Social networking software

Diaspora: Like an Open Source Facebook

Four New York University students have mobilized to produce a decentralized and open source alternative to Facebook called Diaspora that they say will give users full control over their privacy.

Diaspora: Like an Open Source Facebook
Today, Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) general counsel Karen Sandler told me that Diaspora was inspired by a lecture that Eben Moglen, director-counsel and chairman of the SFLC, gave in February. The organization provides legal services to open-source projects and organizations.

During his talk, Moglen cautioned that cloud computing has moved control over privacy far out of users’ hands, and that privacy laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. “The architecture is begging to be misused,” he said.

Facebook soon became the target of privacy advocates in the ensuing months, and weathered a firestorm of outcry. It has since updated its user privacy options with more granular controls following an “all hands on deck” staff meeting.

Moglen struck the right chord at the right time, and more importantly, spawned concrete action. I was at Moglen’s lecture, and am surprised that a project formed so rapidly given what I perceived to be the crowd’s healthy skepticism that it could even be done. Many were more optimistic than I.

The Diaspora project has exceeded it fundraising goals, and has succeeded in raising tens of thousands of dollars, according to reports. The project Web site states that a prototype is nearly ready for release.

Many people are willing to sacrifice their privacy for the services and social network that Facebook provides, while some may not know any better. Anything less functional wouldn’t be a compelling enough alternative for users to make the switch. I look toward to trying Diaspora out.

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