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Diaspora versus Facebook gaining momentum and dollars
May 24, 2010
by Mark Ollig

A definition of Diaspora: “Any group that has been dispersed outside its traditional homeland.”

Facebook has become the social networking homeland to many of us who are online.

However, with the negative publicity about Facebook’s privacy concerns being brought to the surface during the last couple months, some Facebook users have deleted their accounts and are looking for an alternative social network.

When I think of all the personal information, pictures, videos, and messages people have uploaded and stored in the “cyber-cloud warehouses” of social networks like Facebook, I realize one has the right to be concerned about how secure and safe that information really is.

Leo LaPorte is well-known in the online world for his video podcasts of “This Week in Tech” or TWiT episodes (which this columnist watches).

LaPorte recently made news over the blogospheres when he deleted his Facebook account while doing his video podcast live over the Internet.

Many users are concerned whether or not the social network they are using is actually keeping their private data safe and secure.

These users are also concerned about their private information being sold to various marketing web sites.

I understand social networking sites need to pay the bills; however, it is deceitful when they promise their users control over their own content and privacy, when in fact they are actually providing this information to third parties.

Yours truly is on Facebook and has found controlling who or what has access to personal content via the privacy settings somewhat confusing.

I truly believe Facebook makes it confusing on purpose.

Enter four New York University students who have gone public with their plans to create a brand new “safe and secure” social network called Diaspora.

Dan Grippi, 21, Max Salzberg, 22, Raphael Sofaer, 19, and Ilya Zhitomirskiy, 20, are the four young programmers who are writing the software code for Diaspora.

However, they needed some living expense money and so they posted the need for funds on a web site called Kickstarter.

Kickstarter, according to their website is “. . . a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors . . .”

The four NYU students posted this message on Kickstarter: “We are four talented young programmers from NYU’s Courant Institute trying to raise money so we can spend the summer building Diaspora; an open source personal web server that will put individuals in control of their data.”

They came up with $10,000 as the dollar amount needed to meet expenses while writing the code for Diaspora over the summer months.

Their message obviously resonated big-time with the online community.

It only took 12 days for $10,000 in donations to arrive.

As of May 19, Kickstarter shows the amount donated for the Diaspora project at an incredible $173,250.

This amount was donated from 5,191 individuals.

The power of the Internet is pretty awesome isn’t it?

It seems thousands of people out there want an alternative to social networks like Facebook.

The amount of money received was obviously a bit mind-blowing to the group of four as they posted this message on their website, “. . . we’ve been overwhelmed by the degree of the enthusiasm about Diaspora, and we wanted to wait a few days to let the craziness settle down.”

They added, “. . . we’re going to build a great lightweight decentralized social networking framework and release it as AGPL software. We’re going to use the extra money to help us reach that goal and to keep improving Diaspora after this summer . . .”

AGPL is “Affero General Public License,” which is a free software license authored by the Free Software Foundation (FSF).

The four plan on distributing the working software code for free.

This code will be openly available, in order to allow other programmers to build and improve upon it.

The students define their Diaspora as “the privacy-aware, personally-controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network.”

The main driving force of Diaspora is that the individual should control their own data, not the social network it resides on.

A video the four created says all of Diaspora’s individual user data will be “fully-encrypted” for complete privacy.

The Diaspora web site says each user will access their own “. . . . ‘Diaspora seed’ a personal web server that stores all of your information and shares it with your friends. Diaspora knows how to securely share your pictures, videos, and more.”

The four currently have an elementary prototype of Diaspora operating on their computers.

I believe we will be hearing more about this “David” called Diaspora versus Facebook’s “Goliath” in the weeks ahead.

The link to Diaspora is www.joindiaspora.com.

A video the four made explaining what the project Diaspora is can be seen at: www.joindiaspora.com/project.html.

The Kickstarter website is located at www.kickstarter.com.

The current status of funds donated to the Diaspora project can be seen at www.tinyurl.com/2ensbuk.

For those of you on Twitter, you can keep up with the latest Diaspora tweets by following “joindiaspora.”

You can follow my rants on Twitter at “bitsandbytes.”