Friday, May 28, 2010

Change II: Can David Beat Goliath?

So, people are angry at Facebook. Honestly, I looked at the updated privacy controls today, and I have trouble understanding what the hubbub is all about. I don't put anything on my Facebook that I consider to be private, and most of the content is pretty easily put into Friends Only mode. I feel like the same hubbub came up when Google's algorithms started pitching me ads based on what I wrote in emails or was searching for, but I find it difficult to get my ire up.

That being said, if people want to protect their information, their only real choice is to quit Facebook. And honestly, at this point, Facebook is deeply embedded in my life. I hire actors by going through my list of friends on Facebook sometimes; I find about a majority of my friends' events on Facebook; I keep in touch with people I would have lost touch with all the time on Facebook and it often amounts to big stuff.

Some people, however, are determined to leave Facebook, but to create their own. And these people are four NYU students behind a project called Diaspora, and the many many people who appear to have donated (including, allegedly, Mark Zuckerberg himself -- maybe he's hoping to appropriate it later, like Toyota's part-ownership of Tesla).

Diaspora isn't even done yet, but it is an interesting question -- when it is ready, what will it take to shift the vast majority of users from Facebook to Diaspora? New social networks have, at times, been able to create themselves in the face of larger, more connected social networks (Friendster to Myspace; Myspace to Facebook). The question is, can Diaspora leverage its advantages over Facebook in the face of Facebook's ultimate advantage: its existing community?

It's interesting to see whether it is possible, or whether this will also fall prey to the same individual-lethargy-to-action as Move Your Money did (which I wrote about here).