You’ve Heard of Ello, but Have You Heard of Diaspora*?
You’ve Heard of Ello, but Have You Heard of Diaspora*?
By Eloisa Lewis / filmsforaction.org

You’ve heard of Ello, but have you heard of Diaspora*?

There’s been a hell of a hullaballoo this last week about the newly public social media platform, Ello. If you’re not too familiar with the rumblings surrounding it, people are fairly taken with the network because it claims to be a more respectable place to conduct your online social affairs than Facebook.

"We see Facebook as an advertising platform not a social network." - Ello creator Paul Budnitz

While this may be fair (because Facebook is saturated in its own serious and legitimate shortcomings), is Ello really worth supporting instead? When I first heard about Ello, I was admittedly quite excited. However, as I familiarized myself with the platform I became less and less interested — deciding to not sign up for the time being. My first impression was: this seems kitschy. Minimalism is quite popular in the design world, and can be done beautifully, but the website’s interface felt barren and fad-like to me. It looked like the majority of developing effort was spent on aesthetic, with meaningful substance and a robust backend left neglected. At any rate, Ello is certainly trying to look attractive and it's, reportedly, working. They've got a booming new user base and people on social media buzzing about them. But I (as well as Forbes, Bloomberg, etc) wondered how the company would make money for investors. I started searching about it, and that's how I stumbled upon this article, posted by Robert Frittmann on Twitter. 

The author makes their case for why Ello isn’t the solution to Facebook, it’s just another problem: 

"I don’t care if it has a strong privacy policy, I don’t care if it has good security, I don’t care if it has no advertising, I don’t care if it will let you remain pseudonymous, I don’t care if the people who own it are really cool. All of those things are worthless if the site is controlled by a single organization, because they can all be changed on a whim.

Remember, Facebook used to be ad-free, somewhat closed, had no data mining, and didn’t force you to sign up with your real name. Then they decided they had to make money, and their only resource was a captive user base.”

Ello explains that it plans to profit (after their beta phase) by charging users for special features, like being able to host multiple profiles by a single account. This is feasable, but the effectiveness of this playing out remains to be seen. Ello will take time to grow into full fruition and I'm more interested in keeping my eye on it than participating.

Patrick Howell O’Neill was one of the people I found speaking out against Ello, while simultaneously advocating for a social network called Diaspora*; here's his article supporting these views on The Daily Dot. I kept seeing the name "Diaspora*" pop up, so I decided to investigate.

Diaspora* is a decentralized social media platform. In their own words, this means: "Instead of everyone’s data being contained on huge central servers owned by a large organization, local servers (“pods”) can be set up anywhere in the world.”

Pretty cool shit; so far so good. (I wondered why I hadn't heard much about them before.) I proceeded to read most of the content on their main page and a little on their wiki, then decided to create an account. 

Diaspora* offers up so much support and explanation on their website that I was a little worried it would be annoyingly complicated to get started, but the interface turned out to be remarkably simple and easy. The platform feels like a combination of FB, Twitter, and Tumblr — in a user friendly, 'interest-driven' way. It doesn't feel overcrowded, the design is functional (not nauseatingly try-too-hard), and there seems to be a reasonable amount of customizability. You can even link up your Facebook and Twitter accounts, to manage and post between them on Diaspora*, if it please you.

I’m brand new to the network, still exploring and figuring it out as I go, but I’m glad to be in. I think the actual application of Diaspora*'s values is much more tangible and realized than Ello's; so, if you’re itching for something other than Facebook (because you're about privacy, open source, ad-free space, and decentralization), you may want to consider giving Diaspora* a go. 

/ Eloisa Lewis

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You’ve Heard of Ello, but Have You Heard of Diaspora*?