordPress written in Go might be okay for the hosted version at WordPress.com, but it would have a lot of difficulty achieving the kind of market share that the self-hosted PHP version enjoys. I can't imagine Dreamhost et al. being happy with people recompiling WordPress Go on their platforms all the time.

Neither Github nor Twitter nor Basecamp are opensource. Now I know Discourse, I don't think it's really popular as a "forum" plateform.

Etsy & Slickdeal are in PHP.

Weren't they targeting the same user base as Wordpress? I thought the goal was to get social networking as decentralized as blogging.

It isn't hard to host a Rails app, but it's certainly harder than hosting one in PHP. Especially if you have little or no technical expertise or aren't willing to pay for anything more than shared hosting.

Stack overflow is popular and it's C# IIRC.

I think PHP in general is popular because it's made for web and very easy to get started. This has cause a disproportional market share where the bulk of the popular site, cms, project are PHP. But that doesn't necessarily means other languages can't compete, it just mean PHP have a good market share.

Another arguably popular website is OkCupid and that was coded in C++.

I also think PHP will stay popular because of Facebook. They have contributed to several important projects including a pretty good VM and there are a resurgent of momentum imo. Most of it are copying what RoR group have pioneer.

Stack overflow isn't an opensource plateform like Diaspora. You could talk about Umbraco and such that are popular in the .NET space but you can't really compare SO and Diaspora.

Oh I thought your point was popular web projects in general.

So to clarify, you're comparing Diaspora an open source p2p social media platform that is written in Ruby/Ember to what now?

> So to clarify, you're comparing Diaspora an open source p2p social media platform that is written in Ruby/Ember to what now?

I don't know any popular p2p social plateform written in PHP. All I know is the one written with Rails isn't as popular as it should have been.

I agree with you 110%.

pencilblue.org is a node CMS I just read about today, but... in general, for wide adoption, PHP is still king, and even 3 years ago, it was pretty easy to predict it would be king in 2015. I'll even predict its kingship for another 2-3 years. containerization and virtualization may play a part in its downfall over the next 2-5 years, but PHP will remain one of the major widely deployed systems for a long time (and PHP7 will likely strengthen that hold).

Interesting to see that Dispora is still alive.

What's with the asterisk in the name?

> The word “diaspora” refers to the dispersal of seeds (or people) over a wide area. That’s why our motif is the dandelion, and the asterisk in our name represents a fluffy dandelion seed. We refer to individual accounts on diaspora* as “seeds,” and the servers in which those accounts are collected as “pods.” You’ll get used to it soon!


This sort of in-group nerdiness is a barrier to adoption. Nowhere is this explained on the https://diasporafoundation.org/ landing page, for example. So the mildly curious end up looking for the footnote instead of reading the text closely, can't find it, get frustrated, and leave.

Same thing with 'And show your love for other people’s work by ♥ing it.' By hearting it? by loving it? This sort of thing is not compatible with spreading by word of mouth.

Likewise, the landing page urges visitros to 'choose a pod!' - yet the concepts of seeds and pods aren't articulated up front - your one-sentence explanation of seeds and pods above should be the first or second sentence on the landing page.

To be honest, I'm not sure how reliable that metaphor is, as people may not care to be referred to as 'seeds' which sounds like some sort of cult terminology...but it's no worse than routers and nodes in Tor or seeders and leechers in torrent networks so that's probably not a big deal.

Also, why are there no screenshots on your landing page? I had to click around for 5 minutes before I found a picture of what the software looks like. The landing page is full of reasons about why you might want to use it, but does a terrible job of explaining what it's for. You can't assume that everyone is going to know that, and even for people who do know, there's no visual representation of it being a Thing That Is Fun To Use.

What's a + in Google+? The name is a name. If you want an explanation, you can dig into it, but it's not a barrier for adoption.

A plus, as in plus,google.com. As Facebook did with 'Like' they made very sure to bind an easily memorable name to the icon.

