We’ve been tracking the progress of Diaspora, the open-source Facebook alternative, since before the project even started. That’s because the idea got so much buzz on the crowdsourced micro-funding site Kickstarter, that they were able to turn a goal of raising $10,000 in 39 days into $200,000 from 6,500 backers in the same timeframe. But with such high expectations, you have to deliver. And many expressed doubts that the small team of college students could do that.
After the money came in, the team sequestered themselves for the Summer to work on the project. Despite some hiccups, they were able to unveil the source of the project in September to mixed reviews. Meanwhile, a user-facing alpha launch was promised for October. That came and went, and they pushed the launch to Thanksgiving. Well, we’re two days away from turkey day, and Diaspora has delivered this time.
As the company notes on their blog, the first batch of private alpha invites are going out today. They note that each week they’ll be adding more people to the test, starting with those who contributed to the service’s funding.
Says the team:
We are proud of where Diaspora is right now. In less than five months, we’ve gone from nothing to a great starting point from which the community can keep working. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how people can share in a private way, and still do all the things people love to do on social networks. We hope you’ll find it fun to use and a great way to keep in touch with all the people in your life.
Interestingly enough, it sounds as if Diaspora is heavily predicated on lists, which they call “aspects”. This is interesting because Facebook is going in the opposite direction, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that people on their service don’t want to make lists. In fact, their entire new Groups project is a way to make it so you don’t have to make lists. “We think that aspects are a simple, straightforward, lightweight way to make it really clear who is receiving your posts and who you are receiving posts from,” writes Diaspora.
But the service is also quick to hedge their bets. “It isn’t perfect, but the best way to improve is to get it into your hands and listen closely to your response,” they note about the aspects idea. They then go on to list five things they know they could do better, including: security, better APIs, better documentation, easier upgrades, and cleaner code. Yeah, that’s quite a few major things.
“Our work is nowhere close to done. To us, that is the best part. There are always more things to improve, more tricks to learn, and more awesome features to add,” they conclude.
As you can see in the alpha site graphic below, they’re smartly playing towards some of the things people complain about the most with regard to Facebook: choice, ownership, simplicity.