As Facebook completes its transition from Galactic Senate to Imperial Empire, four enterprising NYU students thought the world could do with a social networking service that wouldn't treat your personal information like advertiser catnip. So they started building Diaspora.
They conceive of it as the "privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network", one on which people share strictly on their own terms. Every user will have their own encrypted, customisable "node" on the Diaspora network, and personal data will reside on that user's computer, as opposed to a centralised hub.
The team members, who are profiled in today's New York Times*, posted a description of their idea on Kickstarter, a website that connects internet donors with underfunded projects, and they quickly met their goal of raising $US10,000. As of now, the number's closer to $US24,000.
The demand is clearly there; now what about the service? The team already has a skeletal version of the site running on their own machines, and now that school's wrapping up they're starting their "first sprint" - three months of intense coding with the aim of launching a working version of Diaspora by September, complete with:
* 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
Of course, building a social network from the ground up is a tremendous task, and one that's much easier said than done. But Facebook's first lines of code were written in a dorm room, and it makes perfect sense that Diaspora - a project that looks to get back to social media's roots: sharing - would see its start there, too. Find out more about the project at JoinDiaspora.
*Bonus points to these mischievous fellows for sneaking some naughty bits of UNIX code into the New York Times, which the publication has cropped out of the online photo.