Taking back your data? Diaspora* takes on Facebook

Yes, I’m on Facebook and I’m friends with a lot of people. I’m also on Twitter and LinkedIn and none of these sites make me happy.

I don’t use the google toolbar either- although Google and iTunes know more about me than I really want them to. Many of you use these same “tools” and never really think about it much.

You should.

Facebook and these other “social networking sites” are using you- to write content- that will bring your friends into their sites to show you ads. Right now the ads are mostly “dumb” ads- but, as time goes on- they will be incredibly tuned to you- and will violate your privacy to an extent that you may wish you’d never logged in. Facebook had a major faux pas on its hands not long ago when its new technology “Beacon” was giving away the info on what you bought to everyone- including telling your fiancee about the engagement ring you just bought.

You should have control over your privacy and the amount of data that flows out about you. Which brings us to 4 NYU students who asked for $10K to spend the summer creating an alternative to Facebook. It’s called Diaspora* and they’ve already got over $60k pledged with 20 days to go.

There isn’t a ton of info yet on these four nerds of the apocalypse- but there will be a lot of eyes watching- some with deep pockets.

I found this nice little write up on the project:

diaspora (origin: Greek, ???????? – “a scattering [of seeds]“) is a project which is mainly about privacy and social networks. As it states itself, diaspora is the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network.

Diaspora aims to be a distributed network, where totally separate computers connect to each other directly, will let us connect without surrendering our privacy. We call these computers ‘seeds’. A seed is owned by you, hosted by you, or on a rented server. Once it has been set up, the seed will aggregate all of your information: your facebook profile, tweets, anything. We are designing an easily extendable plugin framework for Diaspora, so that whenever newfangled content gets invented, it will be automagically integrated into every seed.

diaspora is the birth child of four NYU computer science students: Daniel Grippi, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Raphael Sofaer and Maxwell Salzberg. It is currently hosted on Kickstarter and the software will be released at the end of the summer under aGPL (Affero General Public License).

Here are some key features coming to diaspora this summer:

  • Full-fledged communications between Seeds (Diaspora instances)
  • Complete PGP encryption
  • External Service Scraping of most major services (reclaim your data)
  • Version 1 of Diaspora’s API with documentation
  • Public GitHub repository of all Diaspora code

via diaspora – the project.

What’s most interesting to me is how these four have captured the imagination of so many people so quickly- raised money- without showing a business plan, presenting credentials, or demonstrating that they have the skills to pull this off. But- when someone writes a post about them, and then they respond online– you start to see how the open source community works together to discuss and refine ideas in the open.

This is a far cry of how we do things in Dayton, where we are still writing on big post-its and using sticky dots inside closed rooms– with a small sampling of people- where there is no opportunity for further discussion- research or additional refinement by “the cloud.”

The more we share- the better we are. The questions that diaspora is answering is who will own our ideas- the big corporations, or us?  They may not come up with a solution- but, it’s going to be great fun watching how this turns out.

Bet it’s better than any of the grand master plans we’ve come up with or are about to launch– that are being done behind a curtain.

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