Monday, February 14, 2011

Diaspora - Thinking Big??

As Facebook continues to engulf user after user throughout the world and with no competitor in near sight, four computer science students from New York University: Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, Raphael Sofaer, and Ilya Zhitomirskiy have come up with a revolutionary idea which can well go on to be the “next Facebook”. Facebook has been facing lot of issues with privacy and how the information posted can be misused. This has given rise to “Anti-Facebook” kind of a movement which consists of people (usually paranoid) who eye these privately owned social networking platforms as a threat to their privacy. Maybe such sentiments were behind the idea of Diaspora. Now what Diaspora aims to do is to hand the control to the user about the information he shares online.

Diaspora will be an open-source and ‘privacy aware’, distributed social network where users interact directly without the need to hand over the messages to a central hub. The network would consist of individual nodes called ‘seeds’ which would be owned and operated by the users of the network. Each seed will accumulate all the online information of the user and interact with other seeds by “friending” them. Users will be expected to install the Diaspora on their machines (or a pay and activate scheme for non-technical users) and choose the settings they are comfortable with it.

The underlying principle of Diaspora dashes Mark Zuckerberg’s theory that sharing of information and privacy are mutually exclusive things. It will be interesting to see how people react to the idea of having more control over their information especially at a time when analysts have envisioned an era of over-sharing. So far the Diaspora team has received a warm response. The team managed to raise $200,000 on a fund-raising site Kickstarter (initial target was only $10,000!!) and there is a lot of buzz about it in the tech-world. The idea was so appealing that founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg decided to fund the four students amidst all the flak that the project has received.

A lot of tech analysts claim Diaspora has striking resemblance with Appleseed Project, a falied 2005 project with similar aims shelved due to lack of funding. Maybe the word “seed” has been derived from it. Another big point is that how many users will actually take the trouble to install Diaspora on their machines considering the vast majority of users who aren’t tech savvy. Still some progress has been made. The developers code was released on Sept. 15 this year and the fate of Diaspora will be known when the consumer alpha is out later this year.

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