On the Diaspora blog, the founders have outlined that the service is to be given over to the community to control. The founders insisted they will remain part of the community, but argued it was important to put decisions regarding the project's future into the hands of users and developers.
Diaspora started life on Kickstarter, with the aim to take on Facebook, or at least the notion of a single dominant social network. That distributed nature of the network meant it could not be 'owned' by any one entity, thereby protecting it from takeovers, advertising and other perceived threats.
Although the founders turning over the project to the community (and themselves changing focus to work on meme generator makr.io) could be considered an admission of failure, those in the industry aren't so sure. Digital strategist James Gardner told .net that Diaspora's success must be considered in context: "It was never going to succeed against Facebook. There was no reason for users to switch, because the success of Facebook is built on the critical mass it has achieved. You go there because all your friends are there already, and Facebook's commercial model is an attractive proposition to brands, which has helped to push Facebook from product to platform. Diaspora was a noble exercise, but that's it."
A new lease of life
Gardner didn't think the founders' decision would lead to Diaspora vanishing, though. "In fact, the move to a community-based project is wise. It allows the founders to move on to other projects without admitting defeat and gives the platform a new life of its own," he said, adding that he sees the project's future as the new PHPBB or vBulletin. "It's an open source platform for niche communities that uses the new social sharing model – Facebook, Google+ – as opposed to the old model (forums, bulletin boards). Given the right exposure and a sense of purpose – it needs some sort of guiding principle to corral development in the right direction – it can be a success.
Jon Bains, partner at Atmosphere also said that the decision made sense and told .net that "we now more than ever need platforms like Diaspora". He said he hoped the founders were being genuine in their desire to continue and grow the project through the community, and agreed with Gardner that widespread adoption wasn't possible, but also wasn't necessary: "It's pretty well established that the growth points within social media are most likely to be within vertical communities utilising the Borg-like platforms such as Facebook for verification and broadcast. If marketed, Diaspora would be well positioned to pick up the segment of the communities who are increasingly wary of terms like 'frictionless sharing'."
Additionally, Bains noted some countries are debating whether to turn off access to Facebook and Twitter, further cementing the need for an easy to use, decentralised, anonymised social platform. "In order to succeed, I suspect they need to be seen as more 'infamous' and be more assertive politically, potentially aligning themselves with a Pirate Party/Anonymous, etc. to be the platform of choice," he added. "It's divisive, yes, but much more likely to capture the imagination and resources as a building block for the inevitable rise of the Dark-net."