Facebook vs Diaspora vs MySpace

By Branko Miletic

Social networking has taken off like you wouldn’t believe over the past five years. Facebook recently signed up its 500 millionth member, while celebrities seem to be in a race as to who can gain the most Twitter followers (although Lady Gaga recently announced she was signing off for a while to raise money for charity).

However, there have been casualties along the way. Does anybody remember Friendster? Or Vox? And what about Myspace’s current dilemma, whereby it is bleeding membership to Facebook with rumours that the New Corp-owned business is going to be up for sale, soon, Rupert Murdoch having seemed lost patience trying to develop the site. If there ever were signs that Myspace is flailing around in Cyberspace,  two recent announcements that allow it to sync and mash with Facebook shows that thing are looking pretty dire for the site.

Enter Diaspora – a brand that is open source and is the brainchild of four New York university students, who claim they are not taking on Facebook, with the latter’s founder even kicking in some money to help start the venture. It works by allowing members to set up to a server to host content. Users can swap information with friends and family using different ‘aspects’. You can assign friends to different aspects so they can see the information.

So will it make a difference and will people join up? Facebook is drowning in cash at the moment whilst MySpace is drowning in woe. Diaspora is as new as it gets in the online world so a financial comparison wouldn’t be fair- except to say that the Diaspora was set up with the help of global donations and appears – at the moment anyway – that making money from the site is not a priority.

In terms of usability, well apart from privacy issues, which would not be a fair comparison with the newness of Diaspora, the user interfaces are an interesting study.

Since it’s owned by a newspaper company, MySpace actually looks like an online magazine – if it got any busier, you would need a GPS to navigate your way through. If anything, it looks the least like the other two.

Facebook has been cleaned up a fair bit and is now sleek and smooth on the eyeballs. Diaspora seems to epitomise all that is minimalist and if anything, looks like it was made for an iPad or iPhone.

Which is better? Well that’s like asking what is the best shirt? These are personal questions and if anything, everyone has an opinion on these social sites and each and every opinion is not only different; it’s also correct.

All three networking platforms work in a very similar manner – they are all connected to each other with links, so it’s basically a flavour issue we are talking about. What I do know is that in a survey that was done in the UK a couple of years ago found MySpace (as well as the now almost-forgotten Bebo) was more popular with younger and lower income people, whereas Facebook tended to be more for teenagers and those with jobs.

Diaspora being open-source may well be for those that also like Android-based phones and Linux operating systems today, but as we have seen, social networking sites grow and wane in popularity and then plateau after a five to seven year period, whereby they begin to stagnate and are eventually replaced by something new.  Just don’t tell that to the four university students that just launched Diaspora.

Will Diaspora succeed? No idea. Many social networking sites have come and gone over the years, with one person even predicting that Facebook has reached critical mass and will be a shadow of its former self within the next five years. Half the problem is explaining to a barely literate technology-addled audience why they should sign up to a new site when the one they have works fine. While Diaspora will have its work cut out, Myspace might just end up being an add-on to Facebook. Maybe at the end of the day they'll all end up as part of each other as people become more inclined to want an all-in-one solution to their social networking needs.

What are your thoughts on the latest trends in social networking?

Additional reporting by Mike Wheeler

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