Stay connected with diaspora*


In 2014, diaspora* managed to garner the wrong sort of press attention when some ISIS members managed to set up their diaspora* pod in order to spread extremist material. The developers admitted there was little they could do to stop this given the network's decentralized nature but encouraged "podmins" (pod admin) to take down public posts of such material, most of whom did [13].

Naturally this works both ways: A group of human rights workers operating in a rogue state could also set up their own private pod to share news from western agencies and other censored information with citizens. Still, using diaspora* in a safe way requires a trustworthy and competent podmin.

Instant messaging using Prosody as an XMPP server is still in the development phase, and it's still a matter for each podmin to enable it or not [14]. This means it's not currently possible to chat in real time with other diaspora* users.

Unlike Facebook, there's no way to tag other users in posts, comment on individual photos, or arrange photos into albums. The diaspora* team planned to address this by using the #tag feature to group photos, but since my previous article in 2017, it seems there's been little work on this [15].

It's unlikely there will be much uptake in diaspora* usage while these features we take for granted on monolithic social networks aren't implemented. Still, this chicken and egg argument has its limitations: the more people who are involved, the more work can be done on introducing new features.

Some contributors have suggested federating diaspora* with other "open" social networks. The software is actually already compatible with any other network that uses its Federation protocol [16], such as Friendica and Hubzilla. Still, a universal solution that provides seamless compatibility with the ActivityPub protocol used with Mastodon and other Fediverse services seems a long way away.

Diaspora*'s desire for federation also means the pods aren't designed to be run in isolation, and the developers explicitly explain that's not what the network is for [17]. This is a shame, because one great use case for diaspora* would be to allow an offline social network in controlled environments like schools and prisons.

The Faustian bargain we make with social media giants like Meta means that they have the resources to hire crack developers to develop new features and expand their network, leaving diaspora* and its team of volunteers far behind. Still, if you manage the server yourself or can trust your podmin, diaspora* offers much greater control over the personal data you hold and share, even if its features are still rather spartan.


  1. "Social Networking the FOSS Way with Diaspora" by Nate Drake, Linux Magazine, issue 194, January 2017:
  2. "7 Controversial Ways Facebook Has Used Your Data" by Victor Luckerson, Time, February 4, 2014:
  3. "Irish regulator fines Facebook 265 million euros over privacy breach," CNBC, November 28, 2022:
  4. "Meta settles Cambridge Analytica scandal case for $725m" by Shiona McCallum, BBC, December 23, 2022:
  5. ISOC-NY Event: Eben Moglen "Freedom in the Cloud," February 5, 2010:
  6. diaspora*:
  7. Installation:
  8. General system requirements:
  9. Fediverse Observer:
  10. FAQ for users:
  11. Current and future development:
  12. The diaspora* interface:
  13. "Diaspora social network cannot stop IS posts" by Dave Lee, BBC, August 2, 2014:
  14. Implement realtime chat, possibly using XMPP:
  15. Photo organization:
  16. Federation:
  17. Isolation:

The Author

Nate Drake is a tech journalist specializing in cybersecurity and retro tech.

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