Diaspora’s Kickstarter crowdfunded kickoff has led from euphoric hype to snarky unhappiness, the emotional highs and lows of which really have had nothing to do the product and the proposal but actually the perception and anticipation of a social network that would finally be right for everyone.
A customer not an audience
It has a clear funding model, it allows you to be a customer of service rather than an audience for advertising or a source of demographic data. This isn’t a minor thing, it is actually a unique feature. Whether it is sustainable or not will be seen. Will people value a social network in the way they do Wikipedia? My feeling is that certain people do and others might and that could be enough to fund the network for everyone.
It acknowledges the primacy of the user as the creator of content
The other social networks allow you to extract your content to some extent but Diaspora correctly puts the user and the content they create centrally and makes it straightforward to extract and use yourself. The ability to federate and even pull your content and publishing entirely under your control should you wish to clearly goes further than any provider today.
It returns control to the user
It allows you to put some measure of control back on your online social life. Although this has now gone more mainstream with things like Google’s Circles Diaspora was the first to properly implement it and go through the real-world feedback loop. Diaspora’s Aspects allow to segment your network by audience and interest. They are a surprisingly powerful tool.
Is this enough?
Diaspora may not succeed, network effects rely almost entirely on volume of users and therefore it is critical that Diaspora has just enough use that there is some kind of feedback loop and you do not feel like everything you are doing is just being fired off into a void. However it does not have to be as successful as Google+ or Facebook to succeed in providing a valuable service to those who have concerns about control and trust.