The Diaspora* Effect

All across Facebook status updates are starting to reflect people’s disdain with the social networking site. Things like, “I’m pining for a viable alternative to Facebook,” and, “Isn’t there anything better than this?” have been seen creeping up in my own news feed, and the responses always come back the same: Diaspora* is coming.

With the recent changes and re-changes to Facebook’s privacy rules, and just what information is being exposed to the public, people are up in arms at what used to be just a fun place to connect with friends. Although with the announcement that membership has now reached the 500 million mark, it doesn’t seem to reflect the opinion of the vast majority of users. Still, the underlying threat is there, and as more people catch on and reflect their sentiments on their walls and the walls of friends, it’s only a matter of time before word gets around about just how much Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy.

Up until this point though, there was nothing to look forward to in the way of another social networking site making a splash. MySpace is so far gone that for anyone who has been using Facebook for a long period of time, returning to it would be like trading in your iPod for a cassette walkman. That seems to be changing though, and all because of four students and a dream. While it may not be a household name yet, you can bet your bottom dollar that when it debuts later this year, Diaspora* is going to make a huge impact on the social networking scene.

The brainchild of four NYU students who may or may not still be living off of pizza, Diaspora* aims to be a complete, open sourced project. Basically, that means that the software will be distributed for free, along with the code, which will allow others to build on what they have created. They describe Diaspora* as “software that will let users set up their own personal servers, create their own hubs, and fully control the information they share.” Therefore, unlike Facebook which stores your data on its own server and in one location, Diaspora* will let you store your own data, on your own server, accessible only to you.

In order to make this project a reality, the four students, Dan Grippi, Max Salzberg, Raphael Sofaer, and Ilya Zhitomirskly, needed to raise money not only to fund their idea, but also to live off of while they create it. They put their idea up on Kickstarter, a website which allows people to donate to creative ideas, and gave themselves 39 days to raise $10,000. Through word of mouth, excitement, and just people’s plain frustration with Facebook, they had reached the $10,000 mark in just 12 days. As it stands right now, the four students have raised over $175,000 for Diaspora*.

All this adds up to what I call The Diaspora* Effect. It’s not about the program these kids are creating, it’s about people’s willingness to try something new, and back good ideas. Without even knowing what the interface will look like, how easy it will be to use, or when it is even officially launching, people are getting behind these NYU students as they run with their idea. Diaspora* is already so much more than a social networking site in the works, it’s about change, and speaks to all those folks who are fed up with their privacy being invaded. I, for one of many, cannot wait until this launches. I will most certainly be first in line to sign up for something that is about to give Facebook a run for its money.