Avoiding Gated Communities with Diaspora, Friendica and others

At the Chaos Communication Congress 32c3 in Hamburg last year, there was a talk by Katharina Nocun named “A New Kid on the Block – Conditions for a Successful Market Entry of Decentralized Social Networks“. The short abstract is this: 

The leading social networks are the powerful new gatekeepers of the digital age. Proprietary de facto standards of the dominant companies have lead to the emergence of virtual “information silos” that can barely communicate with one another. Has Diaspora really lost the war? Or is there still a chance to succeed?

Maybe some of you attended that talk or have already seen the recording. For those who haven’t, here it is for your convenience: 

It’s all about Social Networks and Gated Communities vs. open communities. It’s like Facebook on the Gated Community side and Diaspora as an example on the other, the open side.

At timecode 17:20 Katharina mentions that the Top10 of Diaspora pods have more than half a million users. But when you look more closely at the statistics from the-federation.info you can spot a different result that is most likely true for marketing statistic of Facebook as well: there is a difference between total users and current active users. Whereas indeed the total users are easily surpassing the half million users mark, it’s a total different issue for the active users count of the last month: 15488 active users in total versus 546783 total users of the Top10 Diaspora sites. That’s only 2.83% of active users. A quite awful turnaround rate. 

Many users are just quick lurkers, that came passing by, looking at Diaspora (and other alternative networks), get a quick login and a first try-out and never come back after a few days. I can confirm this from my own Friendica node at Nerdica.net where I currently have a total of 13 users: 7 users never posted any content, 1 user is already automatically set to expired because of this, and 8 users never came back after first day of registration. 

Therefor I cannot confirm with Katharinas conclusion that Diaspora “is not dead, it’s pretty alive”. All these alternative Social Networks are pretty much dead or – to put it in more friendly words – are alive in a rather small niche or small communities like data/privacy aware peoples.

Am I happy about this?

No, definitely not, because I am one of these data/privacy aware activits. I’m no big fan of such monolithic and centralized networks like Facebook. I’m a enthusiastic advocate of self-hosting and decentralized platforms and communication protocols, such as XMPP.

So, what can be done about these kind of Gated Communities like Facebook? Are you still on Facebook, because most of your family and friends are over there and not on Diaspora/Friendica? Are you still using Skype instead of XMPP? Why are you doing this? I’m really interested in this, because I don’t understand it.

PS: please watch the video in full length! Katharina has some other good points as well! 🙂


6 thoughts on “Avoiding Gated Communities with Diaspora, Friendica and others

  1. Hi, just saw this post on
    Hi, just saw this post on Planet Debian, and I thought I would answer your questions, since nobody else has yet!

    I consider myself quite aware of privacy issues. I have a GPG key, used to have a Diaspora node, and still refuse to use Skype. This February, I decided to give up on most of these privacy attempts. Considering what’s important in my life, I support free-and-open society in other ways, I don’t have the energy to resist with *everything*. Moreover, I’ve found it quite detrimental to my other efforts: when people have to jump through hoops to videochat, they’re not interested in why or whether it’s better… for them it’s just a hassle, and people don’t want to work with me because we always have to use that weird thing instead of just Google Hangouts like everyone else.

    And then there’s the social stigma. It’s happened more than once that I’ve been on a date, and the other person wants to look up a restaurant on my phone, but oh I don’t use Google Maps because sjsjsjsjsjsjsjj, and now I look like some weirdo. What kind of computer engineer is so technically unsavvy that they can’t even use the same apps and websites that *everyone else* uses?

    So I ended up in the middle of nowhere, metaphorically. If you have no social influence because nobody knows what you’re going on about… well that’s one way to ensure perfect privacy, if you’re having no conversations to begin with!

    That’s why I gave up. My thing is music, I’m trying to change cultural attitudes toward music production, consumption, and participation. The people I work with aren’t about to make the leap to Friendica, why should I keep wasting my time there? I know it’s a chicken-and-egg situation to some extent, but everyone has limited resources, and I can’t keep using mine for this.

    Hope this is helpful for you!

    1. Good luck!
      Hi Christopher –

      Just wanted to appreciate your comment and your situation. I am in a similar place. I just tried leading a charge away from Facebook to Diaspora but it is really hard work, especially because people on Diaspora can’t just see who else is in Diaspora and so – unless I link friends and friends – they have no way of linking. What is one person’s much wanted privacy is another person’s block from being able to connect. If there was a system that allowed us much openness as Facebook but with a subscription instead of ads and without the driver being profit – then I’d prefer that to either the profit-driven openness of FB or the isolationism that comes with privacy-obsession.

      Vert much appreciate the original article above too


      1. There are always trade-offs.

        There are always trade-offs. From my point of view Friendica (or the Fediverse/the-federation in general) is (technically) working very well. It’s just the user base that is somewhat too small to make an impact.

        But when having the ease-of-use of Facebook, you are entering a mine-field with personal data. Not yours! You are perfectly fine with giving all your data to Facebook if you want to do so. But uploading your addressbook to Facebook without given permission of *all* of your contacts you want to upload, is a violation against data protection rules. This can be problematic with the upcoming GDPR.

        When GDPR becomes active by end of May, I’m thinking about requesting Facebook to give me information who shared my contact addresses without my prior given permission.


  2. Reason for not XMPP yet

    I’m not using XMPP yet because it loses messages, because messages constantly end up in the wrong devices, and because I end up having partial message history scattered across many devices.

    I know there are protocol extensions to fix all these things, but there is currently no stable XMPP server that implements them all, and even listing them all is a hard job.

    At Fosdem, me and a person very close to me went at the XMPP room literally pulling the t-shirt of people saying “we want to use this, we want to quit telegram, can you make sure it’s easy to deploy the lot?”.

    Apparently, we are still not there yet.


  3. the point of redecentralized sn
    Well honestly I wasn’t sure whats the point of your article 😉

    Yes, Katharina pushes to hard on the decentralized social networks. The statistics need to be interpreted wisely (here: users active within 30days on known pods) to avoid confusion.
    But it’s not true that diaspora is already dead. My personal impression is different:
    – still some users / topics active esp. from the ‘alternative’ scene
    – intense welcome-culture https://pod.geraspora.de/posts/3661405
    – small events (stammtische, competitions, …) and working pod-refinancing
    It’s just more like twitter and not like FB (let your friends find you). If you post interesting stuff, people will start watching it.
    At the same time, I agree, that there is almost no progress at the code itself. To sad, as there are just very few (but very active) contributors and podmins.

    Well, there is also an different idea behind thefederation: Found an unified team of all the distributed social media / content servers and let people use the platform which they prefer personally:
    If this will work, noone knows … Maybe there are still different aspects that prevent users from joining that communities?
    But it seems, that the (simple but working) decentralisation of blogs and interexchange via planets / networks / pings / rss … is no more attractive in 2016 and people expect a much more comfortable solution to follow interesting topics and their friends.
    If someone would like to join an decentralized network today, I would recommend gnusocial, namely https://quitter.se

    Or maybe all in all the age of social networks just comes to an end?

    P.S: XMPP similar example, that decentralized services+development need a lot of active devs and people willing to operate and update the plattforms. Somehow it’s working, but still beyond their own goals.

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