For all the attention the Diaspora project has been getting, largely thanks to the New York Times, another alternative called OneSocialWeb has been desperately trying to raise even just a couple of eyebrows.
Which is frustrating to them, they say, because the goals of both projects are perfectly aligned, while OneSocialWeb is self-reportedly much further ahead of Diaspora in many ways.
So what gives?
Here’s how OneSocialWeb bills itself:
The purpose of onesocialweb is to enable free, open, and decentralized social applications on the web. Its protocol can be used to turn any XMPP server into a full fledged social network, participating in the onesocialweb federation. The suite of extensions covers all the usual social networking use cases such as user profiles, relationships, activity streams and third party applications. In addition, it provides support for fine grained access control, realtime notification and collaboration.
The project was built based on other standardization initiatives aiming to open up the web: activitystrea.ms, portablecontacts, OAuth, OpenSocial, FOAF, OpenID … you name it.
Sounds like a dream if you’re into the whole ‘open’ thing and not happy with how Facebook and other social networks are evolving, right? So why has it been flying under the radar so much?
Maybe their timing just wasn’t right – Diaspora got introduced to the masses by the NYT at a time when a lot of spotlights are turned to Facebook and its privacy policies – or maybe it’s the fact that OneSocialWeb isn’t an initiative of four geeky college students but the Vodafone Group Research and Development (which acts as a double-edged sword).
Either way, the people behind OneSocialWeb (Laurent Eschenauer, Alard Weisscher, Lorena Alvarez and Diana Cheng) have a dream of building exactly what their name suggests, one social Web, and they realize it’s not going to be a walk in the park.
And that something isn’t going to be attractive to the masses simply because it’s open source, based on XMPP or decentralized – there needs to be added value.
The OpenSocialWeb team is also impressed with the energy the team behind Diaspora is displaying – they even invited them to come work at Maastricht for the Summer – so it’s not like there’s any bad blood between them.
Which is good, because I happen to think that building multiple open social networking alternatives in a lot of different ways will only make things more complicated, and probably assure that none of them grow into anything meaningful.
OneSocialWeb’s Eschenauer isn’t concerned about that, but he hopes that there can be some common language for social networks in the future, like SMTP for email. He adds that he has high hopes for Google Buzz, and expects the Mountain View company to announce a couple of interesting things next week at Google I/O. Eschenauer will be travelling to Silicon Valley next week, too, in order to meet with people from the industry who can help him make his ‘one social web’ dream a reality.
OpenSocialWeb is currently developing beta versions of a Web client, an Android application, and more. We’ll see how far they can take this – the service and protocol is expected to be ‘consumer ready’ by late Summer.