Diaspora Social Network – What is it?

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There has been a lot of hesitation lately regarding the evils of Facebook. Some argue they sell our private information. Some argue the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is some kind of monster-in-training. There’s even a movie about it. Whether or not Facebook is nefarious, the way it handles our private information has begun to ruffle some weathers. So what now?

Well this is the Internet. When some “infallible” institution, um, fails us, we move on to something better. Remember Facebook? Myspace? We used to use these in droves. Now Facebook is the go-to destination but this may not always be the case. Enter Diaspora.

Diaspora is a social network unlike any other. It’s currently being developed by four students of New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences with a consumer alpha scheduled for October of this year. So, what is it and how does it work?

Simply put, Diaspora is a social network that puts privacy controls absolutely in the hands of the user. There will be no outsourcing of information. No other websites will automatically know when you “like” something due to some backroom content-sharing deal. It makes the user the master of their own destiny. How does this work?

First of all, it’s completely open source. Betas have already been made available to would-be programmers and content developers. When money is (somewhat) taken out of the equation then the worry of privacy snatching somewhat diminishes as well.

The website has been described as a “network that allows everyone to install their own “seed” — i.e. a personal web server with a user’s photos, videos and everything else — within the larger network. That seed would be fully owned and controlled by the user, so the user could share anything and still maintain ownership over it”. (Mashable.com).

In addition to the revamped ideas of privacy, the service is going to offer some other notable functions. It will set up secure servers for sharing of multimedia files between contacts. It will also feature Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) integration. It will also feature it’s own instant messaging service, akin to Facebook chat.

Although the site is not live yet, the developers have been having their string of good luck. The press has been coming hard and fast and they started a fundraising site in order to raise $10,000 to help with developing costs. In mere days they had raised twenty times that, their final amount clocking in at more than $200,000. Certainly the idea has struck a nerve. Oddly, even Mark Zuckerberg himself donated, calling it a “cool idea.”

So let’s keep a lookout for October 2010, when the alpha becomes available to consumers. Also, let’s press on our favorite current sites, like Facebook, to implement some of these ideas into their UI. Let’s keep privacy, um, private. Once again.

More information on Diaspora can be found here.

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