The recent hot trend in the tech community is hate Facebook. See, nerds loved Facebook when they were the scrappy up and comer facing off against the big guys like Microsoft and Google. Now that Facebook owns the social web, the same nerds are now…
Joey, you seem to be assuming that these guys are pretty foolhardy. I’m not saying nerds don’t get tunnel vision, but why assume they don’t know what they’re doing right off the bat? Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for a second.
1) The Times article says “As they describe it, the Diaspora* software will let users set up their own personal servers, called seeds, create their own hubs and fully control the information they share.” The Diaspora site says “A seed is owned by you, hosted by you, or on a rented server.” Agreed, only a moron would actually expect users to be willing to configure server software or even leave an app running on their desktop 24/7. So probably we’re talking about some kind of cloud computing here. Like tiny VPS’s—more like cubbies than closets. Think in terms of elaborate, living XML files, propagated via P2P and accessed via a simple web interface.
2) Good point, but if they’re smart the main selling point won’t be privacy, it’ll be convenience or nifty features of some kind. Heck - I bet they’d get some users by just letting you design your own profile layout. People miss that from MySpace and tumblr is a good example of a well-designed customization engine. And if “Also, nobody gets to buy or sell your private information” is put out there clearly enough, it may in fact boost conversion. I don’t know.
3) Yeah, but everyone’s APIs (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.) make the network modular. If I can literally log into Diaspora using my Facebook credentials (doubles as OpenID authentication) and then post to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Buzz, and what have you all from one place, while simultaneously making aggregating a unique and private backup of my social network… Why wouldn’t I? It starts out not as total user conversion, but as a cooler or more convenient front door to where you’re already going. Isn’t this how Meebo started?
4) Agreed, Zuckerberg is rabidly genius. But Facebook succeeded primarily because it was extremely easy to use. Really straightforward design, easy access to all your main tasks, and a uniform design that doesn’t hurt the eyes. Imagine if, five or six years ago when Facebook was just getting hot, everyone could have logged in WITH THEIR MYSPACE LOGINS and immediately had access to their friends list and could post on their walls, etc., without having to quit MySpace until they realized they didn’t need it anymore? Conversion would have been even faster. If these guys know what they’re doing they’ll try this kind of sneak attack, not an Us vs. Them approach.
In the end I really like what they’re doing, just because I don’t like the fact that when I post on your Facebook wall, that data belongs not to you or me but to a corporation. There’s a significant difference between that and having the data belong to us but hosted by a corporation.
P.S. When you say “You’re going up against the company that crushed X, Y, and Z” you have to remember that six years ago that company was going up against the companies that crushed A, B and C. Etc.