I think it's a huge barrier to adoption. If people don't know how to say 'Diaspora* ' then they won't say it, and so nobody overhears it, nobody talks about it in the media and so on. Just because you're on the internet doesn't mean that people have stopped talking to each other in person. I heard about Google from 3 or 4 people before I went to Google.com back in 1997 or whenever that was. And so on.

And again, diaspora* don't supply any explanation for their orthography on their landing page. How are people supposed to know it's actually part of the name if htey haven't encountered it before? Communities like HN aren't a good proxy for the internet as a whole, you can launch something here but you need to make it accessible to a general audience if you want mass adoption.

> your one-sentence explanation of seeds and pods above should be the first or second sentence on the landing page

I don't think this was aimed at me, but to be clear, I'm not affiliated with diaspora. I just happened to be reading the page relevant to gp's question at the time.

I agree with that their exposition could use improvement.

OH, I had the impression you were part of the project. sorry for the confusion.

I find it totally cringeworthy.

I read it, mentally, as "diasporastar." It's like if someone types "I <heart symbol> you," I read it as "I heart you," which is cringeworthy.

Do some people not do this?

Also, their URL needs the star, too. Diaspora(asterisk)foundation.org. I just can't stand in consistency. How you do it matters less than being consistent. If you can't put a * in a URL, don't make the asterisk part of your name.

Finally, it made me look for a footnote. That symbol already has a meaning in that context---you can't just re-appropriate symbols to mean whatever you want when they already have an established meaning. I mean, clearly, you can---but it's considered bad form, and for good reasons.

I bet the Diaspora* people are sick and tired of hearing this shit over and over, but you know what? They deserve it.

Why not just practice reading it "I love you"? A more charitable interpretation of the writer's intent and less likely to get you so frustrated.

Because basic UI functions should not require ambiguous interpretations, charitable or otherwise. I personally read heart symbols as 'love' as in 'I love New York' on the famous t-shirt, but many people say 'I heart New York' and while I find this asinine in the extreme (because 'heart' is obviously not a verb, but hearts are a well-known metaphor for love) it's not going to change because unfortunately there are a great many ill-educated people out there.

So now you have a very basic UI component (which is sadly not very innovative, being just a different version of Facebook's 'like' feature) but people are likely to attach two different names to it. Notice, by contrast, how FB constantly reinforces the use of 'like' as the operative verb. You don't hear anyone saying 'thumb-up this post on facebook' even though everyone recognizes the thumbs-up symbol as being synonymous with liking something.

I think when someone verbally says "I heart New York" their intent is to invoke the popular-culture graphic as an aide to their point, a (possibly completely) different usage from the more natural phrase, "I love New York".

I don't really think of ascii art as a form of basic ui function though...

YMMV. Personally my circles (20s-40s Seattleite nerds) say "Hearts" to each other on a regular basis. Depending on context, it expands to either "I love you" or "I love the thing you just said", just as if we were typing "<3" into an instant messenger window.

That said, the spurious asterisk in 'diaspora' does look pretty inexplicable, and needs way too much explanation to people who haven't drunk the kool-aide already. Add in the fact that 'diaspora' is never capitalized, even if it begins a sentence, and you're kind of way off into the eccentric orthography zone.

Becuase our language is not pictographic, it is alphabetic. So that is wrong. Reading a heart symbol as "I love you" is just as wrong as reading it as "I heart you." A symbol is not a word.

Then either interpret the sentence in context as an atomic concept or conclude that all sentences are merely strings of symbols devoid of meaning and without informational content (this way lies madness).


They want to match all strings with Diaspora as a prefix?

No, but to allow for an unlimited number of a's.

"Diasporaaaaaa!" (As in "Spartaaaaaa!")

"Diaspor" sounds silly though. Definitively should have gone with Diaspora+.

Diaspora needs a plugin sy stem to enable distribution and sharing of content other than posts and pictures, Facebook had farmville, what could similar apps do for diaspora?

The fact alone that this project is still alive and growing makes me happy. If you never did anything yourself in this direction, well, IMO you should be too.

As an aside, what happened to makr.io? The URL seems to go to something completely different.

Wow this is still a thing?

if a tree falls in the forest.....

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