Diaspora wants to be your private, decentralized, open source Facebook

Diaspora* Logo - dandelion seeds drifting away.If you’re like me and you shudder to think of the store of personal information you’ve inadvertently let loose online, you’ll be happy to know that a few altruistic software programmers are on the case.

Four NYU students recently decided they’d had enough of heavily centralized, corporate-minded social networking sites. They took on the task of developing a social network to prove that online sharing and privacy should go hand in hand. What they came up with was Diaspora.

Here’s what the New York Times had to say about the team and its project:

(They) intend to distribute the software free, and to make the code openly available so that other programmers can build on it. As they describe it, the Diaspora software will let users set up their own personal servers, called seeds, create their own hubs and fully control the information they share.

Though the creators of Diaspora have not come right out and slammed Facebook, they have credited a talk by Eben Moglen, a professor of law at Columbia University, as the inspiration behind the project. Mogden is no fan of Facebook or its creator, Mark Zuckerberg. Here’s a gem from Mogden’s talk in New York City last February:

Mr. Zuckerberg has…done more harm to the human race than anybody else his age…[H]e harnessed Friday night, that is, ‘Everybody needs to get laid,’ and turned into a structure for degenerating the integrity of human personality and he has to remarkable extent succeeded with a very poor deal, namely ‘I will give you free web-hosting and some PHP doodads and you get spying for free all the time’.

Will Diaspora dismantle what Mogden calls “a Panopticon built out of web parts”? We won’t know that for sure until the software launches next September, but a few critics aren’t totally convinced.

Regardless of the speculation around its potential to effect mainstream change, Diaspora has generated a sturdy support base in a short time. Thanks to media coverage and buzz from the blogosphere, Diaspora fundraised more than ten times its stated goal in two days. At this point, Diaspora’s Kickstarter account shows that more than 2500 backers have collectively put up over $100,000 to get the grassroots project underway. While we wait for Facebook to be crushed by a user uprising, however, uh, maybe you’d like to click the “Like” button at the top of this post?