So I signed up for a free account at http://london.diaspora.org.
The good part: the website is beautiful. Clear, un-cluttered design with lots of white-space, gorgeous typography.
But I was most interested in the ability to inter-operate with other social networking sites, and Diaspora didn’t do so well at this. The only external services you can connect to are Twitter and Facebook, which was disappointing after the long list of services I could connect to on Friendica.
Even the way Diaspora describes itself seems to imply that federation isn’t the most important thing. You’re invited to “join Diaspora” and “invite your friends”. But the goal of an open, federated web is that you don’t have to join anything, you can connect to your friends no matter which service they use.
I’ll admit I only spent a few minutes playing with the settings, so it’s possible I’m missing something. And Diaspora’s website is really, really nice. But at the moment I’m a lot more excited about Friendica.
Mission outcome: DOUBTFUL